This was my prayer: a piece of land, not of great size,
With a garden, and a permanent spring near the house,
And above them a stretch of woodland. The gods gave
More and better. It’s fine. I ask for nothing else, O Son
Of Maia, except that you make these blessings last.
If I haven’t increased my possessions by malpractice,
If I don’t intend to reduce them by waste or neglect,
If I never stupidly make entreaties, like these:
‘O, if that odd corner were mine that spoils the farm’s shape!’
‘O, if chance would show me a pot of silver, like him
Who found treasure and bought and ploughed the same fields
That he once worked for hire, rich by Hercules’ favour!’
If what I have pleases me dearly, my prayer to you
Is: fatten the herds I own, and everything but my head,
And be my great protector just as you’ve always been!
Now that I’ve left town, then, for my castle in the hills,
What better matter for satire, and my prosaic Muse?
I’m not cursed here with ambition, leaden sirocco,
Or oppressive autumn, deathly Libitina’s gain.
Father of the Dawn, Janus if you’d prefer that name,
Under whose auspices men undertake the beginnings
Of labour and life’s toil (so please the gods), introduce
My song. In Rome you drag me off to be guarantor:
‘Up, lest someone else responds first to duty’s call!’
I have to go, even if northerlies sweep the earth,
Or winter’s narrowing circle brings a snowy day,
Then, after declaring, loudly, clearly, whatever may
Work against me, barge through the crowd, hurting the tardy.
‘What’s with you, idiot, what are you up to?’ Some wretch
Curses angrily: ‘There you go, jostling all in your way
When you’re hurrying back to Maecenas, full of him.’
That pleases me, honey-sweet I’ll not deny. But when
I reach the mournful Esquiline, hundreds of other
People’s matters buzz round me and through my brain.
‘Roscius asks you to meet before eight, tomorrow,
At Libo’s Wall.’ ‘Quintus, the clerks say be sure to return
As there’s urgent new business of common concern.’
‘Take care Maecenas stamps all these papers’ ‘I’ll try,’
Say I: ‘If you want to, you can,’ he insistently adds.