Qui fit, Maecenas, ut nemo, quam sibi sortem seu ratio dederit seu fors1 obiecerit, illa contentus vivat, laudet diversa sequentis? “o fortunati mercatores!” gravis annis2 5miles ait, multo iam fractus membra labore. contra mercator, navem iactantibus Austris, “militia est potior. quid enim? concurritur: horae momento cita mors venit aut victoria laeta.” agricolam laudat iuris legumque peritus, 10sub galli cantum consultor ubi ostia pulsat. ille, datis vadibus qui rure extractus in urbem est, solos felices viventis clamat3 in urbe. cetera de genere hoc, adeo sunt multa, loquacem delassare valent Fabium. ne te morer, audi 15quo rem deducam. si quis deus “en ego” dicat,
How comes it, Maecenas, that no man living is content with the lot which either his choice has given him, or chance has thrown in his way, but each has praise for those who follow other paths? “O happy traders!” cries the soldier, as he feels the weight of years, his frame now shattered with hard service. On the other hand, when southern gales toss the ship, the trader cries: “A soldier’s life is better. Do you ask why? There is the battle clash, and in a moment of time comes speedy death or joyous victory.” One learned in law and statutes has praise for the farmer, when towards cockcrow a client comes knocking at his door.a The man yonder, who has given surety and is dragged into town from the country cries that they only are happy who live in town. The other instances of this kind—so many are they—could tire out the chatterbox Fabius. To be brief with you, hear the conclusion to which I am coming. If some god were to say:b
- aThe reference is not so much to the professional lawyer as to the influential citizen, whose humble clients come at daybreak to ask for advice. Such a citizen would commonly have had a good legal training. With him is contrasted a countryman, who is a defendant in some case and must, therefore, come to the city against his will.
- bHorace imagines a dramatic scene where a god appears ex machina. Cf. Sat. ii. 7.24; Ars Poetica, 191.