seu Lacedaemonio tellus habitata colono Sirenumve1 domus, det primos versibus annos Maeoniumque bibat felici pectore fontem. Mox et Socratico plenus grege mittat habenas liber et ingentis quatiat Demosthenis arma. Hinc Romana manus circumfluat et modo Graio exonerata2 sono mutet suffusa saporem. Interdum subducta foro det pagina cursum et furtiva3 sonet celeri distincta meatu; dein4 epulas et bella truci memorata canore grandiaque indomiti Ciceronis verba minetur.5 His animum succinge bonis: sic flumine largo plenus Pierio defundes pectore verba.”
Dum hunc diligentius audio, non notavi mihi Ascylti fugam. Et dum in hoc dictorum aestu motus6 incedo, ingens scholasticorum turba in porticum venit, ut apparebat, abextemporali declamatione nescio cuius, qui Agamemnonis suasoriam exceperat. Dum ergo iuvenes sententias rident ordinemque
- 1Sirenumve Buecheler: sirenumque, which may be right.
- 2vox ornata Fuchs: vox onerata Scheidweiler: vox operata suggests Müller.
- 3furtiva or fortuita Heinsius: cortina Palmier: fortuna.
- 4dein P. Pithoeus: dent, perhaps rightly.
- 5minetur Heinsius: minentur: imitetur P. du Faur.
- 6Nisbet conjectures mutus. A false reading is in hortis.
smiles upon him, or the land where the Spartan farmer lives, or the home1 of the Sirens, let him give the years of youth to poetry, and let his fortunate soul drink of the Maeonian fount.2 Later, when he is full of the learning of the Socratic school, let him loose the reins, and shake the weapons of mighty Demosthenes like a free man. Then let the company of Roman writers pour about him, and, newly unburdened from the music of Greece, steep his soul and transform his taste. Meanwhile, let him withdraw from the courts and suffer his pages to run free, and in secret make ringing strains in swift rhythm; then let him proudly tell tales of feasts, and wars recorded in fierce chant, and lofty words such as undaunted Cicero uttered.3 Gird up thy soul for these noble ends; so shalt thou be fully inspired, and shalt pour out words in swelling torrent from a heart the Muses love.”4
I was listening to him so carefully that I did not notice Ascyltos5 slipping away. I was pacing along in the heat of our conversation, when a great crowd of students came out into the porch, apparently from some master whose extemporary harangue had followed Agamemnon’s discourse.6 So while the young men were laughing at his epigrams, and
- 1Southern Italy in general and Naples in particular, where the coasts were, in mythology, the home of dangerous sweet-singing maiden-faced birds, the Sirens.
- 2Homer, son of Maeon, in one tradition. The reference below to Demosthenes alludes to his splendid oratory (in prose): and by Socratic he means rather the school of Plato. Socrates founded no school.
- 3Probably in one of his poems (since Petronius’ poem here gives advice to the would-be poet) rather than one of his speeches or other writings.
- 4“Pierian” of Mount Pierus in Thessaly, sacred to the Muses, Goddesses of poetry, dancing, history, and astronomy.
- 5On Ascyltos, see above, p. xiii.
- 6A suasoria was a declamation on a given deliberative theme, delivered by a teacher of rhetoric as an example to his pupils.