Ho Catius! whence and whither?
Catius. Not to-day:
I cannot stop to talk: I must away
To set down words of wisdom, which surpass
The Athenian sage and deep Pythagoras.
Horace. Faith, I did ill at such an awkward time
To cross your path; but you’ll forgive the crime:
If you’ve lost aught, you’ll get it back ere long
By nature or by art; in both you’re strong.
Catius. Ah, ’twas a task to keep the whole in mind,
For style and matter were alike refined.
Horace. But who was lecturer? tell me whence he came.
Catius. I give the precepts, but suppress the name.
The oblong eggs by connoisseurs are placed
Above the round for whiteness and for taste:
Procure them for your table without fail,
For they’re more fleshy, and their yolk is male.
The cabbage of dry fields is sweeter found
Than the weak growth of washed-out garden ground.
Should some chance guest surprise you late at night,
For fear the new-killed fowl prove tough to bite,
Plunge it while living in Falernian lees,
And then ’twill be as tender as you please.
Mushrooms that grow in meadows are far best;
You can’t be too suspicious of the rest.
He that would pass through summer without hurt
Should eat a plate of mulberries for dessert,
But mind to pluck them in the morning hour,
Before the mid-day sun exerts its power.
Aufidius used Falernian, rich and strong,
To mingle with his honey: he did wrong:
For when the veins are empty, ’tis not well
To pour in fiery drinks to make them swell:
Mild gentle draughts will better do their part
In nourishing the cockles of the heart.
In costive cases, limpets from the shell
Are a cheap way the evil to dispel,
With groundling sorrel: but white Coan neat
You’ll want to make the recipe complete.
For catching shell-fish the new moon’s the time,
But there’s a difference between clime and clime;
Baiae is good, but to the Lucrine yields;
Circeii ranks as best for oyster-fields;
Misenum’s cape with urchins is supplied;
Flat bivalve mussels are Tarentum’s pride.
Let no man fancy he knows how to dine
Till he has learnt how taste and taste combine.
‘Tis not enough to sweep your fish away
From the dear stall, and chuckle as you pay,
Not knowing which want sauce, and which when broiled
Will tempt a guest whose appetite is spoiled.
The man who hates wild boars that eat like tame
Gets his from Umbria, genuine mast-fed game:
For the Laurentian beast, that makes its fat
Off sedge and reeds, is flavourless and flat.
The flesh of roes that feed upon the vine
Is not to be relied on when you dine.
With those who know what parts of hare are best
You’ll find the wings are mostly in request.
Fishes and fowls, their nature and their age,
Have oft employed the attention of the sage;
But how to solve the problem ne’er was known
By mortal palate previous to my own.
There are whose whole invention is confined
To novel sweets: that shows a narrow mind;
As if you wished your wines to be first-rate,
But cared not with what oil your fish you ate.
Put Massic wine to stand ‘neath a clear sky
All night, away the heady fumes will fly,
Purged by cool air: if ’tis through linen strained,
You spoil the flavour, and there’s nothing gained.
Who mix Surrentine with Falernian dregs
Clear off the sediment with pigeons’ eggs:
The yolk goes down; all foreign matters sink
Therewith, and leave the beverage fit to drink.
‘Tis best with roasted shrimps and Afric snails
To rouse your drinker when his vigour fails:
Not lettuce; lettuce after wine ne’er lies
Still in the stomach, but is sure to rise:
The appetite, disordered and distressed,
Wants ham and sausage to restore its zest;
Nay, craves for peppered viands and what not,
Fetched from some greasy cookshop steaming hot.
There are two kinds of sauce; and I may say
That each is worth attention in its way.
Sweet oil’s the staple of the first; but wine
Should be thrown in, and strong Byzantine brine.
Now take this compound, pickle, wine, and oil,
Mix it with herbs chopped small, then make it boil,
Put saffron in, and add, when cool, the juice
Venafrum’s choicest olive-yards produce.
In taste Tiburtian apples count as worse
Than Picene; in appearance, the reverse.
For pots, Venucule grapes the best may suit:
For drying, Albans are your safer fruit.
‘Twas I who first, authorities declare,
Served grapes with apples, lees with caviare,
White pepper with black salt, and had them set
Before each diner as his private whet.
‘Tis gross to squander hundreds upon fish,
Yet pen them cooked within too small a dish.
So too it turns the stomach, if there sticks
Dirt to the bowl wherein your wine you mix;
Or if the servant, who behind you stands,
Has fouled the beaker with his greasy hands.
Brooms, dish-cloths, saw-dust, what a mite they cost!
Neglect them though, your reputation’s lost.
What? sweep with dirty broom a floor inlaid,
Spread unwashed cloths o’er tapestry and brocade,
Forgetting, sure, the less such things entail
Of care and cost, the more the shame to fail,
Worse than fall short in luxuries, which one sees
At no man’s table but your rich grandees’?
Horace. Catius, I beg, by all that binds a friend,
Let me go with you, when you next attend;
For though you’ve every detail at command,
There’s something must be lost at second hand.
Then the man’s look, his manner–these may seem
Mere things of course, perhaps, in your esteem,
So privileged as you are: for me, I feel
An inborn thirst, a more than common zeal,
Up to the distant river-head to mount,
And quaff these precious waters at their fount.