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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Fishermen’s Luck

By Plautus (c. 254–184 B.C.)

  • From ‘Menæchmi’: Translation of William Cranston Lawton
  • [This passage is of unique interest as the one notable choral ode in Plautus. Its dramatic purpose is not very evident; and indeed, the fishermen do little more than add “local color” to the scene of shipwreck.]

  • MOST wretched in every way is the life of men that are poverty-stricken;

    And especially those who have learnt no trade, who are destitute of employment.

    Whatever they happen to have in the house, they perforce therewith are contented.

    But as for ourselves, how wealthy we are you may judge pretty well from our costume.

    These hooks that you see, and bamboo poles, are our means for attaining a living;

    And every day from the city we come to secure a subsistence hither.

    Instead of gymnastics and boyish games, this toil is our exercise only.

    Sea-urchins and limpets we strive to secure, with oysters and scallops and cockles;

    The nettles as well, in the sea that dwell, and the striped crabs and the mussels.

    And among the rocks after that with our hooks and lines we go a-fishing,

    To capture our food from out of the sea. But if no luck is our portion,

    And we catch no fish, then, salted ourselves, well drenched in the briny water,

    To our homes we go, and slink out of sight, and to bed without any supper.

    And unless we have eaten the cockles we caught, our dinner has been no better.