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

The Author’s Ambition

By Persius (34–62 A.D.)

Translation of William Cranston Lawton

WE write, locked in,—one prose, another verse;

Of lofty style, that may be panted forth

With liberal lung. Yes, to the folk, some day,

Spruce in your fresh new toga, all in white,

Wearing your birthday ring, from some high seat

These things you hope to read, after your throat

Is gargled clear with trills, yourself o’ercome,

With swimming eyes! The sturdy Romans then,

Losing all dignity of mien and voice,

You’d fain see quivering, while the verses glide

Into their bones; their marrow tickled by

The rippling strain!
What! an old man like you

Would gather tidbits up for alien ears,

Yourself, at last wearied, to cry “Enough”?

So much for pallor and austerity!

Oh, evil day! Is then your knowledge worth

So little, unless others know you know?

But it is pleasant to be pointed at

With the forefinger, and to hear, “That’s he!

Ay, there he goes!” Would you not like to be

By a full hundred curly-headed boys

Conned as their lesson?
Lo, the heroic sons

Of Romulus sit at their wine, full-fed,

To hear the tale of sacred Poesy.

Some fellow, with a hyacinthine robe

Over his shoulders, with a snuffling lisp

Utters some mawkish stuff, of Phyllises,

Hypsipylas, or whate’er heroines

By bard bewailed. The gentry add their praise;—

And now the poet’s dust is happy? Now

The stone is resting lighter on his bones?

The humbler guests applaud; and from his tomb

And blessed ashes and his Manes now

Shall not the violets spring?