Horace, Epistulae, 1.10.34-50

by Tom Gardner

Cervus equum pugna melior communibus herbis
pellebat, donec minor in certamine longo
imploravit opes hominis frenum que recepit;
sed postquam victor violens discessit ab hoste,
non equitem dorso, non frenum depulit ore.
sic qui pauperiem veritus potiore metallis
libertate caret, dominum vehet improbus atque
serviet aeternum, quia parvo nesciet uti.
cui non conveniet sua res, ut calceus olim,
si pede maior erit, subvertet, si minor, uret.
Laetus sorte tua vives sapienter, Aristi,
nec me dimittes incastigatum, ubi plura
cogere quam satis est ac non cessare videbor,
imperat aut servit collecta pecunia cuique,
tortum digna sequi potius quam ducere funem.
Haec tibi dictabam post fanum putre Vacunae,
excepto quod non simul esses, cetera laetus.

The stag was better at fighting than the horse, which he drove out of their common pasture, until the loser in the long contest begged for the help of humans and accepted the bridle. But after that, in impetuous triumph, the horse left his enemy, and did not throw the rider off his back, or the bridle from his mouth. In the same way, one who, in fear of poverty, lacks freedom―which is preferable even to quarries of precious metals―will carry their master in their impudence, and forever be a slave, because they do not know what to do with small means.

Just as for the person whose affairs do not suit them, so when shoes are too big, they trip, and when they are too small, they chafe. Aristius, if you are happy with your lot, you will live wisely, and you will not let me off unpunished when I seem to gather more than enough and not rest. Collected money is either for the master or the slave, but would better follow than lead the rope. I am dictating this to you behind Vacuna’s crumbling shrine, happy in every respect, except that you are not with me.