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29.9.07

À mon chevet: The Satires of Juvenal

available at Amazon
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
What can I do in Rome? I can't tell lies; if a book
is bad I cannot praise it and beg for a copy; the stars
in their courses mean nothing to me; I'm neither willing nor able
to promise a father's death; I've never studied the innards
of frogs; I leave it to others to carry instructions and presents
to a young bride from a lover; none will get help from me
in a theft; that's why I never appear on a governor's staff;
you'd think I was crippled -- a useless trunk with a paralyzed hand.
Who these days inspires affection except an accomplice --
one whose conscience boils and seethes with unspeakable secrets?

-- Decimus Junius Juvenalis, Satire 3: The Evils of the Big City, trans. Rolfe Humphries
So much of what made Juvenal so angry in the second century has just never gone away. Reading his invective, either in Latin or in this biting translation, is a welcome alternative to the bad news in the papers.

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