How comes it, say, Maecenas, if you can,
That none will live like a contented man
Where choice or chance directs, but each must praise
The folk who pass through life by other ways?
"Those lucky merchants!" cries the soldier stout,
When years of toil have well-nigh worn him out:
What says the merchant, tossing o'er the brine?
"Yon soldier's lot is happier, sure, than mine:
One short, sharp shock, and presto! all is done:
Death in an instant comes, or victory's won."
The lawyer lauds the farmer, when a knock
Disturbs his sleep at crowing of the cock:
The farmer, dragged to town on business, swears
That only citizens are free from cares.
I need not run through all: so long the list,
Fabius himself would weary and desist:
So take in brief my meaning: just suppose
Some God should come, and with their wishes close:
"See, here am I, come down of my mere grace
To right you: soldier, take the merchant's place!
You, counsellor, the farmer's! go your way,
One here, one there! None stirring? all say nay?
How now? you won't be happy when you may."
Now, after this, would Jove be aught to blame
If with both cheeks he burst into a flame,
And vowed, when next they pray, they shall not find
His temper easy, or his ear inclined?

Well, not to treat things lightly (though, for me,
Why truth may not be gay, I cannot see:
Just as, we know, judicious teachers coax
With sugar-plum or cake their little folks
To learn their alphabet):--still, we will try
A graver tone, and lay our joking by.
The man that with his plough subdues the land,
The soldier stout, the vintner sly and bland,
The venturous sons of ocean, all declare
That with one view the toils of life they bear,
When age has come, and labour has amassed
Enough to live on, to retire at last:
E'en so the ant (for no bad pattern she),
That tiny type of giant industry,
Drags grain by grain, and adds it to the sum
Of her full heap, foreseeing cold to come:
Yet she, when winter turns the year to chill,
Stirs not an inch beyond her mounded hill,
But lives upon her savings: you, more bold,
Ne'er quit your gain for fiercest heat or cold:
Fire, ocean, sword, defying all, you strive
To make yourself the richest man alive.
Yet where's the profit, if you hide by stealth
In pit or cavern your enormous wealth?
"Why, once break in upon it, friend, you know,
And, dwindling piece by piece, the whole will go."
But, if 'tis still unbroken, what delight
Can all that treasure give to mortal wight?
Say, you've a million quarters on your floor:
Your stomach is like mine: it holds no more:
Just as the slave who 'neath the bread-bag sweats
No larger ration than his fellows gets.
What matters it to reasonable men
Whether they plough a hundred fields or ten?
"But there's a pleasure, spite of all you say,
In a large heap from which to take away."
If both contain the modicum we lack,
Why should your barn be better than my sack?
You want a draught of water: a mere urn,
Perchance a goblet, well would serve your turn:
You say, "The stream looks scanty at its head;
I'll take my quantum where 'tis broad instead."
But what befalls the wight who yearns for more
Than Nature bids him? down the waters pour,
And whelm him, bank and all; while he whose greed
Is kept in check, proportioned to his need,
He neither draws his water mixed with mud,
Nor leaves his life behind him in the flood.