22 NOVEMBER 1913, Page 24

PETRONIUS ARBITER.* THE obscurity of the Satyricon usually ascribed to

Petronius, and the gross indecencies which deface it, have long since removed it from our educational library, and that is too apt nowadays to mean complete extinguishment for a work in a learned language. In the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries the Satyricon was extremely popular. It was translated in 1694 and 1736 (the second time by Addison) and editions were brought out all over Europe. Then it suffered an eclipse. Lately, however, interest in it has begun to revive, that portion of it which is known as the " Cena Trimalchionis " in particular, having been the subject of various editions and translations, while Mr. Stephen Gaselee is known to be engaged on a complete and defini- tive edition of the whole. For the present, however, the volume now under consideration constitutes the only acces- sible English edition of the complete work, and it should therefore be sure of a wide welcome. For the Satyrical?, is a book of extraordinary interest. Humour and humanity are rare qualities in the small fragment of Latin literature which has come down to us. The classical writers of Rome were too imitative, too much occupied with their Greek models, to give such qualities full play, and even Latin comedy was transplanted bodily from Athens. But in Petronius these elements run riot. The " Cena Trimalchionis" is among the great farces of the world, and, in spite of its obvious exaggera- tion and burlesque, the whole book gives tie a truer picture of bourgeois life under the Empire than any other that has come down to us. The very language is a perpetual delight. After the unvarying stateliness, the polished propriety, of literary Latin, the charm of Petronius' sledge-hammer slang and the point and compression of his proverbial philosophy are irresistible. " Longe fugit, quisquis suos fugit" (he that flies his family has far to travel); " Cui datum eat, non cui destina- tum " (blessed is he who gets the gift, not he for whom it is meant); " Qui asinum non potest stratum caedit " (a man who

• Petronius. With an English translation by Michael Heseltine. Emmet Apocolocyntosis. With an English translation by W. H. D. Rouse. "Lod Classical Library." London : William Heinemann. [5s. net.]

cannot beat his donkey beats the saddle); " Colubra restem non pant," "In angustiis amici apparent" have a massive economy which English can rarely rival.

And the slang is equally effective. " Haec colonia retro- versus crescit tanquam coda vituli" ; "Piper, non horuo, quacumque ibat terrain adurebat "—every page is strewn with examples. The high spirits of the "Cena" are remarkable, too, and, in spite of the grossness of the farce, its character- isation is wonderfully vital. One need not suppose it photographic. Indeed, it is plainly not so, but the persons of the drama have almost all of them that higher reality which imposes itself, as it were, by force upon the reader. The remainder of the satire is rather fragmentary, and, although it contains many admirable things, remains on the whole less interesting than the " Cena." The verse which is scattered over it (for it is composed after the Menippean fashion) is seldom of more than academic interest, although there are some curious and charming lines among the frag- ments which Mr. Heseltine has included with the rest. As for his translation he has had a difficult task, and on the whole his version may be called successful. One has the feeling sometimes that the idiom of the original has become rather unnecessarily diluted, and now and then there is definite clumsiness. But this is almost inevitable. The translation succeeds in being independently readable, and that is all that one has a right to expect.

The volume contains also the text of the "Pumpkinification of Claudius," with a version from the experienced hand of Dr. Rouse. This work is less known and considerably less interesting than the Satyricon, but it contains some telling passages, and was well worthy of inclusion.