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Roman Manners

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

It will not surprise any person, who can estimate probabilities, to learn that the polite Romans, like ourselves, when it was not agreeable to them to receive visits, took the liberty of directing their servants to say, " Not at home." But it may be amusing to see a direct confirmation of the fact from an ancient author. This we find in a very neat and good-humoured epigram of Martial :

" Ne valeam, si non totis, Deciane, diebus
Et tecum totis noctibus esse velim :
Sed duo sunt qu nos distinguunt millia passm,
Quatuor hc fiunt, cum rediturus earn.
Saepe domi non es ; cum sis quoque, spe negaris;
Vel tantum causis, vel tibi spe vacas.
Te tamen ut videam, duo millia non piget ire,
Ut to non videam, quatuor ire piget."Book ii., Ep. 5.

Which I thus translate :

" So may I thrive, my Decius, as 'tis true
Whole days and nights I'd gladly pass. with you,
But two long miles divide, which, told again,
Amount to four, when I return in vain.
Oft you are out, or if not out, denied,
By causes or by studies occupied.
Two miles to see you willingly I trudge,
But four to miss you, I confess, I grudge."

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