Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I do equally desire your company

Ben Jonson’s Inviting a Friend to Supper (Epigram 101 – in volume 8 of the old Herford edition). There are bits of Martial (11.52, quoted below) and Horace (especially Epistle 1.5, also below) recognizable as background predecessors.

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come, whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem.
It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates
The entertainment perfect, not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better salad
Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then
Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a cony
Is not to be despaired of, for our money;
And, though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:
Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some
May yet be there, and godwit, if we can;
Knat, rail, and ruff too. Howsoe’er, my man
Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,
Livy, or of some better book to us,
Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;
And I’ll profess no verses to repeat.
To this, if ought appear which I not know of,
That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;
But that which most doth take my Muse and me,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;
Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted,
Their lives, as so their lines, till now had lasted.
Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring,
Are all but Luther’s beer to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
And we will have no Pooley, or Parrot by,
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men;
But, at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful board,
Shall make us sad next morning or affright
The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.

Martial 11.52:

You will dine nicely, Julius Cerialis, at my house; if you have no better engagement, come. You will be able to observe the eighth hour;* we will bathe together: you know how near Stephanus’ baths are to me. First, there will be given you lettuce useful for relaxing the stomach, and shoots cut from their parent leeks; then tunny salted and bigger than a small lizard-fish, and one too which eggs will garnish in leaves of rue. Other eggs will not be wanting, roasted in embers of moderate heat, and a lump of cheese ripened over a Velabran hearth, and olives that have felt the Picenian frost. These are enough for a whet: do you want to know the rest? I will deceive you to make you come: fish, mussels, sow’s paps, and fat birds of the poultry-yard and the marsh, which even Stella is not used to serve except at a special dinner. More I promise you: I will recite nothing to you, even although you yourself read again your “Giants” straight through, or your “Pastorals” that rank next to immortal Virgil.

Cenabis belle, Juli Cerialis, apud me;
condicio est melior si tibi nulla, veni.
Octavam poteris servare; lavabimur una:
scis quam sint Stephani balnea juncta mihi.
Prima tibi dabitur ventri lactuca movendo
utilis, et porris fila resecta suis,
mox vetus et tenui major cordyla lacerto,
sed quam cum rutae frondibus ova tegant;
altera non deerunt leni versata favilla,
et Velabrensi massa coacta foco,
et quae Picenum senserunt frigus olivae.
Haec satis in gustu. Cetera nosse cupis?
Mentiar, ut venias: pisces, coloephia, sumen,
et chortis saturas atque paludis aves,
quae nec Stella solet rara nisi ponere cena.
Plus ego polliceor: nil recitabo tibi,
ipse tuos nobis relegas licet usque Gigantas,
rura vel aeterno proxima Vergilio.

And Horace Epistle 1.5:

If you can recline at my table on couches made by Archias, and are not afraid of “a dinner of herbs” only, from a modest dish, I shall expect you, Torquatus, at my house at sunset. You will drink wine that was bottled in Taurus’s second consulate between marshy Minturnae and Petrinum near Sinuessa. If you have aught better, bid it be sent, or submit to orders. Long has my hearth been bright, and the furniture made neat for you. Dismiss airy hopes and the struggle for wealth, and Moschus’s cause. To-morrow, the festal day of Caesar’s birth, gives excuse for sleeping late; without penalty shall we be free to prolong the summer night in genial converse.

Why is fortune mine, if I may not use it? He who, from regard to his heir, pinches and spares overmuch is next door to a madman. I shall begin the drinking and the scattering of flowers, and shall suffer you, if you will, to think me reckless. What a miracle cannot the wine-cup work! It unlocks secrets, bids hopes be fulfilled, thrusts the coward into the field, takes the load from anxious hearts, teaches new arts. The flowing bowl—whom has it not made eloquent? Whom has it not made free even amid pinching poverty?

Here is what I charge myself to provide—and able and willing I am: that no untidy coverlet, no soiled napkin wrinkle up your nose; that tankard and plate become for you a mirror; that there be none to carry abroad what is said among faithful friends; that like may meet and mate with like.

Butra and Septicius I shall have to meet you, and Sabinus, unless a better supper and a goodlier girl detain him. There is room, too, for several “shades”a; but the reek of goats makes too crowded feasts unpleasant.b Write back, pray, how many you would like us to be; then drop your business, and by the back-door give the slip to the client waiting in your hall.

Si potes Archiacis conviva recumbere lectis
nec modica cenare times holus omne patella,
supremo te sole domi, Torquate, manebo,
vina bibes iterum Tauro diffusa palustris
inter Minturnas Sinuessanumque Petrinum.
si melius quid habes, arcesse, vel imperium fer.
iamdudum splendet focus et tibi munda supellex,
mitte levis spes et certamina divitiarum
et Moschi causam: cras nato Caesare festus
dat veniam somnumque dies; impune licebit
aestivam sermone benigno tendere noctem.
Quo mihi fortunam, si non conceditur uti?
parcus ob heredis curam nimiumque severus
adsidet insano, potare et spargere flores
incipiam, patiarque vel inconsultus haberi.
quid non ebrietas dissignat ? operta recludit,
spes iubet esse ratas, ad proelia trudit inertem,
sollicitis animis onus eximit, addocet artes.
fecundi calices quem non fecere disertum?
contracta quem non in paupertate solutum?
Haec ego procurare et idoneus imperor et non
invitus, ne turpe toral, ne sordida mappa
corruget naris, ne non et cantharus et lanx
ostendat tibi te, ne fidos inter amicos
sit qui dicta foras eliminet, ut coeat par
iungaturque pari. Butram tibi Septiciumque,
et nisi cena prior potiorque puella Sabinum
detinet, adsumam. locus est et pluribus umbris:
sed nimis arta premunt olidae convivia caprae,
tu quotus esse velis rescribe et rebus omissis
atria servantem postico falle clientem.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s