Light Verse for Serious Writers

Pliny, Epistulae 5.3:

“I occasionally write some verses which are lacking in severity – indeed, I do. I listen to comedies, watch mimes, read lyric poems, and even understand the poetry of Sotades. Occasionally I laugh, joke, and play, and if I wanted to encapsulate all of the occupations of my harmless leisure, I would say I am human. I am not much bothered by the opinion of my habits which is formed by those fools who marvel at my writing because they do not know that the most learned, most serious, and most holy men have written such trifles in their day, too. But I am confident that those who are in the know concerning what great authors I follow will readily permit me to go astray with those authorities, seeing that it is laudable to imitate their more playful works as well as their serious writings. Yet I fear – and I will not name anyone living, lest I appear to descend into mere adulation – yet I fear that what well suited Cicero, Gaius Calvus, Asinius Pollio, Marcus Messala, Quintus Hortensius, Marcus Brutus, Lucius Sulla, Quintus Catulus, Quintus Scaevola, Servius Sulpicius, Varro, Torquatus (nay, both Torquati), Gaius Memmius, Lentulus Gaetulicus, Annaeus Seneca, and even Verginius Rufus may not well suit me. If those private examples were unsufficient, I could add the examples of Iulius Caesar, Augustus, Nerva, and Tiberius. I pass over Nero, though I am well aware that things are not made worse because occasionally practiced by bad men, though those things remain honorable which are quite often done by good people. Among these, perhaps the chief are Vergil, Cornelius Nepos, and earlier Accius and Ennius.”

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facio non numquam versiculos severos parum, facio; nam et comoedias audio et specto mimos et lyricos lego et Sotadicos intellego; aliquando praeterea rideo iocor ludo, utque omnia innoxiae remissionis genera breviter amplectar, homo sum. 3 Nec vero moleste fero hanc esse de moribus meis existimationem, ut qui nesciunt talia doctissimos gravissimos sanctissimos homines scriptitasse, me scribere mirentur. 4 Ab illis autem quibus notum est, quos quantosque auctores sequar, facile impetrari posse confido, ut errare me sed cum illis sinant, quorum non seria modo verum etiam lusus exprimere laudabile est. 5 An ego verear — neminem viventium, ne quam in speciem adulationis incidam, nominabo -, sed ego verear ne me non satis deceat, quod decuit M. Tullium, C. Calvum, Asinium Pollionem, M. Messalam, Q. Hortensium, M. Brutum, L. Sullam, Q. Catulum, Q. Scaevolam, Servium Sulpicium, Varronem, Torquatum, immo Torquatos, C. Memmium, Lentulum Gaetulicum, Annaeum Senecam et proxime Verginium Rufum et, si non sufficiunt exempla privata, Divum Iulium, Divum Augustum, Divum Nervam, Tiberium Caesarem? 6 Neronem enim transeo, quamvis sciam non corrumpi in deterius quae aliquando etiam a malis, sed honesta manere quae saepius a bonis fiunt. Inter quos vel praecipue numerandus est P. Vergilius, Cornelius Nepos et prius Accius Enniusque. Non quidem hi senatores, sed sanctitas morum non distat ordinibus.

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