January 1 World’s Popular Poem
Why is it modern poets are ignored,
and only dead ones get adored?
That’s how envy works, Regulus,
the dead make the safest rivals.
So we mourn Pompey’s colonnade
and its nostalgic, leafy shade
just as our fathers praised the temple
Catulus restored not wisely nor too well.
Rome reads Ennius, though Virgil is to hand,
as Homer was a joke in his own land;
Menander’s best plays were thought dull;
only Corinna knew her Ovid well.
So, little books, let’s not rush to our fate.
Since death comes before glory, let’s be late.
from The Mortal City: 100 Epigrams of Martial