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Ep. V.

(Circa a.d. 361.)

Since you do take my jokes kindly, I send you the rest.  My prelude is from Homer.

“Come now and change thy theme,

And sing of the inner adornment.”

—Od. viii. 492.

Your roofless and doorless hut, your fireless and smokeless hearth, your walls dried by fire, that we may not be hit by the drops of the mud, condemned like Tantalus thirsting in the midst of waters, and that pitiable feast with nothing to eat, to which we were invited from Cappadocia, not as to a Lotus-eater’s poverty, but to a table of Alcinous—we young and miserable survivors of a wreck.  For I remember those loaves and the broth (so it was called), yes, and I shall remember them too, and my poor teeth that slipped on your hunks of bread, and then braced themselves up, and pulled themselves as it were out of mud.  You yourself will raise these things to a higher strain of tragedy, having learnt to talk big through your own sufferings…for if we had not been quickly delivered by that great supporter of the poor—I mean your mother—who appeared opportunely like a harbour to men tossed by a storm, we should long ago have been dead, rather pitied than admired for our faith in Pontus.  How shall I pass over that garden which was no garden and had no vegetables, and the Augean dunghill which we cleared out of the house, and with which we filled it up (sc. the garden), when we drew that mountainous wagon, I the vintager, and you the valiant, with our necks and hands, which still bear the traces of our labours.  “O earth and sun, O air and virtue” (for I will indulge a little in tragic tones), not that we might bridge the Hellespont, but that we might level a precipice.  If you are not put out by the mention of the circumstances, no more am I; but if you are, how much more was I by the reality.  I pass by the rest, through respect for the others from whom I received much enjoyment.

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