So Ran the Rule Then

Soon I foresee few acres for harrowing
Left once the rich men’s villas have seized the land;
Fishponds that outdo Lake Lucrinus
Everywhere; bachelor place-trees ousting

Vine-loving elms; think myrtle-woods, violet-beds,
All kinds of rare blooms tickling the sense of smell,
Perfumes to drown those olive orchards
Nursed in the past for a farmer’s profit;

Quaint garden-screens, too, woven of laurel-boughs
To parry sunstroke. Romulus never urged
This style of life; rough-bearded Cato
Would have detested the modern fashions.

Small private wealth, large communal property —
So ran the rule then. No one had porticoes
Laid out with ten-foot builder’s measures,
Catching the cool of the northern shadow,

No one in those days sneered at the turf by the
Roadside; yet laws bade citizens beautify
Townships at all men’s cost and quarry
Glorious marble to roof the temples.

(Horace, Ode XV, Book II, Translated by James Michie)