Cronus to his well-beloved me, Greeting.
My good man, why this absurdity of writing to me about the25 state of the world, and advising redistribution of property? It is none of my business; the present ruler must see to that. It is an odd thing you should be the only person unaware that
[paragraph continues] I have long abdicated; my sons now administer various departments, of which the one that concerns you is mainly in the hands of Zeus; my own charge is confined to draughts and merry-making, song and good cheer, and that for one week only. As for the weightier matters you speak of, removal of inequalities and reducing of all men to one level of poverty or riches, Zeus must do your business for you. On the other hand, if any man is wronged or defrauded of his holiday privileges, that is a matter within my competence; and I am writing to the rich on the subject of dinners, and that pint of gold, and the raiment, directing them to send you what the season requires. The poor are reasonable there; it is right and proper for the rich to do these things, unless it turns out that they have good reasons to the contrary.
26Speaking generally, however, I must tell you that you are all in error; it is quite a misconception to imagine the rich in perfect bliss; they have no monopoly of life's pleasures because they can eat expensive food, drink too much good wine, revel in beauty, and go in soft raiment. You have no idea of how it works out. The resulting anxieties are very considerable. A ceaseless watch must be kept, or stewards will be lazy and dishonest, wine go sour, and grain be weeviled; the burglar will be off with the rich man's plate; agitators will persuade the people that he is meditating a coup d’état. And these are but a minute fraction of their troubles; if you could know their apprehensions and cares, you would think riches a thing to be avoided at all costs.
27Why, look at me; if wealth and dominion were good things, do you suppose I should have been fool enough to relinquish them, make room for others, and sit down like a common man content with a subordinate position? No, it was because I knew all the conditions the rich and powerful cannot escape that I had the sense to abdicate.
You made a great fuss in your letter about their gorging on 28boar's head and pastry while your festival consists of a mouthful of cress or thyme or onion. Now, what are the facts? As to the immediate sensation, on the palate, there is little to choose between the two diets--not much to complain of in either; but with the after effects it is quite otherwise. You get up next morning without either the headache the rich man's wine leaves behind, or the disgusting queasiness that results from his surfeit of food. To these effects he adds those of nights given to lust and debauchery, and as likely as not reaps the fruit of his luxury in consumption, pneumonia, or dropsy. It is quite a difficult matter to find a rich man who is not deathly pale; most of them by the time they are old men use eight legs belonging to other people instead of their own two; they are gold without and rags within, like the stage hero's robes. No fish dinners for you, I admit; you hardly know what fish tastes like; but then observe, no gout or pneumonia either, nor other ailments due to other excesses. Apart from that. though, the rich themselves do not enjoy their daily over-indulgence in these things; you may see them as eager, and more, for a dinner of herbs as ever you are for game.
I say nothing of their other vexations--one has a disreputable 29 son, another a wife who prefers his slave to himself, another realizes that his minion yields to necessity what he would not to affection; there are numberless things, in fact, that you know nothing about; you only see their gold and purple, or catch sight of them behind their high-steppers, and open your mouths and abase yourselves before them. If you left them severely alone, if you did not turn to stare at their silver-plated carriages, if you did not while they were talking eye their emerald rings, or finger their clothes and admire the fineness of the texture, if you let them keep their riches to themselves, in short, I can assure you they would seek you out and implore
the favour of your company; you see, they must show you their couches and tables and goblets, the sole good of which is in the being known to possess them.
30You will find that most of their acquisitions are made for you; they are not for their own use, but for your astonishment. I am one that knows both lives, and I write this for your consolation. You should keep the feast with the thought in your minds that both parties will soon leave this earthly scene, they resigning their wealth, and you your poverty. However, I will write to them as I promised, and am confident that they will not disregard what I say.