The best you can do is grant my demand,
Your second-best course to refuse it off-hand;
I welcome assent and denial excuse —
But, Cinna, you neither consent nor refuse.

[Primum est ut praestes, si quid te, Cinna, rogabo;
illud deinde sequens, ut cito, Cinna, neges.
Diligo praestantem; no odi, Cinna, negantem:
sed tu nec praestas nec cito, Cinna, negas.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 43 [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
    (Source)

Source (Latin). Alternate translations:

The kindest thing of all is to comply;
The next kind thing is quickly to deny:
I love performance; nor denial hate:
Your "Shall I, Shall I?" is the cursed state.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

To grant must doubtless be the primal boon:
The next, my Cinna, to deny me soon.
I love the former, nor the latter hate:
But thou not grantest, and deniest late.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 5, ep. 53]

The greatest favour that you can do me, Cinna, if I ask anything of you, is to give it me; the next, Cinna, to refuse it at once. I love one who gives, Cinna; I do not hate one who refuses; but you, Cinna, neither give nor refuse.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Cinna, grant me my request:
(I warmly hope you'll choose to!)
Or do what I think second best,
In haste refuse to.
Patrons I esteem, nor hate
The man I can't bamboozle:
But you give naught, yet make me wait
A slow refusal.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]

The first thing is that you should hand it over if I ask anything of you, Cinna; the next thing after that, Cinna, is that you should refuse quickly. I like a man who hands over; I do not hate, Cinna, a man who refuses; but you neither hand over, nor do you, Cinna, quickly refuse.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

'Tis best to grant me, Cinna, what I crave;
And next best, Cinna, is refusal straight.
Givers I like: refusal I can brave;
But you don't give -- you only hesitate!
[tr. Duff (1929)]

Added on 16-Jul-21 | Last updated 16-Jul-21
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