Your few quatrains are not amiss,
Your couplets too are neat; for this
You earn a mild regard,
But little fame, for many men
Can write good verses now and then —
To make a book is hard.

[Quod non insulse scribis tetrasticha quaedam,
Disticha quod belle pauca, Sabelle, facis,
Laudo, nec admiror. Facile est epigrammata belle
Scribere, sed librum scribere difficile est.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 85 (7.85) (AD 92) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

"To Sabellus." (Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Cause thou dost pen Tetrasticks clean and sweet
And some few pretty disticks with smooth feet,
I praise but not admire:
Tis easy to acquire
Short modest Epigrams that pretty look,
But it is hard and tough to write a book.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]

That some tetrasticks not amiss you write,
Or some few disticks prettyly indite,
I like, but not admire. With small paynes tooke
An epigram is writ; but not a booke.
[tr. Killigrew (1695)]

Some not absurd tetrastichs thou may'st squeeze;
And distichs, that can scarce deny to please.
I praise, yet not admire: a verse to cook
Is no hard task; but canst thou write a book?
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 3, ep. 54]

For sometimes writing quatrains which are not devoid of humour, Sabellus, and for composing a few distichs prettily, I commend you; but I am not astonished at you. It is easy to write a few epigrams prettily; but to write a book of them is difficult.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Your writing, not without wit, certain quatrains, your composing nicely a few distichs, Sabellus, I applaud, yet am not surprised. 'Tis easy to write epigrams nicely, but to write a book is hard.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

The fact that you can write with taste
A quatrain now and then
And even several couplets too
Is something I do commend,
But I'm not amazed, for after all
A few epigrams smart and neat
Are easy to write, but a bookful of them
Is quite another feat!
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

That you write some quatrains not without wit and turn a few couplets prettily, Sabellus, is something I praise but do not wonder at. It's easy to write epigrams prettily, but to write a book is hard.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

A quatrain here, a couplet there,
Some decent rhymes, but let's be fair:
Your output no great author shook;
It takes much more to fill a book.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

You wrote some clever couplets?
"Take a look."
These epigrams are fine --
but not a book.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Sabellus, that you write some witty quatrains
and craft some couplets well earns my regard,
but no surprise. To write good epigrams
is easy, but to write a book is hard.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

Added on 7-Jul-23 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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