A Latin exclamation from Cicero's First Oration against Catiline, meaning "Oh, the times! Oh, the customs!" Cicero was suggesting that the times he lived in were particularly lamentable because of a lack of patriotism on the part of those who didn't support him in suppressing Catiline's conspiracy.


O, Times! O, Manners! It is my opinion
That you are changing sadly your dominion -
I mean the reign of manners hath long ceased,
For men have none at all, or bad at least;
And as for times, altho''tis said by many
The "good old times" were far the worst of any,
Of which sound doctrine I believe each tittle,
Yet still I think these worse than them a little.

I've been a thinking - isn't that the phrase? -
I like your Yankee words and Yankee ways -
I've been a thinking, whether it were best
To take thing seriously, or all in jest;
Whether, with grim Heraclitus of yore,
To weep, as he did, till his eyes were sore;
Or rather laugh with him, that queer philosopher,
Democritus of Thrace, who used to toss over
The page of life and grin at the dog-ears
As though he'd say, "Why, who the devil cares?"

This is a question which, oh heaven, withdraw
The luckless query from a members claw!
Instead of two sides, Hob has nearly eight,
Each fit to furnish forth four hours debate.
What shall be done? I'll lay it on the table,
And take the matter up when I'm more able'
And, in the meantime to prevent all bother,
I'll neither laugh with one, nor cry with t'other,
Nor deal in flatt'ry or aspersions foul,
But, taking one by each hand, merely growl.

Ah, growl, say you, my friend, and pray at what?
Why, really, sir, I almost had forgot -
But, damn it, sir, I deem it a disgrace
That things shuold stare us boldly in the face,
And daily strut the street with bows and scrapes,
Who would be men by imitating apes.
I beg your pardon, reader, for the oath
The monkeys make me swear, though something loth;
I'm apt to be discursive in my style,
But pray be patient; yet a little whle
Will change me, and as politicians do,
I'll mend my manners and my measures too.

Of all cities - and I've seen no few;
For I have travelled, friend, as well as you -
I don't remember one, upon my soul,
But take it generally upon the whole,
(As members say they like their logick taken,
Beacause divided, it may change be shaked)
So pat, agreeable and vastly proper
As this for a neat, frisky counter-hopper;
Here he may revel to his heart's content,
flounce like a fish in his own element,
Toss back his fine curls from their forehead fair,
And hop o'er counters with a Vester's air,
Complete at night what he bagan A.M.,
And having cheated ladies, danced with them;
For, at a ball, what fair one can escape
The pretty little hand that sold her tape,
Or who so cold, so callous to refuse
The youth who cut the ribbon for her shoes!

One of these fish, par excellence the beau -
God help me! - it has been my lot to know,
At least by sight, for I'm a timid man,
And always keep from laughing, if I can;
But speak to him, he'll make you such grimace,
Lord! to be grave exceeds the power of face.
The hearts of all the ladies are with him,
their bright eyes on his Tom and Jerry brim
And dove-tailed coat, obtained at cost; while then
Those eyes won't turn on anything like men.

His very voice is musical delight,
His form, once seen, becomes a part of sight;
In short, his collar, his look, his tone is
The "beau ideal" fancied for Adonis.
Philosophers have often held dispute
As to the seat of thought in man and brute;
For taht the power of thought attends the latter
My friend, the beau, hath made a settled matter,
And spite of all dogmas current in all ages,
One settled fact is better than ten sages.

For he does think, though I am oft in doubt
If I can tell exactly what about.
Ah, yes! hit little foot and ankle trim,
'Tis there the seat of reason lies in him,
A wise philosopher would shake his head,
He then, of course, must shake his foot instead.
At me, in vengeance, shall that foot be shaken -
Because to his cat's eyes I hold a glass,
And let him see himself a proper ass!
I think he'll take his likeness to himself,
But if he won't, he shall, a stupid elf,
And, lest the guessing throw the fool in fits,
I close the portrait with the name of Pitts.
-Edgar Allan Poe, O Tempora! O, Mores!

"When you're just walking by
And Catiline stabs you in the eye
O that's a more!"

Cicero sighed and threw his stylus down, scratching his scalp in disgust at the doggerel he had just set to words. This was not the voice of an orator; this was the sort of thing a street performer on the Via Appia would yell at travellers in hopes of gaining a few sesterces for the night's lodging and food. Cicero stood up from his seat and drank a gulp of wine to calm his nerves. Besides, he was above mere verse; he was one of the Senate's most noted orators. And Catiline just tried to have him killed. He looked for his stylus and took his place once again at his writing table.

What would his ancestors say?

"When you take up your seat
And the others mince you like meat
O tempora!"

Again! Cicero laid his stylus down on the papyrus and downed all his wine in one gulp. This wasn't some silly festival verse-reading by revelling drunkards, nor was it a vulgar insult contest. This was the Senate, and an attempt on his life had just been made. He had to be more grave and dour than at least the mob outside (which he was planning on assembling anyways, just to show that son of a cur, Catiline). He took up his stylus once more:

"O how long will you abuse
The ancient customs we use
O tempora!

O I note with much sadness
You've descended into madness
O mores!"

Cicero sighed, a bead of sweat forming on his forehead. This will have to do. He picked up his sheet of papyrus, gathered up his toga and sandals, and left for the Senate chamber. It was turning out to be a rough day already.

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