Though you are the Emperor, my Lord, born as if from Jupiter’s own loin, made strong by the gods and by suckling from the teat of your mother, there are things you mustn’t eat from your plush dining sofa! As your feeble lounge servant I know I have no power and I live to feed you. Even then, powerful Augustine, there are some food items more cursed than Proserpina’s pomegranate. But by my hand, merciful Caesar, you can enjoy grapes that you pluck with your lips like Ceres plucks ripened grain from the field!
No matter your inclination and desire, however, you mustn’t eat a peach, Your Majesty, despite its sweetness and juiciness. I cannot dangle a peach in front of your mouth—the mouth from which all law is spoken to life—as you recline in your chaise. By Jupiter and by Juno, my lord, I beg of you do not request a peach. The last ruler to request a peach cleaned my index finger of flesh, straight to the bone whilst trying to suckle the nectar of the fruit as I hung it in front of him. Try, perhaps, a vine of grapes, a gift from Bacchus himself instead!
While lounging, all-powerful Caesar, I beg of you do not request the fresh bread from the merchants on the via. I try—oh, I try!—to hold the loaf within range of your mouth but far enough so you do not have to lift a finger, but the bread grows heavy! And the last loaf I held, in my feeble servant hands, I dropped onto the nose of our Augustine before you and made blood flow from his nose like the mighty Tiber. He—justly so—castrated me in front of my wife and children, my Lord, and I have no loin left to give. So, with tears in my eyes I plead, no bread! Might I suggest instead a supple fruit from the gods themselves, holy in its deliciousness and overwhelming in its flavor—a grape straight from the vine!
As your tongue ails and your lips desire a treat, dear Caesar, I want to ask—with humility and virtue—that you please do not ask me to feed you lamb from the field. I know lamb is juicy and delicious but I—a simple man, brought here from Gaul—have known nothing in life other than grapes and chains. I was once asked to take to the field to find a lamb for slaughter, to quench the hunger of my old master. I captured and clubbed the lamb, and brought it to the fire, roaring like those in Pluto’s kingdom. As I was tying the lamb up to roast, so that I could feed my liege, it roused awake and began to writhe and wriggle free. It escaped the licks of flame and looked me in my eyes, dear Emperor.
In that moment I could feel the lamb invoke the wrath of Diana, who cursed me to feel ever-hungry but have the stomach of a wee mouse. Now I can only stomach grain, my Imperator, so, I beg of you, do not ask for lamb! I cannot afford another curse and the hunt of the captive lamb still evades me. A welcome substitute could perhaps be wine in its virginal form: a grape, dangling pleasantly like the limb of a willow!
You are the most powerful and strong man in Rome and I know your appetite is too, though I ask as a mere suggestion that you do not request I feed you olives, cherished Caesar. Though they may look like the cousins of grapes, it is a mere trick! Relatives they are not! I once fed an emperor an olive and its lubricated skin made it slip from his lips to the tunnel where he breathes. His face turned the color of wine and no air entered his body. His scribe had to force the olive from his throat, where it flew, faster that Mercury’s chariot, across the room straight into my eye. Now, like Polyphemus, I have only one eye. Men and children alike fear my atrocious appearance. I cannot lose another eye, my Lord! I am no Graiae, no one will share an eye with me. What if—instead of an olive—you summoned the taste for a grape! I brought some from the vineyard, picked this morning!
So, my Imperator, it is with desperate pleas and trembling fingers that I beg you to recline on your chaise lounge, part your lips, and prepare your belly for grapes! I have nothing but grapes to give and please, please do not plead for more! I would let you eat my son like Saturn devoured his children before I would feed you a food other than the gods’ most favored food: the grape! But that was just an expression, most wonderful Caesar, you mustn’t eat my son from the comfort of your lounging chaise!