VII. THE BANDUSIAN FOUNT
What, then, does my ramble of two hours at San Gervasio amount to? It shows that there is a possibility, at least, of a now vanished fountain having existed on the heights where it might fulfil more accurately the conditions of Horace's ode. If Ughelli's church "at the Bandusian Fount" stood on this eminence - well, I shall be glad to corroborate, for once in the way, old Ughelli, whose book contains a deal of dire nonsense. And if the Abbe Chaupy's suggestion that the village lay at the foot of the hill should ever prove to be wrong - well, his amiable ghost may be pleased to think that even this does not necessitate the sacrifice of his Venosa theory in favour of that of the scholiast Akron; there is still a way out of the difficulty.
But whether this at San Gervasio is the actual fountain hymned by Horace - ah, that is quite another affair! Few poets, to be sure, have clung more tenaciously to the memories of their childhood than did he and Virgil. And yet, the whole scene may be a figment of his imagination - the very word Bandusia may have been coined by him. Who can tell? Then there is the Digentia hypothesis. I know it, I know it! I have read some of its defenders, and consider (entre nous) that they have made out a pretty strong case. But I am not in the mood for discussing their proposition - not just now.
Here at San Gervasio I prefer to think only of the Roman singer, so sanely jovial, and of these waters as they flowed, limpid and cool, in the days when they fired his boyish fancy. Deliberately I refuse to hear the charmer Boissier. Deliberately, moreover, I shut my eyes to the present condition of affairs; to the herd of squabbling laundresses and those other incongruities that spoil the antique scene. Why not? The timid alone are scared by microscopic discords of time and place. The sage can invest this prosaic water-trough with all its pristine dignity and romance by an unfailing expedient. He closes an eye. It is an art he learns early in life; a simple art, and one that greatly conduces to happiness. The ever alert, the conscientiously wakeful - how many fine things they fail to see! Horace knew the wisdom of being genially unwise; of closing betimes an eye, or an ear; or both. Desipere in loco. . . .