Translated by A. S. Kline © 2006 All Rights Reserved
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and you Assyrians
stop bleating of
no praise for tender Ionians, and Dianaís trivial temple,
and may Apolloís many-horned altar bury
donít let the Carians cry extravagant words to the sky
regarding the Mausoleum that hangs in vacuous air.
All efforts now give way to Caesarís new amphitheatre,
Fame can speak of the one, and that can do for them all.
Just here, where Neroís skyey colossus sees stars,
and the scaffolding towers up high, right in the way,
once shone the nasty halls of that cruel king,
and only the one Golden House in all of
Just here, where the Amphitheatreís honoured pile
rises, towering before our eyes, was Neroís lake.
Just here, where we gaze at Titusís thermal baths,
swift gift, proud acres razed the poor manís roof.
Where the Claudian colonnade spreads wide its shade,
that golden palaceís outermost corner came to an end.
and the masterís pleasures are the peopleís now.
Pasiphae really was mated to that Cretan bull:
believe it: weíve seen it, the old storyís true.
old antiquity neednít pride itself so, Caesar:
whatever legend sings, the arena offers you.
Hereís the one you read, and you demand,
Martial, who is known throughout the land
for these witty little books of epigrams:
to whom, wise reader, you keep giving,
while he still feels, among the living,
what few poets merit in their graves.
I donít love you, Sabidius, no, I canít say why:
All I can say is this, that I donít love you.
Doors open wide, unguarded, when you sin
Lesbia, you donít conceal your tricks,
you like a watcher better than a lover
youíre not thankful for obscure delights.
Whores conversely donít want witnesses,
curtains, bolts, no cracks, reveal the brothels.
At least you might learn modesty from them,
the foulest find a place behind the tombs.
Do you really think that what I sayís too harsh?
I donít say donít fuck, Lesbia: donít be seen.
Heís quite well, Charinus, still heís pale.
Hardly drinks, Charinus, still heís pale.
A fine digestion too, Charinus, still heís pale.
He takes the sun, Charinus, still heís pale.
He dyes his skin, Charinus, still heís pale.
Eats pussy, yet, Charinus, still heís pale.
You donít write poems, Laelius, you criticise
mine. Stop criticising me or write your own.
Aegle, when you were fucked you sang badly.
Now you sing fine, though never to be kissed.
She desires me Ė Procillus, envy me! Ė
one whiter than a new-wet swan,
than privet, lilies, silver, snow:
but I desire one dark as night,
cicada, black ant, pitch, or crow.
You thought to hang yourself:
I know you well, Procillus, oh, youíll live.
When I ask, you always promise, Galla, never give.
If youíre always to prevaricate, Galla, please, say no.
You ask what I see in my farm near Nomentum, Linus?
What I see in it, Linus, is: from there I canít see you.
You say pretty girls burn with love for you, Sextus,
with your face too, like a man swimming underwater.
They say Cinna writes little poems about me.
Heís no writer, whose verse nobody reads.
Only you have land, then, Candidus,
Gold plate, cash, and porcelain, only you,
Massic or Caecuban wine of famous vintage,
only you judgement and wit, only you.
You have it all Ė well say I donít deny it Ė
But everyone has your wife, along with you.
Though I invite you, Gallus, you never invite me back:
Iíd forgive you, Gallas, if you never invited a soul.
You do, though: we both have faults. ĎWhich?í you ask,
Iíve no sense, Gallas, and youíve no shame.
Chloe, I could live without your face,
without your neck, and hands, and legs
without your breasts, and ass, and hips,
and Chloe, not to labour over details,
I could live without the whole of you.
Sertorius starts everything, finishes nothing.
When he fucks, I suspect, he never ends.
Galla wants, yet doesnít want, to give: and I canít say,
since she wants and doesnít want to, what she wants.
When I asked for twelve thousand you sent me six,
Next time, for twelve, Iíll ask for twenty-four.
To your shades Fronto, and Flacilla, this child
I commend: she was my sweet and my delight.
Little Erotion shall not fear the darkened shades
nor the vast mouths of the Tartarean hound.
Sheíd have completed her sixth chill winter,
if sheíd not lived a mere six days too few.
Now let her frisk and play among old friends
now let her chatter, and so lisp my name.
And let the soft turf cover her brittle bones:
earth, lie lightly on her: she lay lightly on you.
Philo swears he never eats in: itís true:
he never eats when nobody invites him.
Postumus, tomorrow youíll live, tomorrow you say.
When is it coming, tell me, that tomorrow?
How far off, and where, and how will you find it?
Your tomorrowís as old as Nestor or Priam.
How much would it cost you, tell me, to buy?
Tomorrow? Itís already too late to live today:
He who lived yesterday, Postumus, he is wise.
Pour me a double measure, of Falernian, Callistus,
and you Alcimus, melt over it summer snows,
let my sleek hair be soaked with excess of perfume,
my brow be wearied beneath the sewn-on rose.
The Mausoleum tells us to live, that one nearby,
it teaches us that the gods themselves can die.
Youíre often greeted but never the first to greet:
if thatís so, Pontilianus, then vale forever.
Aemilianus, youíll always be poor if youíre poor.
These days they only give wealth to the rich.
You chase, I flee; you flee, I chase; itís how I am:
what you wish I donít, Dindymus, what you donít I wish.
No woman was to be preferred to you, Lycoris:
To Glycera no womanís to be preferred.
Sheíll be as you are: youíll never be as she is.
What power time has! I want her, wanted you.
Iím there in every pocket, every hand.
See them blush, turn white, stunned, yawn, disgusted.
I like it: nowís when my poems give me delight.
Gellia only has a single lover.
The sin is worse then: sheís married twice.
Why donít I send you my little books?
Pontilianus, lest you send me yours.
Aulus, atrocious tragedyís struck my girl;
sheís lost her plaything and her fond delight:
not such as Catullusí tender mistress wept for
his Lesbia, bereft of worthless sparrow,
nor, sung by Stella, his Ianthis grieves for,
whose black dove wings it through Elysium:
Sheís not won by such loves, such nonsense,
mea lux: they donít stir my ladyís heart:
sheís lost a slave boy hardly twelve years old,
his member not yet eighteen inches long.
You do Germans, and Parthians, and Dacians, Caelia,
you donít scorn Cappadocian, Cilician beds;
and fuckers from
Youíd not flee the thighs of a circumcised Jew,
not an Alan goes by, with Sarmatian horse too.
Whatís the reason, then, since you are a Roman,
not one Roman member pleases you, woman?
Youíve a house on the Esquiline, house on the
add one with a view of poor Cybeleís shrine,
one Vestaís, one Jupiterís old, one his new.
Tell me where to meet you, tell me where to find you:
Who lives everywhere, Maximus, lives nowhere at all.
If powerful men take you up,
at meals, theatres, and porticos,
like riding and bathing with you,
wherever you happen to go,
donít be too proud, Philomusus:
you give pleasure, it isnít love.
They said heís an idiot: I paid twenty thousand.
My money back, Gargilianus: heís no fool.
Fabius, to whom I think you used to give, if I recall,
six thousand a year, Bithynicus, leaves you nothing.
No one else has had more: donít moan, Bithynicus:
he leaves you, after all, six thousand a year.
Though a fitted carriage bears your painted servants,
though a Libyan horseman sweats in a trail of dust,
and purple draperies dye your Baian villas
and Thetisí waters yellow with your creams,
though draughts of Setine brim your lucent crystal,
and Venus sleeps beneath no softer down,
still at night you lie at a proud girlís threshold
drenching, alas, her mute door with your tears,
while ceaseless sighs burn through your wretched breast.
Want to know your curse, Cotta? Youíre too well off.
That dish youíd send to me on Saturnís day,
you send to your mistress now, Sextilianus:
that green outfit you gave her on the Kalends,
those called after Mars, that my togaís paid for.
Your girls begin to cost you nothing now:
Sextilianus, youíre fucking with my gifts.
This portrait I deck with violets and roses,
do you ask whose face it is, Caedicianus?
Itís Marcus Antonius Primus in his prime:
in this the old man sees his younger self.
If art could show his mind and character!
No picture in the world would show lovelier.
Munatius Gallus, of Sabine simplicity,
in kindness of heart outdoing Epicurus,
by your daughterís eternal marriage torches,
chaste Venus grant you preserve that fair tie:
if foul envy claims by chance that verses
tinted with green verdigris are mine,
deny them, as you do, and contend
that no-one who is read writes such things.
This law my little books know how to keep:
to spare the person, ah, but speak the vice.
These, my dearest Martialis, are
the things that bring a happy life:
wealth left to you, not laboured for;
rich land, an ever-glowing hearth;
no law, light business, and a quiet mind;
a healthy body, gentlemanly powers;
a wise simplicity, friends not unlike;
good company, a table without art;
nights carefree, yet no drunkenness;
a bed thatís modest, true, and yet not cold;
sleep that makes the hours of darkness brief:
the need to be yourself, and nothing more;
not fearing your last day, not wishing it.†
Sad Victory break your Idumaean palms,
Fame beat your naked breasts with savage hands;
let Honour dress in mourning, grieving Glory
throw your wreathed tresses in the hostile flames.
Ah! Scorpus, cheated of your first youth, you die
and all too swiftly yoke the coal-black horses.
That goal, your speeding chariot always touched,
why was your lifeís goal, like to it, so near?
While the frail pyre was built, with flammable papyrus,
while his weeping wife was buying cinnamon and myrrh,
there, with the grave, the bier, the undertaker ready,
Numa created me his heir: and then Ė recovered!
Not only idle
my fragments donít just fall on empty ears,
no, my bookís thumbed by rigid centurions
stuck to their Martial standards in Getic frost,
and they even say the Britons recite my verse.
Whatís the good? My purse would never know it.
And yet, what excellent pages I could scribble,
what battles my Pierian trumpet could blow,
if while re-incarnating Augustus here on earth,
the kind gods had sent
When you want to go visit a distant lover, for sure, now,
Paula, youíll not be telling that stupid husband of yours,
ĎCaesarís ordered me off to Alba tomorrow first thing,
Caesar: Circeii.í The age of such tricks has gone.
Under Nervaís rule itís all right to be a Penelope:
but those Ďneedsí of yours, your true nature, wonít let you.
Bad girl, what can you do? Discover an ailing friend?
Your husband would stick fast to his lady himself
and go with you, if it were brother, mother, or father.
So, my ingenious one, what ruse do you consider?
Some other adulteress would say, for her nerves,
she needed to take the waters at Sinuessa.
You do better, Paula, when you want to go fucking,
you choose to tell that husband of yours the truth!
Odour of dried balsam from last nightís vases,
the last scent that falls from the saffronís arc;
that of apples ripening in winter storage,
or a field luxuriant with springís green shoots,
silks from our Empressís Palatine presses,
or amber warmed there in a young girlís hand;
or a shattered jar, not too near, of dark Falernian,
or a garden where they keep Sicilian bees;
what the alabaster boxes Cosmus sells, smell of,
the godís altars, a wreath slipped from perfumed hair Ė
why speak of them? None will do, mingle them all:
and thatís the fragrance of my boyís dawn kisses.
You wish to know his name? If itís re: kisses, Iíll tell you.
You swear it! Sabinus, youíre far too anxious to know.
Traveller, who treads
donít pass this noble marble by.
the wit of the
grace and art, and pleasure and play,
the worth and grief of the Roman stage,
and every Venus, and every Cupid,
You can leave now, Reader, over-severe,
go, where you please: I write for the city;
my page, now, runs wild with Priapic verse,
strikes the cymbals, with a dancing-girlís hand.
O, how youíll beat your cloak in rigid vein,
though youíre weightier than Curius, Fabricius!
You too, that read naughty jokes in my little book,
youíll be wet, girl, though youíre from moral
Lucretia would have blushed, and shut my volume,
while Brutus was there; but when he left: sheíd have read.
You ask me why I donít want to marry you, Galla?
Youíre so eloquent, and my pen is often in error.
That hyper-active member known to so many girls
has ceased to rise for Linus. Tongue, beware!
Lesbia swears sheís never been fucked for free.
True. When she wants to be fucked, she has to pay.
Leda tells her aged spouse she suffers from nerves,
and cries that she absolutely has to be fucked;
but, with tears and moans, sighs nothing is worth that,
and declares sheís reconciled to dying instead.
He begs her, live, not lose her years of youth,
and lets be done what he canít do now himself.
The female doctors leave, males take their place,
her knees are raised. O weighty remedy!
Zoilus, he lies: the man who says youíre vicious.
Youíre not vicious, Zoilous, youíre vice itself.
Marcella, whoíd think you hailed from frozen Salo,
that you were born in those haunts of mine?
So rare, so sweet:
your flavour. The
hearing you once, would name you for its own;
no one born in Suburaís midst, no daughter
of the tall Capitoline Hill could rival you;
nor will a glory of foreign birth, soon show
more worthy of becoming a Roman bride.
You tell me to quell my longing for the City:
you, of yourself, create a
Your wife says youíre fond of slave-girls, sheís fond of boys,
the ones who carry her litter: Alauda, youíre two for a pair.
The tipsy flute-girl blows us with moistened cheeks:
sometimes she blows just one, often both together.
You, sad brow, and harsh look, of Cato the severe,
or of Fabricia, impoverished ploughmanís daughter,
and you, pride in character, and you, the moral law,
and whatever weíre not, in the darkness, off with you!
Behold my verses crying: ĎIo, for the Saturnaliaí:
Nerva itís fun, under you, to do, and freely done.
You, gloomy readers, go learn Santraís jerky lines:
nothing of yours, for me: this little book is mine.