Martial 2016

BOOK  I, 16

You’ll find good, middling, then bad in spades
among these pages: So, dear reader, books get made.

BOOK I, 23

Bathtime, that’s your banquet’s subtext:
Feasting, soaking, double portions of beef.
My guess why I never got be your guest?
Undressed, I’m not your type. What a relief.

BOOK  I,  28

Acerra stinks of drink from last night on the town:
Not true. He’s been knocking them back since dawn.

BOOK I, 33

For your late dad not a sob when you’re alone;
enter a guest and boohoo, tears gush like rain:
One who fishes for compliments is not in pain;
bona fide suffering proceeds unseen.

BOOK I, 37

Excretion first, Basso’s value system stinks:
His potty’s gold, mere glass the cups from which he drinks.

BOOK I, 47

An undertaker, formerly you were a surgeon—
Career development, the two in your case turn one.

BOOK I, 118

You know people who’ve read these 100 epigrams yet pine
for more? Ring a.) a psychiatrist or b.) 999.

BOOK II, 38

Nosy Parker asks after the profits from my farm out of town.
My answer: Not having to see a certain face, his own.

BOOK III, 8

‘Quintus loves Thais.’ ‘But which?’ ‘The one-eyed one.’
‘Ah, I see. Still Thais has one eye working, he none.’

BOOK  III, 17

A pie was being passed round for the second course,
so hot it scalded all hands that touched it.
Salsido’s greed was roused more than before;
One, two, three, four: emitting gases galore,
he puffed downward. The pie cooled for sure,
but nobody touched a piece. It had turned to . . .

BOOK III, 43

With every haircut, the younger you grow;
Yesterday’s swan has become a crow.
You may fool some, but Proserpine’s in the know
and to rip away your mask is waiting below.

BOOK III, 70

Aufidia’s ex-husband, you’ve now become her lover;
her husband now is your ex-rival, the role reversed.
Cuckold cuckolder, so others’ women outdo your own?
Or without thoughts of being caught you cannot get it on?

BOOK III, 71

Young friend’s got an ache in one end, you in the other:
No need for a diviner, Mr. White-as-Snow, to blow your cover.

BOOK III, 76

Only ladies of a certain age can get your mojo
working; girls, however beautiful, turn it off. A stark
raving headcase are your hormones. What libido
ever preferred granny Hecuba to nubile Andromarque?

BOOK IV, 21

‘Heaven’s empty, the gods do not exist,’
brays Segius. You want proof of his hypothesis?
How, the gods denied, he’s grown rich.

BOOK IV, 50

You chide me, dear Thais, for my each advancing year:
Then kiss me high or, better, low; you’re my elixir.

BOOK IV, 69

You pour for us guests the choicest wines,
albeit rumor begs to disagree:
You’ve outlived, they say, your wife four times.
Benefit of the doubt, but I’m not thirsty.

BOOK IV, 85

Our beakers are glass, yours of agate. Please explain:
Might it be that the wines are not the same?

BOOK V, 13

Okay, Big Shot, I am a perpetual pauper;
That’s not to say I too haven’t been made a ‘Sir.’
Its own currency, my verse gets quoted world over.
What the grave gave few, life itself on me confers.
Your mansion may rest upon a hundred pillars;
add a safe which heaves, estates in the Middle East,
those flocks near Parma raking in a golden fleece:
Where does that leave us? To equal you lies in reach
of any Tom, Dick or Harry. Soon we’ll both be dead,
but you’ll stay so, period; at least I shall be read.

BOOK V, 18

‘But I never dine at home,’ such is Philo’s boast.
Invite friends? When to himself he won’t play host?

BOOK V, 34

I commend—genetrix Flacilla, Fronto pater—
this girl who was lately my delight;
of the shades below may she have no fear,
neither of Cerberus nor his bite.
From reaching the winter of her sixth year
she was cut short by as many days too few.
Among patrons of yore let her now play,
chirruping my name in pastures new.
Spare, insensate clods, her tender bones. Clay,
weigh as gently on her as she weighed on you.

BOOK V, 45

‘Sono bello,’ boasts Berlo, ‘and vigorous and youthful.’
If you say so, but anything but truthful.

BOOK V, 64

Pour me, Callistus, a flagon of Falernian red;
you, Alcimus, cool it with summer snows.
Anoint, while it’s still there, my hair
then weave soft roses around my head:
Augustus’s Mausoleum just down the road
urges ‘carpe diem’: even gods can end up dead.

BOOK V, 73

Theodore, you’re a drill with no off switch,
imploring that I forward you my every booklet:
Why then do I refuse? Talk about just cause
It is lest, in return, you send me yours.

BOOK V, 83

You chase me, I flee; you flee and I give chase
Both ways willy-nilly here in cupid’s maze.

BOOK VI, 44

Life and soul of the party, a god-sent right
to crack jokes at anyone’s but your own expense
in your mind a star, guest par excellence?
Thus a certain Calliodorus, 95 AD

2013, the ‘Pink Viper.’ One comment from me

c.f. yours truly, that table would take flight.

BOOK VI, 48

One of your goblets comes engraved with serpents
which would be worthy of a Michelangelo
A pity, though, as regards the contents
Half ‘plonc’, half venom, a snake’s hello.

BOOK VII, 16

Re. you gifts: Now I’m broke, living in a shack,
any chance you might kindly buy them back?

BOOK VII, 62

Across the backside of official paper Picens pens verse,
then gets offended when Apollo turns arse-first.

BOOK VII, 64

Here, as barber, you were top of the heap. Then bingo!
Lady’s legacy and you’ve snatched up a knighthood.
To flee a court-case common among the Great and the Good
you hotfoot it down to Nowheresville, Sicily:
Which skill will now see you through the years?
Draughts? Cards? Dog-eared Gazzettas dello Sport?
Umpteenth coffee or amaro out in the piazza?
Imitating Etna by lighting one more cigarette?
No rector, you, not even a poor language teacher.
Stoics, Cynics alike boast some crumbs of comfort;
In your booklet, they could both be soccer teams.
Better head back to Rome, its napes, pates, beards.

prose_section_divider

MARCUS VALERIUS MARTIALIS: EPIGRAMMATA

LIBER I, XVI

Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Avite, liber.

LIBER I,  XXIII

 Invitas nullum nisi cum quo, Cotta, lavaris
et dant convivam balnea sola tibi.
Mirabar quare numquam me, Cotta, vocasses:
iam scio me nudum displicuisse tibi.

LIBER I,  XXVIII

Hesterno fetere mere qui credit Acerram,
fallitur. in lucem semper Acerra bibit.

LIBER I,  XXXIII

Amissum non flet cum sola est Gellia patrem,
si quis adest iussae prosiliunt lacrimae.
Non luget quiquis laudari, Gellia, quarit,
ille dolet vere qui sine teste dolet.

LIBER I, XXXVII

Ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro
Basso bibis vitro; carius ergo cacas.

LIBER I, XLVII

Nuper erat medicus, nunc est vispillo Diaulus:
quod vispillo facit, fecerat et medicus.

LIBER I, CXVIII

Cui legisse satis non est epigrammata centum,
nil illi satis est, Caediciane, mali.

LIBER  II, XXXVIII

Quid mihi reddat ager quaeris, Line, Nomentanus?
Hoc mihi reddit ager: te, Line, non video.

LIBER III, VIII

‘Thaida Quintus amat.’ ‘Quam Thaida?’ ‘Thaida luscam.’
Unum oculum Thais non habet, ille duos.

LIBER  III, XVII

Circumlata diu mensis scribilita secundis
urebat nimio saeva calore manus;
sed magis ardebat Sabidi gula: protinus ergo
sufflavit buccis terque quaterque suis.
Illa quidem tepuit digitisque admittere visa est,
sed nemo potuit tangere: merda fuit.

LIBER III, XLIII

Mentiris iuvenem tinctis, Laetine, capillis,
tam subito corvus, qui modo cycnus eras.
Non omnes fallis; scit te Proserpina canum:
personam capiti detrahet illa tuo.

 LIBER III, LXX

Moechus es Aufidiae, qui vir, Scaevinie, fuisti;
Rivalis fuerat qui tuus, ille vir est.
Cur aliena placet tibi, quae tua non placet, uxor?
Numquid secures non potes arrigere?

LIBER III, LXXI

Mentula cum doleat puero, tibi, Naevole, culus,
non sum divinus, sed scio quid facias. 

LIBER III, LXXVI

Arrigis ad vetulas, fastidis, Basse, puellas,
nec formonsa tibi sed moritura placet.
Hic, rogo, non furor est, non haec est mentula demens?
cum possis Hecaben, non potes Andromachen!

LIBER IV, XXI 

Nullos esse deos, inane caelum
Adfirmat Segius: probatque, quod se
Factum, dum negat haec, videt beatum

 LIBER IV, L 

Quid me. Thai, senem subinde dicis?
Nemo est, Thai, senex ad irrumandum.

LIBER 1V, LXIX

Tu Setina quidem semper vel Massica ponis,
Papyle, sed rumor tam bona vina negat:
diceris hac factus caeleps quater esse lagona.
Nec puto nec credo, Papyle, nec sitio. 

LIBER IV, LXXXV

Nos bibimus vitro, tu murra, Pontice. Quare?
Prodat perspicuus ne duo vina calix.

LIBER V,  XIII

Sum, fateor, semperque fui, Callistrate, pauper,
     sed non obscurus nec male notus eques,
sed toto legor orbe frequens et dicitur “Hic est”;
     quodque cinis paucis, hoc mihi vita dedit.
At tua centenis incumbunt tecta columnis              
     et libertinas arca flagellat opes,
magnaque Niliacae servit tibi gleba Syenes,
     tondet et innumeros Gallica Parma greges.
Hoc ego tuque sumus: sed quod sum non potes esse;
     tu quod es, e populo quilibet esse potest.  

LIBER V,  XVIII

Numquam e cenasse domi Philo iurat, et hoc est :
non cenat, quotiens nemo vocavit eum.

LIBER V, XXXIV

Hanc tibi, Fronto pater, genetrix Flaccilla, puellam
     oscula commendo deliciasque meas,
paruola ne nigras horrescat Erotion umbras
     oraque Tartarei prodigiosa canis.
Impletura fuit sextae modo frigora brumae,              
     uixisset totidem ni minus illa dies.
Inter tam veteres ludat lasciva patronos
     et nomen blaeso garriat ore meum.
Mollia non rigidus caespes tegat ossa nec illi,
     terra, grauis fueris: non fuit illa tibi.

LIBER V, 45

 Dicis formonsam, dici te, Bassa, puellam.
Istud quae non est dicere, Bassa, solet.

LIBER V, 64

Sextantes, Calliste, duos infunde Falerni,
tu super aestivas, alcime, solve nives,
pinguescat nimio madidus mihi crinis amomo
lassenturque rosis tempora sutilibus.
tam vicina iubent nos vivere Mausolea,
cum doceant ipsos posse perire deos.

LIBER V, LXXIII

Non donem tibi cur meos libellos
oranti totiens et exigenti
miraris, Theodore? Magna causa est:
dones tu mihi ne tuos libellos

LIBER VI, XLIV

Festive credis te, Calliodore, iocari
Et solum multo permaduisse sale.
Omnibus adrides, dicteria dicis in omnis;
Sic te convivam posse placer putas.
At si ergo non belle, sed vere dixero quiddam,
Nemo propinabit, Calliodore, tibi.

LIBER VI, XLVIII

Quod tam grande sophos clamat tibi turba togata,
non tu, Pomponi, cena diserta tua est.

LIBER  VII, XVI

Aera domi non sunt, sperest hoc, Regule, solum,
Ut tua vendamus munera: numquid emis?

LIBER VII, LXII

Scribit in aversa Picens epigrammata charta,
et dolet a verso quod facit illa deo.

LIBER VII, LXIV

Qui  tonsor tota fueras notissimus urbe,
et post hoc dominae munere factus eques,
Sicanias urbes Aetnaeaque regna petisti,
Cinname, cum fugeres tristia iura fori.
qua nunc arte graves tolerabis inutilis annos?
quid facit infelix et fugitiva quies?
Non rethor, non Grammaticus ludive magister,
non Cynicus, non tu Stoicus esse potes,
vendere nec vocem Siculis plausumque theatris,
quod superest, iterum, Cinname, tonsor eris.

Translator’s Note

Leave myth, legend, and related heroics to others. In Martial’s work, life-as-it-is-lived is the thing. Hence the title “Martial 2016,” for the effect is often astonishingly modern: rent boys, escorts, mutton dressed as lamb, plagiarists, corrupt gladiators’ (cf. footballers’) agents; scroungers, drunkards, barbers retired or practicing, gold-diggers galore; then the perennially struggling poet: they’re all here. Having lived in Rome for fifteen years, I can vouch that the Romans’ acerbic streak is still intact, making Martial one of the most readand pertinentof Latin poets.

Martin BennettMartin Bennett lives in Rome, where he teaches and proofreads at the University of Tor Vergata while contributing occasional articles to Wanted in Rome. He was the 2015 winner of the John Dryden translation prize.

Hailing from distant Spain, Martial casts a cold, now wry, now scurrilous eye on the pretensions and foibles of “Caput mundi.” Arriving in the capital at 24, he hoped to use the Spanish connection with the philosopher Seneca, among others, to get on in the world and avoid becoming just another  lawyer. After Seneca’s forced suicide, Martial was left without support. Forced to seek patronage to survive, he became the archetypal struggling poet, acquiring some support under emperor Titus, only to have it snatched away under the paranoiac Domitian. Eventually he returned to Spain. His friend, Pliny the Younger, paid Martial’s expenses while sniffing that his work “would not endure.” Martial’s place on Parnassus long since secured, one can envision this poet as the ultimate underdog made good, penning a couplet on the same theme, while translators—this one included—throng the lower slopes, only too happy to receive it.