Saturday, July 31, 2004


qualem, Flacce, uelim quaeris nolimue puellam?
   nolo nimis facilem difficilemque nimis.
illud quod medium est atque inter utrumque probamus:
   nec uolo quod cruciat nec uolo quod satiat.

You ask, Flaccus, what sort of girl I'd like or not like? I don't like one who's too easy or too difficult. I approve of what is mid-way between the two: I don't want what torments nor do I want what satiates.

Friday, July 30, 2004


continuis uexata madet uindemia nimbis:
   non potes, ut cupias, uendere, copo, merum.

The vintage is soaking wet, troubled by continual showers: you couldn't sell undiluted wine, innkeeper, even if you wanted to.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


uota tui breuiter si uis cognoscere Marci,
   clarum militiae, Fronto, togaeque decus,
hoc petit, esse sui nec magni ruris arator,
   sordidaque in paruis otia rebus amat.
quisquam picta colit Spartani frigora saxi
   et matutinum portat ineptus 'haue',
cui licet exuuiis nemoris rurisque beato
   ante focum plenas explicuisse plagas
et piscem tremula salientem ducere saeta
   flauaque de rubro promere mella cado?
pinguis inaequales onerat cui uilica mensas
   et sua non emptus praeparat oua cinis?
non amet hanc uitam quisquis me non amat, opto,
   uiuat et urbanis albus in officiis.

If you, Fronto, famous glory of military service and of the toga, want to know in brief the wishes of your Marcus, he wants this: to be the plougher of a country estate - not a large one - of his own; and he loves shabby leisure in modest circumstances. Who on earth attends to the painted chill of Spartan rock and carries around absurdly the morning 'Greetings!' if, blessed with the spoils of the woods and the countryside, he is permitted to unravel his full nets before the fireplace, and to haul in a leaping fish on its trembling line, and to bring forth the yellow honey from a red jar? If his bailiff's fat wife loads up the crooked tables, and ash he has not paid for preapres his eggs? As for anyone who does not love me, I wish that he may not love such a life, and may live pale-faced amongst the city's obligations.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


   si quid, Fusce, uacas adhuc amari -
   nam sunt hinc tibi, sunt et hinc amici -
   unum, si superest, locum rogamus,
   nec me, quod tibi sim nouus, recuses:
   omnes hoc ueteres tui fuerunt.
   tu tantum inspice qui nouus paratur
   an possit fieri uetus sodalis.

If, Fuscus, you still have time to be loved - for you have friends on this side and that - I ask you for a place, if there is one left. And don't refuse me on the grounds that I'm new to you: all your old pals once were. For your part, just inspect the one who has been newly acquired and see whether he is capable of becoming an old crony.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


una est in nostris tua, Fidentine, libellis
pagina, sed certa domini signata figura,
quae tua traducit manifesto carmina furto.
sic interpositus uillo contaminat uncto
urbica Lingonicus Tyrianthina bardocucullus,
sic Arrentinae uiolant crystallina testae,
sic niger in ripis errat cum forte Caystri,
inter Ledaeos ridetur coruus olores,
sic ubi multisona feruet sacer Atthide lucus,
inproba Cecropias offendit pica querelas.
indice non opus est nostris nec iudice libris:
stat contra dicitque tibi tua pagina 'fur es.'

There is one page of yours, Fidentinus, in my little books, but it is sealed with a sure likeness of its master: this shows up your poems as a flagrant theft. In the same fashion a Lingonian cloak placed among city-dwellers' Tyrianthine clothes contaminates them with its oily wool; in the same fashion Arretine pots violate crystal glasses; in the same fashion when a black crow happens to wander on the Cayster's banks it is laughed at amongst Leda's swans; in the same fashion when the sacred grove seethes with nightingales of many notes, the cheeky magpie grates against their Cecropian laments. My books need neither informer nor judge: your page stands up against you and says to you, 'You're a thief!'

Monday, July 26, 2004


   commendo tibi, Quintiane, nostros -
   nostros dicere si tamen libellos
   possum, quos recitat tuus poeta:
   si de seruitio graui queruntur,
   adsertor uenias satisque praestes,
   et, cum se dominum uocabit ille,
   dicas esse meos manuque missos.
   hoc si terque quaterque clamitaris,
   inpones plagiario pudorem.

I commend to you, Quintianus, my little books - if I can call them mine when your poet recites them: if they complain of their harsh servitude, you should come forward as their champion and give your guarantees; and when he calls himself their master you should say they are mine and have been granted their freedom. If you shout this out three or four times, you will make their kidnapper feel ashamed of himself.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


non facit ad saeuos ceruix, nisi prima, leones:
   quid fugis hos dentes, ambitiose lepus?
scilicet a magnis ad te descendere tauris
   et quae non cernunt frangere colla uelint.
desperanda tibi est ingentis gloria fati:
   non potes hoc tenuis praeda sub hoste mori.

No neck but the finest is fit for savage lions: why do you flee from those teeth, ambitious hare? Perhaps they would like to come down from great bulls to your level, and to break a neck which they can't see. You must despair of the glory of a titanic fate: You, a slight prey, cannot die at the hands of this enemy.

Saturday, July 24, 2004


si tibi Mistyllos cocus, Aemiliane, uocatur,
   dicatur quare non Taratalla mihi?

If, Aemilianus, your cook is called Mistyllus, why should mine not be called Taratalla?

Friday, July 23, 2004


 uir Celtiberis non tacende gentibus
    nostraeque laus Hispaniae,
 uidebis altam, Liciniane, Bibilin,
    equis et armis nobilem,
 senemque Caium niuibus, et fractis sacrum
    Vadaueronem montibus,
 et delicati dulce Boterdi nemus,
    Pomona quod felix amat.
 tepidi natabis lene Congedi uadum
      mollesque Nympharum lacus,
 quibus remissum corpus adstringes breui
      Salone, qui ferrum gelat.
 praestabit illic ipsa figendas prope
      Voberca prandenti feras;
 aestus serenos aureo franges Tago
      obscurus umbris arborum;
 auidam rigens Dercenna placabit sitim
      et Nutha, quae uincit niues.
 at cum December canus et bruma impotens
      Aquilone rauco  mugiet,
 aprica repetes Tarraconis litora
      tuamque Laletaniam.
 ibi inligatas mollibus dammas plagis
      mactabis et uernas apros
 leporemque forti callidum rumpes equo,
      ceruos relinques uilico.
 uicina in ipsum silua descendet focum
      infante cinctum sordido;
 uocabitur uenator et ueniet tibi
      conuiua clamatus prope;
 lunata nusquam pellis et nusquam toga
      olidaeque uestes murice;
 procul horridus Liburnus et querulus cliens,
      imperia uiduarum procul;
 non rumpet altum pallidus somnum reus,
      sed mane totum dormies.
 mereatur alius grande et insanum sophos:
      miserere tu felicium
 ueroque fruere non superbus gaudio,
      dum Sura laudatur tuus.
 non inpudenter uita quod relicum est petit,
      cum fama quod satis est habet.

You are a man about whom the Celtiberian peoples should not keep quiet; you are the glory of our Spain: you will see, Licinianus, lofty Bilbilis renowned for horses and weapons; and old Caius with his snows; and sacred Vadavero with its jagged mountains; and the sweet grove of dainty Boterdus, which fertile Pomona loves. You will swim the smooth shallows of warm Congedus and the soft lakes of the Nymphs, and when your body has been relaxed by them you will brace it in the narrow Salo, which freezes iron. There Voberca itself will provide wild beasts for you to shoot from close by while you lunch. Sheltered by the trees' shade you will break up the serene heat with the golden Tagus. Chilly Derceita will satisfy your greedy thirst, and Nutha too, which beats the snow. But when grey December and the violent midwinter howl with the hoarse North Wind, you will seek again the sunny shores of Tarraco and your Laletania. There you will slaughter deer entangled in soft nets, and home-born boars, and you will burst the cunning hare on your strong horse - stags you will leave for the bailiff. The neighbouring wood will come down into your hearth, girdled with dirty infants. The huntsman will be invited and will come when you have hollered to him from nearby. Nowhere is the crescent-shaped leather shoe, nowhere a toga, and nowhere clothes that smell of the murex. Far away are the shaggy Liburnian and the querulous client, far away are the commands of widows. No pallid defendant will break in to your deep slumber, but you will sleep the whole morning. Let someone else earn the loud mad 'bravo!': as for you, pity the successful and modestly enjoy true joy, while your friend Sura is praised. Life may without shame seek what remains, once fame possesses what is enough.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


rictibus his tauros non eripuere magistri,
   per quos praeda fugax itque reditque lepus;
quodque magis mirum, uelocior exit ab hoste
   nec nihil a tanta nobilitate refert.
tutior in sola non est cum currit harena,
   nec caueae tanta conditur ille fide.
si uitare canum morsus, lepus inprobe, quaeris,
   ad quae confugias ora leonis habes.

The keepers were not able to pull bulls out of these open jaws, through which the hare, fugitive prey, runs and runs back again. And, more amazingly, it comes out of its enemy more speedily, and brings back something of that nobility so great. It is not safer when it runs in the desert sand, and it is not kept in its cage with such security. If you want to avoid the dogs' bites, cheeky hare, you have the lion's mouth to flee to.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


nuper erat medicus, nunc est uispillo Diaulus:
   quod uispillo facit, fecerat et medicus.

Until recently Diaulus was a doctor; now he is an undertaker. What the undertaker does the doctor also used to do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


cum dicis 'propero, fac si facis,' Hedyle, languet
   protinus et cessat debilitata Venus.
expectare iube: uelocius ibo retentus.
   Hedyle, si properas, dic mihi ne properem.

When, Hedylus, you say, 'I'm in a hurry - do it if you're going to,' my passion immediately grows languid, and, weakened, fails me. Tell me to wait: I shall go all the faster for being reined in. Hedylus, if you're in a hurry, tell me not to hurry.

Monday, July 19, 2004


edita ne breuibus pereat mihi cura libellis,
   dicatur potius τὸν δ' ἀπαμειβόμενος.

So that my work may not go to waste in brief little books, let me rather say 'and answering him'.

Sunday, July 18, 2004


lasciuos leporum cursus lususque leonum
   quod maior nobis charta minorque gerit
et bis idem facimus, nimium si, Stella, uidetur
   hoc tibi, bis leporem tu quoque pone mihi.

If you think that it's too much if my larger and smaller pages contain the playful running of hares and the sporting of lions, and if I do the same thing twice over - then Stella, you also ought to serve up hare twice for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


bis tibi triceni fuimus, Mancine, uocati
   et positum est nobis nil here praeter aprum,
non quae de tardis seruantur uitibus uuae
   dulcibus aut certant quae melimela fauis,
non pira quae longa pendent religata genesta
   aut imitata breuis Punica grana rosas,
rustica lactantis nec misit Sassina metas
   nec de Picenis uenit oliua cadis:
nudus aper, sed et hic minimus qualisque necari
   a non armato pumilione potest.
et nihil inde datum est; tantum spectauimus omnes:
   ponere aprum nobis sic et harena solet.
ponatur tibi nullus aper post talia facta,
   sed tu ponaris cui Charidemus apro.

There were sixty of us, Mancinus, invited to your dinner yesterday, and nothing was put in front of us apart from a boar; no grapes which are preserved from late vines, nor honeyapples which rival sweet honeycombs, nor pears which hang tied to lengthy broom, nor pomegranates which resemble short roses; nor did rustic Sassina send milky pyramids, nor did olives come from Picenian jars. A naked boar, but even this was a tiny one such as can be killed by an unarmed dwarf. And none of it was given to us: we all just looked at it. The arena serves up its boar to us just like that. May no boar be set before you after you've done such things, but may you be served to the same boar as Charidemus.

Friday, July 16, 2004


coniugis audisset fatum cum Porcia Bruti
   et subtracta sibi quareret arma dolor,
'nondum scitis' ait 'mortem non posse negari?
   credideram fatis hoc docuisse patrem.'
dixit et ardentis auido bibit ore fauillas.
   i nunc et ferrum, turba molesta, nega.

When Porcia heard the fate of her husband Brutus, and her grief was seeking the weapons which had been taken away, she said 'Do you not yet know that it death cannot be denied? I had thought that my father had taught this by his death.' She spoke, and with eager mouth drank glowing embers. Go now, troublesome crowd, and deny her steel.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


urbanus tibi, Caecili, uideris:
non es, crede mihi. quid ergo? uerna es,
hoc quod Transtiberinus ambulator
qui pallentia sulphurata fractis
permutat uitreis, quod otiosae
uendit qui madidum cicer coronae,
quod custos dominusque uiperarum,
quod uiles pueri salariorum,
quod fumantia qui thumatla raucus
circumfert tepidis cocus popinis,
quod non optimus urbicus poeta,
quod de Gadibus improbus magister,
quod bucca est uetuli dicax cinaedi.
quare desine iam tibi uideri,
quod soli tibi, Caecili, uideris,
qui Gabbam salibus tuis et ipsum
posses uincere Tettium Caballum.
non cuicumque datum est habere nasum:
ludit qui stolida procacitate,
non est Tettius ille, sed caballus.

think yourself urbane, Caecilius. You are not, believe me. What are you
then? You are a home-born slave, the same as a pedlar from across the
Tiber, who exchanges pale sulphur matches for broken glass; and the man
who sells boiled chick-peas to an idle crowd; and the the guardian and
master of vipers; and the cheap slaves of salted-fish sellers; and the
hoarse cook who carries round his steaming sausages in stuffy eateries;
and the not very good urban poet; and the shameless impressario from
Gades; and the talkative mouth of an old queen. So now stop thinking of
yourself in the way that only you think of yourself, you who could beat
Gabba, and Tettius Caballus himself, with your witticisms. It is not
granted to everyone to have a nose: the man who jests with an obtuse
impudence is not a Tettius, but a Caballus.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


qui ducis uultus et non legis ista libenter,
   omnibus inuideas, liuide, nemo tibi.

You who pull faces and don't read that kind of thing willingly, may you, jealous man, envy everyone, and may no one envy you.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


si quis erit raros inter numerandus amicos,
   quales prisca fides famaque nouit anus,
si quis Cecropiae madidus Latiaeque Mineruae
   artibus et uera simplicitate bonus,
si quis erit recti custos, mirator honesti
   et nihil arcano qui roget ore deos,
si quis erit magnae subnixus robore mentis:
   dispeream si non hic Decianus erit.

If there is anyone to be counted among such rare friends as old-time trust and aged fame know of; if there is anyone steeped in the arts of Cecropian and Latin Minerva, and a good man of true honesty; if there is anyone who is guardian of what is right, an admirer of morality, and who with closed mouth asks nothing of the gods; if there is anyone supported by the strength of a great mind - damn me if it's not Decianus.

I'm away from my keyboard for a few days, so Tuesday's poem is being posted today. I'll catch up with the others on Thursday.

Monday, July 12, 2004


quem recitas meus est, o Fidentine, libellus:
   sed male cum recitas, incipit esse tuus.

The little book you are reciting, Fidentinus, is mine. But when you recite it badly it begins to be yours.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


ventris onus misero, nec te pudet, excipis auro,
   Basse, bibis uitro: carius ergo cacas.

You catch the burden of your belly in unfortunate gold, Bassus, and are unashamed; you drink from glass. So it's dearer for you to crap.

Saturday, July 10, 2004


si, Lucane, tibi uel si tibi, Tulle, darentur
   qualia Ledaei fata Lacones habent,
nobilis haec esset pietatis rixa duobus,
   quod pro fratre mori uellet uterque prior,
diceret infernas et qui prior isset ad umbras:
   'uiue tuo, frater, tempore, uiue meo.'

If such fates as the Ledaean Spartans have were to be given to you, Lucanus, or to you, Tullus, this would be a noble dispute between you two over duty, because each of you would want to die first for his brother, and the one who went down first to the shades of the underworld would say: 'Live out your time, brother, and live out mine too.'

Friday, July 09, 2004


   uersus scribere me parum seueros
   nec quos praelegat in schola magister,
   Corneli, quereris: sed hi libelli,
   tamquam coniugibus suis mariti,
   non possunt sine mentula placere.
   quid si me iubeas thalassionem
   uerbis dicere non thalassionis?
   quis Floralia uestit et stolatum
   permittit meretricibus pudorem?
   lex haec carminibus data est iocosis,
   ne possint, nisi pruriant, iuuare.
   quare deposita seueritate
   parcas lusibus et iocis rogamus,
   nec castrare uelis meos libellos:
   Gallo turpius est nihil Priapo.

You complain, Cornelius, that I write verses which are not severe enough and which a master could not read out in school. But these little books - just like husbands with their wives - cannot give enjoyment without a prick. What if you were to tell me to say the thalassio in words that were not suitable for the thalassio? Who clothes the Games of Flora and allows the whores a shame decked out in the stola? This is the law that is given for jocular poems: that they cannot give pleasure unless they titillate. Therefore put aside your severity, forgive my japes and jokes, and do not castrate my little books: nothing is more unsightly to Priapus than a eunuch.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


incustoditis et apertis, Lesbia, semper
   liminibus peccas nec tua furta tegis,
et plus spectator quam te delectat adulter
   nec sunt grata tibi gaudia si qua latent.
at meretrix abigit testem ueloque seraque
   raraque Submemmi fornice rima patet.
a Chione saltem uel ab Iade disce pudorem:
   abscondunt spurcas et monumenta lupas.
numquid dura tibi nimium censura uidetur?
   deprendi ueto te, Lesbia, non futui.

You always sin, Lesbia, with doors unguarded and open and you do not cover up your intrigues; a spectator pleases you more than an adulterer and no joys are welcome to you unless they are hidden in some way. But a prostitute drives away a witness by means of both curtain and bolt, and few cracks are evident in a Submemmian brothel. At least learn shame from Chione or from Ias: even memorial monuments conceal filthy whores. Perhaps this censorship seems to you too harsh? I'm forbidding you to be caught in the act, Lesbia, not to be fucked.

Subscribers to the feed will have noticed that I've now revised some earlier translations in the light of commenters' suggestions: I'll do this every month or so.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


amissum non flet cum sola est Gellia patrem,
   si quis adest iussae prosiliunt lacrimae.
non luget quisquis laudari, Gellia, quaerit:
   ille dolet uere qui sine teste dolet.

When she is alone Gellia does not weep for the father she has lost; if anyone is there her tears spring forth on demand. Someone who wants to be praised, Gellia, does not mourn: the one who truly grieves is the one who grieves when there is no witness.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare.
   hoc tantum possum dicere: non amo te.

I don't like you, Sabidius, and I can't say why. This alone I can say: I don't like you.

Monday, July 05, 2004


hos tibi, Phoebe, uouet totos a uertice crines
   Encolpos, domini centurionis amor,
grata Pudens meriti tulerit cum praemia pili.
   quam primum longas, Phoebe, recide comas,
dum nulla teneri sordent lanugine uoltus
   dumque decent fusae lactea colla iubae:
utque tuis longum dominusque puerque fruantur
   muneribus, tonsum fac cito, sero uirum.

Phoebus, to you does Encolpos, the love of his centurion master, vow all these hairs of his head when Pudens has carried off the rewards of his deserved primipilate. As soon as possible, Phoebus, cut off his long hair, while his tender face is darkened by no down, and while a flowing mane adorns his milk-white neck: and so that both master and boy may long enjoy your gifts, make him quickly shorn, slowly a man.


hos tibi, Phoebe, uouet totos a uertice crines
   Encolpos, domini centurionis amor,
grata Pudens meriti tulerit cum praemia pili.
   quam primum longas, Phoebe, recide comas,
dum nulla teneri sordent lanugine uoltus
   dumque decent fusae lactea colla iubae:
utque tuis longum dominusque puerque fruantur
   muneribus, tonsum fac cito, sero uirum.

Phoebus, to you does Encolpos, the love of his centurion master, vow all these hairs of his head when Pudens carries off the rewards of his deserved primipilate. As soon as possible, Phoebus, cut off his long hair, while his tender face is darkened by no down, and while a flowing mane adorns his milk-white neck: and so that both master and boy may long enjoy your gifts, make him quickly shorn, slowly a man.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


chirurgus fuerat, nunc est uispillo Diaulus:
   coepit quo poterat clinicus esse modo.

Diaulus was a surgeon, is now an undertaker: he has begun to be a "doctor" in the only way he could.

Saturday, July 03, 2004


fama refert nostros te, Fidentine, libellos
   non aliter populo quam recitare tuos.
si mea uis dici, gratis tibi carmina mittam:
   si dici tua uis, hoc eme, ne mea sint.

Rumour has it that you, Fidentinus, are reciting my little books publicly, just as if they were yours. If you want them to be called mine, then I shall send them to you for free: if you want them to be called yours, buy this, so that they may not be mine.

Friday, July 02, 2004


hesterno fetere mero qui credit Acerram,
   fallitur: in lucem semper Acerra bibit.

Anyone who believes that Acerra reeks of yesterday's wine is in error: Acerra always drinks right up until dawn.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


   hesterna tibi nocte dixeramus,
   quincunces puto post decem peractos,
   cenares hodie, Procille, mecum.
   tu factam tibi rem statim putasti
   et non sobria uerba subnotasti
   exemplo nimium periculoso:
   μισῶ μνάμονα συμπόταν, Procille.

Yesterday night I had told you - after, I think, we had finished off ten five-twelfth measures - that you, Procillus, could dine with me today. You thought to yourself at once that the matter had been settled, and you made a secret note of my non-sober words, setting a rather too dangerous precedent. "I detest a memorious fellow-drinker", Procillus.