Martial, Epigrams. Book 14. Mainly from Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
THE PRESENTS MADE TO GUESTS AT FEASTS.
Now, while the knights and the lordly senators delight in the festive robe, and the cap5 of liberty is assumed by our Jupiter; 6 and while the slave, as he rattles the dice-box, has no fear of the Aedile, seeing that the ponds are so nearly frozen,7 learn alternately what is allotted to the rich and to the poor. Let each make suitable presents to his friends. That these contributions of mine are follies and trifles, and even worse, who does not know? or who denies what is so evident? But what can I do better, Saturn, on these days of pleasure, which your son himself has consecrated to you in compensation for the heaven from which he ejected you? Would you have me write of Thebes, or of Troy, or of the crimes of Mycenae? You reply, "Play with nuts. But I don't want to waste even nuts. Reader, you may finish this book wherever you please, every subject is completed in a couple of lines.
If you ask why headings are affixed, I will tell you; it is that, if you choose, you may read the headings only.
Had not our wood been cut into thin tablets, we should have been the noble burden of Libyan ivory.1
The joyous court of the emperor is warm with the slaughter of bullocks, when the decree which confers fresh honours on Casar is conveyed by the five-leaved (waxen) tablet.2
If the dull-coloured waxen-tablets are too indistinct for your failing sight, let black letters be depicted on snow-white ivory.
You will think our three leaves no ordinary gift, when your mistress writes to you on them that she will come.
Although these tablets are called parchment, imagine them of wax; you will be able to erase and replace the writing at pleasure.3
A maiden, though she may never have read Vitellian tablets, knows what they mean.
Because you see that we are very small, you imagine that we are love-letters. You are mistaken; we bear a demand for money.
When a poet presents you with blank leaves, you should consider it no small present.
Whether sent to a casual acquaintance, or to a dear friend, this paper is in the habit of calling everybody "my dear Sir."
It is improper to fill these coffers with any other coin than gold; let common wooden boxes hold silver.
If there be anything still remaining at the bottom of my coffer, it shall be yours. There is nothing: then the coffer itself shall be yours.
When you see that no two of these dice present themselves to you with the same face, you will say that I have made you a great present.
Although as a tessera I am unequal in number to the tali, yet the stake laid upon me is frequently greater.
The fraudulent hand, skilled in disposing dice to fall in a certain manner, will, if it throws them from me, succeed only in wishing.
Here dice, with their twice six spots, are counted; here the party-coloured man is captured by his double foe.1
Nuts seem a small risk, and not likely to be attended with much loss; yet such risk has often robbed the young of honour.
As you have been lucky enough to gain a pen-case as your prize, remember to store it with pens. Having got the more expensive part for nothing, you can afford the less costly.
If your game be the warfare of insidious robbers you have here in gems both your soldiers and your enemy.
These stylus-cases furnished with their own steel styluses are for you. If you give one of them to your boy, it will be no trifling present.
A piece of Lentisc wood is best; but if that is unattainable, a quill may relieve your teeth.
I offer you an instrument to allay the tickling of your ear, when it annoys you with troublesome irritation.
That your oiled tresses may not injure your splendid silk dress, let this pin fix your twisted hair, and keep it up.
Of what use will be this piece of box-wood, cut into so many teeth, and now presented to you, seeing that you have no hair?
My caustic influence reddens the hair of the Germans: by my aid you may surpass your slave's tresses.
If you desire, Octogenarian, to change the colour of your venerable hair, accent these Mattiac balls. But to what purpose, for you are bald?
Accept this protection against the excessive heat of the sun; and even against the wind it will serve you as a veil.
In Pompey's theatre I go as a spectator well hooded, the awning there being of little avail against the wind.
They will receive rushing wild boars, and await lions; they will pierce bears, if the hand that directs them be sufficiently firm.
If you mourn over your hunting-spear, struck down by the boar's long tusk, this short weapon will oppose the huge animal in close encounter.
This is a military decoration, an honourable testimony; a weapon worthy to gird on the side of a tribune.
This dagger, marked with serpentine veins, Salo,1 while it was hissing with heat, tempered with ice-cold water.
The settled peace of our Emperor has bent me to unwarlike uses; now I belong to the husbandman, formerly I belonged to the soldier.
When a sad sale was made for the payment of debts, this hatchet was purchased for four hundred thousand sesterces.2
Some of these instruments are adapted for cutting the hair; one is useful for long nails, another for rough chins.
If you do not give me well-bound books, they will admit the moth and devouring worms.
The land of Egypt supplies you with reeds fit for writing on paper. With the reeds of other marshes you may thatch your roofs.
I am a night-lamp, privy to the pleasures of the couch; do whatever you please, I shall be silent.
Fortune has given you this servant of the lamp, which, by keeping awake, dispels darkness.
Although I illumine whole banquets with my light, and have so many necks, I am called but one lamp.
This taper will provide you with light in the night, supposing your lamp should be stolen from your servant.
It was candles that gave us our old name; the lamp trimmed with oil was not known to our forefathers.
You see that I am a piece of wood; unless you are careful of the flame, a great lamp will be made out of your candlestick.
This ball, stuffed with feathers, difficult to manage, is not so soft as a bladder, nor so hard as an ordinary ball.
If you are skilful enough to strike me with rapid left-hand blows, I am yours. You are not sufficiently skilled, so, clown, return the ball.
Retire to a distance, young men; tender age suits me; with the bladder it befits only boys and old men to play.
This the agile youth catches amid the dust of Antaeus,1 (though often) stretching his neck with fruitless efforts.
Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumb-bells? To dig a vineyard is a worthier exercise for men.
To prevent the wrestler's unclean oil from defiling your sleek locks, you may protect your perfumed hair with this leathern covering.
Pergamus sent these; scrape yourself with the curved iron, and the scourer will not so often have to cleanse your linen.
A young bull lately bore me upon his forehead; you might think me a real rhinoceros' horn.
This horn, which was recently seen in the Ausonian arena of the Emperor, and to which a bull was but as a ball, is for you.1
If a little boy hangs crying upon your neck, let him shake, with his tender hand, this noisy rattle.
If the horse which you are running is of the purple faction,2 you will make nothing of him, however much you flog him with this whip.
What have I to do with you? Let the fair and young use me. I am not accustomed to polish false teeth.
This, which is mentioned neither by Virgil nor by Homer, in all their verses, is made up of unguent and nut-balsam.
Are you a Rustic? Then you do not know what I am called in Greek I am called the scum of nitre. Are you a Greek? I am Aphronitron.
Balm delights me; it is the perfume for men. You matrons, scent yourselves with the essences of Cosmus.
This will be an acceptable present, and not without its use to a wrinkled body, when exposed in broad daylight at the baths of Stephanus.
I am a lantern, a guide for the way, and shine like gold when the flame is sheltered and the little lamp safe in my embrace.
If I am not of horn, am I the less transparent? Will any one who meets me think me a bladder?
Why do you smile at my form, composed of wax and reeds? The first shepherd's pipe was such as I am.
The drunken female-piper bursts our ears with her inflated cheeks; she sometimes blows two pipes at once;1 sometimes only one.
If your servant should happen to be absent, and you wish to get your sandals, these will enable your feet to serve themselves.
You might be able to confine your breast within a bull's hide; but what you use is too small for the purpose.
That which prevents disagreeable flies from feeding on your repast, was once the proud tail of a splendid bird.
If your slave commits a fault, do not smash his teeth with your fist; give him some of the (hard) biscuit which famous Rhodes has sent you.
If you wish to appease your hunger, you may eat this Priapus of ours; even though you consume every part of it, you will not be the less pure.
The pig fed on acorns among foaming wild boars, will afford you a merry saturnalia.
If your dress has been soiled with yellow dust, brush it off with gentle strokes of this bushy tail.
The sausage which comes to you in mid-winter, came to me before the seven days of the Saturnalia.
I, a parrot, am taught by you the names of others; I have learned of myself to say, " Hail! Caesar!"
[Not translated either in the Bohn or the Ker Loeb]
Philomela bewails the crime of the incestuous Tereus; and she who was dumb as a maiden, is celebrated for her song as a bird.
I, a talking magpie, salute you as my master with distinct voice; if you did not see me, you would not believe me to be a bird.
If you ever possess such a bird as Lesbia, the beloved of Catullus, bewailed, it may dwell here.
Here you have an ivory medicine-chest, filled with the appliances of the healing art; a present such as even Paccius1 might have coveted.
Play, sportive slaves; but only play.2 These whips of mine shall be locked up for five days.3
Hated exceedingly by children, and dear to schoolmasters, we are the wood ennobled by the gift of Prometheus.1
This wallet entreats that it may not be obliged to carry the beggarly food of a long-bearded, half-clad philosopher, or serve as pillow to his mangy dog.
Brooms were once held in esteem, as our palm trees testify;2 but now the slaves have forsaken brooms, and pick up crumbs.
This hand will protect your shoulders from the bite of the troublesome flea, or from other things more offensive than a flea.
These fir covers will long preserve your manuscripts, and protect them against the friction of your toga and cloak.3
This couch derives its name from the bird adorned with painted feathers; which is now the attendant of Juno, but was formerly Argus.4
Huntsman, accept this saddle for your swift-footed steed, for a horse ridden bare-backed is apt to cause a painful disease.
Accept a semicircular couch decorated with crescents of tortoise-shell. It will hold eight. Whoever is a friend, let him take a seat on it.
If you imagine that I am adorned with female land-tortoise shell, you are mistaken; I bear the male offspring of the sea.
Accept a present of rich wood from the forests of Atlas. Whoever makes a present of gold (of equal weight), will give less.
I am not veined, it is true; nor am I the offspring of an African forest; yet even my wood is no stranger to sumptuous feasts.
Do you question whether tusks which toss in air the vast bodies or bulls, can support tables of African wood?1
This piece of oak, marked with spots, and tipped with a sharp point, frequently exposes the fraudulent dealings of the contractor.
This is no recent masterpiece, nor the work of an artificer of our day; Mentor, who made these cups, was the first to drink out of them.
Though we plebeian cups are not made of decorative glass, our stone ware is not cracked by boiling water.
Although I am formed of the most beautiful and ruddy Callaic gold,2 I glory far more in my workmanship; for it is that of Mys.
Accept this humble cup, a memorial of the cobbler Vatinius; it is not so big as his nose.
Do not dishonour such large gold dishes with an insignificant mullet; it ought, at least, to weigh two pounds.
We warn you not to look with too much contempt on Arretine vases; Porsena's splendid service was of Etruscan pottery.
I, a barbarian basket, came from the painted Britons; but now Rome claims me for her own.
If you have visited the country of the learned Catullus, you have drunk Rhaetian wine from my earthenware.
Though mushrooms (boleti) have given me so noble a name, I am used, I am ashamed to say it, for cabbages.
Accept these cups formed of no common clay, but the polished work of a Surrentine potter's wheel.
Temper your cups of Setine wine, I advise you, with snow put into me. You may use linen strainers for inferior wines.
Our coarse linen, too, will clarify snow-water, which does not gush any colder from your fine strainer.
Let cold water not be wanting, and the warm will be at command; never trifle with craving thirst.
Here is presented to you a red pitcher with twisted handle; the Stoic Fronto 1 used to fetch his water in this vessel.
The Satyr loves us; Bacchus loves us; and so too the intoxicated tigress, whom we have taught to lick the feet of her master.
Accept these cups, fashioned of Saguntine clay, which your servant may take and handle without anxiety.
See how the gold, begemmed with Scythian emeralds, glistens! How many fingers does this cup deprive of jewels!2
Here is a gemmed cup, which bears the name of Cosmus;3 drink, luxurious man, if you thirst for perfumed wines.4
You break crystal cups in your anxiety to avoid breaking them; hands too careless, and too anxious, are equally destructive.
The nimus that comes from Jupiter will supply you with abundance of water to mix with your wine; this nimbus will give you wine itself.1
If you drink your wine warm, a Myrrhine cup is best for hot Falernian; and the flavour of the wine is improved by it
This plate of red Cumaean earth is sent you by the chaste Sibyl. It is a native of the same place with herself.
Behold the talent of the Nile. Alas! how often has the workman, while wishing to give additional ornament to his work, destroyed it!
You drink Spoletine wine, or that which has been stored in Marsian cellars. Of what use to you is the noble luxury of iced water?
To drink not snow, but water iced with snow, is the device of ingenious thirst.
Do not, my slave, mix the smoky wine of Marseilles with iced water, lest the water cost you more than the wine.
When I have been called for by a snap of my master's fingers, and the attendant has loitered, oh how often has the cushion been my rival!
Though knights and senators call me ligula, I am called lingula by ignorant grammarians.1
I am suitable for shell-fish, but not less so for eggs. Pray can you tell why the one has given me a name rather than the other?
In old times we were frequently, but now we are rarely, presented to a friend. Happy the man who has for a friend a knight whose fortune he has made! 3
Often does the heavy ring slip off the anointed fingers; but if you confide your jewel to me, it will be safe.
He who gave the skies to his illustrious sire,4 made the toga-clad Romans lords of the world.
If you can reconcile yourself to give up your morning sleep, you may, by wearing out this toga, obtain a sportula.
This is a poor man's gift, but not often a poor man's wear. We send you this cloak in place of a mantle.
This Canusian cloak, in colour extremely like must, shall be our gift to you. Rejoice! it will not soon wear out.
Gaul clothes you with its Santonic1 hood: it was but recently that it clothed a monkey.2
Rome more willingly wears brown cloaks; Gaul prefers red, a colour which pleases children and soldiers.
Although you begin your journey on the finest of days let this leathern cloak be always at hand against sudden showers.
If you belong to the blue or the green faction, why put on scarlet? Be careful, lest by that proceeding you be reckoned a deserter.
If I could, I should have been glad to send you a whole suit; as it is I send you only a covering for your head.
My wool is not deceitful, nor do I change my colour in the dying vat. Tyrian wool may please by such means; my colour is that of the sheep I clothed.
Breast-band! confine the swelling bosom of my mistress, that I may be able to cover and press it with my hand.
No law courts or bail cases are known to me. My duty is to recline on embroidered couches.
Fine smooth garments are of little use in winter. My shaggy covering will impart warmth to your under-dress.
We recommend ourselves for service in the amphitheatre when our white covering encompasses the chilly toga.
Let this woollen cloth protect your splendid citron table. On mine a dish may be placed without doing any harm.
You did not know, simpleton, how to suit your cloak to me. You put on a white cloak; you have to take off a green one.1
These are not formed of wool, but of the beard of the fetid goat.2 You may bury your foot in this hairy covering.
While your toga enjoys a rest of five days,3 you may, if you please, make use of this vestment.
If with the intention of reciting, I happen to present to you a little book, let this muffler defend your ears.
The Patavian triple tissue is composed of many fleeces; it is only a saw that can cut these thick shirts.
Chance has given you this sponge, useful for wiping tables, when it is slightly distended with the water which it imbibes.
Such is my whiteness, such the beauty of my long hair, that you would like to wear me even in the midst of harvest.
Rub your hair with the nard of Cosmus, and your pillow will smell of it. When your hair has lost the perfume, the pillow retains it
Your woolly coverlet is radiant with purple trimmings; but what avails that, if an old wife freezes you?
Lest the mattress should be too plainly seen on your scantily-covered couch, we two sisters come to your aid.
I fear those whose development is large: give me to some tender maiden, that the linen of which I am formed may delight in her snow-white charms.
The land of Memphis makes you this present. The Babylonian needle is now surpassed by the loom of the Nile.
At present I am long enough; but if you should swell with an agreeable burden, I should then prove too short for you.
The land of the learned Catullus1 will supply you with blankets. We are from the region of Helicaon.2
Let the rich man give you a tunic; I can only give you an apron. If I were a rich man, I would give you both.
Since I am drunk with the blood of the Sidonian shell-fish, I do not see why I should be called a sober wool.3
Apulia is noted for fleeces of the first quality; Parma for those of the second. The sheep whose wool is of the third quality distinguishes Altinum.
I was the present of the shepherd-prince to his Spartan mistress. Her mother Leda's purple robe was inferior to me.
The territory of Pollentia is accustomed to give us, not only wool of a dark colour, but also cups.
I am, it is true, a sad-coloured wool; but suitable for shorn attendants,2 such as are not required for the higher offices of the table.
Is the sacking3 uncomfortably close to your pillow? Take this wool plucked from Leuconian4 blankets.
The marsh-reed, when cut up, is called circus-stuffing, and is what the poor man buys instead of Leuconian stuffing.
When fatigued, you may recline upon Amyclaean feathers, which the swan's inner coat provides for you.
Let your fragile bed be stuffed with hay filched from the mules. Pale care does not visit hard couches.
Give up (playing with) the ball: the bell of the warm baths rings. Do you continue your game? You wish, then, for a cold bath before you return home.1
When the shining Spartan quoit is flying through the air, keep at a distance, children. Let it not be fatal more than it once was.2
The lyre restored Eurydice to her bard (Orpheus); but he lost her again by his want of self-control and his too impatient love.
The lyre, which attracted woods and detained wild beasts, has often been ejected from the theatre of Pompey.3
That an inflamed blister may not rise upon your chafed thumb, let this white quill elicit the sound or the gentle lyre.
A wheel must be protected (with a tyre). You make me a useful present. It will be a hoop to children, but to me a tyre for my wheel
Why do these jingling rings4 move about upon the rolling wheel? In order that the passers-by may get out of the way of the hoop.
Victory is here presented, without the intervention of hazard, to him to whom the Rhine gave a true name.1 Slave, pour out ten cups of Falernian.2
Little as is this statuette, its glory is by no means inconsiderable. Brutus set his affection on this boy.
Spare, treacherous child, the lizard which is crawling towards you. It is eager to perish by your hands.
The young grandson of Oebalus, at once the shame and the regret of Phoebus, turns his dying eyes from the cruel disc.3
He entered the water a male;4 he left it both male and female. In one feature only does he resemble his father;5 in every other his mother.6
Why, O ruler of Olympus, did Danae receive pay from you, if Leda granted you her favours for nothing?
I am the fancy of the potter, the mask of a red-haired Batavian. This countenance, at which you smile, is an object of terror to children.
The infant crushes the two snakes without turning his eyes from them. Already might the hydra have dreaded the tender hands.
I am fragile; but do not, I warn you, despise my statuette. Alcides blushes not to bear my name.
Tell me, fierce maiden-goddess, why, since you have a helmet and a spear, you have not also an Aegis? "Caesar has it."
The time, excellent father of the gods, when you might best have changed yourself into a bull, was when your Io was a cow.
The daring Leander exclaimed amid the swelling waters: "Drown me, you waves, when I am on my return."
Prometheus, I should think, was drunk when he gave such a monster to earth. Even he amused himself with Saturnalian clay.1
Read of the frogs, sung by the bard of Maeonia, and learn to relax your brow with such pleasantries as mine
The Iliad, and the story of Ulysses, hostile to the kingdom of Priam, lie deposited in these many folds of skin.
Receive, studious reader, the "Gnat" of the eloquent Virgil, and do not entirely reject drolleries to read "Arma virumque cano."
How small a quantity of parchment holds the great Maro. His portrait ornaments the first page.
In this character did he first satirise the free loves of young men. It was not Glycere, but Thais, that was his mistress in youth.
If this parchment be your companion on a long journey, you may imagine that you are travelling with Cicero.
Cynthia, theme of the youthful muse of the eloquent Propertius, has not received more fame from him than she has given in return.
The voluminous Livy, of whom my bookcase would once scarcely have contained the whole, is now comprised in this small parchment volume.
Sallust, according to the judgment of the learned, will rank as the prince of Roman historiographers.
This mass, which, as you see, consists of a great number of leaves, contains fifteen books of the verses of Naso.
The playful Nemesis consumed with love the amorous Tibullus, whom it delighted to be a cipher in his own house.
There are some who say that I am not a poet; but the bookseller, who sells me, thinks that I am.
Great Verona owes as much to her Catullus, as little Mantua owea to her Virgil.
This paper, which tells you of the virtues and names of water, deserves to be set afloat on the waters it describes.
From these mules you need not fear a fall; you often sit higher on the ground.
If you wish to hear all the pretty tricks of the little puppy, a whole page would not suffice for me to enumerate them.
This small horse, who picks up his swift hoofs in such regular time, is an Asturian, and comes from the gold-producing regions.
The active greyhound hunts not for himself but for his master, and will bring you the hare unhurt in his teeth.
I do not like him for conquering, but for knowing how to succumb, and still more for having learned the art of retrieving himself.
I am an ape, cunning in avoiding the darts hurled at me. Had I a tail, I should be a cercopithecus.1
[Not translated in either the Bohn or Ker Loeb editions]
The brazen instruments, which lament the love of the Phrygian mother,2 are often sold by her hungry priest.
Mine be a favourite whose delicate skin is due to tender youth, and not to art; for whose sake no maiden may be pleasing in my eyes.
Bind upon your neck, child, this cestus, which is love itself warm from the bosom of Venus.
Take this cestus, steeped in the nectar of Cytherea; a cincture which kindled love in Jupiter.
Though your words run swiftly, the hand is swifter still. The hand has recorded before the tongue has uttered.
Let the Egyptian papyrus be made smooth by the marine shell; and the pen will then speed along without interruption.
His folly is not feigned, or assumed by cunning art. Whoever is not more than wise enough, is wise.
You have cut the soft neck of the Phrixean husband of the flock.1 Did he, who gave you your clothing, cruel man, deserve this?
If you look only at the head of the man, you might fancy him to be Hector; if you see him on his legs, you would think him Astyanax.
This, which is wont often to be beaten,2 but rarely to beat, will be a small shield to you, but would be a large one for a dwarf.
No-one in that troop will be the Μισούμένοσ (hated one) ; but every one is ready to be Δὶς ἐξαπατῶν (the double deceiver).3
Tell me, clasp, frankly, of what advantage are you to actresses and lute-players? To enhance their favours.
He used to prey upon birds; now he is the servant of the bird-catcher, and deceives birds, repining that they are not caught for himself.
Tell me how many there are of you, and at what price you wish to dine. Not a word more; dinner is ready for you.
The bird is deceived, not by the rods only, but also by the song, while the reed1 is stealthily stretched out by the concealed hand.
As you, a poor lawyer, write verses that bring you no profit, accept a heart similar to your own.
Art alone is not enough for a cook. I do not like my palate to be his slave; the cook should have the taste of his master.
Let your slim gridiron be greased with the crescent-shaped steak. Let the foaming boar smoke upon the long spit.
That hand will construct for you a thousand sweet figures of art; for it the frugal bee principally labours.
Rise; the baker is already selling breakfasts to the children; and the crested birds of dawn are crowing on all sides.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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