Non patitur cunctas angustia carminis huius
pulei virtutes celeri comprendere versu.
hoc apud Indorum tanti constare peritos
fertur, apud Gallos quanti valet Indica nigri
congeries piperis. quis iam dubitare sinetur
hac herba plures leniri posse labores,
quam pretiis inhianter emit ditissima tantis
gens, hebenoque auroque fluens et mira volenti
quaeque ferens mundo. o magna laudanda tonantis
virtus et ratio, nullis quae munera terris
larga suae non pandit opis! quae rara sub isto
axe videre soles, aliis in partibus horum
copia tanta iacet, quantum vilissima tecum
efficiunt: rursus quaedam quae spreta videntur
forte tibi, magno mercantur ditia regna,
altera ut alterius potiatur foenore tellus,
orbis et in toto per partes una domus sit.
puleium quoque decoctum curabit, amice,
et potu et fotu stomachum, mihi crede, morantem.
dum canimus quae certa gravi ratione tenemus,
quaedam audita etiam vero miscere coturno
fas ususque sinit: ramum coniungito pulei
auriculae, ne forte caput turbaverit aestus
solis in aerio si te perflarit aperto.
quod nisi me currens deponere vela Thalia
cogeret ac tandem portus intrare moneret,
hinc tibi multiplices poteram decerpere flores.
(Walahfrid Strabo, De Cultura Hortorum 300-326)

The narrow limitations of my song will not
permit me to embrace all the virtues of pennyroyal
in these ephemeral verses. It is reportedly
valued as highly by the physicians of India
as a whole sack of black Indian pepper
amongst the Gauls. Who could doubt that this herb
can relieve numerous sufferings, since that
worthy folk eagerly pays such a high price for it.
Possessing so much ebony and gold, they
are in a position to provide the greedy world
with all kinds of valuable things. How praiseworthy
are the power and wisdom of the thundering god
who bestows his helpful gifts so bountifully!
For whatever is seldom seen under one part of the sky
is readily available in other parts of the earth,
in such quantity there as the cheapest things are here.
Prosperous kingdoms abroad pay good money
for articles which may appear to us valueless.
Thus one country profits from another,
and the whole world in all its parts constitutes
a single household.
Believe me, my friend, an extract of pennyroyal,
taken as a drink or applied as a poultice,
will cure a sluggish stomach.
Normally we report only what we regard as certain,
but in this case custom and usage will allow us
to inject a bit of hearsay into our poem:
If you stick a twing of pennyroyal behind your ear,
then the sun’s heat won’t make you dizzy
when it beats down upon you in the open.
If Thalia weren’t urgently warning me
to take in sail and head for the harbor,
I could pick many more flowers for you here.
(tr. James Mitchell)

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