Apoculamus

Mont Sudbury, The werewolf howls

‘Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; quicquid habui in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent. forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. at ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. qui mori timore nisi ego? gladium tamen strinxi et—matavitatau!—umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. in larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et, “si ante,” inquit, “venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. nec tamen derisit, etiam si fugit; servus enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit.” haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. ut vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.’
(Petronius, Sat. 61-62)

‘When I was still a slave, we were living down a narrow street – Gavilla owns the house now – and there as heaven would have it, I fell in love with the wife of Terentius the innkeeper. You all used to know Melissa from Tarentum, an absolute peach to look at. But honest to god, it wasn’t her body or just sex that made me care for her, it was more because she had such a nice nature. If I asked her for anything, it was never refused. If I had a penny or halfpenny, I gave it to her to look after and she never let me down. One day her husband died out at the villa. So I did my best by hook or by crook to get to her. After all, you know, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Luckily the master had gone off to Capua to look after some odds and ends. I seized my chance and I talked a guest of ours into walking with me as far as the fifth milestone. He was a soldier as it happened, and as brave as hell. About cock-crow we shag off, and the moon was shining like noontime. We get to where the tombs are and my chap starts making for the grave-stones, while I, singing away, keep going and start counting the stars. Then just as I looked back at my mate, he stripped off and laid all his clothes by the side of the road. My heart was in my mouth, I stood there like a corpse. Anyway, he pissed a ring round his clothes and suddenly turned into a wolf. Don’t think I’m joking, I wouldn’t tell a lie about this for a fortune. However, as I began to say, after he turned into a wolf, he started howling and rushed off into the woods. At first I didn’t know where I was, then I went up to collect his clothes – but they’d turned to stone. If ever a man was dead with fright, it was me. But I pulled out my sword, and I fairly slaughtered the early morning shadows till I arrived at my girl’s villa. I got into the house and I practically gasped my last, the sweat was pouring down my crotch, my eyes were blank and staring—I could hardly get over it. It came as a surprise to my poor Melissa to find I’d walked over so late. “If you’d come a bit earlier,” she said, “at least you could’ve helped us. A wolf got into the grounds and tore into all the livestock—it was like a bloody shambles. But he didn’t have the last laugh, even though he got away. Our slave here put a spear right through his neck.” I couldn’t close my eyes again after I heard this. But when it was broad daylight I rushed off home like the innkeeper after the robbery. And when I came to the spot where his clothes had turned to stone, I found nothing but bloodstains. However, when I got home, my soldier friend was lying in bed like a great ox with the doctor seeing to his neck. I realized he was a werewolf and afterwards I couldn’t have taken a bite of bread in his company, not if you killed me for it. If some people think differently about this, that’s up to them. But me—if I’m telling a lie may all your guardian spirits damn me!’ (tr. John Patrick Sullivan)

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