Infantula

POSTMORTEM LITTLE GIRL WH. DRESS BLK MOURNING BOWS.CROPPED

Urna loquor: cinis est infans, infantula mecum est,
vernula nata domi, nata gemella patri.
hanc mater mihi commendat post funera et inquit:
“ipsa tibi hanc peperi, nata futura tua est.”
hanc alui in tenebris; nutrix nox; ubera suxit
noctis, et infanti lac fuit ipse sopor.
nec fatur; verum somno testata perenni,
quam nasci satius vos docet esse mori.
hanc nullae torquent curae, non matris in ore est,
non lana in digitis comminuenda datur;
continuas ducit noctes; lux nulla, nec ulli
sunt vitae sensus, munera nulla premunt.
dumque haec ipsa loquor, secura infantula dormit;
illam perpetuo somnus ab imbre rigat.
nomen erat quod fecit herus Massila; Camoenae
ornarunt domini pro pietate locum.
hic dormit Massila; sopor lac, ubera praebet
nox ipsa, at cunas et tenebrae et loculi.
(Giovanni Pontano, De Tumulis 1.39)

I, urn of cremation, speak. The ash is a baby. A slave-girl lies in me, born in her home, her father’s twin child. After she died, her mother entrusted her to me, and told me “I bore her myself for you, your daughter to be.” Her in the dark I nourished. Night was her nurse. At the breasts of night she sucked. The breastmilk was sleep itself. She does not speak. Yet bearing witness in sleep everlasting she teaches us how birth is worse than death. Not one whirled care now wracks her, she’s not on the lips of her mother. No wool is put in her fingers to pull apart. She leads an eternal dead of night, without light, without living feeling. Life’s obsequies can’t oppress her now. And while I speak myself, this little baby keeps sleeping untroubled. Slumber bathes her in constant rain. Massila was the name her master gave her. The Muses adorned this place through duteous love of her lord. Here rests Massila. Sleep is the milk she sucks from the breasts of night. But dark and the coffin are her cradles. (tr. Alex Z. Foreman)

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