medieval suicide 3

Oblationes defunctorum qui in aliquo crimino fuerint interempti, recipi debere censemus; si tamen non ipsi sibi mortem probentur propriis manibus intulisse.
(Concilium Aurelianense II. sub Bonifacio II anno 533, cap. 15)

We decree that oblations should be accepted for the dead who were killed as the result of a crime, at least if it is proved that they did not bring death upon themselves by their own hands. (tr. David Bauwens)

Item placuit, ut hi qui sibi ipsis aut per ferrum, aut per venenum, aut per praecipitium, aut suspendium, vel quolibet modo violentam inferunt mortem, nulla illis in oblatione commemoratio fiat, neque cum psalmis ad sepulturam eorum cadavera deducantur: multi enim sibi hoc per ignorantiam usurparunt. similiter et de his placuit, qui pro suis sceleribus puniuntur.
(Concilium Bracarense II. sub Joanne III anno 563, canon 16)

We decree that regarding those who bring violent death upon themselves by the sword, or by poison, or by jumping, or by hanging themselves, or by whatever other method, there may be no commemoration in the oblations for them, and their corpses cannot be carried to the grave with the accompaniment of psalms; for many have appropriated this right through ignorance. Likewise we decree regarding those who are being punished for their crimes. (tr. David Bauwens)


Cambyses and Prexaspes

Τάδε δ’ ἐς τοὺς ἄλλους Πέρσας ἐξεμάνη. λέγεται γὰρ εἰπεῖν αὐτὸν πρὸς Πρηξάσπεα, τὸν ἐτίμα τε μάλιστα καί οἱ τὰς ἀγγελίας ἐφόρεε οὗτος, τούτου τε ὁ παῖς οἰνοχόος ἦν τῷ Καμβύσῃ, τιμὴ δὲ καὶ αὕτη οὐ σμικρή· εἰπεῖν δὲ λέγεται τάδε. “Πρήξασπες, κοῖόν με τινὰ νομίζουσι Πέρσαι εἶναι ἄνδρα τίνας τε λόγους περὶ ἐμέο ποιεῦνται;” τὸν δὲ εἰπεῖν “ὦ δέσποτα, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα πάντα μεγάλως ἐπαινέαι, τῇ δὲ φιλοινίῃ σε φασὶ πλεόνως προσκέεσθαι.” τὸν μὲν δὴ λέγειν ταῦτα περὶ Περσέων, τὸν δὲ θυμωθέντα τοιάδε ἀμείβεσθαι. “νῦν ἄρα με φασὶ Πέρσαι οἴνῳ προσκείμενον παραφρονέειν καὶ οὐκ εἶναι νοήμονα· οὐδ’ ἄρα σφέων οἱ πρότεροι λόγοι ἦσαν ἀληθέες.” πρότερον γὰρ δὴ ἄρα, Περσέων οἱ συνέδρων ἐόντων καὶ Κροίσου, εἴρετο Καμβύσης κοῖός τις δοκέοι ἀνὴρ εἶναι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα τελέσαι Κῦρον, οἳ δὲ ἀμείβοντο ὡς εἴη ἀμείνων τοῦ πατρός· τά τε γὰρ ἐκείνου πάντα ἔχειν αὐτὸν καὶ προσεκτῆσθαι Αἴγυπτόν τε καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν. Πέρσαι μὲν ταῦτα ἔλεγον, Κροῖσος δὲ παρεών τε καὶ οὐκ ἀρεσκόμενος τῇ κρίσι εἶπε πρὸς τὸν Καμβύσεα τάδε. “ἐμοὶ μέν νυν, ὦ παῖ Κύρου, οὐ δοκέεις ὅμοιος εἶναι τῷ πατρί· οὐ γάρ κώ τοι ἐστὶ υἱὸς οἷον σε ἐκεῖνος κατελίπετο.” ἥσθη τε ταῦτα ἀκούσας ὁ Καμβύσης καὶ ἐπαίνεε τὴν Κροίσου κρίσιν. τούτων δὴ ὦν ἐπιμνησθέντα ὀργῇ λέγειν πρὸς τὸν Πρηξάσπεα “σύ νυν μάθε εἰ λέγουσι Πέρσαι ἀληθέα εἴτε αὐτοὶ λέγοντες ταῦτα παραφρονέουσι· εἰ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ παιδὸς τοῦ σοῦ τοῦδε ἑστεῶτος ἐν τοῖσι προθύροισι βαλὼν τύχοιμι μέσης τῆς καρδίης, Πέρσαι φανέονται λέγοντες οὐδέν· ἢν δὲ ἁμάρτω, φάναι Πέρσας τε λέγειν ἀληθέα καί με μὴ σωφρονέειν.” ταῦτα δὲ εἰπόντα καὶ διατείναντα τὸ τόξον βαλεῖν τὸν παῖδα, πεσόντος δὲ τοῦ παιδὸς ἀνασχίζειν αὐτὸν κελεύειν καὶ σκέψασθαι τὸ βλῆμα· ὡς δὲ ἐν τῇ καρδίῃ εὑρεθῆναι ἐνεόντα τὸν ὀιστόν, εἰπεῖν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα τοῦ παιδὸς γελάσαντα καὶ περιχαρέα γενόμενον “Πρήξασπες, ὡς μὲν ἐγὼ τε οὐ μαίνομαι Πέρσαι τε παραφρονέουσι, δῆλά τοι γέγονε. νῦν δέ μοι εἰπέ, τίνα εἶδες ἤδη πάντων ἀνθρώπων οὕτω ἐπίσκοπα τοξεύοντα;” Πρηξάσπεα δὲ ὁρῶντα ἄνδρα οὐ φρενήρεα καὶ περὶ ἑωυτῷ δειμαίνοντα εἰπεῖν “δέσποτα, οὐδ’ ἂν αὐτὸν ἔγωγε δοκέω τὸν θεὸν οὕτω ἂν καλῶς βαλεῖν.”
(Herodotus, Hist. 3.34-35)

He committed mad acts against the rest of the Persians as well. The case of Prexaspes, for instance, is mentioned. Cambyses gave Prexaspes the outstanding honour of bringing messages to him, and Prexaspes’ son was Cambyses’ wine-server, which was also a distinguished position to hold. It is said that Cambyses once asked him, ‘Prexaspes, what sort of man do the Persians think I am? What do they say about me?’ ‘Master,’ Prexaspes replied, ‘they have nothing but good to say about you, except in one respect: they say that you are rather too fond of wine.’ Prexaspes’ news about what the Persians were saying made Cambyses angry, and he retorted, ‘In fact the Persians are saying that my fondness for wine is driving me mad and making me lose my mind. It follows, then, that their earlier statements were false.’ The point is that once before, at a meeting between Cambyses, his Persian advisers, and Croesus, Cambyses asked what sort of man they thought him to be, compared to his father Cyrus. The Persians replied that he was a better man than his father, because he had control over the whole of his father’s possessions, while also adding dominion over Egypt and the sea. Croesus was there, however, and the Persians’ reply did not satisfy him, so he said to Cambyses, ‘In my opinion, my lord, you do not bear comparison with your father, because you do not yet have a son of the calibre of the one he left behind.’ Cambyses was delighted with this reply of Croesus’ and used to mention it with approval. This is what he was remembering when he spoke angrily to Prexaspes. ‘You’ll see whether the Persians are speaking the truth,’ he said, ‘or whether in saying this they are out of their minds. There’s your son, standing on the porch. I’ll shoot at him, and if I hit him right in the heart, that will be proof that the Persians are talking nonsense, whereas if I miss, you can say that the Persians are right and that I am out of my mind.’ With these words, he drew his bow and shot the boy with an arrow. The boy fell to the ground and Cambyses ordered his men to slit him open and examine the wound. When it was found that the arrow had pierced his heart, he turned to the boy’s father with a laugh and said delightedly, ‘So there you have it, Prexaspes! This proves that I am quite sane, and the Persians are out of their minds. Now, tell me: do you know anyone else in the world who can shoot an arrow with such accuracy?’ Prexaspes saw that he was quite mad and was afraid for himself. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I don’t think that even the god could have made such a good shot.’ (tr. Robin Waterfield)


Joseph Stallaert, De dood van Dido, ca. 1872
Joseph Stallaert, De dood van Dido (ca. 1872)

Arserat Aeneae Dido miserabilis igne,
arserat exstructis in sua fata rogis;
compositusque cinis, tumulique in marmore carmen
hoc breve, quod moriens ipsa reliquit, erat:
“praebuit Aeneas et causam mortis et ensem.
ipsa sua Dido concidit usa manu.”
protinus invadunt Numidae sine vindice regnum,
et potitur capta Maurus Iärba domo,
seque memor spretum, “thalamis tamen” inquit “Elissae
en ego, quem totiens reppulit illa, fruor.”
diffugiunt Tyrii, quo quemque agit error, ut olim
amisso dubiae rege vagantur apes.
pellitur Anna domo lacrimansque sororia linquit
moenia: germanae iusta dat ante suae.
mixta bibunt molles lacrimis unguenta favillae,
vertice libatas accipiuntque comas;
terque “vale!” dixit, cineres ter ad ora relatos
pressit, et est illis visa subesse soror.
(Ovid, Fast. 3.545-564)

Wretched Dido burned with love for Aeneas,
She burned on the pyre built for her funeral:
Her ashes were gathered, and this brief couplet
Which she left, in dying, adorned her tomb:
The Numidians immediately invaded the defenceless
Realm, and Iarbas the Moor captured and held the palace.
Remembering her scorn, he said: ‘”See, I, whom she
So many times rejected, now enjoy Elissa’’s marriage bed.’”
The Tyrians scattered, as each chanced to stray, as bees
Often wander confusedly, having lost their Queen.
Anna, was driven from her home, weeping on leaving
Her sister’’s city, after first paying honour to that sister.
The loose ashes drank perfume mixed with tears,
And received an offering of her shorn hair:
Three times she said: “‘Farewell!”’ three times lifted
And pressed the ashes to her lips, seeing her sister there.
(tr. Tony Kline)


Julian Apostata
The emperor Julian

Ἰουλιανοῦ δὲ ἐν τῷ Παρισίῳ (Γερμανίας δὲ αὕτη πολίχνη) διατρίβοντος, ὡς δὴ πρὸς ἐκδημίαν εὐτρεπεῖς ὄντες οἱ στρατιῶται νυκτὸς ἄχρι βαθείας ἐδείπνουν περὶ τὰ αὐτόθι βασίλεια, τῶν βουλευομένων κατὰ τοῦ Καίσαρος οὐδὲ ἓν λογιζόμενοι. τῶν δὲ ταξιάρχων τινὲς τὸ πάλαι κατ’ αὐτοῦ μηχανώμενον ἐπὶ τῶν πραγμάτων εὗρον ἀληθές, καὶ ἀνώνυμα γραμμάτια τῶν στρατιωτῶν ἐν μέσῳ κατὰ τὸ λεληθὸς διαρρίψαντες ἐδήλουν διὰ τούτων ὡς ὁ Καῖσαρ, ὁ δοὺς ἅπασιν ὡς εἰπεῖν τὸ κατὰ βαρβάρων τρόπαια στῆσαι διὰ τῶν οἰκείων στρατηγημάτων κατὰ μηδέν τε τῶν καθ’ ἕκαστον ἐν τῷ μάχεσθαι διαλλάττων, εἰς ἔσχατον ἥξει κινδύνου κατὰ βραχὺ τοῦ βασιλέως τὴν αὐτοῦ δύναμιν ὑποκλέπτοντος, εἰ μὴ συνδραμόντες ἅπαντες ὁμοῦ τὴν τῶν στρατιωτῶν κωλύσαιεν ἐκδημίαν. ταῦτα τὰ γραμματίδια διεσπαρμένα τινὲς τῶν στρατιωτῶν ἀναγνόντες, καὶ εἰς τὸ πλῆθος τὸ μελετώμενον ἐνεγκόντες, ἐξηρέθισαν ἅπαντας εἰς ὀργήν. καὶ ἀναστάντες ἐκ τοῦ πότου σὺν θορύβῳ πολλῷ, τῶν κυλίκων ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν ἔτι κειμένων, ὥρμησαν ἐπὶ τὰ βασίλεια, διαρρήξαντές τε τὰς θύρας σὺν οὐδενὶ κόσμῳ κατάγουσι δημοσίᾳ τὸν Καίσαρα, καὶ ἐπί τινος ἀσπίδος μετέωρον ἄραντες ἀνεῖπόν τε σεβαστὸν αὐτοκράτορα, καὶ ἐπέθεσαν σὺν βίᾳ τὸ διάδημα τῇ κεφαλῇ. ὃ δὲ δυσανασχετῶν μὲν ἐπὶ τῷ γεγονότι, τὸ δὲ ἀνακαλέσασθαι τὸ πραχθὲν οὐδεμίαν οἰηθεὶς ἔχειν ἀσφάλειαν Κωνσταντίου μήτε ὅρκοις ἐμμένοντος μήτε συνθήκαις ἢ ἄλλην τινὰ τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποις πίστιν φυλάττοντος, ὅμως ἐπειρᾶτο τῆς αὐτοῦ γνώμης, καὶ πρέσβεις ἐκπέμψας παρὰ τὴν αὑτοῦ προαίρεσίν τε καὶ γνώμην ἔφη προβῆναι τὰ τῆς ἀναρρήσεως, οἷς εἰ παράσχοι συγγνώμην, ἕτοιμος ἔφασκεν εἶναι τὴν τοῦ Καίσαρος ἔχειν ἀξίαν, ἀποθέμενος τὸ διάδημα. Κωνστάντιος δὲ εἰς τοσοῦτον ὀργῆς τε καὶ ἀλαζονείας ἠνέχθη ὥστε πρὸς τοὺς πρέσβεις εἰπεῖν ὡς προσήκει Ἰουλιανὸν τοῦ ζῆν ἀντεχόμενον ἀποθέσθαι πρὸς τῇ βασιλείᾳ καὶ τὸ τοῦ Καίσαρος σχῆμα, καταστάντα δὲ ἰδιώτην ἑαυτὸν τῇ προαιρέσει τοῦ βασιλέως ἐκδοῦναι· μηδὲ γὰρ πείσεσθαί τι δεινὸν μηδὲ ἀντάξιον ὧν ἐτόλμησε. ταῦτα ἀκηκοὼς Ἰουλιανὸς παρὰ τῶν πρέσβεων εἰς τὸ ἐμφανὲς ἔδειξεν ἣν εἶχε περὶ τὸ θεῖον προαίρεσιν, ἄντικρυς εἰς ἐπήκοον πάντων εἰπὼν ὡς τοῖς θεοῖς ἄμεινον ἢ τοῖς Κωνσταντίου λόγοις ἑαυτόν τε καὶ τὸν ἑαυτοῦ βίον ἐκδοῦναι. ἐντεῦθεν ἅπασι φανερὰ γέγονεν ἡ πρὸς Ἰουλιανὸν Κωνσταντίου δυσμένεια. καὶ Κωνστάντιος μὲν πρὸς ἐμφύλιον παρεσκευάζετο πόλεμον, Ἰουλιανῷ δὲ δυσχεραίνειν ἐπὶ τοῖς συμβεβηκόσιν ἐπῄει, ὡς, εἰ μέλλοι τῷ τὴν ἀρχὴν αὐτῷ δεδωκότι τοῦ Καίσαρος πολεμεῖν, ἀχαρίστου παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀποίσεται δόξαν. ὄντι δὲ περὶ ταῦτα καὶ πᾶσαν γνώμην ἀνακυκλοῦντι, σφόδρα τε ὀκνηρῶς ἔχοντι πρὸς ἐμφύλιον πόλεμον, ἔδειξε δι’ ἐνυπνίου τὸ θεῖον αὐτῷ τὸ ἐσόμενον· ἐν Βιέννῃ γὰρ διατρίβοντι κατ’ ὄναρ ὁ Ἥλιος ἐδόκει δεικνύναι τοὺς ἀστέρας αὐτῷ, λέγειν τε ταῦτα τὰ ἔπη·
Ζεὺς ὅταν εἰς πλατὺ τέρμα πέλῃ κλυτοῦ Ὑδροχόοιο,
Παρθενικῆς δὲ Κρόνος μοίρῃ βαίνῃ ἐπὶ πέντε
εἰκοστῇ, βασιλεὺς Κωνστάντιος Ἀσίδος αἴης
τέρμα φίλου βιότου στυγερὸν καὶ ἐπώδυνον ἕξει.
τούτῳ τῷ ἐνυπνίῳ θαρρήσας εἴχετο μὲν κατὰ τὸ σύνηθες αὐτῷ τῆς τῶν κοινῶν πραγμάτων ἐπιμελείας, ἐπεὶ δὲ ἦν ἔτι χειμών, τὰ μὲν ὅσα περὶ τοὺς βαρβάρους τῆς δεούσης ἠξιοῦτο προνοίας, ὥστε, εἰ δεήσει καὶ τῶν ἄλλων αὐτὸν ἀντιλαβέσθαι πραγμάτων, ἐν ἀσφαλείᾳ πάσῃ τὰ ἐν Κελτοῖς πράγματα μεῖναι, παρεσκευάζετο δέ, Κωνσταντίου κατὰ τὴν ἑῴαν ὄντος, τὴν αὐτοῦ προκαταλαβεῖν ἐπιχείρησιν.
(Zosimus, Historia Nova 3.9)

Julian was at this time staying at Parisium, a little town in Germany. The soldiers, ready to march, were supping late at night near the imperial quarters. They were totally unaware of the plot against Caesar* until certain military tribunes discovered the truth about the designs against him and unobtrusively distributed anonymous notes among the troops. In these they described how Caesar, whose generalship had enabled virtually everyone to win victories against the barbarians, and who always fought like a private soldier without privilege, was in grave danger from the emperor**, who was gradually stealing away his troops, unless they combined to prevent the soldiers’ departure. When some of the soldiers read the notes and informed the rest of what was happening, all were inflamed with rage. Thereupon they rose from their drinking in uproar, and going to the imperial quarters with the cups still in their hands, they burst open the doors without ceremony and led Caesar forth. Raising him aloft on a shield, they declared him Imperator Augustus and forced a crown onto his head. Julian was indeed distressed at what had happened, but realised there was no safety in undoing it, since Constantius did not abide by oaths or agreements or any other human pledge. Nevertheless, he decided to try him, so he sent ambassadors saying that his elevation had been contrary to his own wishes and judgement, and that if he would pardon him, he was content to have the honour of Caesar alone and to put aside his diadem. Constantius flew into such a fit of rage and arrogance that he told the ambassadors that, if Julian wanted to
live, he must renounce the rank of Caesar as well as the emperorship, and, thus degraded to private rank, submit himself to the emperor’s pleasure: only in this way would he escape the terrible punishment his audacity deserved. When Julian heard this from the envoys, he openly showed his religious opinions by declaring outright in the hearing of all that he would rather entrust himself and his life to the gods than to Constantius’ assurances. Henceforth Constantius’ enmity to Julian was clear to everyone and he prepared for a civil war. Julian, however, was displeased at how things had turned out, realising that if he fought the man who had given him the position of Caesar, he would gain a reputation with many people for being ungrateful. While he was thus engrossed in considering every possibility in his anxiety to avoid a civil war, the gods revealed the future to him in a dream; for while staying at Vienna he dreamed that the Sun showed him the stars and spoke these verses:
‘When Jupiter reaches the edge of noble Aquarius, and
Saturn comes to Virgo’s twenty-fifth degree, then emperor Constantius, king of Asia, will reach the hateful, painful end of sweet life.’
Heartened by this dream, he devoted himself as usual to public business, and since it was winter time, took the necessary precautions with the barbarians, so that if he should have to undertake any other business, Gaul would be quite secure; at the same time, while Constantius was still in the East, he prepared to anticipate his attack.

* Julian.
** Constantius II.

(tr. Ronald T. Ridley)


Attis pilleatus
Attis wearing a pilleus

Quando venit tempus ut misereretur Deus, venit Agnus. qualis Agnus quem lupi timent? qualis Agnus est qui leonem occisus occidit? dictus est enim diabolus leo circumiens et rugiens, quaerens quem devoret [1 Petr. 5.8]: sanguine Agni victus est leo. Ecce spectacula Christianorum. et quod est amplius, illi oculis carnis vident vanitatem, nos cordis oculis veritatem. ne putetis, fratres, quod sine spectaculis nos dimisit Dominus Deus noster: nam si nulla sunt spectacula, cur hodie convenistis? ecce quod diximus, vidistis, et exclamastis: non exclamaretis, nisi vidissetis. et magnum est hoc spectare per totum orbem terrarum, victum leonem sanguine Agni, educta de dentibus leonum membra Christi, et adiuncta corpori Christi. ergo nescio quid simile imitatus est quidam spiritus, ut sanguine simulacrum suum emi vellet, quia noverat pretioso sanguine quandocumque redimendum esse genus humanum. fingunt enim spiritus mali umbras quasdam honoris sibimet ipsis, ut sic decipiant eos qui sequuntur Christum. usque adeo, fratres mei, ut illi ipsi qui seducunt per ligaturas, per praecantationes, per machinamenta inimici, misceant praecantationibus suis nomen Christi: quia iam non possunt seducere Christianos, ut dent venenum, addunt mellis aliquid, ut per id quod dulce est, lateat quod amarum est, et bibatur ad perniciem. usque adeo ut ego noverim aliquo tempore illius Pilleati sacerdotem solere dicere: “et ipse Pilleatus christianus est.” ut quid hoc, fratres, nisi quia aliter non possunt seduci Christiani?
(Augustine, In Joh. Evang. Tract. 7.1.6)

When the time came for God to have mercy, the Lamb came. What sort of a Lamb whom wolves fear? What sort of a Lamb is it who, when slain, slew a lion? For the devil is called a lion, going about and roaring, seeking whom he may devour. By the blood of the Lamb the lion was vanquished. Behold the spectacles of Christians. And what is more: they with the eyes of the flesh behold vanity, we with the eyes of the heart behold truth. Do not think, brethren, that our Lord God has dismissed us without spectacles; for if there are no spectacles, why have ye come together today? Behold, what we have said you saw, and you exclaimed; you would not have exclaimed if you had not seen. And this is a great thing to see in the whole world, the lion vanquished by the blood of the Lamb: members of Christ delivered from the teeth of the lions, and joined to the body of Christ. Therefore some spirit or other contrived the counterfeit that His image should be bought for blood, because he knew that the human race was at some time to be redeemed by the precious blood. For evil spirits counterfeit certain shadows of honor to themselves, that they may deceive those who follow Christ. So much so, my brethren, that those who seduce by means of amulets, by incantations, by the devices of the enemy, mingle the name of Christ with their incantations: because they are not now able to seduce Christians, so as to give them poison they add some honey, that by means of the sweet the bitter may be concealed, and be drunk to ruin. So much so, that I know that the priest of that Pilleatus was sometimes in the habit of saying, “Pilleatus himself also is a Christian.” Why so, brethren, unless that they were not able otherwise to seduce Christians? (tr. John Gibb)


Egon Schiele, Sitzender männlicher Akt, 1910
Egon Schiele, Sitzender männlicher Akt (1910)

This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

‘Mentula, festorum cultrix operosa dierum,
quondam deliciae divitiaeque meae,
quo te deiectam lacrimarum gurgite plangam,
quae de tot meritis carmina digna feram?
tu mihi flagranti succurrere saepe solebas
atque aestus animi ludificare mei.
tu mihi per totam custos gratissima noctem
consors laetitiae tristitiaeque meae,
conscia secreti semper fidissima nostri,
astans internis pervigil obsequiis:
quo tibi fervor abit per quem feritura placebas,
quo tibi cristatum vulnificumque caput?
nempe iaces nullo, ut quondam, perfusa rubore,
pallida demisso vertice nempe iaces.
nil tibi blandities, nil dulcia carmina prosunt,
non quicquid mentem sollicitare solet.
hic velut exposito meritam te funere plango:
occidit, assueto quod caret officio.’
hanc ego cum lacrimis deducta voce canentem
irridens dictis talibus increpui:
‘dum defles nostri languorem, femina, membri,
ostendis morbo te graviore premi.’
illa furens: ‘nescis, ut cerno, perfide, nescis:
non fleo privatum, set generale chaos.
haec genus humanum, pecudum, volucrumque, ferarum
et quicquid toto spirat in orbe, creat.
hac sine diversi nulla est concordia sexus,
hac sine coniugii gratia summa perit.
haec geminas tanto constringit foedere mentes,
unius ut faciat corporis esse duo.
pulcra licet pretium, si desit, femina perdit,
et si defuerit, vir quoque turpis erit.
haec si gemma micans rutilum non conferat aurum
aeternum fallax mortiferumque genus.
tecum pura fides secretaque certa loquuntur,
o vere nostrum fructiferumque bonum!’
(Maximianus, El. 5.88-122)

“Prick, busy celebrator of the holidays,
and old delight and treasure that was mine,
with what fierce flood of tears should I lament your fall?
What songs worth such great service should I bring?
You often were inclined to help me while aroused
and tease me for my spirit’s sultriness.
You were my dearest guardian all through the night,
and partner in my happiness and sadness,
always most trustworthy when privy to our secrets,
standing tall on watch in private rites.
Where did the heat, by which you pleased in foreplay, go?
Where is your crested, wound-inflicting head?
Of course, no longer do you lie engorged with red.
Of course, you lie pale with your drooping crown.
No flattery, no charming songs encourage you,
nothing that tends to stimulate the mind.
I mourn for you here as befits a laid-out corpse;
what lacks its customary use has died.”
As she was singing this in tears, her voice subdued,
I mockingly derided her with these words:
“Woman, while you lament the slackness of my prick,
you show you suffer from a worse disease.”
She raged, “You’re clueless, traitor! Clueless, as I see it!
I mourn a public, not a private, hell.
It makes the human race, the herds, the birds, the beasts
and everything that breathes throughout the world.
Without it there’s no union of the different sexes;
the highest grace of marriage dies without it.
It brings together coupled minds with its strong bond
so that the pair combine to be one flesh.
Though pretty, if it goes, a woman loses value,
and, if it’s gone, a man will be grotesque too.
If this bright gem does not embellish ruddy gold,
a birth is fake and moribund forever.
With you, pure vows and trusted secrets are declared,
O truly fruitful benefit of mine!”
(tr. A.M. Juster)


Egon Schiele, Kniender Akt, Selbstporträt, 1910
Egon Schiele, Kniender Akt, Selbstporträt (1910)

This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

Erubui, stupui. quia tunc verecundia mentem
abstulit et blandum terror ademit opus,
contrectare manu coepit flagrantia membra
meque etiam digitis sollicitare suis.
nil mihi torpenti vel tactus profuit ignis:
perstitit in medio frigus ut ante foco.
‘quae te crudelis rapuit mihi femina?’ dixit,
‘cuius ab amplexu fessus ad arma redis?’
iurabam curis animum mordacibus uri
nec posse ad luxum tristia corda trahi.
illa dolum credens ‘non’ inquit ‘fallis amantem:
plurima certus amor lumina semper habet.
quin potius placido noli’ inquit ‘parcere ludo:
proice tristitias et renovare ioco.
obtundunt siquidem curarum pondera sensus:
intermissa minus sarcina pondus habet.’
tunc egomet toto nudatus corpore lecto
effusis lacrimis talia verba dedi:
‘cogimur, heu, senes crimen vitiumque fateri,
ne meus extinctus forte putetur amor.
me miserum, cuius non est culpanda voluptas!
vindicor infelix debilitatis ope.
en longo confecta situ tibi tradimus arma,
arma ministeriis quippe dicata tuis.
fac quodcumque potes, nos cessimus. hoc tamen ipso
grandior est hostis, quod minus ardet amor.’
protinus argutas admovit turpiter artes
meque cupit flammis vivificare suis.
ast ubi dilecti persensit funera membri
nec velut expositum surgere vidit opus,
erigitur viduoque toro laniata recumbens
vocibus his luctus et sua damna fovet:
(Maximianus, El. 5.55-87)

I blushed, I froze. Since shame then made me lose my mind
and panic cut off the alluring task,
she started fondling my burning prick by hand
and she aroused me with her fingers too.
Even the strokes of passion did not help my numbness;
frost stayed within the hearth, as in the past.
“What bitch has stolen you from me?” she said, “From whose
grasp do you come back tired to my arms?”
I swore my spirit was inflamed by gnawing cares;
sad hearts cannot be drawn to easy living.
Sensing a trick, she says, “You do not fool your lover!
Constant love always has its many eyes.”
She says, “What’s more, do not reject our pleasing play!
Give up your frowns and be restored by fun!
Indeed, if loads of burdens make your senses dull,
‘some easing of the weight’ relieves the load.”
Then, with my body fully naked on the bed,
I spoke with streaming tears some words like these:
“Alas, old men are forced to cop to blame and guilt,
in case it’s thought, perhaps, my love is quenched.
I am a wretch whose appetite is not to blame!
Jinxed, I’m excused by virtue of my weakness.
Look! I give you these arms weak from long disuse—
the arms assigned, of course, for your deployments.
Do what you can; I’ve yielded. For this reason, though,
the foe is stronger since love simmers less.”
She shamefully applied her cunning arts at once
and wanted to revive me with her lusts,
but when she recognized the cherished member’s death,
and saw the tool not rise, as if laid out,
and torn—prone on her widowed bed—she grew aroused
and nursed her grief and damage with these words:
(tr. A.M. Juster)