Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, Medea (1868)

“Audi, cara soror, patiens me nostra loquentem
arcana et miserae potius succurre sorori!
excrucior, nostris et se novus ossibus ardor
implicat; ardentes carpit mihi flamma medullas,
nec soleo tales poenas talesve calores
ferre. quis hic nostram tantum premit advena mentem!
qua forma, qua virtute est, quo praeditus ille
eloquio! quibus ortis avis! quis splendor ab eius
ore fluit! non divinus decor ille videtur?
non facies digna illa deo, non coniuge dignus
regina Iunone? Iovine simillimus ille?
at certe ille mihi miros incussit amores,
et volui, fateor namque, his obsistere; sed me
concitat ardentem vis maior et undique cogit.
iam mihi dulce nihil possim sperare sine illo,
non requiem, non ullam ausim sperare salutem!
decrevi – et mentem ne quaere refellere nostram –
actutum, soror, Haemonio succurrere regi.
illum ego monstra – bonus quid enim peccavit Iaso? –
artibus infabricata meis superare docebo.
non adeo crudele mihi ingeniumve protervum est,
ut per me Aesonides viridi exstinguatur in aevo!
ille, ubi me certo sociam stabilique ligarit
conubio, patrias secum traducet in oras.
ipsa equidem durum –  sic stat sententia – patrem,
has etiam sedes et regna paterna relinquam;
sed te, oro, huic accinge, soror dilecta, labori:
vade virumque ad me interea, dum nigra silet nox,
duc tempusque aptum furare: ego foedera secum
percutiam firmaque sibi me lege dicabo.”
(Maffeo Vegio, Vellus Aureum 3.126-155)

“Give ear, devoted sister, and allow me to voice my secret. Lend help, I beg you, to your lovesick sister! I am tortured, and a new flame entwines itself amid my bones. The fire grasps at my burning marrow. I am not accustomed to endure such suffering, such hell-fire. Who is this outsider who has so enslaved my mind! With what presence, what nobility, what eloquence is he endowed! From what ancestry he is sprung! What brilliance pours from his features! Does not his grace appear god-like? Are not his features worthy of a god, is het not worthy of queen Juno as wife? Is het not most like Jupiter? He has inspired in me for sure a love to marvel at, and – I admit it to you – it was my desire to stand firm against it. But a mightier force stirs me afire, and drives me this way and that. Already I am incapable of expecting anything sweet without him nor would I dare to hope for any peace of mind, any salvation. I have made my decision – don’t attempt to reverse my thinking – forthwith, sister mine, to lend help to the Haemonian king. I myself will be his teacher – for of what malfeasance is good Jason guilty? – to overcome the monsters wrought by my arts. My nature is neither so cruel nor so fierce as to be the means of annihilating Jason in the prime of youth! When he has bound me as his partner in the sure, enduring alliance of matrimony, he will carry me with him to his paternal shores. I myself – and my decision remains unshaken – will leave behind our hard-hearted father, along with this dwelling and the kingdom of our forefathers. But, I pray you, beloved sister, gird yourself for this effort. Go now and, in night’s dark silence, grasping in stealth the appropriate moment, lead the man to me. I will enter into compact with him and proclaim myself his in the firmness of law.” (tr. Michael C.J. Putnam)



Καὶ αὐτῆς ἄλλα τε καλῶς εἰρημένα ἀποφθέγματα φέρεται, καὶ ὅτι γυμνούς ποτε ἄνδρας ἀπαντήσαντας αὐτῇ καὶ μέλλοντας διὰ τοῦτο θανατωθήσεσθαι ἔσωσεν, εἰποῦσα ὅτι οὐδὲν ἀνδριάντων ταῖς σωφρονούσαις οἱ τοιοῦτοι διαφέρουσι. πυθομένου τέ τινος αὐτῆς πῶς καὶ τί δρῶσα οὕτω τοῦ Αὐγούστου κατεκράτησεν, ἀπεκρίνατο ὅτι αὐτή τε ἀκριβῶς σωφρονοῦσα, καὶ πάντα τὰ δοκοῦντα αὐτῷ ἡδέως ποιοῦσα, καὶ μήτε ἄλλο τι τῶν ἐκείνου πολυπραγμονοῦσα, καὶ τὰ ἀφροδίσια αὐτοῦ ἀθύρματα μήτε ἀκούειν μήτε αἰσθάνεσθαι προσποιουμένη. τοιαύτη μὲν ἡ Λιουία ἐγένετο…
(Cassius Dio, Hist. 58.2.5)

Among the many excellent utterances of hers that are reported are the following. Once, when some naked men met her and were to be put to death in consequence, she saved their lives by saying that to chaste women such men are no whit different from statues. When someone asked her how and by what course of action she had obtained such a commanding influence over Augustus, she answered that it was by being scrupulously chaste herself, doing gladly whatever pleased him, not meddling with any of his affairs, and, in particular, by pretending neither to hear of nor to notice the favourites that were the object of his passion. Such was the character of Livia. (tr. Earnest Cary)



Qua dextra sceptrum, qua fuerit ligo,
qua falx et ensis: forfice quod caput
rasum, coronatumve gemmis,
unde sciam? iacet incubantum

confusa strages. non roseus color
sublucet ulli, non cutis extima.
ut flante Cauro tota vernis
silva comis viduata moeret.

discrimen hoc quod cernimus unicum
est esse nullum. cuius enim genae
pinguntur ostro? quae polito
frons ebori nivibusque certat?

quis crine vertex, quae violis comae
ornantur? Eheu! non oculi micant
fulgore nativo; nec usquam
Flamma domi. Latebras amoris

scrutata serpens Idalios cavo
exhausit igneis. Vah specus horrida,
truncaeque nares: vah ruina!
oris hiat lacerata sepes,

gingiva linguae stirpitus erutae.
praedator hortum vermis edentulum
vastare repit. Vah palati
a colubris iugulata radix!

(Jacobus Balde, Carm. 2.39.57-80)

In which right hand was there a hoe? A sceptre,
a scythe, a sword? Which head was shorn, or crowned
with jewels? How could I know?
All are a jumbled heap

of mingled bones. Here no one glows or blushes;
no one has skin; as when a whole forest, swept
by a Northeast wind, grieves
widowed of its spring leaves.

The one distinction we discern amongst them
is that there is none. Which one’s cheeks had rouge?
Which forehead vied with polished
ivory? Or fresh snow?

Which head had tresses? Whose hair was entwined
with violets? Here no eyes flash from birth
with lightning; in this house
the hearth is cold. Snakes searching

love’s hiding-places drained dry Cupid’s ardors.
Faugh! fearful cavern! Those truncated nostrils!
What ruin. Faugh! This mouth
gapes with its hedges torn,

no gums, a tongue that’s torn out by its roots.
The maggot creeps: to rob this toothless garden.
The root of the palate – faugh!
is choked and swarms with snakes.

(tr. Karl Maurer)



Jean Vignaud, Abélard et Héloïse surpris par Fulbert

Nosti quantis turpitudinibus immoderata mea libido corpora nostra addixerat, ut nulla honestatis vel Dei reverentia in ipsis etiam diebus Dominicae passionis, vel quantarumcunque solemnitatum ad huius luti volutabro me revocaret. set et te nolentem et prout poteras reluctantem et dissuadentem, quae natura infirmior eras, saepius minis ac flagellis ad consensum trahebam. tanto enim tibi concupiscentiae ardore copulatus eram, ut miseras illas et obscenessimas voluptates, quas etiam nominare confundimur, tam Deo quam mihi ipsi praeponerem: nec tam aliter consulere posse divina videretur clementia, nisi has mihi voluptates sine spe ulla omnino interdiceret. unde iustissime et clementissime licet cum summa tui avunculi proditione ut in multis crescerem, parte illa corporis sum minutus, in quam libidinis regnum erat, et tota huius concupiscentiae causa consistebat, ut iuste illud plecteretur membrum, quod in nobis commiserat totum, et expiaret patiendo quod deliquerat oblectando, et ab his me spurcitiis, quibus me totum quasi luto immerseram, tam mente quam corpore circumcideret; et tanto sacris etiam altaribus idoniorem efficeret, quanto me nulla hinc amplius carnalium contagio pollutionum revocarent.
(Peter Abelard, Epist. 5, PL 178, 206C-207A)

You know the depths of shame to which my unbridled lust had consigned our bodies, until no reverence for decency or for God even during the days of Our Lord’s Passion, or of the greater sacraments could keep me from wallowing in this mire. Even when you were unwilling, resisted to the utmost of your power and tried to dissuade me, as yours was the weaker nature I often forced you to consent with threats and blows. So intense were the fires of lust which bound me to you that I set those wretched, obscene pleasures, which we blush even to name, above God as above myself; nor would it seem that divine mercy could have taken action except by forbidding me these pleasures altogether, without future hope. And so it was wholly just and merciful, although by means of the supreme treachery of your uncle, for me to be reduced in that part of my body which was the seat of lust and sole reason for those desires, so that I could increase in many ways; in order that this member should justly be punished for all its wrongdoing in us, expiate in suffering the sins committed for its amusement and cut me off from the slough of filth in which I had been wholly immersed in mind as in body. Only thus could I become more fit to approach the holy altars, now that no contagion of carnal impurity would ever again call me from them. (tr. Betty Radice)



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

βιαζόμενον δέ τινα πρὸς ἐναντίον ῥεῦμα ποταμοῦ μετὰ τῶν ὅπλων καὶ τὰ μὲν ἀντέχοντα, τὰ δ’ ὑποφερόμενον εἰσάγων ἀνακοπάς τε ποιήσει συλλαβῶν καὶ ἀναβολὰς χρόνων καὶ ἀντιστηριγμοὺς γραμμάτων

δεινὸν δ’ ἀμφ’ Ἀχιλῆα κυκώμενον ἵστατο κῦμα,
ὤθει δ’ ἐν σάκεϊ πίπτων ῥόος, οὐδὲ πόδεσσιν
εἶχε στηρίξασθαι. [Il. 21.240ss.]

ἀραττομένων δὲ περὶ πέτρας ἀνθρώπων ψόφον τε καὶ μόρον οἰκτρὸν ἐπιδεικνύμενος ἐπὶ τῶν ἀηδεστάτων τε καὶ κακοφωνοτάτων χρονιεῖ γραμμάτων οὐδαμῇ λεαίνων τὴν κατασκευὴν οὐδὲ ἡδύνων·

σύν τε δύω μάρψας ὥστε σκύλακας προτὶ γαίῃ
κόπτ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγκέφαλος χαμάδις ῥέε, δεῦε δὲ γαῖαν. [Od. 9.289s.]

πολὺ ἂν ἔργον εἴη λέγειν, εἰ πάντων παραδείγματα βουλοίμην φέρειν ὧν ἄν τις ἀπαιτήσειε κατὰ τὸν τόπον τόνδε· ὥστε ἀρκεσθεὶς τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐπὶ τὰ ἑξῆς μεταβήσομαι.

(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Peri Suntheseōs Onomatōn 16.99-100)

And when he depicts a warrior in full armour forcing his way forward against the contrary current of a river, now holding his own, now being carried off his feet, he will introduce clashings of syllables, delays in the rhythm, and letters which hold up the flow:

Around Achilles swirled a terrible tempestuous wave:
Its current dashed against his shield and swept away his feet
From their firm stance.

When men are being dashed against rocks, and he is portraying the noise and their pitiable fate, he will dwell on the most unpleasant and ill-sounding letters, nowhere attempting to make the arrangement smooth or attractive:

A pair of them he snatched and dashed, like puppies on the ground.
Their brains flowed freely on the floor and incarnadined the rocks

It would be a long task if I should set myself to produce examples of all the usages that might be required to illustrate this subject. I shall therefore content myself with what has been said and proceed to the next topic.

(tr. Stephen Usher)



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

ὅταν δ’ οἰκτρὰν ἢ φοβερὰν ἢ ἀγέρωχον ὄψιν εἰσάγῃ, τῶν τε φωνηέντων οὐ τὰ κράτιστα θήσει ἀλλὰ <τὰ δυσηχέστατα, καὶ> τῶν ψοφοειδῶν ἢ ἀφώνων τὰ δυσεκφορώτατα λήψεται καὶ καταπυκνώσει τούτοις τὰς συλλαβάς, οἷά ἐστι ταυτί

σμερδαλέος δ’ αὐτῇσι φάνη κεκακωμένος ἅλμῃ. [Od. 6.137]

τῇ δ’ ἐπὶ μὲν Γοργῲ βλοσυρῶπις ἐστεφάνωτο
δεινὸν δερκομένη, περὶ δὲ Δεῖμός τε Φόβος τε. [Il. 11.36s.]

ποταμῶν δέ γε σύρρυσιν εἰς χωρίον ἓν καὶ πάταγον ὑδάτων ἀναμισγομένων ἐκμιμήσασθαι τῇ λέξει βουλόμενος οὐκ ἐργάσεται λείας συλλαβὰς ἀλλ’ ἰσχυρὰς καὶ ἀντιτύπους

ὡς δ’ ὅτε χείμαρροι ποταμοὶ κατ’ ὄρεσφι ῥέοντες
ἐς μισγάγκειαν συμβάλλετον ὄβριμον ὕδωρ. [Il. 4.452s.]

(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Peri Suntheseōs Onomatōn 16.98-99)

But when he is introducing a scene that is pitiable, frightening or august, he will not employ the finest of the vowels, but will take <the most unpleasant-sounding and> those of the fricatives and the voiceless consonants that are the most difficult to pronounce and crowd his syllables with these, as in these lines:

He burst on them, a fearsome sight, all uglified with brine.

A Gorgon’s head of baleful mien embossed the centre orb
With Fear and Panic ranged around her terrifying glare.

When he wishes to represent in words the flowing together of rivers into one place and the noisy splash of mingling torrents, he will not render this with smooth syllables, but with strong and resounding ones:

E’en as the winter-swollen rivers rush from hillsides steep,
They hurl their torrents wild into the watersmeet below.

(tr. Stephen Usher)



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

Ὁ δὴ πολυφωνότατος ἁπάντων ποιητῶν Ὅμηρος, ὅταν μὲν ὥραν ὄψεως εὐμόρφου καὶ κάλλος ἡδονῆς ἐπαγωγὸν ἐπιδείξασθαι βούληται, τῶν τε φωνηέντων τοῖς κρατίστοις χρήσεται καὶ τῶν ἡμιφώνων τοῖς μαλακωτάτοις, καὶ οὐ καταπυκνώσει τοῖς ἀφώνοις τὰς συλλαβὰς οὐδὲ συγκόψει τοὺς ἤχους παρατιθεὶς ἀλλήλοις τὰ δυσέκφορα, πραεῖαν δέ τινα ποιήσει τὴν ἁρμονίαν τῶν γραμμάτων καὶ ῥέουσαν ἀλύπως διὰ τῆς ἀκοῆς, ὡς ἔχει ταυτί

ἣ δ’ ἴεν ἐκ θαλάμοιο περίφρων Πηνελόπεια
Ἀρτέμιδι ἰκέλη ἠὲ χρυσῇ Ἀφροδίτῃ. [Od. 17.36s. = 19.53s.]

Δήλῳ δήποτε τοῖον Ἀπόλλωνος παρὰ βωμῷ
φοίνικος νέον ἔρνος ἀνερχόμενον ἐνόησα. [Od. 6.162s.]

καὶ Χλῶριν εἶδον περικαλλέα, τήν ποτε Νηλεὺς
γῆμεν ἑὸν μετὰ κάλλος, ἐπεὶ πόρε μυρία ἕδνα. [Od. 11.281s.]

(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Peri Suntheseōs Onomatōn 16.97-98)

Now when Homer, the poet with the most voices of all, wishes to portray the freshness of a comely countenance and a beauty that brings delight, you will find him using the finest of the vowels and the softest of the semivowels, and not crowding his syllables with voiceless letters, nor destroying the flow of sound by juxtaposing words which are hard to pronounce. He will make the arrangement of the letters sound gentle, and make it flow through the ear without offending it, as in the following lines:

Penelope, queen of wisdom from her chamber forth had gone,
Like Artemis or golden Aphrodite’s form divine.

’Twas once at Delos that I saw hard by Apollo’s shrine,
A sapling palm whose youthful straightness matched such comely grace as thine.

And saw I Chloris passing fair, whom Neleus wed of yore,
Bestowing wedding gifts unnumbered, for her beauty’s sake.

(tr. Stephen Usher)