Maius

Medea-Callas
Maria Callas as Medea

Non ego te imploro contra taurosque virosque,
utque tua serpens victa quiescat ope;
te peto, quem merui, quem nobis ipse dedisti,
cum quo sum pariter facta parente parens.
dos ubi sit, quaeris? campo numeravimus illo,
qui tibi laturo vellus arandus erat.
aureus ille aries villo spectabilis alto,
dos mea, quam, dicam si tibi “redde,” neges.
dos mea tu sospes, dos est mea Graia iuventus.
i nunc, Sisyphias, inprobe, confer opes!
quod vivis, quod habes nuptam socerumque potentes,
hoc ipsum, ingratus quod potes esse, meum est.
quos equidem actutum—sed quid praedicere poenam
attinet? ingentes parturit ira minas.
quo feret ira sequar. facti fortasse pigebit;
et piget infido consuluisse viro.
viderit ista deus, qui nunc mea pectora versat.
nescio quid certe mens mea maius agit.
(Ovid, Her. 12.195-212)

I do not implore you to go forth against bulls and men, nor ask your aid to quiet and overcome a dragon; it is you I ask for,—you, whom I have earned, whom you yourself gave to me, by whom I became a mother, as you by me a father. Where is my dowry, you ask? On the field I counted it out—that field which you had to plough before you could bear away the fleece. The famous golden ram, sightly for deep flock, is my dowry—the which, should I say to you “Restore it!” you would refuse to render up. My dowry is yourself—saved; my dowry is the band of Grecian youth! Go now, wretch, compare with that your wealth of Sisyphus! That you are alive, that you take to wife one who, with the father she brings you, is of kingly station, that you have the very power of being ingrate—you owe to me. Whom, hark you, I will straight—but what boots it to foretell your penalty? My ire is in travail with mighty threats. Whither my ire leads, will I follow. Mayhap I shall repent me of what I do—but I repent me, too, of regard for a faithless husband’s good. Be that the concern of the god who now embroils my heart! Something portentous, surely, is working in my soul! (tr. Grant Showerman, revised by G.P. Goold)

Anus

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Ecce anus in mediis residens annosa puellis
sacra faciet Tacitae (nec tamen ipsa tacet),
et digitis tria tura tribus sub limine ponit,
qua brevis occultum mus sibi fecit iter;
tunc cantata ligat cum fusco licia plumbo
et septem nigras versat in ore fabas,
quodque pice adstrinxit, quod acu traiecit aëna,
obsutum maenae torret in igne caput;
vina quoque instillat: vini quodcumque relictum est,
aut ipsa aut comites, plus tamen ipsa, bibit.
“hostiles linguas inimicaque vinximus ora”
dicit discedens ebriaque exit anus.
(Ovid, Fast. 2.571-582)

Lo, an old hag, seated among girls, performs rites in honour of Tacita (“the Silent Goddess”), but herself is not silent. With three fingers she puts three lumps of incense under the threshold, where the little mouse has made for herself a secret path. Then she binds enchanted threads together with dark lead, and mumbles seven black beans in her mouth; and she roasts in the fire the head of a small fish which she has sewed up, made fast with pitch, and pierced through and through with a bronze needle. She also drops wine on it, and the wine that is left over she or her companions drink, but she gets the larger share. Then as she goes off she says, “We have bound fast hostile tongues and unfriendly mouths.” So exit the old woman drunk. (tr. James George Frazer, revised by George Patrick Goold)

Novissima

Fighting men friends

Sit tibi coniugii nox prima novissima vitae:
Eupolis hoc periit et nova nupta modo.
utque coturnatum periisse Lycophrona narrant,
haereat in fibris fixa sagitta tuis.
aut lacer in silva manibus spargare tuorum,
sparsus ut est Thebis angue creatus avo.
perque feros montes tauro rapiente traharis,
ut tracta est coniunx imperiosa Lyci.
quodque suae passa est paelex invita sororis,
excidat ante pedes lingua resecta tuos.
conditor ut tardae, laesus cognomine, Myrrhae,
urbis in innumeris inveniare locis.
inque tuis opifex, vati quod fecit Achaeo,
noxia luminibus spicula condat apis.
fixus et in duris carparis viscera saxis,
ut cui Pyrrha sui filia fratris erat.
ut puer Harpagides referas exempla Thyestae,
inque tui caesus viscera patris eas.
trunca geras saevo mutilatis partibus ense,
qualia Mamertae membra fuisse ferunt.
utve Syracosio praestricta fauce poëtae,
sic animae laqueo sit via clausa tuae.
nudave derepta pateant tua viscera pelle,
ut Phrygium cuius nomina flumen habet.
saxificae videas infelix ora Medusae,
Cephenum multos quae dedit una neci.
Potniadum morsus subeas, ut Glaucus, equarum,
inque maris salias, Glaucus ut alter, aquas.
utque duobus idem dictis modo nomen habenti,
praefocent animae Cnosia mella viam.
sollicitoque bibas, Anyti doctissimus olim
imperturbato quod bibit ore reus.
nec tibi, si quid amas, felicius Haemone cedat:
utque sua Macareus, sic potiare tua.
vel videas quod, iam cum flammae cuncta tenerent,
Hectoreus patria vidit ab arce puer.
sanguine probra luas, ut avo genitore creatus,
per facinus soror est cui sua facta parens.
ossibus inque tuis teli genus haereat illud,
traditur Icarii quo cecidisse gener.
utque loquax in equo est elisum guttur acerno,
sic tibi claudatur pollice vocis iter.
(Ovid, Ibis 529-570)

May the first night of your marriage be the last
of your life: so Eupolis and his new bride died.
And as they say the tragedian Lycophron ended,
may an arrow pierce you, and cling to your entrails.
Or be torn apart and scattered in the woods by your kin,
as Pentheus at Thebes, grandson of the serpent, Cadmus.
May you be caught by a raging bull, dragged over wild
mountains, as Lycus’s imperial wife Dirce was dragged.
May your severed tongue lie there, before your feet,
as Philomela, her own sister’s unwilling rival, suffered.
And like dull Myrrha’s author, Cinna, harmed by his name,
may you be found scattered about throughout the city.
And may that artisan, the bee, bury his venomous
sting in your eye, as he did to the Achaean poet.
And, on the harsh cliff, may your entrails be torn
like Prometheus, whose brother’s daughter was Pyrrha.
May you follow Thyestes’ example, like Harpagus’s son,
and, carved in pieces, enter your father’s gut.
May the cruel sword maim your trunk, and mutilate
the parts, as they say Mamertas’s limbs were maimed.
Or may a noose close the passage of your breath
as the Syracusan poet’s throat was stopped.
Or may your naked entrails be revealed by stripping
your skin, like Marsyas who named a Phrygian river.
Unhappy, may you see Medusa’s petrifying face,
that dealt death to many of the Cephenes.
Like Glaucus, be bitten by the horses of Potniae,
or like the other Glaucus, leap into the sea’s waves.
Or may Cretan honey choke your windpipe, like one
who had the same name as the two I’ve mentioned.
May you drink anxiously, where Socrates, wisest of men,
accused by Anytus, once drank with imperturbable lips.
Nor may you be happier than Haemon in your love:
or may you possess your sister as Macareus did his.
Or see what Hector’s son, Astyanax, saw from his
native citadel, when all was gripped by flames.
May you pay for infamies in your offspring, as for his grandfather,
that father’s son, by whose crime his sister became a mother.
And may that kind of weapon cling to your bones, with which
they say Ulysses, the son-in-law of Icarius, was killed.
And as that noisy throat was crushed in the wooden Horse,
so may your vocal passage be closed off with a thumb.
(tr. Tony Kline)

Pudet

Jacques-Louis David, Sapho, Phaon et l'Amour, 1809
Jacques-Louis David, Sapho, Phaon et l’Amour (1809)

Tu mihi cura, Phaon; te somnia nostra reducunt—
somnia formoso candidiora die.
illic te invenio, quamvis regionibus absis;
sed non longa satis gaudia somnus habet.
saepe tuos nostra cervice onerare lacertos,
saepe tuae videor supposuisse meos;
oscula cognosco, quae tu committere lingua
aptaque consueras accipere, apta dare.
blandior interdum verisque simillima verba
eloquor et vigilant sensibus ora meis.
ulteriora pudet narrare, sed omnia fiunt,
et iuvat, et siccae non licet esse mihi.
(Ovid, Her. 15.123-134)

You, Phaon, are my care; you, my dreams bring back to me—dreams brighter than the beauteous day. In them I find you, though in space you are far away; but not long enough are the joys that slumber gives. Often I seem with the burden of my neck to press your arms, often to place beneath your neck my arms. I recognise the kisses – close caresses of the tongue – which you were wont to take and wont to give. At times I talk sweet nothings, and utter words that seem almost the waking truth, and my lips keep vigil for my senses. Further I blush to tell, but all takes place; I feel the delight, and it is impossible for me to stay dry. (tr. Grant Showerman, revised by G.P. Goold and again by Thea S. Thorsen)

Novitas

Sebastian Münster, Janus, 1550
Sebastian Münster, Janus (1550)

Dixerat: et vultu, si plura requirere vellem,
difficilem mihi se non fore pactus erat.
sumpsi animum, gratesque deo non territus egi,
verbaque sum spectans plura locutus humum:
“dic, age, frigoribus quare novus incipit annus,
qui melius per ver incipiendus erat?
omnia tunc florent, tunc est nova temporis aetas,
et nova de gravido palmite gemma tumet,
et modo formatis operitur frondibus arbor,
prodit et in summum seminis herba solum,
et tepidum volucres concentibus aera mulcent,
ludit et in pratis luxuriatque pecus.
tum blandi soles, ignotaque prodit hirundo
et luteum celsa sub trabe figit opus:
tum patitur cultus ager et renovatur aratro.
haec anni novitas iure vocanda fuit.”
quaesieram multis; non multis ille moratus
contulit in versus sic sua verba duos:
“bruma novi prima est veterisque novissima solis:
principium capiunt Phoebus et annus idem.”
(Ovid, Fast. 1.145-164)

Thus spake the god*, and by a look promised that, were I fain to ask him more, he would not grudge reply. I plucked up courage, thanked the god composedly, and with eyes turned to the ground I spoke in few: “Come, say, why doth the new year begin in the cold season? Better had it begun in spring. Then all things flower, then time renews his age, and new from out the teeming vine-shoot swells the bud; in fresh-formed leaves the tree is draped, and from earth’s surface sprouts the blade of corn. Birds with their warblings winnow the warm air; the cattle frisk and wanton in the meads. Then suns are sweet, forth comes the stranger swallow and builds her clayey structure under the lofty beam. Then the field submits to tillage and is renewed by the plough. That is the season which rightly should have been called New Year.” Thus questioned I at length; he answered prompt and tersely, throwing his words into twain verses, thus: “Midwinter is the beginning of the new sun and the end of the old one. Phoebus and the year take their start from the same point.”

* Janus.

(tr. James George Frazer, revised by George Patrick Goold)

Mitissime

Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine, ca. 1645
Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine (ca. 1645)

Forsitan ut quondam Teuthrantia regna tenenti,
sic mihi res eadem vulnus opemque feret,
Musaque, quam movit, motam quoque leniet iram;
exorant magnos carmina saepe deos.
ipse quoque Ausonias Caesar matresque nurusque
carmina turrigerae dicere iussit Opi.
iusserat et Phoebo dici, quo tempore ludos
fecit, quos aetas aspicit una semel.
his precor exemplis tua nunc, mitissime Caesar,
fiat ab ingenio mollior ira meo.
illa quidem iusta est, nec me meruisse negabo—
non adeo nostro fugit ab ore pudor—
sed nisi peccassem, quid tu concedere posses?
materiam veniae sors tibi nostra dedit.
si, quotiens peccant homines, sua fulmina mittat
Iuppiter, exiguo tempore inermis erit;
nunc ubi detonuit strepituque exterruit orbem,
purum discussis aëra reddit aquis.
iure igitur genitorque deum rectorque vocatur,
iure capax mundus nil love maius habet.
tu quoque, cum patriae rector dicare paterque,
utere more dei nomen habentis idem.
(Ovid, Trist. 2.19-40)

Perhaps, like Telephus* who ruled the Teuthrantian land,
the same weapon will both wound and cure me,
and the Muse who stirred the anger also calm it:
song often influences the great gods. Caesar himself
ordered the mothers and daughters of Italy
to chant the hymns to turreted Ops**.
He did the same for Apollo at the Secular Games
those that each age sees only once.
Merciful Caesar, I plead these as my precedents:
let my skill soften your anger.
It’s justified indeed: I don’t deny I deserve it—
shame hasn’t completely fled my cheeks—
But unless I’ve sinned, how can you forgive?
My fate has given you the chance for mercy.
If Jupiter hurled his lightning, every time men sinned,
it wouldn’t be long before he was weapon-less.
When he’s thundered, and scared the world with noise,
he scatters the rain-clouds and clears the air.
So it’s right to call him the father and ruler of the gods,
it’s right the wide world owns nothing greater than Jove.
You also, since you’re called father and ruler of the land,
should follow the ways of the god with the same title.

* King of Teuthrantia in Mysia, son of Hercules and the nymph Auge. He was suckled by a deer on Mount Parthenius. He was wounded and healed by the touch of Achilles’s spear at Troy.
** The goddess of agricultural abundance, goddess of plenty. Identified with Cybele by the Romans, who wore a turreted crown. Ovid may refer to Augustus’s rededication of her temple on the Palatine after it was destroyed by fire and re-built in 3 AD.

(tr. Tony Kline, with some of his notes)

Filo

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Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo
et subito casu quae valuere ruunt.
divitis audita est cui non opulentia Croesi?
nempe tamen vitam captus ab hoste tulit.
ille Syracosia modo formidatus in urbe
vix humili duram reppulit arte famem.
quid fuerat Magno maius? Tamen ille rogavit
submissa fugiens voce clientis opem,
cuique viro totus terrarum paruit orbis
[indigus effectus omnibus ipse magis.]
ille Iugurthino clarus Cimbroque triumpho,
quo victrix totiens consule Roma fuit,
in caeno Marius iacuit cannaque palustri
pertulit et tanto multa pudenda viro.
ludit in humanis divina potentia rebus
et certam praesens vix feret hora fidem.
‘litus ad Euxinum’ si quis mihi diceret ‘ibis
et metues arcu ne feriare Getae’,
‘i, bibe’ dixissem ‘purgantes pectora sucos
quicquid et in tota nascitur Anticyra.’
sum tamen haec passus nec, si mortalia possem,
et summi poteram tela cavere dei.
tu quoque fac timeas et quae tibi laeta videntur,
dum loqueris, fieri tristia posse puta.
(Ovid, Ep. ex Pont. 4.3.35-58)

All human affairs hang by a slender thread; chance on a sudden brings to ruin what once was strong. Who has not heard of Croesus’s wealth ? Yet of a truth he was captured and received his life from an enemy. He who but now was dreaded in the city of Syracuse, scarce kept hunger at bay by a lowly calling. What was mightier than Magnus*? Yet in his flight he asked with humble voice a client’s aid. The man whom the whole world obeyed [himself came to feel need more than any]. He who was famed for his triumphs over Jugurtha and the Cimbri, under whom as consul Rome was so often victorious, lay, Marius though he was, in the slime and marsh grass, enduring many things shameful for so great a man. Divine power plays with human affairs, and sure trust can scarce be placed in the present hour. If anybody had said to me, “You shall go to the Euxine shore and you shall fear wounds from a Getic bow,” I would have said, “Go, drink a potion that clears the brain—everything that Anticyra** produces.” Yet have I suffered this. Though I might have guarded against the weapons of mortals, yet I could not protect myself against those of a supreme god. See that you too feel afraid and remember that what seems happiness to you has power, while you speak, to change into sorrow.

* Pompey. After the battle of Pharsalus he fled to Egypt where he was treacherously slain.
** Anticyra produced an abundance of hellebore which was much used as a cure for insanity.

(tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, with his notes)