Thursday, September 16, 2010


Martial's Wish

Martial 1.55 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Fronto, shining glory of sword and gown, if you wish to know in brief your friend Marcus' dearest wish, this is what he wants: to farm land, a little plot, of his own. He loves independence, be it rough and humble. Is any man so silly as to court the painted chill of Spartan stone, conveying morning greetings, when he could be happy with the spoils of woodland and countryside, unfolding his loaded nets before the fireplace, pulling in leaping fish with tremulous line, bringing yellow honey forth from a ruddy jar, while the bailiffs buxom wife loads the rickety table and unpaid-for ash cooks the eggs he owns? Whoever loves not me, I pray he love not such a life and live whey-faced amid the obligations of the town.
The same, tr. Abraham Cowley:
Well then, Sir, you shall know how far extend
The Pray'rs and Hopes of your Poetick Friend;
He does not Palaces nor Manors crave,
Would be no Lord, but less a Lord would have.
The Ground he holds, if he his own can call,
He quarrels not with Heav'n because 'tis small:
Let gay and toilsome Greatness others please,;
He loves of homely Littleness the ease.
Can any Man in gilded rooms attend,
And his dear Hours in humble Visits spend,
When in the fresh and beauteous Fields he may,
With various healthful Pleasures fill the Day?
If there be Man (ye Gods) I ought to hate,
Dependence and Attendance he his Fate.
Still let him busie be, and in a Croud,
And very much a Slave, and very proud:
Thus he perhaps powerful and rich may grow;
No matter, O ye Gods! that I'll allow:
But let him Peace and Freedom never see:
Let him not love this Life, who loves not me.
The same, tr. anonymous in A Collection of Epigrams, Vol. II (London: J. Walthof, 1737), number CCCLIII:
Since you, whom all the world admires,
Would know what your poor friend requires;
Some little spot of earth he prays,
To pass incognito his days.
Who'd bear the noisy pomp of state,
Or crowd of clients at his gate?
That might, in his own fields and wood,
Find his diversion and his food;
His ponds With various fishes stor'd,
The bees for him their honey hoard;
A nut-brown lass, both kind and neat,
To make his bed, and dress his meat.
He that hates me, or likes not this,
May he ne'er taste so sweet a bliss;
But, fool'd by riches and renown,
Still stay behind, and rot in town.
The same, tr. Garry Wills:
Pray would you know what Martial wishes for,
Fronto, famed ornament of peace and war?
A simple farm without extravagance,
And homespun ease in humble circumstance.
Who would endure the chill of marble halls
And daily platitude of morning calls,
When he can reap the spoils of wood and moor
And spread the wily noose before his door?
Draw forth the quivering troutlet with a hair,
Nor the red jar of golden honey spare,
What time the farm-wife loads the tottering board
And home-grown embers roasted eggs afford?
Who loves me not, may he, I humbly ask,
White-clad and wan pursue his daily task.
The Latin original:
Vota tui breviter si vis cognoscere Marci,
  clarum militiae, Fronto, togaeque decus,
hoc petit, esse sui nec magni ruris arator,
  sordidaque in paruis otia rebus amat.
quisquam picta colit Spartani frigora saxi
  et matutinum portat ineptus have,
cui licet exuviis nemoris rurisque beato
  ante focum plenas explicuisse plagas
et piscem tremula salientem ducere saeta
  flavaque de rubro promere mella cado?
pinguis inaequales onerat cui vilica mensas
  et sua non emptus praeparat ova cinis?
non amet hanc vitam quisquis me non amat, opto,
  vivat et urbanis albus in officiis.
George Henry Durrie, Autumn, Cider Pressing

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