Friday, January 28, 2011


Vive Bidentis Amans

Juvenal 3.223-231 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
If you can tear yourself away from the races, an excellent house at Sora or Fabrateria or Frusino can be bought outright for the annual rent you now pay for your tenement. Here you'll have a little garden, and a well so shallow it doesn't need a rope, for easy water to sprinkle on your tender plants. Live in love with your hoe as the overseer of your vegetable garden, which will enable you to offer a banquet to a hundred Pythagoreans. It's something, wherever you are, however remote, to make yourself the master of a single lizard.

si potes avelli circensibus, optima Sorae
aut Fabrateriae domus aut Frusinone paratur
quanti nunc tenebras unum conducis in annum.
hortulus hic puteusque brevis nec reste movendus
in tenuis plantas facili diffunditur haustu.
vive bidentis amans et culti vilicus horti
unde epulum possis centum dare Pythagoreis.
est aliquid, quocumque loco, quocumque recessu,
unius sese dominum fecisse lacertae.
The same, tr. John Dryden:
But, could you be content to bid adieu
To the dear playhouse, and the players too,
Sweet country-seats are purchased everywhere,
With lands and gardens, at less price than here
You hire a darksome dog-hole by the year.
A small convenience decently prepared,
A shallow well, that rises in your yard,
That spreads his easy crystal streams around,
And waters all the pretty spot of ground.
There, love the fork, thy garden cultivate,
And give thy frugal friends a Pythagorean treat;
'Tis somewhat to be lord of some small ground,
In which a lizard may, at least, turn round.
Vive bidentis amans (live in love with your two-pronged hoe) — a good motto for a farmer or gardener, despite Edwin Markham's depressing poem The Man with the Hoe.

On the bidens, see K.D. White, Agricultural Implements of the Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967; rpt. 2010), pp. 47-52. I have a two-pronged hoe, like those pictured in White's book. There's nothing better for loosening the soil and weeding the garden.

Georges Seurat, Paysan avec Houe
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