Friday, April 18, 2014


The Cost of Freedom

Martial 2.53 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
Do you wish to become free? You lie, Maximus; you don't wish. But if you do wish, in this way you can become so. You will be free, Maximus, if you refuse to dine abroad, if Veii's grape quells your thirst, if you can laugh at the gold-inlaid dishes of the wretched Cinna, if you can content yourself with a toga such as mine, if your plebeian amours are handfasted at the price of twopence, if you can endure to stoop as you enter your dwelling. If this is your strength of mind, if such its power over itself, you can live more free than a Parthian king.
A verse translation (by Henry Killigrew?), in Select Epigrams of Martial Englished (London: Printed by Edward Jones, for Samuel Lowndes, 1689), p. 40:
Thou but feign'st, Maximus, thou'dst not be Free:
Or if thou wouldst, by these means thou may'st be.
Thou shalt be Free; if thou at Home can'st Dine;
If thou canst quench thy Thirst with common Wine;
If Rich Men thou can'st Miserable deem,
And such a thread-bare Coat, as mine, esteem;
If in a cheap and vulgar Form delight,
A Room, in which thou scarce can'st stand upright.
If thy Desires, to this Lure, thou can'st bring,
Thou may'st live Freer than the Parthian King.
Another verse translation, by A.E. Street:
You would be free? Nay, Maximus, you lie,
But, if't be true, herein lies liberty;
If you refuse henceforth abroad to dine;
And quench your thirst with little Tuscan wine,
If abject Cinna's plate move your contempt,
If you will go, like me, threadbare, unkempt,
Buy humble amours with a thrifty hand,
Live in a cot where you must stoop to stand;
If you are strong, and will these things to be,
No Parthian king will e'er have been so free.
The Latin:
Vis liber fieri? mentiris, Maxime, non vis:
    sed fieri si vis, hac ratione potes.
liber eris, cenare foris si, Maxime, nolis,
    Veientana tuam si domat uva sitim,
si ridere potes miseri chrysendeta Cinnae,        5
    contentus nostra si potes esse toga,
si plebeia Venus gemino tibi iungitur asse,
    si tua non rectus tecta subire potes.
haec tibi si vis est, si mentis tanta potestas,
    liberior Partho vivere rege potes.        10

7 iungitur Heinsius: vincitur codd.

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