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Ad Julium Martialem

Vitam quæ faciunt beatiorem,

iucundissime Martialis, hæc sunt :

res non parta labore, sed relicta ;

non ingratus ager, focus perennis ;

lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta ;

uires ingenuæ, salubre corpus ;

prudens simplicitas, pares amici ;

conuictus facilis, sina arte mensa ;

nox non ebria, sed soluta curis ;

non tristis torus, et tamen pudicus ;

somnus qui faciat breues tenebras ;

quod sis esse velis nihilque malis ;

summum nec metuas diem nec optes.

Veux-tu savoir qui peut faire la vie heureuse,

Folâtre d’Aubigné, ce sont ces points ici :

Des biens non pas acquis, mais trouvés sans souci,

Bonne chère, beau feu, la terre fructueuse.

Point de procès, de noise, avoir l’âme joyeuse,

Le corps dispos qui n’est trop maigre ou trop farci,

N’être point cauteleux, ni point niais aussi,

Avoir pareils amis, table délicieuse,

Sans crainte, sans soupçon, en sa bourse un écu,

Belle femme gaillarde et n’être pas cocu,

Un dormir sans ronfler, un repos sans se feindre

Qui fasse la nuit courte et contente les yeux,

Être ce que tu veux, n’affecter rien de mieux,

Ne désirer la mort, la fuir sans la craindre.

Traduction: Agrippa d’Aubigné

Most charming Martialis:

These things will give you solace:

Wealth that’s unmerited

Since it’s inherited;

Land yielding fair returns,

A fire that always burns;

A lack of legal woes

Or need for formal clothes;

Peace and tranquility,

Well-honed nobility;

Good health, an earnest way

Free of naivete;

Good friends with homes to share,

A table s hearty fare;

A night’s sobriety

Without anxiety,

A bed not too austere,

Sound sleep to still your fear

And self-awareness

Free of insecurity.

Don’t race to death’s release

But face that day with peace.

Translated by A. M. Juster

Book I: 1

Here is the one you read and ask for:

Martial, known the world around

for witty books of epigrams,

whom you, devoted reader, crowned

with fame—while he has life and breath—

such as few poets get in death.

Book I: 73 To Caecilianus

These was no one in the whole city,

Caecilianus, who desired to meddle with your wife,

even gratis, while permission was given;

but now, since you have set a watch upon her,

the crowd of gallants is innumerable.

You are a clever fellow!

Book I: 77 Charinus, exhausted

He’s quite well, Charinus, still he’s pale.

Hardly drinks, Charinus, still he’s pale.

A fine digestion too, Charinus, still he’s pale.

He takes the sun, Charinus, still he’s pale.

He dyes his skin, Charinus, still he’s pale.

Eats pussy, yet, Charinus, still he’s pale.

Book II: 18

Ik hengel bij jou, Maximus, naar een uitnodiging voor een avondmaal. Ik geneer me er wel voor, maar ik doe het toch. Jij vist echter bij een ander naar een uitnodiging voor een avondmaal. We zijn dus gelijken! 's Ochtends vroeg kom ik naar jouw huis om je de ochtendgroet te brengen. Er wordt me gezegd dat jij allang op weg bent om elders zelf de ochtendgroet te brengen. We zijn dus gelijken! Ik vergezel jou op straat, ik doe de massa plaats maken voor jou. Jij vergezelt echter een ander. We zijn dus gelijken! Maar ik heb er schoon genoeg van, Maximus, het vijfde wiel aan de wagen te spelen. Ik vind dat een patronus patronus moet blijven en geen cliënt mag worden.

Book II: 57

He, whom you see walking slowly along with careless step, who takes his way, in violet-coloured robes, through the middle of the square; whom my friend Publius does not surpass in dress, nor even Cordus himself, the Alpha of Cloaks; he, I say, who is followed by a band of clients and slaves, and a litter with new curtains and girths, has but just now pawned his ring at Claudius' counter for barely eight sesterces, to get himself a dinner.

Book II: 65 To Saleianus

Why do we see Saleianus with a sadder air than usual?

— Is the reason a trifling one?

I have just buried my wife, says he.

Oh great crime of destiny! oh heavy chance!

Is she dead, she so wealthy, Secundilla, dead,

who brought you a dower of a million sesterces?

I would not have had this happen to you, Saleianus.

Book III: 26 To Candidus

Praedia solus habes et solus, Candide, nummos,

aurea solus habes, murrina solus habes,

Massica solus habes et Opimi Caecuba solus,

et cor solus habes, solus et ingenium.

Omnia solus habes – hoc me puta velle negare! –

uxorem sed habes, Candide, cum populo.

Gold plate, cash, and porcelain, only you have it,

Massic or Caecuban wine of famous vintage, only you,

judgement and wit, only you have it.

You have it all – well say I don’t deny it –

But everyone has your wife, along with you.

Book III: 53 Sorry Chloe

Chloe, I could live without your face,

without your neck, and hands, and legs

without your breasts, and ass, and hips,

and Chloe, not to labour over details,

I could live without the whole of you.

Book V: 58 Carpe diem

Postumus, tomorrow you’ll live, tomorrow you say.

When is it coming, tell me, that tomorrow?

How far off, and where, and how will you find it?

In Armenia, or Parthia, is it concealed then?

Your tomorrow’s as old as Nestor or Priam.

How much would it cost you, tell me, to buy?

Tomorrow? It’s already too late to live today:

He who lived yesterday, Postumus, he is wise.

Book VI: 57 To Phoebus

You manufacture, with the aid of unguents, a false head of hair,

and your bald and dirty skull is covered with dyed locks.

There is no need to have a hairdresser for your head.

A sponge, Phoebus, would do the business better.

Book VII: 69 To Vacerra

You admire, Vacerra,

only the poets of old,

and praise only those who are dead.

Pardon me, I beseech you, Vacerra,

if I think death too high a price

to pay for your praise

Book IX: 5 To Paula

You wish, Paula, to marry Priscus;

I am not surprised;

you are wise:

Priscus will not marry you;

and he is wise.

Book X: 47 The good life

These, my dearest Martialis, are

the things that bring a happy life:

wealth left to you, not laboured for;

rich land, an ever-glowing hearth;

no law, light business, and a quiet mind;

a healthy body, gentlemanly powers;

a wise simplicity, friends not unlike;

good company, a table without art;

nights carefree, yet no drunkenness;

a bed that’s modest, true, and yet not cold;

sleep that makes the hours of darkness brief:

the need to be yourself, and nothing more;

not fearing your last day, not wishing it.

Book X: 102 To Avitus

You ask me, Avitus,

how Philenus became a father,

he who never did anything to gain the name?

Gaditanus can tell you,

he who, without writing anything,

claims to be a poet.

Book XI:71 A weighty cure

Leda tells her aged spouse she suffers from nerves,

and cries that she absolutely has to be covered;

but, with tears and moans, sighs nothing is worth that,

and declares she’s reconciled to dying instead.

He begs her, live, not lose her years of youth,

and lets be done what he can’t do now himself.

The female doctors leave, males take their place,

her knees are raised. O weighty remedy!

Book XI: 97 To Thelesilla

I can dally with four women in a single night,

but may I die if I could in four years dally with you,

Thelesilla, once.

Book XII: 34

The summers, Julius, that we’ve shared,

if I recall, were thirty-four.

Their sweets were mixed with bitters, yet

still the delightful times were more.

If pebbles marking good and bad

were piled in two heaps, here and there,

the white ones would surpass the black.

To shield your heart from biting care

and shun some kinds of bitterness,

don’t grow too close to any friend:

your joy and grief will both be less

Book XII: 65 To Phyllis

During a whole night of pleasure,

the beauteous Phyllis had shown herself kind to me in every way;

and, as I was thinking in the morning what present to make her,

whether a pound of Cosmus' or Niceros' perfumes,

or a piece of fine Spanish wool, or ten yellow coins of Domitian,

she threw her arms round my neck,

and caressing me with a long kiss,

like those of amorous doves,

proceeded to ask me for — a jar of wine.


Arm ben ik steeds geweest, dat wil ik wel bekennen,

Maar heel de wereld leest mijn werk: dat is óók iets!

Gij bulkt van 't geld, fokt paarden voor de rennen,

Maar verder zijt gij, vriend, toch eigenlijk maar niets.

Zo zijn wij beiden. Wat ik ben kunt gij niet wezen,

Maar wat gij zijt, dàt kan gemaklijk ieder zijn.


Cesar, if you happen to light upon my little books,

put aside the frown that rules the world.

Even the triumphs of emperors are wont to

tolerate jests

and a warlord is not ashamed to be matter

for a quip.

Read my verses, I beg, with the expression

with which

you watch Thymele and jesting Latinus.

A censor can permit harmless jollity.

My page is wanton, but my life is virtuous.