Friday, August 21, 2015

I Farted :: Satire I:8

This month marks the sixth year of this blog.

Horace begins the poem with an image of a useless piece of fig wood, which is turned into a statue of Priapus, who, in turn, tells us the history of his garden home and regales us with a few anecdotes. At the end of the poem the statue splits its backside. Pepedi, Horace writes, assuming the voice of the statue, “I farted.”

Ridiculous and obscene. So wrote Franz Bücheler (1837–1908), a nineteenth-century classical scholar about Satire I:8. I suppose that Herr Büchler is right. Priapus who can scare away thieves with his membrum virile, as scholars trained following nineteenth-century morals would say, is an obscene figure. So are the two witches who do unspeakable things. As for ridiculous, what is more ridiculous than Priapus farting to scare the witches away? Not high-minded literature this—on the surface. 

Below the priapic imagery, the ghoulish story-telling, we see Horace reminding us once again to consider the enormous changes taking place in Rome. Where once there was a pauper’s graveyard, now is a garden for the very rich. Where once robbers and witches and vultures (perhaps) came, now stroll refined people, taking in the salubrious air of Esquiline Hill [Collis Esquilinus].

This poem is fairly straight forward. Even so, there is a bit of Roman geography one needs to know. Here’s a map of hilly Rome, with the Agger marked with a blue line. The Agger was the Agger Tarquini or Murus Servii Tullii, a defensive barrier erected by a Tarquinian king named Servius Tullus, who ruled in the sixth century B.C. If you look carefully, you can see it running through Rome’s main train station on Esquiline Hill (According to Wikipedia, parts of this defensive wall can be seen in the MacDonald’s in the station. So, if you have taken the train to Rome and walked around its environs, you have walked where this poem takes place. 

There are several individuals named in this poem. There is the witch Canidia, whom we have seen before, and some new characters with names, almost Dickensenian in the images they invoke. There is the scurra [parasite, sponger]  Pantolabus (a Greek word meaning all-take). There is also the nepos [nephew or spendthrift] Nomentanus (a Roman surname, someone from Nomentum, now Mentana). Finally there are three odd ducks, Iulius, the fragilis Pediatia (nickname of a particular Roman knight on account of his effeminacy), and the thief Voranus (perhaps a freedman of Catulus, and a name that makes me think of voro devour, waste, eat greedily).

And there are two mythical names: Hecaten, who presides over encantations and Tisiphone, one of the furies. Her name means “avenger of murder.”

Translation ::

¶Once I was a tree trunk, a junk piece of fig wood.
when a carpenter man, unsure whether to make 
a Priapus or a stool, decided on a god,
so god I am, to birds and thieves a huge terror.
My right hand stops the crooks,(plus the red pole juttin’ 
out of my nasty crotch) and a reed stuck on my 
head spooks the pesky birds and keeps ‘em from settlin’ 
in the all-new gardens. Before a fellow slave
would put the bodies thrown out of their cramped cells and 
brought here in cheap boxes.Here was the cem’tery 
for the poor people, for the takers and wasters, 
for the filth of this world. Here a sign used to mark 
a field a thousand by three hundred feet: “Graves 
Uninheritable.” But now you can live on 
the “wholesome” Esquiline, stroll the “sun-filled” Agger, 
where just a bit ago, the bereaved would see a
field ugly with white bones. Okay, I’m not worried 
about being hassled and bothered as much by thieves—
and the usual wild beasts—as by those who with spells 
and potions bend men’s minds. I can’t get rid of ‘em,
no way to hinder ‘em, once the inconstant moon
sticks out her shining face, from gathering up bones
and herbs that can harm you. 
¶Me, I saw Canidia, her black cloak all cinched up, 
hurr’ing, barefoot, hair loose,with Sagana, older, 
yip-yowling. Their pallor made’em both look horrid. 
They began to claw the ground with their fingernails 
and with their teeth, to rip apart a black-wooled lamb. 
Its blood ‘n stuff was poured into the hole so that 
with this they could bring forth the departed, the souls 
who’d give’em the answers. And a figure of wool 
there was, another of wax.The bigger was of wool 
so it could lord overthe littler one through pain; 
the wax one stood there in humbly begging, slave-like 
as if about to die. One witch called on Hecate, 
the other one called on cruel Tisiphone. 
You’d see snakes and bitches from hell wand’ring around, 
a moon, red-shamed, watchin’ this stuff’d be hidin’ 
behind the big grave stones. Now, if I am lyin’ 
about any of this, let me smear my head with
crow shit, and let Julius come pee and crap on me,
and the twink Pediatia and the crook Voranus.
What should I say about it all? How the ghosts spoke 
first one then the other echoeing Sagana, 
sad and shrill, how they hid a wolf’s beard and snake fangs 
secretly in the earth and how the fire from the 
wax figure burned bigger and how I, innocent 
bystander, shuddered at the voices of the two 
Furies and at their deeds?
Just then, like the sound of an exploding bag,
with my ass splittin’ apart, fig-tree me farted,
and they ran to the city. You’d’ve seen Canidia’s
teeth come out, Sagana’s pile of false hair come off,
herbs and bewitched love-knots come tumblin’ (what a scream!)
out of their arms’ embrace.

[translation © 2015 by James Rumford]

The Poem ::

|1¯ x |2 ¯ x |3 ¯ x |4 ¯ x |5 ¯˘˘ |6 ¯ ¯ | 
Hexameter: x = a long ¯ or two shorts ˘˘. The fifth foot can be ¯ ¯ , as it is in line 15, but this is quite rare.

ōlīm|trūncŭs ĕr|ām fī|cūlnŭs ĭn|ūtĭlĕ|līgnūm
cūm făbĕr|īncēr|tūs scām|nūm făcĕ|rētnĕ Prĭ|āpūm

1  ¶Ōlim|truncus e|ram fī|culnus, in|ūtile|lignum, 
2  cum faber, | incer|tus scam|num face|retne Pri|āpum,
3    māluit | esse de|um. deus | inde ego|, fūrum avi|umque
4    maxima | formī|dō; nam | fūrēs | dextra co|ercet 
5    obscē|nōque ru|ber por|rectus ab | inguine | pālus;
6    ast im|portū|nās volu|crēs in | vertice ha|rundo
7    terret | fīxa ve|tatque no|vīs con|sīdere in | hortīs.
8    hūc prius | angus|tīs ē|iecta ca|dāvera | cellīs
9    conser|vus vī|lī por|tanda lo|cābat in | arcā;
10  hoc mise|rae plē|bī stā|bat com|mūne se|pulcrum,
11  Pantola|bō scur|rae Nō|mentā|nōque ne|pōtī.
12  mille pe|dēs in | fronte, tre|centōs | cippus in | agrum 
13  hīc dabat, | hērē|dēs monu|mentum| nē seque|rētur. 
14  nunc licet | Esquili|īs habi|tāre sa|lūbribus | atque
15  Aggere in | āprī|cō spati|ārī, | quō modo | tristēs 
16  albīs | infor|mem spec|tābant | ossibus | agrum;
17  eum mihi | nōn tan|tum fū|rēsque fe|raeque su|ētae
18  hunc vex|āre lo|cum cū|rae sunt | atque la|bōrī,
19  quantum | carmini|bus quae | versant | atque ve|nēnīs
20  hūmā|nōs ani|mōs : hās | nullō | perdere | possum
21  nec prohi|bēre mo|dō, simul | ac vaga | Lūna de|cōrum
22  prōtulit | os, quīn | ossa le|gant her|bāsque no|centis.
23 ¶Vīdī  ego|met ni|grā suc|cinctam | vādere | pallā 
24  Cānidi|am, pedi|bus nū|dīs pas|sōque ca|pillō,
25  cum Saga|nā mā|iōre ulu|lantem | : pallor u|trāsque
26  fēcerat | horren|dās as|pectū. | scalpere | terram
27  unguibus | et pul|lam dī|vellere | mordicus | agnam
28  coepē|runt ; cruor | in fos|sam con|fūsus, ut | inde
29  mānıs | ēlice|rent, ani|mās res|ponsa da|tūrās. 
30  lānea et | effigi|ēs erat, | altera | cērea | : māior 
31  lānea, | quae poe|nīs com|pesceret | inferi|ōrem;
32  cērea | supplici|ter stā|bat, ser|vīlibus | ut quae
33  iam peri|tūra mo|dīs. Heca|ten vocat | altera, | saevam
34  altera | Tīsipho|nen : ser|pentēs | atque vi|dērēs
35  infer|nās er|rāre ca|nēs, Lū|namque ru|bentem,
36  nē foret | hīs tes|tīs, post |magna la|tēre se|pulcra.
37  mentior | at sī | quid, mer|dīs caput | inquiner | albīs
38  corvōr|um, atque in | mē veni|at mic|tum atque ca|cātum
39  Iūlius | et fragi|lis Pedi|ātia | fūrque Vo|rānus.
40  singula | quid memo|rem, quō| pactō al|terna lo|quentēs 
41  umbrae | cum Saga|nā reso|nārint | triste et a|cūtum, 
42  utque lup|ī bar|bam vari|ae cum | dente co|lūbrae 
43  abdide|rint fur|tim ter|rīs, et i|māgine | cēreā
44  largior | arserit | ignis, et | ut nōn | testis in|ultus
45  horrue|rim vō|cēs Furi|ārum et | facta du|ārum?
46  nam dis|plōsa so|nat quan|tum vē|sīca pe|pēdī
47  diffis|sā nate | fīcus : at | illae | currere in | urbem.
48  Cānidi|ae den|tēs, al|tum Saga|nae cali|endrum
49  excide|re atque her|bās at|que incan|tāta la|certīs
50  vincula | cum ma|gnō rī|sūque io|cōque vi|dērēs.

Delphin Ordo

1 Eram anteà stipes ficulnus, lignum iners: quando artifex dubius an scamnum fabricaret, and Priapum, maluit fieri Deum.    3 Exinde ego Deux extuli ingens terror prædonum atque volucrum.    Etenim dextra mea arcet prædones * * * [Obviously this part was two vulgar for the dauphin’s ears]* * * at arundo in summo capite infixa deterret aves molestas, se prohibet consitere in hortis recentibus.    8 Anteà conservus cadavera cellis arctis ejecta locabat istuc efferenda in vili sandapilà.    10 Hoc erat commune plebeculæ sepulcrum, Pantolabo sannioni, et Nomentano patrimonii dissipatori.    12 Istic cippus assignabat agri pedes milenos in latitudinem, trecentos verò in longitudinem, vetabatque ne sepulchrum ad hæredes pertineret.   14 Jam verò licet habitare in Esquiliis salubribus, et ambulare in colle aprico, ubi nuper mœsti cernebant agrum albis ossibus deformem.    15 Quanquam non tam ne angunt et vexant pædones ac feræ agrum istum infestare solitæ, quàm mulieres, quæ humanas mentes inflectunt incantamentis et veneficiis.   16 Has nullâ ratione possum abigere, aut prohibere quò minùs colligant ossa et herbas noxias, statim atque luna currens pulchrum ostendit vultum.   23 Ego ipse conspexi Canidiam atrâ veste succinctam incedere nudis pedibus, crinibus solutis, ejulantem cum Saganâ seniore. 25 Pallor ambas fecerat visu terribiles.   27 Humum cœperunt unguibus effodere: moxque discerpere dentibus oviculam nigram.   28 Cruor in scrobem effusus est, ut hinc umbras evocarent, animas responsa reddituras.   30 Porrò aderat imago lanea, et altera cerea.    31 Grandior lanea, quæ minorem ceream plecteret.   32 Cerea supplex procumbebat, servili ratione quippe mox interitura.   33 Veneficarum altera inclamat Hecaten, altera diram Tisiphonem.    34 Tum aspiceres currere angues, et canes Stygias; lunam verò erubescentem se abscondere post majora monumenta, ne testis adesset istis sceleribus.   37 Quod si aliquid mentior, conspurcetur meum caput, merdis albis corvorum: ac mictum et cacatum super me veniant Julius, mollis Pedacia, et Voranus fur.   40 Quid referam singula?    40 Quemadmodum altenatim colloquerentur animæ cum Saganâ, voce tenui et stridula?   42 Quomodo clam humo infoderint barbam lupi, et dentes colubræ maculosæ: utque ignis ingens corripuerit effigiem ceream; denique quo pacto aversatus sim præsens, atque vindicaverim verba actiones ambarum Furiarum istarum?    46  Etenim quanto sonitu crepat vesica disrupta; tanto ego ficulnus olim truncus divisis natibus crepui.    47  Protinùs autem illæ veneficæ fugere in urbem cœperunt.   48 Tumque non sine ludibrio et cachinnis aspexisses Canidiae dentes, ac sublimem Saganæ comam decidere, herbas item et licia brachiis fascinata.


:: Latin books by James Rumford ::

For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetizedfor $11.50 at 

For a Latin translation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at $12, click here: 

To find out more about Carpe Diem go to the blog of March 26, 2015; 
for more about Pericla Thomae Sawyer, go to the blog of November 22, 2016.

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