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The Perils of Garlic

After Horace, epode 3

Just punishment for throttling your agèd dad?
Eat garlic: certain death. The meal that I’ve just had
has done my gastric system graver injuries
than if I’d swallowed hemlock (think of Socrates).
I hear that harvesters consume it: it’s a food
for iron constitutions. Has a serpent’s blood
been slyly slipped into this salad? I’ve a hunch
that witchy fingers have been poisoning my lunch.

Medea fell in love with Jason, since she thought
he was the number one good-looking Argonaut.
She must have smeared the boss with garlic; that was how
she made sure, when he yoked unbroken bulls to plough
the field, that fiery ox breath wouldn’t do him harm.
And then, when Jason fell for the seductive charm
of young Creüsa, who was much more to his taste,
in jealous rage Medea made a garlic paste
(I see it now!): this was the lotion that she spread
on gifts she offered to the girl she wanted dead;
a wingèd dragon bore the murderer away.

I bet it’s hot down there in Puglia today
but even in these scorching dog days, no such blast
of heat descends as has ignited this repast.
And when poor Deianeira draped that gory cope
around her Hercules’ broad shoulders, in the hope
of thereby guaranteeing his fidelity,
it didn’t burn the hero worse than this burns me.

My epicure Maecenas, if you eat this stuff
I hope your garlic kisses meet a firm rebuff
from that sweet girl you’re sleeping with; I hope, instead,
that she rolls over to the far side of the bed.

Horace — epode 3

Parentis olim si quis impia manu
   senile guttur fregerit,
edit cicutis alium nocentius.
   o dura messorum ilia!
quid hoc veneni saevit in praecordiis?
   num viperinus his cruor
incoctus herbis me fefellit, an malas
   Canidia tractavit dapes?
ut Argonautas praeter omnis candidum
   Medea mirata est ducem,
ignota tauris inligaturum iuga
   perunxit hoc Iasonem;
hoc delibutis ulta donis paelicem
   serpente fugit alite.
nec tantus umquam siderum insedit vapor
   siticulosae Apuliae,
nec munus umeris efficacis Herculis
   inarsit aestuosius.
at si quid umquam tale concupiveris,
   iocose Maecenas, precor,
manum puella savio opponat tuo,
   extrema et in sponda cubet.