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Twelve Epigrams after Martial


You think Acerra stinks of wine from last night’s cup.
You’re wrong. He always drinks until the sun is up.

Hesterno fetere mero qui credit Acerram,

   fallitur: in lucem semper Acerra bibit.


Alone, Gellia doesn’t mourn her father, who has passed away,
but turns the waterworks on full in company.
Gellia, seeking praise in mourning shows your tears are for display;
he truly grieves who grieves when no one’s there to see.

Amissum non flet cum sola est Gellia patrem;
si quis adest, iussae prosiliunt lacrimae.

non luget quisquis laudari, Gellia, quaerit;
 ille dolet vere qui sine teste dolet.


Celer, you ask me please to read my poems out.
I won’t. You never listen; only want to spout.

Ut recitem tibi nostra rogas epigrammata. nolo.
   non audire, Celer, sed recitare cupis.


You’re pretty, young and rich, Fabulla. Everyone agrees.
But when you praise yourself too highly, you are none of these.

Bella es, novimus, et puella, verum est,
et dives, quis enim potest negare?
sed cum te nimium, Fabulla, laudas,
nec dives neque bella nec puella es.


Sextus, you have no debts; no, none at all, we’re bound to say.
To be a debtor, one must have the wherewithal to pay.

Sexte, nihil debes, nil debes, Sexte, fatemur.

   debet enim, si quis solvere, Sexte, potest.


Postumus, some you kiss, to others give your hand. You ask,
‘Which greeting would you like, my friend? You choose.’
So here’s my choice: to shake your hand’s the less unpleasant task.

Basia das aliis, aliis das, Postume, dextram.
   dicis ‘utrum mavis? elige.’ malo manum.


Each time I praise your face, admire your legs and hands, you say,
‘You’d like me even better naked.’ Galla, you’re a tease.
Why won’t you take a bath with me today (or any day)?
I know: you doubt, with nothing on, I’d be a sight to please.

Cum faciem laudo, cum miror crura manusque,
dicere, Galla, soles ‘nuda placebo magis’,

et semper vitas communia balnea nobis.
numquid, Galla, times, ne tibi non placeam?


That publican who lately served me at Ravenna is a cheat.
I asked for wine and water; craftily, he sold the rot-gut neat.

Callidus imposuit nuper mihi copo Ravennae:
 cum peterem mixtum, vendidit ille merum.

5.83 – To Dindymus

You chase me, I flee; you flee, I chase you.
What you want, I don’t; what you don’t, I do.
We just can’t agree. It’s like that with me.

Insequeris, fugio; fugis, insequor; haec mihi mens est:
velle tuum nolo, Dindyme, nolle volo.


Galla, you ask, persistently, ‘Why can’t we two be wed?’
Your speech is too refined. My cock talks Cockney when in bed.

Quaeris, cur nolim te ducere, Galla? diserta es.
 saepe soloecismum mentula nostra facit.


You’re difficult and easy. To my taste you’re sweet and sour.
I couldn’t live with you a day, nor lose you for an hour.

Difficilis facilis, iucundus acerbus es idem:
   nec tecum possum vivere nec sine te.


In order not to praise those that he should,
our Callistratus praises all. How kind!
But here’s the rub: if, no one, to his mind,
is ever bad, can anyone be good?

Ne laudet dignos, laudat Callistratus omnes.
   cui malus est nemo, quis bonus esse potest?