Epigrams of Martial, Book 1, 115

By AVGVSTA, in 'Reading Latin', Jan 6, 2018.

  1. I translated poem 115 from Book 1 of Martial's Epigrams and seek advice.

    The original epigram:

    Below is my translation:

    A certain girl desires me -- be jealous, Procillus!
    A girl more white than a bathed swan,
    Silver, snow, lily, and privet
    But I want a certain girl darker than night
    Ant, tar, crow, and cicada
    Now you were thinking of cruel means of hanging yourself
    If I knew you well, Procillus, you will live.

    Firstly, I have two specific questions concerning the translation of 115

    I. suspendia saeva
    I had a hard time phrasing suspendia saeva into English. Suspendium, as defined by Whitaker's Words is the act of hanging oneself. Being unable to think of an English phrase that does not invoke verbal nouns(gerunds, participles, etc.), I face an awkward situation as saeva, cruel, is an adjective. If I were to conserve the full meaning of suspendium, then

    a) cruel hangings
    in which I ignored the suicidal nature of the supposed thoughts of Procillus.

    b) the cruel acts of hanging yourself
    which is my most literal rendering of the phrase, and also the most awkward.

    c) cruel means of hanging yourself [the one used]
    in which I chose to creatively render suspendia to mean the means of hanging oneself in the context of its plurality. For when Procillus considers attempting suicide, likely he does not think of how many times ought he commit suicides and instead imagine multiple scenarios in each of which he hanged himself in a different way i.e. different means of hanging yourself instead of different acts of hanging yourself. Hence, its used.

    I have also considered to simply translate suspendia (cruel suicides), or to translate saeva as cruelly(cruelly hanging yourself).

    What would be better alternatives?

    II. the two comparisons
    In this epigram, there are two parallel sets of lines
    I am puzzled by two things
    a) the comparative adjectives : candidior and nigriorem
    Comparative adjectives are used in these lines followed by words in the ablative case. Should I translate these of sentence as " more x than a, b, c, d, e" (ablative of comparison) or should I translate them as "as xx as a, b, c, d, e" taking into consideration the widespread use of as in English expressions of the same nature?
    b) What to do with the end of the list
    In English, a conjunction, usually "and" or "or", connects the last two words of a list. However, Martial did nor provide a conjunction.
    i. Interpreting these lists as ended lists, should "and" or "or" be used to end them properly in English?
    ii. Interpreting both lists as unending and ending the line with ...
    Since this poem is a retort, I chose to interpret both lists of comparisons as ended lists. A poem ridiculing Procillus might portray the candidior puella he desired as one with unending beauty in order to taunt him further. However, the descriptions of both girls are written in a parallel manner, a fact that this theory does not account for(why would the other lady be dreamily portrayed with an unending list of comparison too?). Nevertheless, as I am not very familiar with Martial, I do not know for certain which interpretation is intended by Martial.

    What are your opinions on this?

    Secondly, what does everyone think of this translation? Any suggestions on what improvements it needs?
  2. AoM nulli numeri

    • Civis Illustris
    My first thought was 'a [/your?] horrid/hideous hanging', which gets the alliteration.
    The former.
    I'd keep the asyndeton.
    Whatever you choose, I'd make sure to keep them parallel.
    One thing: novi, though perfect, is rendered as a present 'know'.

    Oh, and invide could be from invidus (modifying Procille). But I'm not sure.
  3. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    in orbe lacteo
    Wouldn't that have a short e? I don't know if hendecasyllables allow a short vowel in that position.
  4. AoM nulli numeri

    • Civis Illustris
    Oh, hadn't considered the meter.
  5. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Henedecasyllables indeed, so the -e of invide is short; ergo, vocative.
  6. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    in orbe lacteo
    Wouldn't it be long?

    Quaēdām | mē cǔpǐt | īnvǐd | ē Prǒ | cīll ě

    x x - u u - u - u - x
  7. Araneus Umbraticus Lector

    • Civis Illustris
    About the hanging part - how about 'cruel ways to hang yourself'? Makes it a bit shorter, and pretty unambiguous. Or if you use 'wicked' for 'cruel', you'll get a little alliteration there.
  8. Much gratitude!
  9. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    You're right, of course. -e is followed by 'pr', so Catullus has the option of short or long. It is vocative, I think, nevertheless.
  10. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Sorry, Martial!! Doh!:(
  11. Araneus Umbraticus Lector

    • Civis Illustris
    The meter says it's long, though.
  12. I would agree so. Martial doesn't break his meter.

    Though invide is still ambiguous, in the sense that the e is definitely long by position, so the meter cannot reveal whether or not it originally possesses a macron
  13. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Augusta is right, I think; perhaps only recital would have revealed whether it's vocative or imperative.

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