Ovid, Tristia II, Neve peregrinis tantum defendar ab armis..


Confusing reference to Lucretius...

I was trying, the other day, to get a bit of Ovid (Tristia ii) into English iambs, and things were going swimmingly until I ran into a reference to Lucretius, which has gotten me almost completely lost:

Neve peregrinis tantum defendar ab armis,
et Romanus habet multa jocosa liber.
Utque suo Martem cecinit gravis Ennius ore,
Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis:
explicat ut causas rapidi Lucretius ignis,
Casurumque triplex vaticinatur opus:
sic sua lascivo cantata est saepe Catullo
femina, cui falsum Lesbia nomen erat;
nec contentus ea, multos vulgauit amores,
in quibus ipse suum fassus adulterium est.

Nor am I just by foreign arms in this
defensed; the Roman book likewise contains
full many a matter light and frivolous.
Though Ennius did gravely sing of Mars--
with genius, if in metre rude-- and though
Lucretius tells us of the causes that
engender rushing fire, and predicts
the death of all the threefold work, yet sings
lascivious Catullus ever of
his wench, his so-called Lesbia, and not
content with her alone, he must confess
to all the world the many loves in which
he owns he did adultery commit.

Ovid seems to be making excuses for whatever he wrote that got him banished to the Black Sea in the first place, and pointing out that he's not the first poet to write in a less-than-solemn way-- that much is clear. But I know very little about Lucretius, and I have to confess that my English above, for everythng from the explicat to the opus, is pretty much a wild-assed guess. I am just guessing that the triple destruction is that of the body and the two souls-- didn't the Epicureans think there were two? And what does he mean by rapidi...ignis?

I'm hoping that someone here can straighten me out on this. Thanks in advance

Iynx Senex

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
Better late than never...

The allusion is to Liber XI of de Rerum Natura, lines 91-6:

Titus Lucretius Carus dixit:
Quod super est, ne te in promissis plura moremur,
principio maria ac terras caelumque tuere;
quorum naturam triplicem, tria corpora, Memmi,
tris species tam dissimilis, tria talia texta,
una dies dabit exitio, multosque per annos [95]
sustentata ruet moles et machina mundi.
  • But for the rest,- lest we delay thee here
    Longer by empty promises- behold,
    Before all else, the seas, the lands, the sky:
    O Memmius, their threefold nature, lo,
    Their bodies three, three aspects so unlike,
    Three frames so vast, a single day shall give
    Unto annihilation! Then shall crash
    That massive form and fabric of the world
    Sustained so many aeons! [...]

Seems pretty self-explanatory. I don't think it affects your translation one bit, which I quite like, by the way.

The translation into iambics is by William Ellery Leonard.