Saturday, December 15, 2007

Martial: One Lewd Dude Who Occasionally Surprises Himself With Longing

I've been reading the Latin poet Martial, whose epigrams are often hilarious, often lewd, occasionally nasty, sometimes lovely. Here's one, translated by Rolfe Humphries, that caught my attention as I was completing grading for the semester, thinking of the bittersweet passage of another year:

Book V. xx.

If you and I, dear Martial,
Enjoying carefree days,
Were free to enjoy our leisure
And walk in gracious ways,
We should avoid the mansions
Where men of power dwell,
The lawsuits of the forum
And all that bustling hell.
The malls, the parks, the lounges,
The gardens, an arcade
Where one might find a bookshop
Would be our promenade.
Cold baths from Aqua Virgo
Or warmer ones in town,
These are the places, always,
To lay our burdens down.
Neither of us is living
The way things are today;
We see the good suns going,
The brightness fall away.
We waste our time's allowance,
And Time does not forgive.
Why waste one precious moment
If we know how to live?

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