Michael R. Burch

1958
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Martial translations to modern English

These are modern English translations of Martial epigrams and poems, some with the original Latin.

You ask me why I've sent you no new verses?
There might be reverses.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me to recite my poems to you?
I know how you'll 'recite' them, if I do.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I choose to live elsewhere?
You're not there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it there.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You ask me why I love fresh country air?
You're not befouling it, mon frère.
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Epitaph for the Child Erotion
by Marcus Valerius Martial
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lie lightly on her, grass and dew...
So little weight she placed on you.

I created the translation above after the Nashville Covenant school shooting and dedicated the translation to the slain children and the adult victims of the massacre.



Coq au vin
by Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

1.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you merely an éclair to the greedy?

2.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you tart Amaro to the greedy?

Amaro is an after-dinner liqueur thought to aid the digestion after a large meal.

3.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but are you an aperitif to the greedy?

4.
Hosts always invite you to dinner, Phoebe,
but they're pimps to the seedy.

Ad cenam invitant omnes te, Phoebe, cinaedi.
mentula quem pascit, non, puto, purus homo est.



1.
You'll find good poems, but mostly poor and worse,
my peers being "diverse" in their verse.

2.
Some good poems here, but most not worth a curse:
such is the crapshoot of a book of verse.

Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt mala plura
quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Auite, liber.



He undertook to be a doctor
but turned out to be an undertaker.

Chirurgus fuerat, nunc est uispillo Diaulus:
coepit quo poterat clinicus esse modo.



1.
The book you recite from, Fidentinus, was my own,
till your butchering made it yours alone.

2.
The book you recite from I once called my own,
but you read it so badly, it's now yours alone.

3.
You read my book as if you wrote it,
but you read it so badly I've come to hate it.

Quem recitas meus est, o Fidentine, libellus:
sed male cum recitas, incipit esse tuus.



Recite my epigrams? I decline,
for then they'd be yours, not mine.

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



I do not love you, but cannot say why.
I do not love you: no reason, no lie.

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare:
hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te.



You're young and lovely, wealthy too,
but that changes nothing: you're a shrew.

Bella es, nouimus, et puella, uerum est,
et diues, quis enim potest negare?
Sed cum te nimium, Fabulla, laudas,
nec diues neque bella nec puella es.



You never wrote a poem,
yet criticize mine?
Stop abusing me or write something fine
of your own!
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

He starts everything but finishes nothing;
thus I suspect there's no end to his stuffing.
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Martial concluded his epigram with a variation of the f-word; please substitute it if you prefer it.

You alone own prime land, dandy!
Gold, money, the finest porcelain―you alone!
The best wines of the most famous vintages―you alone!
Discrimination and wit―you alone!
You have it all―who can deny that you alone are set for life?
But everyone has had your wife―she is never alone!
―Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You dine in great magnificence
while offering guests a pittance.
Sextus, did you invite
friends to dinner tonight
to impress us with your enormous appetite?
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love's daughter.
who died six days short of completing her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell's three-headed hound, less her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To you, my departed parents, with much emotion,
I commend my little lost darling, my much-kissed Erotion,
who died six days short of completing her sixth bitter winter.
Protect her, I pray, from hell's hound and its dark shades a-flitter;
and please don't let fiends leave her maiden heart dismayed!
But lead her to romp in some happy Elysian glade
with her cherished friends, excitedly lisping my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was such a slight burden to you!
—Martial, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

NOTES: Martial wrote touching elegy for a little slave girl, Erotion, who died six days before her sixth birthday. The poem has been nominated as Martial's masterpiece by L. J. Lloyd and others. Erotion means 'little love' and may correspond to our term 'love child.' It has been suggested Erotion may have been Martial's child by a female slave. That could explain why Martial is asking his parents' spirits to welcome, guide and watch over her spirit. Martial uses the terms patronos (patrons) and commendo (commend): in Rome a freed slave would be commended to a patron. A girl freed from slavery by death might need patrons as protectors on the 'other side' according to Greek and Roman views of the afterlife, where the afterworld houses evil shades and is guarded by a monstrous three-headed dog, Cerberus. Martial is apparently asking his parents to guide the girl's spirit away from Cerberus and the dark spirits to the heavenly Elysian fields where she can play and laugh without fear. If I am correct, Martial's poem is not just an elegy, but a prayer-poem for protection, perhaps of his own daughter. Albert A. Bell supports this hypothesis with the following arguments: (1) Martial had Erotion cremated, a practice preferred by the upper classes, (2) 'he buried her with the full rites befitting the child of a Roman citizen,' (3) he entrusted her [poetically] to his parents, and (4) he maintained her grave for years.



GILDAS TRANSLATIONS

These are my modern English translations of Latin poems by the English monk Gildas. Gildas, also known as Gildas Sapiens (“Gildas the Wise”), was a 6th-century British monk who is one of the first native writers of the British Isles we know by name. Gildas is remembered for his scathing religious polemic De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (“On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain” or simply “On the Ruin of Britain”). The work has been dated to circa 480-550 AD.

“Alas! The nature of my complaint is the widespread destruction of all that was good, followed by the wild proliferation of evil throughout the land. Normally, I would grieve with my motherland in her travail and rejoice in her revival. But for now I restrict myself to relating the sins of an indolent and slothful race, rather than the feats of heroes. For ten years I kept my silence, I confess, with much mental anguish, guilt and remorse, while I debated these things within myself...” — Gildas, The Ruin of Britain, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Gildas is also remembered for his “Lorica” (“Breastplate”):

“The Lorica of Loding” from the Book of Cerne
by Gildas
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Trinity in Unity, shield and preserve me!
Unity in Trinity, have mercy on me!

Preserve me, I pray, from all dangers:
dangers which threaten to overwhelm me
like surging sea waves;
neither let mortality
nor worldly vanity
sweep me away from the safe harbor of Your embrace!

Furthermore, I respectfully request:
send the exalted, mighty hosts of heaven!
Let them not abandon me
to be destroyed by my enemies,
but let them defend me always
with their mighty shields and bucklers.

Allow Your heavenly host
to advance before me:
Cherubim and Seraphim by the thousands,
led by the Archangels Michael and Gabriel!

Send, I implore, these living thrones,
these principalities, powers and Angels,
so that I may remain strong,
defended against the deluge of enemies
in life’s endless battles!

May Christ, whose righteous Visage frightens away foul throngs,
remain with me in a powerful covenant!

May God the Unconquerable Guardian
defend me on every side with His power!

Free my manacled limbs,
cover them with Your shielding grace,
leaving heaven-hurled demons helpless to hurt me,
to pierce me with their devious darts!

Lord Jesus Christ, be my sure armor, I pray!

Cover me, O God, with Your impenetrable breastplate!

Cover me so that, from head to toe,
no member is exposed, within or without;
so that life is not exorcized from my body
by plague, by fever, by weakness, or by suffering.

Until, with the gift of old age granted by God,
I depart this flesh, free from the stain of sin,
free to fly to those heavenly heights,
where, by the grace of God, I am borne in joy
into the cool retreats of His heavenly kingdom!

Amen

#GILDAS #LATIN #LORICA #RUIN #MRBGILDAS #MRBLATIN #MRBLORICA #MRBRUIN

Keywords/Tags: Epigram, Epitaph, Elegy, Martial, Translation, Latin, Erotion, Parents, Mother, Father, Love, Slave, Angel, Shades, Hades, Cerebus, Poem, Critic, Criticism, Dandy, Gold, Wine, Taste, Discrimination, Wit, Wife, Cuckold
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