Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
From Epigrams
By Martial (c. 40–c. 104 A.D.)
(Translated by Walter C. A. Ker, 1919)

  GEMELLUS seeks wedlock with Maronilla; he desires it, he urges her, he implores her, and sends her gifts. Is she so beautiful? Nay, no creature is more disgusting. What then is the bait and charm in her? Her cough.
  IT is always with doors unguarded and open, Lesbia, you offend, nor do you conceal your intrigues; and it is the spectator more than the adulterer that pleases you; no joys are grateful to you if they are hidden. But a harlot repels a witness both by curtain and bolt, and rarely a chink gapes in the archway under the walls. From Chione at least, or from Ias learn modesty: for dirty drabs even tombs are hiding-places. Does my censure appear to you too hard? I forbid you, Lesbia, to be caught, not to be a strumpet.
  That I write verses little squeamish, and not such as a schoolmaster would dictate in school, is your complaint, Cornelius; but these poems cannot please, any more than husbands can please their wives, without amorousness. What if you bade me indite a marriage song not in the words of a marriage song? Who brings garments into Flora’s festival, and permits prostitutes the modesty of the stole? This is the rule assigned to jocular poems, to be unable to please unless they are prurient. Wherefore lay aside your squeamishness, and spare my pleasantries and my jokes, I beg you, and do not seek to castrate my poems. Than a Priapus as Cybele’s priest (eunuchs) nothing is more disgusting.
  WHATEVER Rufus is doing, Naevia is to Rufus his all in all. If glad, if tearful, if mute, of her he speaks. He dines, drinks healths, asks, denies, or nods: Naevia is everything; be there no Naevia, he will be dumb. When yesterday he was writing a greeting to his father, “Naevia, light of my eyes,” he wrote, “Naevia, my sunbeam, I salute thee.”
  Naevia reads these lines with face down-dropt, and laughs. There is more than one Naevia; why, you silly husband, do you rage?
  THERE was no one in the whole town willing to touch your wife, Caecilianus, gratis, while he was allowed; but, now you have set your guards, there is a huge crowd of gallants. You are an ingenious person!
  QUIRINALIS does not think he should take a wife, meanwhile he wishes to have sons; and he has discovered how to secure that object: he has relations with maid-servants, and fills his town-house and his country-place with home-born slave-knights. A genuine “father of a family” is Quirinalis.
  FLY, Gallus, I warn you, from the crafty toils of the infamous adulteress, smoother though you are than conch-shells of Cytherea. Do you trust in your own charms? The husband is not of that sort: there are two things he can do, and neither is what you offer.
  WHAT your wife’s suspicion of you is, Linus, and in what particular she wishes you to be more respectable, she has sufficiently proved by unmistakable signs, in setting as watcher over you a eunuch. Nothing is more sagacious and more spiteful than this lady.
  YOU have relations, boy Hyllus, with the wife of an armed tribune, and all the time are dreading only a boy’s punishment. Alas for you! in the midst of your enjoyments you will be gelded. You will reply “This is not permitted.” Well? Is what you are doing, Hyllus, permitted?
  YOU have disfigured, O husband, the wretched adulterer, and his face, shorn of nose and ears, misses its former self. Do you believe you are sufficiently avenged? You mistake; he has still other activities.
  I PREFER one free-born, yet if she be denied me, a freedwoman’s quality is next in worth to me. In the last rank is the servant-maid; yet she shall surpass either of the others if her face be to me that of a free-born maid.
  I COULD dispense with your face, and neck, and hands, and legs, and bosom, and back, and hips. And—not to labour details—I could dispense with the whole of you, Chloe.
  THUS far, O matron, my book has been written for you. Do you ask for whom were writ the later parts? For me. A gymnasium, warm baths, a running ground are in this part of the book; depart, we are stripping; forbear to look on naked men. From this point Terpsichore, overcome with liquor, after the wine and the roses lays aside shame and knows not what she says, and in no ambigious trope, but in plain speech, mentions that symbol which Venus proudly welcomes in the sixth month, which the bailiff sets up as warder in the midst of the garden, which a modest virgin looks at with hand before her face. If I know you well, you were laying down my long book, already wearied; now you are eagerly reading it all.
  YOU are the paramour of Aufidia, and you were, Scaevinus, her husband; he who was your rival is her husband. Why does another man’s wife please you when she as your own does not please you? Is it that when secure you lack appetite?
  NEW to the marriage-bed, and yet unreconciled to her husband, Cleopatra had plunged into the gleaming pool, seeking to escape embrace. But the wave betrayed the lurking dame; brightly she showed, though covered by the o’erlapping water. So, shut in pellucid glass, lilies may be counted, so crystal forbids tender roses to lurk hidden. I leapt in, and, plunged in the waters, plucked reluctant kisses: ye, O transparent waters, forbad aught beyond!
  WHY, Thais, do you constantly call me old? No one, Thais, is too old for some things.
  I HAVE long been looking all through the city, Safronius Rufus, for a girl who says “No”: no girl says “No.” As if it were not right, as if it were disgraceful to say “No,” as if it were not allowable, no girl says “No.” Is none therefore chaste? A thousand are chaste. What, then, does a chaste girl do? She does not offer, yet she does not say “No.”
  WHEN Fabulla had read my epigram in which I complain that no girl says “No,” she, though solicited once, twice, and three times, disregarded her lover’s prayers. Now promise, Fabulla: I bade you refuse, I did not bid you to refuse for ever.
  WHO is that curled spark who is always clinging to your wife’s side, Marianus? Who is that curled spark, he who whispers some trifle into the lady’s tender ear, and leans on her chair with his right elbow, round each of whose fingers runs a light ring, who carries legs unmarred by any hair? Do you make no reply? “That individual does my wife’s jobs,” you say. To be sure! he is a trusty and rugged fellow who flaunts factor in his very face: Chian Aufidius will not be sharper than he. Oh, Marianus, how you deserve the buffets of Latinus! You will be successor I fancy to Panniculus. He does your wife’s jobs, does he? That curled spark do any? That fellow doesn’t do your wife’s jobs: he does yours.
  SINCE the Julian law, Faustinus, was re-enacted for the peoples, and Chastity was commanded to enter our homes, ’tis the thirtieth day—perhaps less, at least no more—and Telesilla is now marrying her tenth husband. She who marries so often does not marry; she is adulteress by form of law; by a more straightforward prostitute I am offended less.
  YOU bid me, Lesbia, to be always prepared to serve you; believe me, one’s faculties are not all equally at hand. You may urge me with toyings and wheedling words, but your face is imperious to defeat you.
  NO woman could once be preferred to you, Lycoris, no woman can be preferred to Glycera now; she shall be the thing you are; you cannot be what she is. Such is the might of Time! I long for her, for you I longed.
  SHE who was cunning to show wanton gestures to the sound of Baetic castanets and to frolic to the tunes of Gades, she who could have roused passion in palsied Pelias, and have stirred Hecuba’s spouse even by Hector’s pyre—Telethusa burns and racks with love her former master. He sold her as his maid, now he buys her back as mistress.
  AN UNSPEAKABLE calamity has chanced to a girl of mine, Aulus: she has lost her plaything and her darling, not such a one as Lesbia, the mistress of tender Catullus, deplored when she was forlorn of her sparrow’s roguish tricks, nor such as Ianthis, sung of by my Stella, wept for, whose black dove flits in Elysium. My love is not taken by trifles, nor by such passions as that; nor do such losses move my mistress’ heart: she has lost a boy just counting twice six years, whose parts were not as yet Gargantuan!

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