aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Petronius, fr. 48 (Bücheler)

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My first attempt at getting the indentation to work for elegiacs. Please let me know if it’s not displaying properly for you.

lecto compositus vix prima silentia noctis
   carpebam et somno lumina victa dabam,
cum me saevus Amor prensat sursumque capillis
   excitat et lacerum pervigilare iubet.
'tu famulus meus,' inquit, 'ames cum mille puellas,
   solus, io, solus, dure, iacere potes?'
exsilio et pedibus nudis tunicaque soluta
   omne iter ingredior, nullum iter expedio.
nunc propero, nunc ire piget, rursumque redire
   paenitet, et pudor est stare via media.
ecce tacent voces hominum strepitusque viarum
   et volucrum cantus fidaque turba canum:
solus ego ex cunctis paveo somnumque torumque,
   et sequor imperium, magne Cupido, tuum.


I had just lain down in bed, enjoying the night’s first silence and giving my vanquished eyes to sleep, when savage Love grabbed hold of me and roused me, pulling me up by the hair and ordering me, shattered though I was, to stay awake. ‘You, my slave,’ he said, ‘though you love a thousand girls, can you lie alone – alone! – you hard-hearted one?’ I jump out of bed with my feet bare and my tunic undone; I go down every road, leave no road free. Now I hurry, now I’m reluctant to go, I’m sorry to return again, and I’m ashamed to stand in the middle of the road. See! The voices of men, the din of the streets, the song of the birds, and the faithful pack of dogs are silent; I alone out of all creatures dread both sleep and bed, and I follow, great Cupid, your command.

Writing a little over a century ago, H.E. Butler says:

If this is not great poetry, it is at least one of the most perfect specimens of conventional erotic verse in all ancient literature. If we except a very few of the best poems of Propertius, Latin Elegiacs have nothing to show that combines such perfection of form with such exquisite sensuous charm. It breathes the fragrance of the Greek anthology. (H.E. Butler, Post-Augustan Poetry, Oxford 1909, p.138-139)

Written by aleatorclassicus

February 26, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Petronius

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