It is autumn and as if nature has been waiting for it, temperatures have dropped by ten degrees. I love autumn: it is the period of mushrooms, cobwebs, the smell of decaying leaves in a wood and of gnomes. One such gnome is Priapus, the father of all garden gnomes. Priapus is known for his outstanding mentula (prick) and to be honest, this must be an awkward position. I at least would feel uncomfortable standing so in my garden or even worse, the garden of someone else. Priapus must have had feeling too and in 9 he defends himself by pointing out that every god is depicted with his specific weapon. A valid argument, I think.
However, there are more problems: not all statues of Priapus are made of marble or cut from wood with an artistic hand. No, many must have been roughly cut by farmers without any aesthetic feeling This has happened to the Priapus of poem 10. He was so badly carved that that his maker had to explain to him who he actually was: tu Priapus esto! And there you are: standing in the garden with a clumsy stick as an object of male pride. And if that is not enough, a girl is making fun of you and your glory. Now that is really awkward and a true nightmare! No, it isn’t always easy to be a Priapus.
Cur obscaena mihi pars sit sine veste, requirens ?
quaere, tegat nullus cur sua tela deus.
fulmen habens mundi dominus tenet illud aperte;
nec datur aequoreo fuscina tecta deo.
nec Mavors illum, per quem valet, occulit ensem;
nec latet in tepido Palladis hasta sinu.
num pudet auratas Phoebum portare sagittas?
clamne solet pharetram ferre Diana suam?
num tegit Alcides nodosae robora clavae?
sub tunica virgam num deus ales habet?
quis Bacchum gracili vestem praetendere thyrso,
quis te celata cum face vidit, Amor?
nec mihi sit crimen, quod mentula semper aperta est:
hoc mihi si telum desit, inermis ero.
requiro: to find out, inquire
quaero: to ask
tego texi tectum: to cover
telum: missile, weapon
dominus mundi: Jove
aperte: openly, unconcealed
aequoreo deo: sea god = Neptune
Mavors: old name for Mars
valeo: to be strong
occulo: to cover
ensis –is: sword
sinus –us (m.): bosom
pudet (+ acc.): it shames someone
auratas sagittas: gilded arrows
Alcides = Hercules
robur roboris (n.): oak wood
virga : twig
deus ales: winged god = Mercury
gracili vestem praetendere thyrso: putting his cloak over his tender staff
celate face: with covered torch
Insulsissima quid puella rides?
non me Praxiteles Scopasve fecit,
non sum Phidiaca manu politus;
sed lignum rude vilicus dolavit
et dixit mihi 'tu Priapus esto'.
spectas me tamen et subinde rides:
nimirum tibi salsa res videtur
adstans inguinibus columna nostris.
insulsus: without salt = tasteless = silly, course (opposite of salsus: salted, witty, funny)
Praxiteles and Scopas and Phidias were famous Greek sculptors, Phidias was an expert in the use of ivory.
polio: to polish
dolo: to hack out, hew
inguen –inis (m.): groin, lower part of the body, privy parts (plural)
columna: column, pillar
Translation by Leonard C. Smithers (1890)
(By far the best translation is by W.H. Parker, but this is not on line, so I have to copy this one. Hilarious is the use of mentule . mentula is a slang word and must be translated as such.)
Why are my privy parts without vesture? you demand. I ask why no God conceals his emblem? The Lord of the World [Jupiter] has his thunderbolt, and holds it unconcealed; nor is a covered trident given to the God of the Sea [Neptune]. Mars does not secrete the sword by whose means he prevails; nor does Pallas's spear lie hid in the warm bosom of her robe. Is Phoebus ashamed to carry his golden arrows? Is Diana wont to bear her quiver secretly? Does Alcides conceal the strength of his knotted club? Has the winged God [Mercury] his caduceus under his tunic? Who has seen Bacchus draw his garment over the slender thyrsus; or thee, O Love, with hidden torch? Nor should it be a reproach to me that my mentule is always uncovered. For if this spear be wanting to me, I am weaponless.
Why, most foolish girl, do you laugh? Neither Praxiteles nor Scopas has given me shape, nor have I been perfected by the hand of Phidias; but a bailiff carved me from a shapeless log, and said to me, 'You are Priapus!' Yet you gaze at me, and laugh repeatedly. Doubtless it seems to you a droll thing--the 'column' standing upright from my groin.