Friday, 27 April 2018

Propertius 3, 19: too demanding.





In ancient societies female sexuality was – and unfortunately still is in many contemporary societies – seen as something dangerous: a woman with too much sexual appetite disrupts the moral framework of a family or a city. Propertius – or at least his poetic persona – thinks his lover Cynthia sexually too demanding. In this poem he warns against such women, not so much addressing Cynthia, but womankind in general. The poem is not easy, as he evokes with a few words a situation known to his educated audience, but not to the modern reader. His Latin too is dense and requires careful reading. Well, easy texts make lazy readers and at a time universities here in the Netherlands and elsewhere tend to treat students as toddlers, reading a difficult text is an act of insubordination.

Propertius 3, XIX

Obicitur totiens a te mihi nostra libido:
    crede mihi, vobis imperat ista magis.
vos, ubi contempti rupistis frena pudoris,
    nescitis captae mentis habere modum.
flamma per incensas citius sedetur aristas,
    fluminaque ad fontis sint reditura caput,
et placidum Syrtes portum et bona litora nautis
    praebeat hospitio saeva Malea suo,
quam possit vestros quisquam reprehendere cursus
    et rabidae stimulos frangere nequitiae.
testis, Cretaei fastus quae passa iuvenci
    induit abiegnae cornua falsa bovis;
testis Thessalico flagrans Salmonis Enipeo,
    quae voluit liquido tota subire deo.
crimen et illa fuit, patria succensa senecta
    arboris in frondes condita Myrrha novae.
nam quid Medeae referam, quo tempore matris
    iram natorum caede piavit amor?
quidve Clytaemestrae, propter quam tota Mycenis
    infamis stupro stat Pelopea domus?
tuque, o, Minoa venumdata, Scylla, figura
    tondes purpurea regna paterna coma.
hanc igitur dotem virgo desponderat hosti!
    Nise, tuas portas fraude reclusit amor.
at vos, innuptae, felicius urite taedas:
    pendet Cretaea tracta puella rate.
non tamen immerito Minos sedet arbiter Orci:
    victor erat quamvis, aequus in hoste fuit.

obicio obieci obiectum:  to throw before, object, taunt, reproach
mihi: regarding me
nostra: i.e. of all man
ista = libido
vobis: you womankind
contempti pudoris: i.e shame contemned  by you women
rumpo rupi ruptum (-ere): to break
frenum:  briddle, curb
captae (libidine) mentis
sedo (-are): to bring to rest, extinguish
arista: beard of corn
fontis caput: the origin of their spring
Sirtes: two sandbanks on the Northern coast of Africa (Sirtes  praebeant)
praebeo praebui praebitum: to offer
Malea: a promontory in the Peloponnesus, at the south of Laconia
hospitio suo: with saeva `cruel with her hospitality’
cursus; `way of life’
frango fregi fractum: to break
nequitia: wickedness
testis –is (m. and f.): a witness (here Pasipha√ę. She was a Minoan queen who fell in live with the Minotaur (Cretaeus iuvencus `the Cretean bull’). In order to look like a cow, Daedalus constructed a wooden cow in which she could fulfil her lust for the Minotaur.)
fastus –us (m.): disdain, contempt
patior passum: to suffer
induo indui indutum: to put on
abiegnus: made of fir wood
fragrans Slmonis: Tyro, daughter of king Salmoneus of Elis. She married her uncle Cretheus, but before her marriage she fell in love with the river god Enipeus. Poseidon changed himself into this god and they made love, from which two children were born . Tyro exposed the children, but they were saved by a herdsman.)
subire: to yield, but the literal meaning `to go under’ is quite apt in this situation
crimen et illa fuit: she too was a crime (Myrrha, she did not pay respect to Aphrodite and the goddess made her fall in love with her father. When her father noticed he had sex with his daughter, he became furious and chased her with a sword. The gods had pity and changed her in a myrrh tree. Out of this intercourse Adonis was born.)
succensa (set in fire for) and condita (founded, changed) depend on illa
patria senecta (abl.): the fatherly old age = her old father
frons frondis (f.): leafy branch
(crimen) Medeae
quo tempore matris iram natorum caede piavit amor: at the time love appeased the anger of the mother by the slaughter of her children. A difficult sentence, which has been variously translated.  Many take matris with quo tempore, but Rothstein (1924) suggests the opposition matris iram vs caede infantorum. Most difficult is piavit amor:  it is not love as such but hurt love, turned into rage when Jason had left Medea for another woman.
(crimen) Clytemnestrae: she lived with her lover Aegisthus and killed her husband Agamemnon, when he returned home from the Trojan war.
Mycenis Pelopea domus: the house of Pelops at Mycene
stuprum: lust, adultery
Scylla: daughter of king Nissus of Megara. Nissus had a lock of purple hair, which protected the city. When Minos besieged Megara, Scylla fell in love with him and cut of the purple lock and gave it to Minos and so he could take the city. Minos was disgusted by her lack of fidelity and left Megara immediately with his ship. Scylla swam after him, but her father – turned into a sea eagle - drowned her. Since then she is a seabird.
Minoa venumdata figura: Minoa is abl. from Minous `belonging to Minos’. venum-do is `to put up for sale’, especially slaves, so `enslaved by the beauty of Minos’ or something like that.
tondeo totondi tonsum: to shave
tondes purpurea regna paterna coma: as the meter shows, purpurea coma is abl., so it is the paterna regna which is cut of, together with the purple hair.
dos dotis (f.): dowry
despondeo despondi desponsum: to promise (in marriage)
recludo reclusi reclusum: to open
innupta: unmarried woman, virgin
urite taedas: burn the wedding torches
pendet Cretaea tracta puella rate: she clings to the Cretan ship and is dragged away
Minos: after his death, Minos became one of the three judges of the underworld (iudex Orci).
victor erat quamvis, aequus in hoste fuit: though he was victorious, he was fair towards his enemy. i.e. by turning down the love of Scylla.


Translation by A.S. Klyne.

You often taunt me with my passion: believe me, it controls you more. You, when you’ve snapped the reins of that modesty you despise, can set no limits to your mind ensnared. A fire in burning corn will sooner be quenched, the rivers return to the founts where they were born, the Syrtes offer quiet harbour, and Cape Malea offer the sailor a kind welcome on its wild shore, than any man be able to restrain your course, or curb the spurs of your impetuous wantonness.


Witness Pasiphae who suffered the disdain of the Cretan bull and wore the deceptive horns of the wooden cow; witness Tyro, Salmoneus’s daughter, burning for Thessalian Enipeus, longing to yield completely to the river-god. Myrrha too is a reproach, on fire for her aged father, buried in the foliage of a new-created tree. Why need I mention Medea, who, in her time as a mother, satisfied her fury by the murder of her children? Or Clytemnestra through whom the whole House of Mycenean Pelops remains infamous for her adultery?

And you Scylla, oh, sold on Minos’ beauty, shore off your father’s kingdom with his purple lock of hair. That was the dowry the virgin pledged his foe! Nisus, treacherous love opened your city gates. And you, unmarried ones, burn torches of happier omen: the girl clutched the Cretan ship and was dragged away.

Still Minos does not sit as a judge in Hell without reason: though he conquered, he was merciful to his foe.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Ovid, Tristia 1,4: storm at sea.




For reasons still not quite known, Ovid was banished by Augustus from Rome to Pontus at the Black Sea in 8 AD. The once happy and light-hearted poet went into hardship, but fortunately turned this hardship into poetry: the Tristia and the Epistulae ex Ponto. In Tristia 1.4 , Ovid describes the beginning of his travel to Pontus. He went by ship, a means of transport not much favoured by Romans, as they feared storms. And indeed there was a storm… Nevertheless, am I wrong in seeing irony in this poem too?


Ovid, Tristia, book 1, IV

Tingitur oceano custos Erymanthidos ursae,
     aequoreasque suo sidere turbat aquas.
nos tamen Ionium non nostra findimus aequor
     sponte, sed audaces cogimur esse metu.
me miserum! quantis increscunt aequora uentis,
     erutaque ex imis feruet harena fretis!
monte nec inferior prorae puppique recuruae
     insilit et pictos uerberat unda deos.
pinea texta sonant pulsu, stridore rudentes,
     ingemit et nostris ipsa carina malis.
nauita confessus gelidum pallore timorem,
     iam sequitur uictus, non regit arte ratem.
utque parum ualidus non proficientia rector
     ceruicis rigidae frena remittit equo,
sic non quo uoluit, sed quo rapit impetus undae,
     aurigam uideo uela dedisse rati.
quod nisi mutatas emiserit Aeolus auras,
     in loca iam nobis non adeunda ferar.
nam procul Illyriis laeua de parte relictis
     interdicta mihi cernitur Italia.
desinat in uetitas quaeso contendere terras,
     et mecum magno pareat aura deo.
dum loquor et timeo pariter cupioque repelli,
     increpuit quantis uiribus unda latus!
parcite caerulei uos parcite numina ponti,
     infestumque mihi sit satis esse Iouem.
uos animam saeuae fessam subducite morti,
     si modo, qui periit, non periisse potest.

tingo tinxi tinctum: to wet (ab oceano, i.e. sinks in the sea)
custos Erymanthidos ursae: the constellation Bootes, not far from the constellation Ursa Maior. Bootes disappears in November, so it is winter and stormy.
suo sidere turbat: as if Bootes’  sinking in the sea causes storms
Ionium aequor: the Ionian Sea
findo -  fissus: to cleave
non nostra sponte: not by our free will
sed audaces cogimur esse metu: oxymoron: through fear we are forced to be brave
ex imis fretis: form the deep seas (fretum)
eruo erui erutum ( -ere): to root up
ferveo: to boil, rage
monte nec inferior unda
prora: bow (of a ship)
puppis –is (f.): stern
insilio insilui (here + dat.) to leap up
pictos deos: painted images of gods on the stern, thought to protect the ship
verbero: to beat, strike
pinea texta: the wooden structure of a ship made from pinewood
stridor –oris (m.): hissing sound
rudo (-ere): to roar, creak
ingemo ingemui (-ere): to bewail, groan
carina: keel, (pars pro toto) ship
navita = nauta
gelidus: very cold
pallor – oris (m.): paleness
victus: conquered (i.e. he can’t keep his ship strait in the storm, as the next line tells us.)
ratis –is (f.): float, ship
utque: and like
parum: too little, insufficient
non proficientia frena: non effective reigns
rector -oris (m.) : steersman (here said of a charioteer (auriga, this word is used for steersman in line 16)
remittit: relaxes (the reins ) for a horse with a stiff neck (cervicis rigidae, gen. qual.)
quo: where
rapio rapui (-ere): to seize
vela dare: to set sail, to steer
quod nisi: when not
Aeolus: god of the winds
loca non adeunda: places not to be approached (i.e. Italy)
procul Illyriis laeua de parte relictis: Iliyria being left far behind at the left side (Ovid is sailing to the South.)
cerno crevi cretum: to perceive, see
desino desii: to cease (subject aura.)
contendo contendi contendum: to aim, strive
quaeso: I pray, please! (it is an interjection not influencing the construction of a sentence.)
magno deo: Augustus
pareo parui (+ dat.): to submit, yield
pariter: as well
repello reppulli: to drive back
increpo increpui increpitum (-are):  to sound, cause resound
latus lateris (n.): side (here of the ship)
parco peperci parsum: to stop cease
caerulei vos numina ponti: you gods of the bleu sea
infestumque mihi sit satis esse Iouem = satis sit Iovem (= Augustum) mihi infestum
infestus: hostile
subduco subduxi (something (acc.) from (dat.): to lead away
si modo: if only
pereo perii: to be lost, die (si modo, qui periit, non periisse potest: if only, who has died  (i.e. has lost all hope) can’t have died. The first use of pereo is metaphorically, the last literally. Though Ovid feels as being dead, he asks to be saved from death.)

Translation by A.S. Klyne,

Bootes, the guardian of the Erymanthian Bear, touches
the Ocean and stirs the salt-waters with his stars.
I still plough the Ionian Sea, not by my will,
but forced to bravery through my fear.
Ah me! What winds swell the waves,
and throw up boiling sand from the deep!
The breaker leaps mountain-high on prow
and curving stern, and strikes the painted gods.
The pine planks echo, the rigging’s whipped by the wind,
and the keel itself groans with my troubles.
The sailor, confessing cold fear by his pallor,
defeated, obeys his boat, doesn’t guide it by skill.
As a weak rider lets the useless reins,
fall loosely on his horse’s stubborn neck,
so, I see, our charioteer has given the ship her head,
where the wave’s force drives, not where he wishes.
Unless Aeolus alters the winds he’s sent
I’ll be carried to a place I must not visit.
Now Illyria’s shores are far behind, to larboard,
and forbidden Italy shows herself to me.
I pray the wind ends its effort towards a land
denied me, and obeys, with me, a mighty god.
While I speak, fearful and yet eager to be driven back,
with what power the waves pound at her sides!
Mercy, you gods of the blue-green sea, mercy,
let it be enough that Jove is angry with me.
Rescue my weary spirit from a cruel death,
if one already lost may be un-lost.