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EPIGRAMS, BOOK III
1. TO HIS MUSE
Deceive others: now I’m a wiser fisherman, thanks to your strike. Don’t try to make me stumble on your stones. For your way may be certain, my Muse, but it is full of effort and very thankless. After suffering losses I can understand this now, and Repentance, late in coming, reveals herself to my eyes. Why wasn’t I allowed to perceive the disdain of kings and dukes earlier, rather than singing my new songs? Was it to no avail that my lyre was able to play for the Arcadian ears of an unschooled prelate? It is a chore, an embarrassment, and a thankless deed to stand with this cloud hanging over my furrowed brow. Who ever can tolerate this is made out of horn, and nothing throbs on the left side of his breast. And yet I endured this, when, fed on vain hope, I was suspended amidst the empty waters like a Tantalus. But let the man who saw me being such lately now perceive that my fertile vocal chords are broken as far as all bishops are concerned.
2. TO SIR ROBERT KERR OF ANCRAM, GENTLEMAN OF THE BEDCHAMBER TO PRINCE CHARLES
I am not come as an admirer of noble honors, so as to gain a great name by my verses. Kerr, let that poet who wears a threadbare cloak bought for a farthing sing of lords and their empty title. For me it suffices to have found a patron who does not prove difficult, and a heart filled with solid love of myself. Let him (like you) be a friendly Maecenas, let him be a trusty friend, and let him praise great men, wishing to be one himself.
3. PRINCE CHARLES’ JOUST, 24 MARCH 1621
Throughout all heaven, Mars was boasting of his battles, as was he who lost his limbs on the Oetean pyre. Castor and his brother were bragging of their horses and boxing. This quarrel likewise extended to the rest of the gods, when Tritonian Pallas suddenly took up her aegis and said words such as these in the presence of Jove her father: “If the gods’ glory is their strength, their arms, and their horses, and Charles’ is his genius, I shall defer to him when it comes to my endowments.”
4. ON THE HAIL THAT FELL IN ABUNDANCE AS THE SAME WAS ENTERING THE LISTS
With a breastplate on his shoulders and looking fearsome in his helmet, Charles, our second hope, was advancing to tilt against a single opponent. The Prince had been sitting astride his fierce steed for a little while when a hailstorm suddenly fell crackling from the sky into his face and his lap. But he, looking our British Jove in his peaceful face, and into his eyes as bright as the god born of Latona, smiled with a sweet expression. At which the hail abruptly ceased, and Phoebus appeared, more brilliant than usual with his light. What may we hope for from such a prince, when dark clouds flee before his face?
5. PARIS’ EPITAPH
I, Paris, who am buried here, armed the Greek nations against Pergamum, alas, and was the sole downfall of my native land, whom Venus and the sweet ruler of gentle love schooled in their camp after I had been abandoned. Here the first flower of youth had barely tinged my cheeks when I because pleasing to your beauty, oh nymph of Pegasus. Afterwards, having been acknowledged as a royal offspring because of my appearance, a Spartan bride kindled new fires. The love which had pleased would have been blessed, had it been displeasing, and the love which displeased would have been more pleasing.
6. YET MORE
I was a shepherd in the forest, a lover in foreign climes, and for two lustra a soldier on Trojan soil. Pipes pleased the shepherd, the daughter of Leda pleased the lover, and the well-aimed arrow pleased my warlike hand. The pipes were peaceful pledges of a carefree life, but you, Spartan girl, were my exertion, and you, Gradivus, my sorrow.
7. YET MORE
As a shepherd, a soldier, and a lover, I cultivated, armed, and violated the countryside, my nation, and the customs of hospitality, thanks to peace, my battle-line, and my ship.
8. ON A MAN, VERY UNSIGHTLY YET ARROGANT
Do you see that man, partly to be explained by the fact that his mother was a girl given to buggery, whose nose couldn’t be any longer (if somehow that were possible). Do you see him, whose foot is longer than an entire pygmy, and who is always chasing after disgraceful posteriors, though more disgraceful himself? What an evil! What a dire bane! Is he a man or an ox? Either he is a deformed man, or a well-formed ox.
9. TO CHARLES PRINCE OF WALES
You hope, love, and thrice-great image of your great father, you light, glory and darling of your nation, Charles, you know the kind of man the assembly of the gods has bidden you be. Now hear the individual things for which you are indebted to the gods. For your scepter you are indebted to Jove, for fame both ancient and modern has sung that kings are sons of his lineage. Your character, the endowments of your mind, and your manners come from Minerva, whether you choose to put on the martial cloak or the civilian gown. The good points of the body we perceive in you are taken from swaying Persuasion, Venus, and the daughters of Orchomenus. And you are obliged to Ceres and Iacchus for your life’s nourishment, and to Phoebus that many evils of diseases do not oppress you. You owe your mortal life to the gods, but your eternal one to the Muses, for it is the Muse who immortalizes the very gods themselves. For these things you are indebted to the gods above and to the verses of bards, but, if you are wise, you will always be the maker of your own fortune.
10. TO JAMES FULLERTON, GENTLEMAN OF THE BEDCHAMBER TO PRINCE CHARLES
Clio and Apollo had a debate with the virgin Pallas how you have your name of Fullerton. Phoebus said you were the leaf of the northern clime, whereas, Fullerton, Minerva claimed you are the leaf and bread of the Muses, and the leaf of the virtues, and so her argument gained the approval of the thrice-three goddesses. If I am allowed to speak after such great divinities, you will be the leaf of the Muses, and the bread of the Graces.
11. TO ANNE DRUMMOND, WIFE OF SIR JOHN SCOTT OF SCOTSTARVET
The ring you gave me as a keepsake and pledge of your affection, Anne, has dropped off these fingers. I swear in the name of our true friendship that this was not because of my carelessness. Nor have I begun to be forgetful of you, although between us there is long journey of many a mile. Rather, by some furtive art a Muse stole it from me, unawares and unknowing. This was because, since she did not wish it be on this poet’s finger, Anne, she might place it in my verses forever.
12. ON A QUARRELING COUPLE
Who in the world would have ventured to join in a conjugal bed a pair whom scarce one brief hour had witnessed to be at unity? She is always quarrelling, rousing the Hydras of her tongue, here has he issued harsh threats, accompanied by blows. And yet the husband rejoices in adultery and a questionable bedroom, and she is no less eager to seek out a dubious couch. Oh , the concern of that goddess of Paphos! That questionable bed has united a pair whom no divine could conjoin.
13. A SHEPHERD’S COMPLAINT ABOUT A MONK AND A WOLF
There’s no repose or constancy in human affairs, hope and fear take turns in besetting us. For while I was stretched out beneath the leaves of a spreading elm and plashing water was relieving my thirst, a monk was giving my wife a thousand kisses and stealing the foul joys of my holy marriage-bed. Next a wolf attacked my sheep. I anxiously feared both things, and, a single man, was oppressed by two evils. So should I attack the monk? The wolf was besetting my gasping flock. Then the wolf? The monk would steal kisses that belonged to me. Keep on with your sport, my wife. Trust me, it’s less work to overcome a thousand wolves than a single she-wolf.
14. ON AURICULAR CONFESSION, TO ST. FRANCIS
Tell me, oh Francis, you father of the cincture-wearing tribe, by these knots of yours, your mystical symbols, by this wide-brimmed hat which always covers your head, and by your feet, bare yet not without shoe-soles, pray tell me why, when auricular confession is finished, your crew often observes the rites of the goddess of Paphos? I thought that the cleansing fire of the saints had abolished her, or perhaps that she had perished by a flame nearer at hand. Yet I imagine that, in order that your holy sect might have its miracles, their colons have begun to conduct their own auriculars.
15. ON RUFUS
For this reason, I do not love you as much as I should, and I can tell you why. When with mouth you bid me “farewell,” in your heart you bid me beware well.
16. ON VARUS
Varus, you tell me that poets are always liars. But I say you are the greater liar. How so, you ask? Because if poets are always liars, then Tisiphone, who was your mother, would be a fiction.
17. ON THE THEOLOGIANS OF THIS AGE
No age of the world has ever seen so many theologians, nor so many atheologists.
18. ON GALLUS’ CHEATING WIFE
When Gallus had seen Aulus standing close to his wife and receive a few smooches on his lips, at this point he doubted what to do: his chagrin urged him one way, his sense of shame another. The one made him fearful, the other told him he should not think it wrong. While he stood at the door, pondering it all, and feared his wife’s faith was questionable, it grew noisy within and the rattle of the bed gave evidence that his marriage was being besmirched. Therefore he rushed inside (for he could not digest this violation of his marriage rites with a calm mind), and exclaimed, “Open up. For if you make any further delay, you whore, I shall tear these doors off their hinges.” Her response: “Oh, why doubt me. I swear by the mysteries of the Faith, the thing you fear is remaining in a safe place.”
19. HECTOR’S TOMB
You visitor who has come here, do not seek for the walls of high Troy, or for the grass which covers our Phrygian commanders. Here lie my father, my mother, our glory, our wars, our triumphs: great Troy is buried here in this small place.
20. ON PHILENIS
Why is it, Philenis (you who are well-kempt, pretty and fair), that, as soon as a suitor approaches you, you recall the delusions and slanders of the common folk and the market-place, and suddenly swear by the great gods that you have never been fucked, nor ever will be. Stop it, Philenis. What’s the point of swearing your oath, when your breath gives you away, even if you hold your silence?
21. THE TOMB OF JAMES KINNEAR OF FORRET
When Envy lately came back from her Hellish court, having experienced the tediums of her long journey over land and sea, she stood at Kinnear’s tomb and uttered words such as these: “Either Kinnear or fostering Themis lies here.” To whom the goddess Pallas, brandishing her fearful Gorgon, replied, “No, both Kinnear and fostering Themis are lying here.”
22. THE BIRTHDAY OF JAMES, KING OF THE BRITAINS, COME AROUND ON 19 JUNE, 1621
Now returns that day which bequeathed the birth of our great prince to the sons of Fergus and Brutus, that day often to be recorded with a white stone, which June commands to come as its nineteenth. May eternal peace and mild mercy give it honor, as well as learned Minerva and the Castalian god! Down through the returning years may just Good Faith cultivate it uniquely, and also Wisdom and Grace, accompanied by Suasion, so that the will of gods and men ratify and endorse this prayer concerning King James: May he live and, with his sound old age belying his hoary head, count as many years as he has counted his ancestors.
23. ON A HAYSEED AND A MONK
When a hayseed broke off his work in the heat of day, and chanced to return home from his tiny field. But after he came inside, he caught sight of a monk waging Venus’ sweet battle with his wife. With murder on his mind, he cried out “Are these my rewards?” “Because I’m purifying your wife?”replied the monk. “Don’t you see the fresh sweat pouring from my limbs? Does this thing require the hand of vengeance?” To him replied the hayseed, “If your monks’ cocks have a purifying effect, give me yours, so the toil won’t weary you.” When the monk hesitated, without delay the hayseed castrated the fellow, and henceforth he purified his own lady.
24. ON AULUS, A PAPIST, AND A CERTAIN PASTOR OF THE PROTESTANT KIRK
While Aulus, Aulus, that devotee of the Roman Father, stood at the bar and denied his deed, the other man pressed him and cited witnesses, saying, “Aulus, can you deny this proven crime?” To him replied Aulus, “I can and I do. I do not think I did anything, since I was dreaming. And, if I recall aright, you are always dreaming up Papists for the benefit of your congregation.”
25. GERYON’S PROPHECY FULFILLED
The hero of Tiryns had driven off the horned herd from Hesperian climes, bringing them over the high mountain-crests with his strong hand. When the Iberian shepherd saw him committing this theft, he said, “By this same art you can mount up to your father’s heaven. I do not care. If my vision does not deceive me, this populous earth will bear many bulls.” And it turned out as he said: it is so friendly in its fertility that you may even see men wearing horns.
26. TO EUNUS
Why do you praise the frantic son of Telamon, together with the child of Clymene, why laud the handiwork of Cadmus and Peirithous? Honor comes late, after one’s death, and then it comes a-knocking at the doors of one’s halls, as does its companion, envy, which always befalls great men. Nowadays, had Empedocles survived his conflagration, he would not have surrendered his limbs to Etna’s pyre for the burning. Where do you get the idea that no man can seem brave and great when he can amount to something, unless he chooses to be a nobody?
27. ON GRAMMARIANS
Surely Virgil did not do well in confronting grammarians (to whom everything is gloomy) with five things in his first verses? In the first place, he mentions arms, secondly a refugee, and, thirdly, tossed by land and sea. In the fourth place he speaks of the might of the gods, because of the wrath of savage Juno, and, fifth, having suffered many things in war. Come now, my grammarian, and tell me: after all those dire things, and after so many calamities, who could be happy?
28. A REPRESENTATION OF TWO-FACED JANUS
Tell me: why does this god carries a pair of eyes on each of his two faces, and why he looks forwards and backwards? So that, while observing gift-givers with these eyes, with those ones he might spot those who are returning gifts they have borrowed.
29. AN EMPTY CIRCLE EMPLOYED AS A REPRESENTATION OF NOBODY
An accurate representation of Nobody is displayed here, very much like himself in his face, his eyes, and all his body. For if you were to look at him (as Homer saw him), you would doubt whether you were seeing his image, or him himself.
30. TO THE POET SIR ROBERT AYTON
He who praises his mistress’ locks, ivory neck, and starry eyes, is he not Always Energy (αἰεί τόνος )? He who sings outright of ladies with divine pedigrees and the ardors of heroes, is he not Always Energy? He who is always producing a song with his smooth quill, a priest of the Muses, is he not Always Energy? How agreeable to Phoebus, what a great name he has with the girls, in order to be Always Energy, this Ayton of ours!
31. TO THOMAS DEMPSTER, PROFESSOR OF LAW AT BOLOGNA
While you, far from your homeland and a new guest in Latin climes, serve as an ornament to your nation, you learned poet, and retrieve learned men’s writings from darkness, men whom Scotland now proclaims to have returned to their nation, having once been far removed, they also say that our nation is is honored by having you as a poet. Lest you undertake these efforts in vain, Dempster, Scotland will now call you the father of your country.
32. ON PHILIP, AN ERSTWHILE NOBLEMAN, MOCKING PAPIST RITES blue
Recently noble Philip was deriding Papist rites and ceremonies, their shaved pates and bare feet, their chastity and their impious hood, saying “By these things Papist ardor used to deceive the wretched common folk with its swindles. Thanks to these, the Church dedicated cathedrals to the Lord, and gained mastery over heaven and the fires of Hell, when it made offerings, not of the guts of four-footed beasts, with with a mind impiously disposed towards the Thunderer above.” To whom Gryllus quickly retored, “But, Philip, if a prior age had not consecrated churches to God when it lived in Papist darkness, you would not have a doorway, a portico, or arches, nor a place to sleep.”
33. ON THE SAME
Whoever says that Carinus will be a fine fellow will think that bulls can find and outstrip the winds with their speed. Whoever says that Carinus will be a fine fellow will think that the day swims in darkness and Phoebus in the pellucid sea. Whoever says that Carinus will be a fine fellow thinks that this earth can be moved and the sky can swim in the middle of the earth. Let him believe these things and think they will come to pass, whoever says that Carinus is a fine fellow.
34. TO ANDREW AIDIE OF ABERDEEN
Some envious soul or other is said to be carping at my poems, with the intent of harming my Paphian jokes with his sharp tooth. If I find out who he is, or if you ever chance to see him, Aidie, despatch him down to the gates of eternal Hades.
35. TO JOHN COCKBURN, CARVER TO PRINCE CHARLE S
Nature gave birth to Cockburn, a favorable fortune reared him, and fostering Grace gave him his manners. Tritonia brought him the arts of his wit, and Mother Venus provided Cockburn with his character. Phoebus preferred Cockburn to countless others, and introduced him into my Aonian verses.
36. ON FLACCUS, A POET
It is a dire crime to assemble a filthy satire out of your measurers or mention the names of the old gods in your verse. It is a dire crime to be playful with your Thalia smiling sweetly, and to crack jokes in easy words. You only like grave things, and the holy things that come first in your opinion, and whatever the holy pages of Scripture endorse. But this is no crime, Flaccus, to employ the words of Scripture in play, and enliven your witticisms (otherwise often insipid) with them. If you do this, grave though you are, you will also appear to be such, and with justice. This grave crime allows you to go about as a grave bard.
37. THE DISSIMILAR HUNTING EXPEDITIONS OF CINNA AND PONTIA
Cinna went out to hunt, as did Pontia. She was equipped after the fashion of Venus, he after that of the virgin goddess. She was seeking for a marriage-chamber, he for forests and outspread fields. She was distinguished by her shield, he by his javelins. She wanted to carry off her quarry, he to kill his, she came to remain, he to chase his quarry. She was eager to catch a young man in the flower of his first youth, he to catch a high-horned stag. The outcome of this sport was that he carried back a horned stag, whereas she brought back the man she had caught.
38. ON SCOTSMEN WHO APE FOREIGN MANNERS
Your Frenchman rarely goes abroad: he sticks to his threshold, always happy to be at his own door. Your Dutch merchant goes running off to the East Indies, whereas your Spaniard gives names to newly-discovered lands. Your bolder sort of Englishman steers his ship about the ocean and the gulfs of this world, inspecting both poles. Your Italian is a tourist in Greek climes, and your German in Italian ones, whereas your Scandinavian becomes icebound in freezing waters. But your more fickle Scotsman never plants his feet in any one place, and ranges all over the long roads of land and sea, and thus he brings home the manners of the Frenchman, the Dutchman and Spaniard, the Briton, the Scandinavian, the German, and the Italian. But he makes a distinction in these manners. The Englishman, the Dutchman, and the Scandinavian are commercial, and the common run of Germans are idlers. There are three qualities he wants for himself, deeming them the highest summit of nobility: the mercurial nature of the Frenchman, Italian deceit, and Spanish arrogance. Thus, while he apes these all and does not wish to be deemed a single kind of man, he ceases to be anything and commences being nothing.
39. TO NIGHT, HIS GUARDIAN SPIRIT, AND THE HOUSEHOLD GODS, ON THE OCCASION OF HIS FIRST MEETING WITH THE LEGALIST T. HOPE
Oh blessed peace of quiet night, you who drive away the bright day with your dark cloud, and my guardian spirit, who manages the trackless ways of bright intellect and the deep recesses of the heart, and you, household gods of Hope’s threshold, you all who have led me to this pinnacle, there were I was permitted to gaze fixedly on him over whom the Muse and Themis share their care, a man touched by the leafy wand of Apollo, whose mouth has been equipped with ambrosia’s juice by Suasion, and upon whom Venus has showered delightful graces, together with the beauty of his elegances. Because it has now been granted me to gaze upon him and enter into conversation, I shall give a thousand iambic verses and a thousand limping scazons, and the same number of blinking Phalacians together with incense, honey, and fine wine, I shall offer to you night, guardian spirit, and household gods.
40. ON A CERTAIN MAN WHO DOUBTS EVERYTHING
You poor fellow, you should learn how vague opinion abandons a doubting mind, and how you ought not be play Carneades to yourself. I have the shade of a holm-oak, next to a double fountain, and I’ve never seen this to be in a state of doubt. A nearby Naiad waters this with her streams and delights in her waters while the sun shines. When you have spent three hours here, your gluttony suppressed, you may thrice doubt whether you are dead or alive.
The ignorant common folk call him a papist. The ignorant common folk deny he’s a papist. You know the man quite well, Perillus, so tell me, is he a Christian or a Mammonite?
42. THE TOMB OF JOHN SYMMER OF BALLYORDIE
Winter prevails, summer is over. It’s no wonder that summer is finished, with the winter now coming in.
43. PHYLLIS REPROACHES DEMOPHOON FOR HIS INGRATITUDE
I, Phyllis, granted you my wealth and my help, my kingdom, my harbor, and my bed, a gullible girl granting these to a man she had come to know. Was this a gift, or was it death by hospitality, the tomb for your rescuer? I was deceived by you, Demophoon, but I was not false to you.
44. VENUS AND MARS
When Venus went about, wounded by Diomedes’ weapon and wailing that she had been harmed by a mortal hand, Mars smiled and, leaning on his Thracian spear, he said, “Your bowers are not here, divine Cypris”
45. ON THE DRUNKEN PASTOR OF A CERTAIN CHURCH
I am not surprised that you have been accustomed to show your congregation the true Salvation and the holy teachings of our sacred Way. But I am surprised that you, who can barely keep your footing on earth, can lead them to heaven by a straight path.
46. ON PURUS, A VERY IMPURE MAN
Do you see impure Purus’ face, marked as it is? How Bacchus’ jewels stand out on his red cheeks? This man, who pretends to imitate the Curios and the Catos themselves in their gravity, and also makes noise about God’s holy mysteries, nevertheless often celebrates the unspeakable rites of the Good Goddess as he lurks in a low-down tavern.
47. ON A JEALOUSLY PROTECTIVE FATHER
Why, my misguided friend, do you greatly fear for your young girl and put your trust in rumor, provoked by lies? Since Mulciber caught sight of Idalian Dione with Mars, what if you find out your daughter is a Lycoris? Pallas has her aegis: no face of Medusa the Gorgon, no spear, no weapon is lacking to a virgin, and yet weapons, captains, serried ranks of shields and cells bound tight with brazen chains cannot keep a single girl stainless, if Cythera or Cupid have persuaded her of something.
48. TO SIR JOHN SCOTT OF SCOTSTARVET
Nisus and Euryalus thrive forever, as does Pollux with Castor, Theseus with Peirithous, and Tydeus with his Polynices, Jesse’s famed son with good Jonathan, and Laelius with Scipio. He who scorned Pylades also scorned his friend Orestes, and Achilles together with the son of Menoetius. He who had once harmed Pythias had Damon to fear. These were names of great friendship. You must take care, Scott, that our reputation should not lapse into obscurity, and you will come to occupy the tenth place, with me as your companion.
49. TO CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES
The swan is a bird who is only tuneful when a zephyr is blowing, and then out of its gentle neck it softly redoubles its tune. Oh Charles, a winged poet takes note of these noble birds: what prevents you from being a zephyr for your swan?
50. TO JAMES MAXWELL, GENTLEMAN OF THE KING’S BEDCHAMBER, GARTER KING OF ARMS
To tell the truth, it is a hard thing for me either to break my silence or to keep it. These are hard things, Maxwell, but the hardest is to speak, if I chance to be useless in my speaking. What to do? My affection stands in the way of holding my tongue, but my sense of duty says I should, and my sense of shame makes me waver. Should I keep silent about your merit, or about the gifts of your fine mind, or rather about neither, or should I sing to you about them both? I shall do it and not do it. For in this short epigram I keep silent while I speak, and speak while I keep silent.
51. TO JOHN MARSHALL
I send you a gift of seven letters contained in a poem, Marshall, you large portion of my soul. The first is the first letter of Palamedes’ bird, and the next, Ian, is the letter of a furious god. The third is that of a prosecutor, and the fourth belongs to the condemned (if there is also room for this word in an Ausonian courtroom). The fifth, if you credit me, is the first of your name, and the sixth is the first letter of Cadmus’ alphabet. Take the final one from when you bid a friend hail and farewell. Now you have the gift of your grateful admirer.
52. ON HAUGHTY POSTHUMUS
Wherever your steps take you, Posthumus, whether you head for the courts or the crowded streets, your Tyrian garment is fragrant with Achaeminid spices, and a gleaming ring shines on your fingers. Because your belt gleams with a covering of gold and you have an embroidered cloak on your shoulders, you wish to be a somebody whom the idle commons and the entire Parliament will adore, somebody to whom every man and woman will bend a knee, a man to whom the son of Thetis or the power of Telamonian Ajax would defer, or even that rival of the great gods. You fancy that you are that Hector, whose golden image shines alone on your sword. Woe’s me, what manner of man do we have here? How he has changed from being that Hector! Now I see a sword, but not a man.
53. CONTEMPORARY SUITORS AND GIRLS
Phoebus burned with a fire kindled by the Peneian nymph, but she cheated the will of the eager god. Fair Syrinx fled from her goat-footed lover, and in the spreading countryside Eurydice was a source of toil for a satyr. But nowadays, you gods, what kind of madness and misrepresentation to we have! Whatever girl flees is a pursuer, and whatever girl pursues flees.
54. CONCERNING JOVE, TO KINGS WHO ARE FANCIERS OF GODS OF ANTIQUITY
He who on high hurled thunderbolts with his armed hand, the king and god of mankind, and the king and father of the gods, became a bull, a swan, a satyr, a snake, a goddess, a shepherd, gold, flame and a man for the sake of his mistress. And so, my kings, to whom do you offer up your cinnamon? To yourselves. For I fancy that you are this sort of Jove.
55. ON THE SAME
What misdeed, what crimes do men leave undone on this earth, if he who governs the heavens is governed by every misdeed?
56. WHAT KIND OF WIFE HE HOPES TO HAVE
A Frenchwoman is possessed of doubtful fidelity after being given as a bride to her husband, but is careful about her chastity while still unwed. A Scotswoman is possessed of sure fidelity after being given as a bride to her husband, but is careless about her chastity while still unwed. If I am going to have any wife, I pray that she be a Frenchwoman while unwed, but a Scotswoman once she has been married.
57. ON THE PHYSICIAN ALEXIS (AFTER NICANDER’S GREEK)
Doctor Alexis administered five clysters, and likewise purged five patients. He found five men laid low with disease and he applied a balm to those five. These men shared five treatments, one last night, and a single undertaker. One tomb and one Underworld befell them all, not without a single lamentation.
58. ON THREE SLENDER GENTLEMEN, FROM NICARCHUS’ GREEK
Once three slender men had a competition to determine which had the thinnest body. This was the beginning of the dispute: The first, showing off his skill at sewing, went through the eye of a needle while holding a thread. The second stood on a fabric spun by Arachne, hanging from the little creature’s web with no great weight. The third exclaimed, “Award me the palm and the crown. If I’m visible, I’m bested, for I’m no body at all.”
59. ON A FLEA
Little flea, why wander about begrudging my eyes their sleep, hopping hither and thither and tickling me? I’m not the succulent maiden you imagine me to be, I’m not. I have not yet acquired any partner in my bed, any object of her mother’s and father’s concern, over whose ruby lips, cheeks painted with snow and scarlet, the twin lids of her dear little eyes, and likewise her neck, dainty leg, and whatever other desirable features might remain, hidden by Venus in chaste shadows, you might flit, munching away. If you think I am she, my dark little flea, my little flea, my tiny one, you are mistaken. So I shall show you the way, and you can depart from here, granting my eyes a little rest. But if you persist in denying me the gifts of night and sleep, I mean sweet, soft, brief repose, I shall fetch a horrid and savage little Parca who will squish your black breast and your dark little feet, stripping you of your tunic and your tiny little skin, and send you off to Orcus naked enough, as a companion to Vergil’s famous gnat .
60. TO ARTHUR JOHNSTONE M. D., POET LAUREATE
A few days ago, Johnstone, some misfortune begrudged you to me, and me to you, when each of us went in search of the other and each of us eluded the other. You were looking for me after I had begun to look for you. If I am not mistaken, you were at my house, and I was at yours. This was a mistake, for, had I had looked for you at my house, or you for me at yours, each of us would easily have found the other on the same day, hour, and minute. Onopordus, that very image of Bavius, will smile at this and give a cheer for the Furies and his own stars. So you must let me see you and tell me when I can come to see you.
61. DEPARTING BALNAMOON, MAY DAY 1617
Distinguished for your years and the merits of your men, you ornament of the Collaces, claimed by the god mighty in war on the one side and Themis on the other, and by a home which, oh, is tumbledown and yet has dared brave three hundred winters, whence came my grandfather, my mother, and my tutor, where I was permitted to take my first steps, farewell, be mindful of this poet, who cannot ever be unmindful of you. If I gain the laurel of Clarian trophies, you have a share in the glory of my genius.
62. TO WILLIAM HERBERT, EARL OF PEMBROKE
This is not a puffed-up piece of paper which will speak your stupendous name with fawning praise or bequeath it to posterity with a pen that invites envy, great Herbert. He who wishes to praise you should praise the Muses, Pallas, and the Graces.
63. TO WILLIAM LESLIE, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN KING’S COLLEGE, ABERDEEN
You should not care a hair, Leslie, whether people read of you in Book One, Book Four, or any other Book of my volume. Even if you you were placed in Book One, you have the reputation of being my ultimate friend. Yet you do not begin the list of my friends, nor should you care a hair about this. Rather (unless you happen to imagine you are being teased), you should think that your value is assigned a greater weight than that of an entire head, and I do not mean a bald one.
64. TO HIS JOHN WEEMS
You demand a home and a place in my slim volumes, my friend, so that your name will live on. While my poems are running along, you ask that they pause? Who could be vainer than my dear wee Weemsie?
65. ON GAURUS, A PRIEST
When Gaurus was bawling out his usual Pater Noster in the winter cold, in unintelligible tones, his rectum complainingly answered him in equally incomprehensible tones. “That’s good,” said the priest. For a priest does well when he has a companion in his prayers.”
66. GIRLISH ARTS
Faces are brought forth out of various cosmetic boxes, tresses are coiffed, a flabby side is bound tight. Pallor, and hence emaciation, is acquired from black charcoal, and feet are made lovely by binding them tight. Tender young girls endure even more. Why so? So that they may devour undecided men.
67. ON GLYCERE
Because you put on a pretty face taken from your cosmetic-boxes, Glycere, because your hair is coiffed, not without style, because a diamond glitters on your finger and a beryl in your ear, because your narrow waist and feet are comely, and a jeweled necklace encircles your milk-white neck, because your garment is delightful with a foreign scent, because your step is light and you bat your eyes as they range about, because many a smile sits upon your lips, because your breasts are more than half–exposed and your skirt barely covers your legs, because you seek out leisure and frequent dances, because you move your feet with fitting art and you lewdly keep company with girls of your own age, often singing of the wanton adulteries of the goddess of Paphos, and because you issue forth sighs at the sight of a young man, Glycere -- I am no diviner, but I understand what you want.
68. DEPARTING SCOTLAND, OCTOBER 1 1617
Oh land mighty with your men and your strivings, whether surly Mars summons you to arms and you rush forth, covered with Getic dust, or whether there is need of your wit, the patronage of stern Minerva, you land which is the glory and honor of the Pierian choir, whether you owe your scepter to Gathelus’s descendant Fergus, or whether you gain your name as a refugee from Scythian waters, land which has been ruled in an unbroken line of a hundred kings and more down to your name, great James, sweet land, farewell for a little while. You allow this, sweetest land, Scotland, or perhaps you love to be called fatherland. I am called by the placid Loire, the very quick-flowing stream of the Rhone, and the Seine, first among noble rivers, I am called by the Garonne, falling from its tiny source. Here good Phoebus and the friendly crew of the Aonians promise rest for my Muses, as long as the darling Scot, my friend, refuses nothing for his bard, and provides for him in his absence. Cherishing this man, my land, keep me in your memory always, whether the Fates grant me a return or give me death. But what return or death can the Fates grant me, if that friend of mine remains with you and survives? Oh let him survive, and let him remain! Thus, even if dead and gone, now I live with you, I die with you.
69. TO DAVID MITCHELL
If the Loire could be the Dee, or the Garonne could be the Clyde, I should greet you, one poet to another. Now, since so many miles of ground separate us, Mitchell, I must send you my greetings rather than speaking them. And, lest this greeting should chance to pass through empty air, I have given it a traveling-companion: farewell.
70. TO LAURENCE SKINNER, ABOUT HIS APPLES WHEN HE WAS ABOUT TO SEND THEM
On the first day of January, Skinner, when I was hastening to send sweet apples to my patron, a debilitating disease once more put me in my bed, and the sinister Parca dared lay her greedy hands on me. But you may congratulate your friend: the storm subsided, and now my mind and my spirit have returned to their Muses. And yet I am shunning apples, for they were the seeds of my evils, the first-beginnings of my sadness. For when I was singing of apples, the Parca (horrible with her snaky locks) thought I was singing of evils. And so she said, “Oh you great bard of my evils, you may have these rewards matching your verses.” but when she saw that it was apples of which my Muses had been singing, that virago blushed, being misled by the ambiguous word.
71. TO SIR ROBERTUS DOBBIE, WHEN HE SENT HIM THE SCOTSMAN JAMES BONAVENTURE HEPBURN’S VOLUME CONTAINING THE ALPHABETS OF LANGUAGES AS A GIFT
This was a great, noteworthy gift of divine genius, you noble scion and ornament of the house of Dobbie, when you lately presented me with 3 + 4 x 10 languages spoken by every man in the world. What am I to say? I was uncertain whether to stand in awe at this heavenly gift or whether to receive it with silent mental joy. I was awe-struck the more. For who would imagine all these things were concealed in the breast of the single man Hepburn? Yet I was excited the more, rejoicing at such a great gift, worthy of the affection I have for Dobbie. Meanwhile, receive now my Muses, Dobbie, these are my presents in exchange for such great ones, albeit not equal to yours — who would dare venture that? Nor does my effort disport itself with such great artfulness. Nevertheless these things have their honor, and there is gratitude in their doing, and we musical crew are not so low-down. For compare the Muse and the art of speaking in diverse tongues: the one has men as its doers, the other has gods.
72. TO THE REVEREND THOMAS GOAD, CHAPLAIN TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, ON THE PRAISER AND THE FLATTERER
When you praised me (although I deserved less praise), at first I bit my tongue, and then I modestly expressed my thanks, as was fitting. But when I attempt to extol you, who deserved the greatest praise by far, you silence me with a modest jest, and request that I steer clear of the reefs, nor sail blindly towards the hidden rocks of flattery. I defer to your better advice. For praise often walks closely on the heels of deceit, and the flatterer always invites deceit as praise’s companion. Indeed, if a composer of anagrams should write out these two words, he who craves to be deemed a praising adulator will prove to be a flattering adulturer .
73. HE BIDS ADIEU TO THE DELIGHTS OF ENGLAND
Tobacco and Father Iacchus, and the honeys of bitter Venus, the triple cause and fodder of my strange distress, you Devil’s triad, equal yet not equal, farewell. You must keep on being unequal in an equal way, and let Bacchus incite tobacco, and the tobacco-plant incite Bacchus, the fire-bearing inciting the fire-born and the fire-born inciting the fire-bearing. Assuredly, considering you and the honeys of bitter Venus, I have no idea whether to start a fire or to endure one.
74. TO JOHN COCKBURN, MEAT-CARVER TO PRINCE CHARLES
Nature gave birth to Cockburn, good fortune reared him, fostering Grace bestowed on him his manners, Tritonia conferred on Cockburn the arts of his intellect, and Venus herself granted Cockburn his nature. Phoebus preferred Cockburn to countless others, and hence introduced him into my Boeotian measures.
75. ON RUFUS, NEITHER BLACK NOR WHITE
Once upon a time, Rufus refused to be either black or white. He refused to be either a good man or a bad one He refused to remain in that doubtful space between black and white. He refused to be something, he refused to be nothing. But now, when he wretchedly suffered from Venus’ special kind of gout, do you doubt what he is? Not at all, for he is a bad man.
76. TO JOHN YOUNG, DEAN OF WINCHESTER
You who are supported by the sweet indulgence of our heavenly Father and our sovereign’s favor, Young, dear to God and the ruler of mankind, uniquely dear to one and all, albeit you are young in your countenance, yet you are an old man in your heart and your mind so that you may continue to be dear to everyone, dearest Young. And yet could not be dearer to my Muses. So that you might live as young man in all men’s eyes, assuredly you cannot be junior in my verses.
77. ON HUGO GROTIUS, ESCAPED FROM PRISON WITH THE HELP OF HIS CHEST
So that he might escape the darkness and protracted tedium of undeserved imprisonment, Grotius shut himself up in a chest, having cannily removed its books, and escaped everybody’s clutches, this scheme proving favorable. When the porter came to lift him up, thus enclosed, shifting the burden onto his shoulders so that he could better carry the weight, he groaned “God help me in this effort. I believe that here we have more than a countless number of books.”
78. YET MORE
Consider Daedalus, the son of Aegeus, and ancient times, make your comparison, and turn your eyes to our deceits. You will not find a similar deed, done with such immense enterprise. Trust me, this business was designed by the gods. The son of Aegeus rescued himself with a thread and Daedalus with his wings, but Grotius by himself surpassed all these things. He imprisoned himself so as to get out of prison, and he was his own jailor so that he would be a free man.
79. YET MORE
So as to avoid a cheap coffin, clever Grotius shut himself in a chest, and by this device he escaped the clutches of his guardians. Death laughed at this deed, and, putting away his bow and his quiver, said “Live on in accordance with your destiny, you poet. Live on in accordance with mine.”
80. WHY THE AUTHOR NEEDS TO LEAD A BACHELOR’S LIFE
If you want a wife mighty in her handsomeness and strong in her beautiful body, let a British girl enter into your embraces. If you desire acres, an ancestral home, and coins in a money-chest, let a French girl enter your bedroom. If your heart is greatly transfixed with Idalian fire, you should court a girl with entreaties delivered in the Ausonian tongue. If the tools of Hellespontic Priapus are goodly in your sight, let a dark little Spanishwoman yield to your wishes. If you are strong for passing your nights with Bromius and dancing, you should seek your wife from Teutonic soil. He who is strong for sturdiness, wealth, fire, the penis, and dancing may have a partner for this kind of marriage. Our Aonian father dragged me away from the marriage-chamber, saying, “There will be no woman your nature would select.”
81. TO JOHN ADAMSON, PREACHER OF GOD’S WORD AT LIBERTON
Oh you whom fair-minded Phoebus embraces with double affection, as you amiably apply your healing hands to your lute, skilled both in herbs and in measures, do your duty by him who is always binding himself to you with new dutifulness. A fierce kind of biliousness was besieging my disgraceful stomach, whose color was inflamed, and whose strength was fiery. Now it forbade Ceres and Bacchus to my wretched mouth, for it made me spew my ill-digested food. You commanded this ailing poet to hope for the better, and you offered healing cups to my lips: healing cups, but with the power to explore the hidden veins of my stomach and winding ways of my gut. Without day the disease was expelled by a violent exertion of my muscular spasms, and the noxious humor departed via my esophagus. Another portion of it, wandering through various twists and turns, departed by that slippery route so familiar to my excreted meals. What debt will I owe you in exchange for these good offices and such a benefit? How can my verses repay it? As far as I am concerned, you will be my son of Philyra, my Podalyrus and my Machaon, you will be my Paeon and my Melampus. And whenever Lachesis (but taking a long time for it) loosens your limbs and when you are reduced to naught but dust, you will go to the Lyre, next to Arion, or to that double star, a star bearing the name of Adamson.
82.TO LEWIS STEWART, ROYAL ADVOCATE IN THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENTYou ask me to repay my debt, I am eager to do so. But I ask you, Lewis, how am I to do so? You demand that I show my gratitude, I am eager to do so. But I ask you, Lewis, how am I to do so? “Repay me with poetry,” you say. “At least you are a poet.” But I ask you, Lewis, how am I to do so? If you ask for my due gratitude in a verse, you are asking me to measure out countless measures. But if you do not require proper verses and due gratitude, behold, you may see everything paid off in twelve verses.
83. TO THE REVEREND THOMAS GOAD, PRINCIPAL CHAPLAIN TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Come hither, hither, you hendecasyllables, as many of you as are, or henceforth will be, or have been in the past, come hither, hither, you hendecallybles. Goad is inviting you (and his invitation is a command), Goad, that father of the elegancies, Goad, that ornament of the goodly arts, Goad, that ornament of all good men, Goad, who is upright, golden, and learned, Goad, who is pious, innocent, and modest, Goad, entirely the pith of the Graces, Goad, the lips of elegant Persuasion, Goad, who loves and cultivates you full well, Goad, who loves and cultivates me full well. If you chance to wonder why he summons you, it’s no great trouble to tell you. But either come hither, you hendecasyllables, or leave here and go to him.
84. ON THE POETS OF THIS AGE, TO JAMES SCOTT, FIRST CLERK OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
What should I say that poets have such a lowly name and the glory that extols the Pierian nymphs is nowadays rare? Is it not that the gods have ordained by an eternal law that the periods for their geniuses are to be variable? Is that not we are overwhelmed by our numbers, Scott, now that each one signs his verses with the title of “poet” as he prostitutes the goddesses for a price, places servants on an equal footing with their masters, and dances attendance on one and all, or rants with the satires of his mad Muse, with wit and wounding, like a Bacchante set in motion by the Ogygian god? Your noble poet observes these things as he languishes in the shadow of obscurity, holding in contempt the lot and unpopularity of a bard. This man conceives of thing greater than royal courts, or even of a prince himself, being inspired by a more generous god. He is a bee, who, requiting good services with worthy rewards, possesses honey and, when he chooses, darts of bile. He, a novel imitator of nature and life in this world, is the nearest to the great gods in his mind his spirit. The rest of the throng, Scott, consists of flatterers or madmen. This is the man who is given a draught of Aonian water.
85. ON CASTOR’S NOSE
Castor’s outstanding nose towers above all others, there’s no line of work for which it does not have great advantages. For it can be a spade, a sickle, a plow, a hinge, an anchor, a bugle, and a fishing-hook, a hatchet, a chisel, a fork for meat, a tool useful for a ditcher, a vintner, a farmer, for a door, a ship, and for weaponry, for fishing, for smiths, and for smoky cooks. It has great uses for others, but evidently none for its owner, since it is not a flagon full of merry wine.
86. ON THE VERY FAMOUS POET SIR ROBERT AYTON
The name which Cypris shot with her Acidalian arrow, the name with which Paphian Eros is eager to sport, the name in which Phoebus take delight while with his soft thumb he plies his ivory lyre in Hyantaean waters, a name than which none is better known to the Muses, a name which the goodly triad of the Graces would wish to be their own, a peace-loving name, fit for a thousand elegances, indulged by Suasion, a name possessed of humor with no bile, a name heard by Jupiter on harmonious Olympus while Phrygian lad is mixing his happy cups, a name on which earth, air, and the water of the sea all agree — tell me this name. Ayton.
87. MARS AND EROS
Ferocious with his sword and his spear, in heaven Mars was boasting of his battles in the presence of supreme Jove. Eros laughed, grasping his torches and his bulging quiver: “Battles are also welcome to my mother.”
88. MARS AND BACCHUS
While Mars, fearful in his helmet and the scales of his bronze breastplate, raged in the presence of the Ogygian god, displaying himself in his armor, just as he looked when he went into battle in Aemonian dust, glaring, he clutched his Getic spear and railed at Bacchus, saying “Whoever has seen your darts, Evoe?” Evoe smiled, clutching his cup and his tankard, and replied, “Mars, what if my weapons make you drop yours?”
89. TO ADAM KING, POET AND MAGISTRATE OF THE COMMISSARY COURT AT EDINBURGH
Aware of your destiny, most learned poet, the Muse gave you your name and your surname: the one because you are a king, the other because you have the repute of being a father of poets, and, King, both names derive from your merit.
90. ON THE NAME OF GAUL
It is wholly uncertain whether Gaul owe its name to Cybele’s Galli, or the chicks (galli) of Gradivus, or the name of the oak-apple (galla), or the Galatians (Galati), or perhaps the weasel (γαλέη), the helmet (galea), or possibly to milk (γάλα). When I was troubled about this and consulted Phoebus, he smiled and said, “Gaul greatly admires the helmet.”
91. DEPARTING FRANCE, MAY DAY 1620
Farewell, dear France, most welcome to me in my life, nevermore, perhaps, to be seen by my eyes again. Farewell, sweet France, you golden scepter of Jove, prime treasure-house of the wealthy goddess of Argos, the joy of Pomona, shade of Sylvanus, rose of Flora, delight of Bacchus, sweetness of Ceres, Elysian Fields of Pluto, Enna of Deois, forest and glade of Leto’s daughter, kisses of the Acidalian goddess, sports and furtive deeds of Dione, arrows, quiver and torches of the winged lad, the aegis and skilful hand of armed Minerva, the justice of Themis, the oft-sought tranquility of Peace, the herb of Paeon, the hand of Podalyrus, the glory of Phoebus, and the ornament and victory-prize of the rare Aonian choir, the laughter of Neptune, the helmet and spear of stern Mars, the zephyrs of Aeolus, the toil of Mulciber, the wares of Mercury, the unsullied marrow of Suasion, and the golden chain of the three Graces. Why list all the rest? Deserved Pandora of the gods and the object of my protracted longing, now, again, farewell, now a sweet farewell, you fairest land, which no hour will ever remove from my mind. And yet, although, fair land, you quite captivate my eyes, dusky Scotland is dearer to my spirit.
92. TO THE READER
When I was able to set aside my sad cares, I disported myself with these happy poems amidst my evils. I did not do so, dear reader (whoever you are going to be), so that I might please or displease you. Let these concerns touch other poets, on whom a better Apollo looks down, let them produce joking songs of which their Maecenas might approve with a friendly ear. A harsh fortune dogs my verses, my Thalia searches for a patron but sees none. Therefore it’s enough that I please myself. Thus I shall be my own poet, reader, and patron.
93. TO THOMAS GOAD, DOCTOR OF DIVINITY AND CHAPLAIN TO THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, ASKING THAT HE INTERVENE WITH HIS PRELATE ON THE POET’S BEHALF
1621, p. 51
I know by experiance that lately you have adjuged that his thunderbolts should be averted by your pray
ers, and I have discovered that our British Jove to be somewhat appeased, that the kindly Frenchman (who, uniquely, could grieve over that innocent girl’s downfall and my protracted incarceration) is bitten by no tooth of offense. Now, in the name of the very Graces, that ninefold throng of Muses, and Apollo, Goad, just sway that prelate of yours. Could not his wrath cool down by now? If it is a crime to have harmed someone with a harmful bite, it is no crime to have teased him with a harmless one. If I have harmed him, I have paid no slight forfeits. If I have teased him, I’ve paid forfeits that are heavy enough.
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