As those who follow me on Twitter know, my recent research project has involved translating some poems from the Priapea for the paper I’m giving at Feminism and Classics VI. As I’ve had to write these translations for my handout, I thought I’d post some examples here for those of you who are interested.
A note of caution – the language used in the translations below the cut is most definitely not safe for work, and I should probably advise that it might be a little strong for those under the age of 18. This is because the Latin itself is not safe for work, and I’m not going to go about adding more bowdlerisation to the world. Especially with poems in praise of the willy, as it would rather miss the point. As it were.
If you’re interested in looking at the Latin, an on-line text can be found here.
I could say to you, obliquely, “give to me
what you can give constantly, for nothing perishes thence.
Give to me what you will perhaps soon wish to give in vain,
when the hated beard possesses your besieged cheeks,
and which he gave to Jove, he who snatched from a sacred height
mixes wine cups pleasing to his lover,
that which the virgin gives to her amorous husband on the first night,
since, inexperienced, she fears the wound of another place.”
It’s much simpler to say “give me buggery” in Latin:
What else should I do? My Minerva is dull.
You ask, why is my obscene part without covering?
Ask why no god covers his own weapons.
The master of the world has his thunderbolt and holds it openly,
Nor is a covered trident given to the sea god.
Mars does not hide the sword through which he is strong,
Nor does the spear lurk in Pallas’ warm lap.
Surely it doesn’t shame Phoebus to carry golden arrows?
And Diana is accustomed to carry her quiver openly?
Surely Hercules doesn’t cover the strength of his knotty staff?
Surely the winged god doesn’t have his staff under his tunic?
Who sees Bacchus pulling a cloak over his gracious thyrsus,
Who sees you, Love, with a hidden torch?
Let it not be my crime that my prick is revealed.
If this, my weapon, were absent, I’d be defenceless.
Whoever comes here, let him be a poet
and give me droll verses.
Let him who does not do this walk among
the polished poets plagued with piles.
If in what I say I seem to be rustic and ignorant,
Pardon me: I collect apples, not books.
But rough as I am, I was forced to listen often to my master
reading Homer’s stuff, and I’ve learnt it by heart.
He calls what we call a prick a psolenta keraunon,
and what we call an arse, he calls a kouleon.
An unclean thing is certainly called merdaleon,
and a buggering prick is indeed merdalea.
What then? If Trojan prick had not pleased Spartan
cunt, there’d have been no need for what he sings.
If Tantalidian prick had not been so well known,
there would have been nothing for old Chryses to complain about.
The same thing robbed his friend of a tender girlfriend,
who was Achilles’ and preferred to stay his.
He sang a miserable song to a Pelethronian lyre,
being himself more tightly strung than his lyre.
Certainly the noble rage born here began the Iliad,
this was the beginning of the sacred song.
The mistake of disappointed Ulysses is another subject:
if you seek the truth, love moves this too.
Here the root is read about, from which a golden flower comes,
which is named with moly – prick was the moly.
Here we read Circe and Calypso
sought the abundant implement of the Ionian man.
Even the daughter of Alcinous marveled at his member,
which he could scarcely cover with a fronded branch.
However, he was hurrying back to his own old woman,
and his whole mind, Penelope, was on your cunt:
you who stayed chaste thus, to see feasts already
your house was full of fuckers.
So that you might know which of them was stronger,
to the erect suitors you said these words:
“No-one holds a member better than my Ulysses,
whether it was his strength or act of art.
Since he has died, now pay attention: I will know
what sort of man will be my man.”
Penelope, I could have pleased you with this proposition,
but at that time I had not yet been made.