Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sulpicia: The Second Poem

Whether, fierce churning Boars! in Meads ye stray,
Or haunt the shady Mountain's devious Way;
Whet not your Tusks, my lov'd Cerinthus spare!
Know, Cupid! I consign him to your Care.
What Madness 'tis, shagg'd tractless Wilds to beat,
And wound, with pointed Thorns, your tender Feet:
O! why to savage Beasts your Charms oppose?
With Toils and Blood-hounds why their Haunts inclose?
The Lust of Game decoys you far away;
Ye Blood-hounds perish, and ye Toils decay!
     Yet, yet could I with lov'd Cerinthus rove
Thro' dreary Desarts, and the thorny Grove:
The cumbrous Meshes on my Shoulders bear,
And dare the Monsters with my barbed Spear:
Could track the bounding Stags thro' tainted Grounds,
Beat up their Cover, and unchain the Hounds:
     But most to spread our artful Toils I'd joy,
For while we watch'd them, I could clasp the Boy!
Then, as entranced in amorous Bliss we lay,
Mix'd Soul with Soul, and melted all away!
Snar'd in our Nets, the Boar might safe retire,
And owe his Safety to our mutual Fire.
     O! without me ne'er taste the Joys of Love,
But a chaste Hunter in my Absence prove.
And O! may Boars the wanton Fair destroy,
Who would Cerinthus to their Arms decoy!
Yet, yet I dread! —Be Sports your Father's Care;
But you, all Passion! to my Arms repair!

Sulpicia (late 1st century BC) is the only Roman woman poet of whom more than a few lines have survived. I find reading Latin poetry in translations from the 17th or 18th centuries can add a compensatory distancing that modern-day translations can't offer, but this is only enjoyable when the translation is good. This one is not... It's by James Grainger (1759). There's a difficult-to-find modern version by John Heath-Stubbs, which I expect is infinitely better.

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