A Poem Your [Heart?] Desires

Martial, Epigrams 12.61

“Ligurra, you fear that I might compose
Verses against you, a brief, intense poem—
Oh how you long to seem worthy of this fear.
But you fear in vain, in vain you long.
The Libyan lions growl at bulls;
They do not pester butterflies.

I will advise you—if you are in pain to be read,
Find a drunk alley poet who writes
with broken coal or dusty chalk
the poems people read while shitting.
This face of yours can’t be known by my touch.”

Versus et breve vividumque carmen
in te ne faciam times, Ligurra,
et dignus cupis hoc metu videri.
sed frustra metuis cupisque frustra.
in tauros Libyci fremunt leones,
non sunt papilionibus molesti.
quaeras censeo, si legi laboras,
nigri fornicis ebrium poetam,
qui carbone rudi putrique creta
scribit carmina quae legunt cacantes.
frons haec stigmate non meo notanda est

5 responses

  1. Ah Ligurra, you’re quite afraid that I might write
    About you. Some nasty, pithy, diamond-shard of spite
    As is my wont. In fact, you quite like the idea.
    Well, don’t get your hopes up I’ll gratify that fear.

    I may be beastly but I claw with discretion,
    No stepping on insects, flattered to be flattened.

    I’ll give you a tip though, if that’s what you’re after,
    Go and hang around Soho, find some pissed up poet
    Who, for a half of lager, and in felt-tip pen,
    Will write something suitable on a toilet wall.

    So people having a shit can read all about
    Ligurra, who won’t get a single word from me.
    Not even “CUNT”, in capitals, on his forehead.

  2. My understanding of the last line is that it referred to some sort of facial branding identifying a slave/criminal – so I was looking for something that might have a similarly shocking resonance now.

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