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This webpage reproduces the most minor of the
Carmina Minora

of
Claudian

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1922

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

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From the Shorter Poems

These are just the shortest or least consequential of the Carmina Minora. Numbers missing from the sequence are those of longer or more significant poems: you will find them linked on the index page.

p175 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I (XIII)
To Stilicho.

Crown with a wreath of flowers, Stilicho, that head more often graced with the shining helmet. Bid cease the trumpets and let the happy marriage-torch banish fierce war afar. Let the glory derived from a kingly race flow on through royal veins. Do a father's duty and establish the firm bond of wedlock between thy daughter and adoptive son. Thou wert an emperor's son-in‑law; now an emperor will be thine. What cause is there now for envy, what excuse for jealousy? Stilicho is at once father and father-in‑law.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] II (LXXXV)
Description of the harbour at Smyrna.

The city that meets our gaze veils the mountain peaks, fronting a tranquil sea. The two headlands that enclose the harbour protect the quiet water from the north wind. Here the sea is disarmed by the encircling land and learns to lie in undisturbed tranquillity.

p177 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] III (LXXXI)
To Aeternalis.1

Phoebus' every breath from the Castalian spring, the tripod's every moan within the shrine of prophecy — all these are poetry. Of prose the Muses will have none. In poetry only can I express myself, so wholly does my patron, Apollo, possess me.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] IV (LIV)
Description of a Herd.

Not such were the beauteous herds that the land once ruled over by triple Geryon produced. Not such the bulls thou bathest, Clitumnus, in thy stream for pious vows to offer duly to Tarpeian Jove. Not such the steer that, they say, scattered the sand of Tyre2 what time he brought home his well-loved burden. Not the fields of Crete, nor Gnossos that knew of passion for a bull, nor Ida could have pastured the like. Even he whose monstrous figure united ill-assorted limbs, the Cretan child3 who by his strange form revealed his mother's shame — even he could scarce have shown a shape so fair had all his rough limbs resembled those of his sire.

p179 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] V (LXXXVI)
A distant Scene.

There is a place deep buried in a huge bay where an island, stretching far out into the sea, stills the rough waves to quiet, and steep cliffs, jutting out into the broken water, curve themselves into a peaceful harbourage.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VI (LXXVIII)4
Anger affords a weapon to him who seeks one.

Whate'er it carries, that rage converts into a weapon. Wrath supplies all with arms. When an angry man thirsts for blood anything will serve him for a spear. Fury turns a stick into a cudgel.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VII (LXXXVII)
Statue of a Chariot.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 1. Who had the skill to fashion so many figures out of one block of marble? The chariot melts into the charioteer; the horses with one common accord obey the same reins. These are distinguishable by their various forms but made from one and the same material without distinction.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 2. The driver is of one piece with the car: to this are attached the steeds, each joined to, and proceeding out of, another. How admirable the artist's skill! A single block combines with itself all these bodies: one mass of marble by submitting to the chisel has grown into all these various shapes.

p181 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VIII (LXIX)
Of Polycaste and Perdiccas.5

To what deeds of cruelty will the flames of love not inspire mankind? Here is a mother who dares not love her child, the fruit of her body. Holding the unhappy boy to her snowy breast and wishing to give him suck, she conceives for him, though she is his mother, a shameful passion. Cupid, thou goest too far; put down thy cruel quiver. Consult Venus; mayhap she feels like pangs.

p185 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] X (XCII)
Of Beaver's Overcoat.6

'Tis but the shadow of a name that is left. I cannot call it a coat of beaver, not though Beaver swear it is one. It cost six shillings. Now you know what it is like. If you don't believe me, believe the price.a

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XI (XCI)
On the Tomb of a Beauty.

Fate allows not beauty a long life: sudden is the end of all that is noble and pre-eminent. Here lies a lovely woman: hers was the beauty of Venus and hers the illwill of Heaven for a gift so rare.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XII (LXXXIV)
Quintius' Baths.

Stay awhile and bathe in these waters, traveller; then set forth again upon thy journey refreshed. p187An thou become its guest, warm will be thy gratitude towards him that built this bath and set it by the side of this long dusty road.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIII (LXXIX)
To a gouty Critic.

Canst thou talk of feet? Dost blame my verses and criticize my lines, thou whose own feet are so weak? This couplet, you say, will scarcely stand: the scansion is shaky. Dear friend, a gouty man thinks nothing at all can stand.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIV (LXXXII)
To thank Maximus for a Gift of Honey.

Thou dost ever send me sweet gifts, Maximus; 'tis honey whatsoever thou sendest, methinks.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XV (LXXXIX)
The Poor Lover.

Biting poverty and cruel Cupid are my foes. Hunger I can endure; love I cannot.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XVI (XC)
The Same.

A hungry pauper am I, a victim fallen to love. Two ills; but poverty is the lesser.

p193 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XIX (XLIII)
Letter to Gennadius,7 ex-Proconsul.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Glory of all Italy, who dwellest on the pleasant banks of Rubicon, ornament of the Roman bar p195second only to Cicero, well known to the peoples of Greece and to Egypt, land of my birth (for both have feared and loved thy rule), dost thou ask for poems to appease thy hungry throat?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] By our friendship, I swear there are none at home. My verses soon learn to trust to their own wings and leave the nest, flying far afield nor ever returning to their humble home.

p271 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLII (LIII)
The Wild Boar and the Lion.

A dark boar and a tawny lion met once in battle, each exulting in his strength: the one shook his cruel bristles, the other his dreadful mane. One was Mars' favourite, the other Cybele's: both kings of the mountains, both engaged the labours of Heracles.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLIII (LXXV)
Against Curetius.8

Uranius, Curetius' father, could set deceptive stars in a sphere of glass, gloomily shake his head over the errant course of Saturn, or ensure for a trifle the favourable influence of Jupiter. The father's chicanery meets with its punishment, so long deferred, in the son whose mouth needs must pay the just penalty. For filthy are his delightsb and he wastes all his substance in wantoning and debauchery. And so the tongue of the son has squandered all the riches which that of his lying father gathered together.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLIV (LXXVI)
The Same.

Wouldst thou, Curetius, have sure knowledge of thy horoscope, I can give it thee better than even thy father. Thy madness thou owest to the evil influence of Mars; thine ignorance of poetry to enfeeblingc p273Mercury; thy shameful disease and premature decay to lady Moon and lady Venus; Saturn has robbed thee of thy property. But this one fact is beyond me:— what causes thy filthy ways?d

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] XLV (LV)
The Shell.

Nymph, come from Helicon and pour herein thy limpid waters; fill all the vast extent of this wondrous shell. Surely the water that has bathed the face of the poetess Serena will have more virtue than all the streams of Castalia.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Aeternalis was proconsul of Asia in 396 (Cod. Theod. IV.4.3, XI.39.12).

2 Tyrias, because Europa was the daughter of Phoenix, eponymous king of Phoenicia. Ovid depicts her as being carried away from Tyre. (Fasti V.605; Met. II.845).

3 i.e. the Minotaur.

4 See Introduction, p. xviii, note 2.

5 Perdiccas, the young hunter, is said to have fallen in love with his mother Polycaste (or Polycarpe) = the Earth (see Mythogr. Lat. II.130). Claudian inverts the story. For details see Höfer in Roscher's lexicon, art. "Perdix," col. 1953.

6 Claudian is, I think, punning on castor = a beaver, and Castor, the name of the owner of the coat. But castor in l. 2 might be taken to refer either to the god or to the animal.

7 Gennadius was by birth a Syrian (Synesius, Ep. 30); prefect of Egypt in 396 (Cod. Theod. XIV.27.1). He seems to have lived at Ravenna (Rubiconis incola). Birt (praef. p. xviii) thinks that line 2 refers to Symmachus, Gennadius' contemporary, not to Cicero.

Thayer's Note: As far as I can tell, "Ep. 30" is a mistake on the part of the Loeb editor; that letter is about a man by the similar name of Pentadius, but you'll notice my link, above, takes you to the intended passage — in Letter 73.

8 We know nothing further of Curetius.


Thayer's Notes:

a Si vous dites aux grandes personnes : "J'ai vu une belle maison en briques roses, avec des géraniums aux fenêtres et des colombes sur le toit . . . ." elles ne parviennent pas à s'imaginer cette maison. Il faut leur dire : "J'ai vu une maison de cent mille francs." Alors elles s'écrient : "Comme c'est joli !"

If you tell grown-ups: "I saw a beautiful pink brick house, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof. . . ." they just can't imagine the house. You have to tell them: "I saw a $300,000 house." Then they exclaim: "Oh, that's pretty!"

(Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince, my translation)

b "For filthy are his delights" is a bowdlerized translation, in which the whole point of the joke — what does his mouth have to do with anything? — is sidestepped. An accurate translation: "For he licks the filthy holes of the whore he craves".

c A mistranslation. Debilis is passive, not active: not enfeebling, but enfeebled. There is nothing enfeebling about Mercury, the planetary ruler of literature; but a weak Mercury, to use modern parlance — that is, a chart in which Mercury is in a weak position or combust or under an evil aspect for example, will weaken one's aptitude and appreciation for literature.

d Yet another bowdlerized translation in "what causes thy filthy ways?" More literally: "what causes this cunt-licking?"


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Page updated: 11 Aug 07