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Bill Thayer

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Dulcis amica dei, semper vicina profundis,
Suave cano Musis, nigro perfusa colore
Nuntia sum linguae digitis signata ministris.


Companion of a god, the depths I'm always near,
I to the Muses sing and black appear,
By min'string fingers pressed, give the tongue's message clear.


Sweet mistress of a god, the steep bank's neighbor, sweetly singing for the Muses; when drenched with black, I am the tongue's messenger by guiding fingers pressed.

Editor's Additional Notes:

1 dei: the story of Pan and the nymph Syrinx is found in Ov. Met. I.690 ff. In Tib. II.5.29‑32 we have mention of the custom of hanging up in the groves the pipes sacred to Pan, as well as a description of the pipes themselves. Cf. Optat. Porf. Carm. XXVII.I (Syrinx): Praecelsae quercus frondenti in vertice pendens.

2 suave canens Musis: a favorite idea of idyllic poets. Cf. Auson, Idyl. XX.4: dulciloquos calamos Euterpe flatibus urget. Verg. Ec. I.2 speaks of pastoral song as the Musa silvestris. And music had her charms for the Cato of the Disticha, who says (I.27): Fistula dulce canit. — perfusa: the word is similarly used in aenig. VI.3. Even in our days of chemical inks, thin, watery ink and ink that has thickened are equal annoyances. What difficulties were experienced with ancient atramentum, composed (usually) of lampblack or nutgall dissolved in water along with gum or other resinous substance, is ironically told by Persius III.11 ff.:

Inque manus chartae, nodosaque venit arundo.

Tunc querimur, crassus calamo quod pendeat humor,

nigra quod infusa vanescat sepia lympha.

3 nuntia sum linguae: cf. Ov. Trist. V.13.29 ff.:

Sic ferat ac referat tacitas nunc littera voces,

et peragant linguae charta manusque vices

and ib. III.7.2: littera sermonis fida ministra mei.

Ohl's Critical Notes on the Latin Text:

Tit. Arundo β

1 de αD — amica ripae, semper vicina profundis ; Riese — sequor .

2 canis Ad; cano Baehr.

3 sunt bilinguȩ A; lingua β — stipata Heum.; signante Schenkl — magistri αβ ministris Baehr. Hoc aenigma extat in Hist. Apoll. Reg. Tyri c. 42, cuius in recensione meliore (codd. AP) cum B (β) congruit.

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Page updated: 17 Feb 06