Priapus Poems (contributed by Gaia Brusasco)

The Priapea is a collection of Latin poems of unknown authorship.  The mostly-short poems are dedicated to or written about the god Priapus, an unrealistically well-endowed minor deity of fertility.  Statues of Priapus were placed in gardens both to encourage fertility and to warn off thieves with an implied threat of rape.

The Priapea was very different from other Latin poetry I had encountered before and presented a whole slew of new challenges (especially in terms of vocabulary).  Even though the Priapea is not a standard text to include in a curriculum, I believe it is interesting to read as it shows a completely different style and content of Latin verse.

Gaia Brusasco

 

 

[IV]

Obscaenas rigido deo tabellas
dicans ex Elephantidos libellis
dat donum Lalage rogatque, temptes,
si pictas opus edat ad figuras.

Lalage gives obscene little tablets,

speaking according to the Elephantidian Books,

as a gift to the rigid god, and she asks that you test

if you can make the pictures into people.

[VIII]

Matronae procul hinc abite castae:
turpe est vos legere inpudica verba. —
non assis faciunt euntque recta:
nimirum sapiunt videntque magnam
matronae quoque mentulam libenter

 

Chaste matrons, go far away from here:

it’s indecent for you to read the unchaste words…

the matrons don’t care, they go right ahead:

they are too knowledgeable

and look at a huge willy too freely.

[X]

Insulsissima quid puella rides?
non me Praxiteles Scopasve fecit,
non sum Phidiaca manu politus;
sed lignum rude vilicus dolavit
et dixit mihi ‘tu Priapus esto’.
spectas me tamen et subinde rides:
nimirum tibi salsa res videtur
adstans inguinibus columna nostris.

What are you laughing at, most unwitty girl?

Neither Praxiteles nor Scopas made me,

nor was I polished by a Phidian hand

– instead a coarse farmer hacked at a stump

and said to me “You will be Priapus!”. 

However you look at me and immediately laugh:

something seems too amusing to you …

is it the column standing from my groin?

[XXIV]

Hic me custodem fecundi vilicus horti
mandati curam iussit habere loci.
fur habeas poenam, licet indignere ‘feram’que
‘propter holus’ dicas ‘hoc ego?’ ‘propter holus’.

The overseer of the fertile garden commanded me

to watch over this place as a guard. 

Thief, you’ll pay the price although you say indignantly, “I’ll endure this

just because of a cabbage??” “Yes, because of a cabbage.”

 

[XLII]

Laetus Aristagoras natis bene vilicus uvis
de cera facta dat tibi poma, deus.
at tu sacrati contentus imagine pomi
fac veros fructus ille, Priape, ferat.

Prosperous Aristagoras, the overseer to well-born grapes,

gives to you, god, fruits made of wax. 

But he asks that you, Priapus, content with the likeness of dedicated fruit,

make it into real fruits.

[XLVII]

Quicunque vestrum, qui venitis ad cenam
libare nullus sustinet mihi versus,
illius uxor aut amica rivalem
lasciviendo languidum, precor, reddat
et ipse longa nocte dormiat solus
libidinosis incitatus erucis.

Whichever of you who comes to dinner

and holds back from offering me any verses

– may his wife or girlfriend return to a rival,

I pray, who will be worn out with lascivious acts. 

But let him sleep alone the long night,

enraged with inflamed lust.

 

 

 

Chosen and translated by Gaia Brusasco.

 

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