Martial [Marcus Valerius Martialis]

Gideon Nisbet (ed.), Oxford World's Classics: Martial: Epigrams

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104

  • Picto quod iuga deligata collo
  • pardus sustinet improbaeque tigres
  • indulgent patientiam flagello,
  • mordent aurea quod lupata cerui,
  • quod frenis Libyci domantur ursi
  • et, quantum Calydon tulisse fertur,
  • paret purpureis aper capistris,
  • turpes esseda quod trahunt uisontes
  • et molles dare iussa quod choreas
  • nigro belua non negat magistro:
  • quis spectacula non putet deorum?
  • haec transit tamen, ut minora, quisquis
  • uenatus humiles uidet leonum,
  • quos uelox leporum timor fatigat.
  • dimittunt, repetunt, amantque captos,
  • et securior est in ore praeda,
  • laxos cui dare peruiosque rictus
  • gaudent et timidos tenere dentes,
  • mollem frangere dum pudet rapinam,
  • stratis cum modo uenerint iuuencis.
  • haec clementia non paratur arte,
  • sed norunt cui seruiant leones.

Translation

104

That the leopard endures a yoke hitched to its spotted neck, and monstrous tigers concede submission to the whip; that stags bite on toothed bits, fashioned in gold; that Libyan bears are broken to the reins, and a boar, big as Calydon's in legend,* yields to a purple halter; that ugly bison haul war-chariots, and that the behemoth, commanded to show off his graceful dancing, does not disappoint his black trainer: who would not think these are the gods' own shows?

But whoever sees the lions humbled in their hunting, worn out by the swift skittishness of the hares, skims those other sights and reckons them sideshows. They let them go, they chase them down again, and dote upon them once caught; their prey is safer in their mouths than out. The lions enjoy holding their jaws agape, anxiously restraining their bite so the hares can hop in and out. To munch such thin pickings would embarrass them, since they have just come from bringing down bullocks. This forbearance is not a trick they have been taught; the lions know whom they serve.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1.104 big as Calydon's in legend: the legendary Calydonian boar was slain by Meleager; the hunt makes a well-known episode in the eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses.
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