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EPIGRAMMATA VI
 
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Wordle: Martial VI 
 

 
  • LATIN
  • ENGLISH
  • METRICS

14

You affirm, Laberius, that you are able to write eloquent verses:

Why, therefore, are you unwilling?

Should a man who is able to write eloquent verses,

not write, Laberius: I will think him a hero.

XIV meter: Hendecasyllabic

Vēr sūs|scrī bĕ rĕ|pōs sĕ|tē dĭs|ēr tōs

Ād fīr|mās, Lă bĕ|rī: quĭd|ēr gŏ|nōn vīs?  

Vē rsūs|scrī bĕ rĕ|quī pŏ|tēst dĭ|sēr tōs,

Nōn scrī|bāt, Lă bĕ|rī: vĭ|rūm pŭ|tā bō.


 
EPIGRAM VI.14

 

SUMMARY
This short poem concentrates on what seems to be a scoptic epigram, but turns out to be a laudatory poem by the end. That is a lot to accomplish in four lines, but Martial sees that it is done.

The poem is addressing a man named Laberius, who “can write but chooses not to” (Fitzgerald, William. Martial: The World of the Epigram. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2007, 119). This is a contrast from the usual slighting of people who think they can write, but really cannot. By “addressing to a particular person and dealing with some incident or immediate situation” (Mendell, Clarence W. Martial and the Satiric Epigram Classical Philology, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Jan., 1922), 4), Martial can  “never exhibiting shyness in extolling his own capabilities” (Best Jr., Edward E. Martial's Readers in the Roman World The Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 5 (Feb., 1969), pp. 208-212.). Another way of looking at Martial approach to this epigram is being “eager to compare his own verbal license with the obsceneity taken for granted in the artistic form as practiced by Laberius” (Sullivan, J. P. Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and Historical Study. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1991, 112.). This quote seems to lean more towards the nature of Martial’s poetry, and his tendency to show off his talents. However, the reader must not forget the second half of the poem.

Martial makes a very bold statement in the last two lines of the epigram, “Should a man who is able to write eloquent verses, not write, Laberius: I will think a hero” (6.14.3-4). There are a few reasons why the epigram might end in such a way. First, he may be complimenting Laberius’ hesistation to write poetry as either, stepping back from degrading himself if he is a member of the upper class, or Martial is taking the opportunity to thank him for declining the competition of writing in the same vicinity as the poet. Or, as another possibility, the poet may be praising Laberius for his modesty. Thus, all reasons would consider the man a hero.


Best Jr., Edward E. Martial's Readers in the Roman World, The Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 5 (Feb., 1969), pp. 208-212

Fitzgerald, William. Martial: The World of the Epigram.Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2007.

Mendell, Clarence W. Martial and the Satiric Epigram, Classical Philology, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Jan., 1922)

Sullivan, J. P. Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and     Historical Study. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1991.


K. Young


 
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