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EPIGRAMMATA VI
 
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Wordle: Martial VI

 
  • LATIN
  • ENGLISH
  • METRICS

49

I am not chipped with an axe from a fragile elm tree,
Nor what stands extendend with rigid vein,
Is my column from any wood you please
But was produced from a living cypress tree:
Which fears neither the generations having passed through a hundred times
Nor the decay of long old age
This you will fear, whoever you are, o bad man.
For if you will have wounded/harmed even the smallest cluster from this vine
With a rapacious hand,
will grow, although you wish to deny this,
grafted to you by this cypress, the fruit of the fig tree.

XLIX Meter: Hendecasyllabic

Nōn sūm|dē fră gĭ|lī dŏ|lā tŭs|ūl mō,
Nēc quaē|stāt rĭ gĭ|dā sŭ|pī nă|vē nā,
Dē līg|nō mĭ hĭ|quō lĭ|bēt cŏ|lūm nā e̸st,
Sēd vī|vā gĕ nĕ|rā tă|dē cŭ|prēs sŭ:
Quaē nēc|sǣ cŭ lă|cēn tĭ|ēns pĕ|rā ctă
Nēc lōn|gǣ că rĭ|ēm tĭ|mēt sĕ|nēc tǣ.
Hānc tū,|quīs quĭs ĕs,|ō mă|lūs, tĭ|mē tō.
Nām sī|vēl mĭ nĭ|mōs mă|nū ră|pā cī  
Hōc dē|pāl mĭ tĕ|lǣ sĕ|rīs ră|cē mōs,
Nās cē|tūr, lĭ cĕt|hōc vĕ|līs nĕ|gā rĕ,
Īn sēr|tā tĭ bĭ|fī cŭs|ā cŭ|prēs sū.


 
EPIGRAM VI.49

 

SUMMARY
Poem 49 from Book 6 of Martial's series is a poem that goes beyond the typical language and uses his influence as an excellent writer to craft a poem that uses tree and other plant imagery to create a wonderous poem.  In this poem, Martial incorporate incorporates two different kinds of trees, grape vines, and fig tree fruit and molds it into a wonderful poem to read.  

The poem begins by talking about the elm tree.  The person speaking in the poem wants to be very clear about the type of wood he is.  The elm tree is a tree that is not known to be the most fragile of trees.  It's wood can become very hard and very hard to split with and axe.  The wood, when permanently wet, is resistant to decay and can last quite a long time (Carlsen, Kathleen. "The Deep-Rooted Symbolism of Trees." Discover the Power of Symbolism. 2004. Living Arts Enterprises. 28 Apr. 2009 <http://www.livingartsoriginals.com/infoforests.htm>).   This is a very surprising use of the elm tree.  It seems like a type of wood that would last a very long time and yet Martial moves on and chooses a different tree.

Line 4 begins by introducing the cypress tree.  The cypress tree is a tree that was very welknown in the ancient world and has symbolic history in many ancient cultures in Europe and Asia.  The cypress is a type of tree believed to originally be from what was known as Asia Minor.  The Greeks and Romans both had their uses for the tree and was most welknown to be used in funeral ceremonies; the tree had other symbolic meaning later on.

Etruscans and Romans, too, gave to the cypress a symbolic meaning connected to the mortuary context. In fact, they usually planted cypress-trees all around cemeteries and tombs of famous characters - thereby underlining their persuasion that the resin of the cypress could cover the smell of dead people. Soon, the cypress got more and more a funereal image. The craftsmen, instead, ignore its funereal image and used its wood, whose fiber was thick, regular and compact and therefore its good quality was practically ideal to resist to time and inclemency of the weather, to build everything, from the hulls of the ships to the doors of villas and palaces, from the luxurious furniture to the most refined musical instruments. (Andreini, Damiano. "The Cypress: role of nature in the Tuscan history of Art (part 1)." Slow Tuscany. Damiano Andreini. 28 Apr. 2009 <http://www.slowtuscany.it/tuscany/pisa/cypresses_1.htm>).

The tree can be used as a funeral image, but at times, the craftsmen will use the wood of the tree because of its wonderful quality.  Over time, the cypress even became known to be a tree of eternity (Andreini).

The old man who is observing this cypress tree is told to fear it for the tree will last forever.  The man is warned not to touch the tree and not to hurt it in anyway or he will be affected in a way he will not like.  The man is warned that if he is to touch the cypress tree in anyway that will harm it, he will then have the fruit of a fig tree grafted to him, by means of the cypress tree.  The tree is very important; it is a tree that is to last for a very long time, and no one is to touch it in a bad manner, or they will pay the consequences of being turned into fruit, something to eat.

C. McClean


 
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