Holidays: Verse Than Ever

We’re well into the Saturnalia so here are a couple of seasonal poems by Martial (translations by the oversigned).

Martial 5.84

Iam tristis nucibus puer relictis
clamoso reuocatur a magistro,
et blando male proditus fritillo,
arcana modo raptus e popina,
aedilem rogat udus aleator.
Saturnalia transiere tota,
nec munuscula parua nec minora
misisti mihi, Galla, quam solebas.
Sane sic abeat meus December:
scis certe, puto, uestra iam uenire
Saturnalia, Martias Kalendas;
tunc reddam tibi, Galla, quod dedisti.

Martial 11.2

Triste supercilium durique severa Catonis
frons et aratoris filia Fabricii
et personati fastus et regula morum,
quidquid et in tenebris non sumus, ite foras.
Clamant ecce mei "Io Saturnalia" versus:
et licet et sub te praeside, Nerva, libet.
Lectores tetrici salebrosum ediscite Santram:
nil mihi vobiscum est: iste liber meus est.
Happy Mother’s Day, Galla
Gloomy schoolboys now go back to school,
candycanes behind, hoarse teachers ahead.
Cruelly caught by the addictive rattle of the dice
a groggy gambler goes three rounds
with the beat-cop who busted his crap-game.
Another Saturnalia nailed:
December slides away, without, need I say,
a gift from you, Galla– not even your usual
Dollar Store Save-a-thon dingus.
O.K., I could care less.
Get my drift, Galla? “What goes around…”
On Mother’s Day in March you’ll get what I got.
This is the Moral, Wrong or Right…
Hey, Cato, you creep with pitchfork frown
and the iron phiz, and altar-girl Fabricia,
and the flipping rules we forget to remember
and the manners we remember to forget: get lost!
My songs sing, “Io Saturnalia! Happy Old Year!”
It’s not illegal (at least, it isn’t yet).
Serious types can curl up with Strunk:
this is my book, like it or lump it: that’s Martial law.


My voice isn’t up to carolling this year (which is the common cold’s Christmas gift to everyone around here, I guess) but here’s my favorite Latin carol. (More here, if you like this sort of thing.)

Veni, veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, O Jesse virgula!
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, veni O Oriens!
Solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas
dirasque noctis tenebras.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, Clavis Davidica!
Regna reclude caelica!
Fac iter tutum superum
et claude vias inferum.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.

Veni, veni Adonai!
Qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice,
in Maiestate gloriae.

Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel
nascetur pro te, Israel.
And Hannukah begins Sunday, so here’s the Dreidel Song in Latin (or at least some of it: according to Wikipedia I was working with an incomplete version).

I have a little dreidel.
I made it out of clay.
When it’s dry and ready,
then dreidel I shall play.

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
I made it out of clay.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
then dreidel I shall play.

It has a lovely body,
with legs so short and thin.
When it gets all tired,
it drops and then I win!

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
with leg so short and thin.
Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
it drops and then I win!

Est mihi turbo parvus
argilla feci, em!
Cum siccus est paratus
tunc ludam turbinem.

o turbo, turbo, turbo!
argilla feci, em!
o turbo, turbo, turbo!
tunc ludam turbinem.

Amoenum habet corpus
sic ped’ exiguo
ut (fiat cum defessus)
labatur, tunc vinco!

o turbo, turbo, turbo!
sic ped’ exiguo
o turbo, turbo, turbo!
labatur, tunc vinco!

Here’s hoping everyone has a good holiday as we ride down the slippery slope to the new year.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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