Martial, Epigrams, Volume III

LCL 480: 327

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Appendix A Additional notes

5.37 Puella senibus voce dulcior cycnis, agna Galaesi mollior Phalantini.

The reasons for the emendation voce dulcior (dulcior mihi codd.) in v. 1 are briefly given in the critical note to my Teubner edition, but some amplification may be called for. Here we have a classic specimen of interpolative corruption, in that the text contains a word not only unwanted but actually inappropriate and lacks a word that is essential.

Mihi is inept. The comparison between the little girl and aged swans, like the following series, must not be given as the poet’s personal opinion. When Burns tells us that his love is like the red, red rose or Byron that she walks in beauty like the night, they do not add “to my eyes” or the like. Erotion was sweet-voiced, soft, delicate, and the rest, as vv. 4ff unequivocally declare. The length of the interval precludes taking mihi as ethic dative with tepet busto in 14, not that anyone is likely to do that.

On the other side of the coin, the epithet dulcis relates primarily to taste. It can be transferred to sound or smell, but then a limiting word is needed. Honey is sweet; aged swans are sweet only in respect of their voices: Sen. Phaedr. 302 dulcior vocem moriente cycno; Stat. Theb. 5.341 mitior et senibus cycnis . . . vox. The trouble probably