Ausonius Paulo S.
Perlege hoc etiam, si operae est, frivolum et nullius pretii opusculum, quod nec labor excudit nec cura limavit, sine ingenii acumine et morae maturitate.
Centonem vocant, qui primi hac concinnatione luserunt. solae memoriae negotium sparsa colligere et integrare lacerata, quod ridere magis quam laudare possis. pro quo, si per sigillaria in auctione veniret, neque Afranius naucum daret, neque ciccum suum Plautus offerret. piget enim Vergiliani carminis dignitatem tam ioculari dehonestasse materia. sed quid facerem? iussum erat: quodque est potentissimum imperandi genus, rogabat, qui iubere poterat, sanctus imperator Valentinianus, vir meo iudicio eruditus. nuptias quondam eiusmodi ludo descripserat, aptis
A Nuptial Cento
Read through this also, if it is worth while—a trifling and worthless little book, which no pains has shaped nor care polished, without a spark of wit and that ripeness which deliberation gives.
They who first trifled with this form of compilation call it a “cento.”1 ’Tis a task for the memory only, which has to gather up scattered tags and fit these mangled scraps together into a whole, and so is more likely to provoke your laughter than your praise. If it were put up for auction at a fair,2 Afranius would not give his straw, nor Plautus bid his husk.3 For it is vexing to have Virgil’s majestic verse degraded with such a comic theme. But what was I to do? It was written by command, and at the request (which is the most pressing kind of order!) of one who was able to command—the sainted Emperor Valentinian. a man, in my opinion, of deep learning. He had once described a wedding in a jeu d’esprit of this kind, wherein the verses were to
- 1= κέντρων. ἐγκεντρίζειν means “to plant slips” (of trees). A late Greek word, κεντόνη, or κεντoνάρων, meaning a patchwork garment, is also found. A cento is therefore a poem composed of odd fragments. Such works were common in later antiquity: e.g. Falconia Proba dedicated to Honorius a Cento Vergilianus dealing with the events of the Old and New Testaments.
- 2On the Sigillaria see above, Eclogues, xxiii. 32 and note.
- 3Rudens, 580: ciccum non interduim.