Semper ego auditor tantum? numquamne reponam vexatus totiens rauci Theseide Cordi? inpune ergo mihi recitaverit ille togatas, hic elegos? inpune diem consumpserit ingens 5Telephus aut summi plena iam margine libri scriptus et in tergo necdum finitus Orestes? nota magis nulli domus est sua quam mihi lucus Martis et Aeoliis vicinum rupibus antrum Vulcani; quid agant venti, quas torqueat umbras 10Aeacus, unde alius furtivae devehat aurum pelliculae, quantas iaculetur Monychus ornos, Frontonis platani convolsaque marmora clamant semper et adsiduo ruptae lectore columnae.
- 2cordi PSΣ: codri RVΦ
Shall I always be stuck in the audience? 1 Never retaliate for being tortured so often by hoarse Cordus’ Song of Theseus? 2 Let them get away with it, then?—this one reciting to me his Roman comedies and that one his love elegies? Let them get away with wasting my whole day on an enormous Telephus, or an Orestes written on the back when the margin at the end of the book is already full—and still not finished? 3 No one knows his own house better than I know the grove of Mars and the cave of Vulcan near the Aeolian cliffs. 4 What the winds are up to, which ghosts Aeacus is torturing, 5 the origin of the other guy waltzing off with that filched golden mini-fleece, 6 the size of the ash trees hurled by Monychus 7 —this is the continual shriek from Fronto’s plane trees and his tormented marble and the columns shattered by the non-stop reciter. 8 This is
- 1The scene envisaged is a poetry recitation.
- 2The poet Cordus is unknown to us; his poem is an epic about the Athenian hero Theseus.
- 3Tragedies. Until the fourth century a.d. the book consisted of a papyrus roll attached to rods on which it was rolled.
- 4Juvenal’s criticism of the triteness of contemporary mythological epic focusses upon the story of the Argonauts, treated by Valerius Flaccus in the previous generation. The grove of Mars was where the Golden Fleece was kept in Colchis. The cave of Vulcan was in the Aeolian (mod. Lipari) islands, to the north of Sicily, although Valerius Flaccus locates it on Lemnos.
- 5In epic, the winds stir up storms at sea, e.g. Val. Flacc. Arg. 1.608–54. Aeacus is one of the three judges of the dead.
- 6I.e. Jason.
- 7Monychus was a Centaur; the battle of Lapiths and Centaurs was painted on the Argo.
- 8Fronto is a rich man who allows his house and gardens to be used for poetry recitations, possibly the Fronto of Mart. 1.55 and Plin. Ep. 2.11.