Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,
cum faber, incertus scamnum faceretne Priapum,
maluit esse deum. deus inde ego, furum aviumque
maxima formido; nam fures dextra coercet
obscaenoque ruber porrectus ab inguine palus;
ast importunas volucres in vertice harundo
terret fixa vetatque novis considere in hortis.
Huc prius angustis eiecta cadavera cellis
conservus vili portanda locabat in arca;
hoc miserae plebi stabat commune sepulcrum,
Pantolabo scurrae Nomentanoque nepoti:
mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in agrum
hic dabat, heredes monumentum ne sequeretur.
Nunc licet Esquiliis habitare salubribus atque
aggere in aprico spatiari, quo modo tristes
albis informem spectabant ossibus agrum;
cum mihi non tantum furesque feraeque, suetae
hunc vexare locum, curae sunt atque labori,
quantum carminibus quae versant atque venenis
humanos animos. Has nullo perdere possum
nec prohibere modo, simul ac vaga luna decorum
protulit os, quin ossa legant herbasque nocentis.
Vidi egomet nigra succinctam vadere palla
Canidiam pedibus nudis passoque capillo,
cum Sagana maiore ululantem. Pallor utrasque
fecerat horrendas aspectu. Scalpere terram
unguibus et pullam divellere mordicus agnam
coeperunt; cruor in fossam confusus, ut inde
manis elicerent animas responsa daturas.
Lanea et effigies erat altera cerea; maior
lanea, quae poenis compesceret inferiorem;
cerea suppliciter stabat servilibus, ut quae
iam peritura modis. Hecaten vocat altera, saevam
altera Tisiphonen; serpentes atque videres
infernas errare canes, Lunamque rubentem,
ne foret his testis, post magna latere sepulcra.
Mentior at si quid, merdis caput inquiner albis
corvorum, atque in me veniat mictum atque cacatum
Iulius et fragilis Pediatia furque Voranus.
Singula quid memorem,? quo pacto alterna loquentes
umbrae cum Sagana resonarint triste et acutum,
utque lupi barbam variae cum dente colubrae
abdiderint furtim terris, et imagine cerea
largior arserit ignis, et ut non testis inultus
horruerim voces Furiarum et facta duarum:
nam, displosa sonat quantum vesica, pepidi
diffissa nate ficus: at illae currere in urbem;
Canidiae dentis, altum Saganae caliendrum
excidere atque herbas atque incantata lacertis
vincula cum magno risuque iocoque videres.
First a wild-fig-tree trunk was I, not useful as timber,
When the mechanic in doubt anent making me stool or Priapus
Chose me for being a god; so a god to the thieves and the birdies
Direst of dreads I became, my right the robbers restraining,
Eke with a ruddy pole from parts obscenely projected,
While th' importunate fowls affrights a reed on my head-poll
Planted, and hinders their flock from 'lighting in newly made gardens.
Erst to be hither borne from narrow cellules ejected
Corpses by fellow-slaves were coffined in biers of the vilest.
This was the common yard to ensepulchre wretched plebeians,
Pantolabus the buffoon and Nomentanus the rake-hell.
Frontage a thousand feet, three hundred fieldwards, a land mark
Here assigned, lest the ground monumental follow the heir folk.
Now 'tis salubrious made: one fives in th' Esquiliae, also
Walks on the sunny mound, where erstwhile showed to folk sad-eyed
Fields by bones deformed a-glistening ghostly and ghastly;
Yet for me never was aught, or thieves or ferals accustomed
This foul spot to behaunt, a cause of such care and such trouble
As are the hags who by spells and poisons upset and envenom
Spirits and minds of mankind; these nowise bring to perdition
Nor even hinder can I; no sooner doth wandering Luna
Show her full face than bones and ill herbs they hasten to gather.
I with these eyes espied in sables kilted a-pacing
Canidia, nude-foot, long hair bestrewing her shoulders,
Howling with Sagana th' elder (and paleness had rendered the couple
Horrid of mien); anon both the ground with their talons
Clawing, and black-fleeced lamb with teeth a-tearing to tatters
Either began; its gore in a ditch was spillèd, so thereby
Ghosts might be raised from graves and answers give to their queries.
Images too there were, this of wool, that of wax, and the greater
Woollen that seemed with pains about to punish the lesser
Suppliant standing in wax as one foredoomèd to perish
After a servile way. One calls on Hecate, th' other
Summons fell Tisiphone; then mightest thou look upon serpents
Wriggling with Hell-sluts around, whilst Luna ruddily blushing
Hid her behind the tall tombs lest she these doings might witness.
Now if I false in aught be, my head bewrayed with white mutings
Dropt by the crows and hither repair to bepiss and conskite me
Julius, frail Pediatia and eke Voranus the robber.
Why should I mention all and each? how chattered alternate
With Sagana these ghosts, now sad-toned then in sharp treble.
How too the head of a wolf with fangs of variegate adder
Furtive they buried in earth, whereat for the waxen imago
Fiercelier flamed the fire and how (no unavenged witness!)
I was o'erwhelmed by the words and the deeds of these Furies well-coupled;
For that like bladder that bursts with a loud explosion I farted
From my cleft buttocks of fig. Hereat they ran to the city,
Canidia's false teeth with Sagana's towering hair-tour
Falling aground and herbs and magical armlets on forearms
Showed to beholder's sight with many a joke and much laughter.
Aforetimes I was the trunk of a wild fig tree, useless wood, when the craftsman, uncertain whether to make a bench or a Priapus, preferred me to be the god. A god henceforth became I, to the thieves and birds the greatest of bugbears; for my right hand checks pilferers, and a ruddy pole thrust forth from obscene groin; while a cane to my pate affixed alarms the pestering birds, and prevents them from flocking down upon these recently made gardens. Hither, of yore, corpses from strait cells expelled, by brother-slaves were conveyed for disposal in mean biers. This for the miserable mob stood a common sepulchre, for Pantolabus the droll and Nomentanus the spendthrift. A thousand feet of frontage, three hundred backwards in field a boundary stone here gave, lest the memorial ground descend to the heirs. Now one may inhabit the Esquiliae made salubrious, and promenade on the terrace 'neath the sun, where but lately the saddened observed the ground distorted by white bones; as for me, nor thieves nor wild beasts wont this place to infest cause so much of trouble and labour as do those females who with magical songs and with venoms do overturn the minds of folk. These in no wise to make away with am I able nor to prevent, soon as the fleeting moon her beauteous visage shows forth, from gathering together dry bones and noisome herbs. With mine own eyes did I see with black garment upgirdled Canidia, walking barefoot and dishevelled of hair, with Sagana the elder a-screeching (and pallor had made both of horrible aspect) begin to claw up the ground with their
[1. The wood of a fig tree was very little used, on account of its brittleness.
2. Octavius, willing to correct the infection of this hill, which was a common burying-place for all the poor of Rome, got the consent of the senate and people to give part of it to Maecenas, who built a magnificent house there, with very extensive gardens.]
nails, and a black ewe-lamb with their teeth to drag piecemeal; the blood in a ditch was poured that thence shades of the dead might be raised, spirits to give them responses. And a woollen effigy there was and another one waxen; the greater one wool which with punishments held in check the inferior. The waxen figure submissively stood as in servile mode now about to perish. On Hecate called this hag, on savage Tisiphone the other; and serpents might you behold roving with hell-begot bitches, and Luna, a-blushing lest her presence might witness these doings, behind the tall tomb stones did hide. But if I lie in aught, with white mutings of ravens may my head be befouled and on me to piss and to cack may come Julius and fragile Pediatia and Voranus the thief. Why should I set forth each thing? in what manner with alternate utterance these spectres with Sagana gave forth sounds both doleful and shrieking? And how the beard of a wolf with fangs of a speckled she-serpent they hid by stealth in the loam; and for the image of wax more greatly the flames burst up; and how, a witness not without strength to avenge, I was whelmed by the cries and the acts of the Furies twain? For, with sound like bursten bladder I farted, from cleft buttocks of fig-tree wood. Whereat they scurried off to the city; Canidia's false teeth and Sagana's lofty head dress a-tumbling to the ground and the herbs and the bewitched bracelets on their arms with great laughter and joke might you see.
[1. Black victims alone were sacrificed to the infernal gods, nor was anything supposed more delicious to the souls of the departed than blood. They could not foretell any future events, or answer any questions, until they had drunk it. Ulysses was obliged to draw his sword, to frighten them away from the blood he had poured into the trench for Tiresias.
2. The image of wool represented the person they were willing should survive the other represented by that of wax. The images were made of different materials, that their fates might be different.
3. The heat made the wood crack with a noise which put the witches to flight.]