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Andrew Szilvasy 06-09-2019 10:00 AM

Martial, V.81

If you are poor now, Dave, get comfy in your ditch—
.....these days money’s only for the rich.


L1: "that" --> "your"
L2: italicized "these" --> back to unitalicized


semper pauper eris, si pauper es, Aemiliane.
dantur opes nullis nunc nisi divitibus.


You will always be poor, if you are poor, Aemilianus,
Now wealth is given to no one but the rich.


It's an elegiac couplet, so I wanted to keep the same 6-5 couplet that's in the original, but add the rhyme so it snaps into place well.

I want it to speak to today, so "Aemilianus" had to go.

Rich obviously needed to be the last word for the whole thing to work, and there aren't a lot of rhyme words that fit this context, so very quickly I became more interested in a more interpretive than literal translation. I'm obviously adding an image that's not in the original, but I think it helps create the snappiness of Martial's original. We'll see if people agree. :)

Allen Tice 06-09-2019 12:17 PM

Hi! I like this. My only quibble is the choice of the new name. There are a lot of monosyllablic options. Dave seems weak, limp, dull, dull. You don't want Walt, probably, to avoid enraging the Whitmans; or Don, to avoid enraging the duck fans, past and future; or Bill, to avoid enraging so many other people; or Bob, because that's a cliche. Bert and Ted are no-wins. Mack has a nice disdainful feeling that is similar to Max. Both convey the condescension that's common in Martial. Maybe something more intimate with seeming condescension too, like Doug (which has deep ideational links to "ditch")--nah!, or simply "Bub", which has the signature blow-off of Martial. Personally, I'd go for Mack!

Susan McLean 06-09-2019 01:47 PM

Andrew, I've translated this epigram myself, and I hate "Dave" or any other modern name as an equivalent for "Aemilianus." If you want it to sound contemporary without the cringe factor, I would recommend that you leave out the name and also cut it down to 5-5, which will give the punch line a lot more zing. I can't see the point of changing the name but keeping a meter that is never used in English except by classicists.


P.S., you can also avoid a stumble in the meter by italicizing "these."

Andrew Szilvasy 06-09-2019 04:22 PM

Thank you Allen and Susan!

Allen, I'm glad you like it. Both you and Susan hate "Dave." Poor Dave. He has to go. I'm going to think of the name, or addressee. I liked Dave because it is common and catches up with ditch.

Susan, I'm glad you chimed in. I don't have your copy of Martial, but I know you translated a great deal and given how much I enjoy reading your Rilkes, I'm sure they're quite good.

I think you're right on the italics for "these" and I've made that change already.

The name Dave is going to be gone--clearly that is not working--but I think the addressee is an important part of the poem. I anticipated that some might be against that, though. I feel the same about keeping the elegiac's structure. Mike Juster, for instance, keeps it (without rhyme, though) whenever he translates elegiacs, and I quite like the sound. In a couplet you got to get the rhyme, and I like the way the rhythm of elegiacs sound in English when they rhyme. So, that's to say I will keep the 6-5, though I appreciate your pushback.

Aaron Novick 06-09-2019 04:27 PM

I like "Dave"; it's such a "just a guy" name, which I think is what this poem, translated this way, needs.

I dislike italicizing "these" intensely.

Matt Q 06-09-2019 05:25 PM

[double post]

Matt Q 06-09-2019 05:38 PM

Hi Andrew

Apparently Aemilianus was a very common name, so Dave seems to work for that, I guess, plus it alliterates with 'ditch', which alternatives wouldn't. I guess you have the option of "Aem", if you wanted a mono-syllabic name and the informality, both. I guess much depends on how you'd translate (and modernise) the rest of his epigrams -- if that's your plan. If elsewhere you have someone whipping the cook because of an undercooked hare, Dave is going to look out of place.

I don't think you need the italics. I think the sense of the phrase already places 'sense stress' on 'these'. I don't hear the metre as off. Italicising 'these' seems to give extra emphasis (of meaning) to the 'these', which I don't think it warrants, and (to me) then suggests there's something going on that I don't know about. (Why specifically these days?)


Roger Slater 06-09-2019 06:15 PM

I would lose "now" and "Dave", and I have no preference when it comes to italicizing "these." With that adjustment, I think it's very good, and I'm fine with your adding "ditch," which is well within the spirit and meaning of the original.

John Isbell 06-09-2019 06:27 PM

Hi Andrew,

Just to stir the pot, I like it as is, with Dave and no italics. It is living and breathing, as Martial might have written today.


Martin Rocek 06-10-2019 02:17 PM

I vote with Roger/Bob. I'd also use a contraction for you're, and perhaps change that to your:

If you're poor, get comfy in your ditch;
these days, money's only for the rich.

A very timely epigram!

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