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Epigram -- Martial

Guest poem submitted by Salil Murthy:
(Poem #856) Epigram
 You puff the poets of other days,
 The living you deplore.
 Spare me the accolade: your praise
 Is not worth dying for.
-- Martial
All I know of this gem is that Martial wrote it of a critic of his; the chap
must have curled up and died. I read this ages ago and the fragments have
been buzzing around in my head ever since we got onto this theme. Classy
little number, this one.

Salil.

[Minstrels Links]

The theme referred to above was one on epigrams, run earlier this year:
 Poem #665, Dreams -- Robert Herrick
 Poem #666, Epigram Engraved on the Collar of a Dog which I gave to His
Royal Highness -- Alexander Pope
 Poem #667, Reflections on Ice-Breaking -- Ogden Nash
 Poem #668, On Problems -- Piet Hein
 Poem #669, Epigram on Charles II -- John Wilmot

Note that the last of the epigrammists above took Martial's advice, and
composed his couplets while Charles was still alive.

[Biography]

Marcus Valerius Martialis was a Roman poet who brought the Latin epigram to
perfection and provided in it a picture of Roman society during the early
empire. Martial was born in a Roman colony in Spain. In his early 20s
Martial made his way to the capital of the empire and attached himself as
client to the powerful and talented family of the Senecas, who were
Spaniards like himself. Yet precisely how Martial lived between AD 65 and 80
is not known.

When he first came to Rome, Martial lived in rather humble circumstances in
a garret on the Quirinal Hill. He gradually earned recognition, however, and
was able to acquire, in addition to a town house on the Quirinal, a small
country estate near Nomentum (about 12 miles northeast of Rome). In time
Martial gained the notice of the court. As his fame grew, he became
acquainted with the literary circles of his day.

Martial's first book, On the Spectacles (AD 80), contained 33
undistinguished epigrams celebrating the shows held in the Colosseum. These
poems are scarcely improved by their gross adulation of the emperor
Domitian. In the year 84 or 85 appeared two undistinguished books that
consist almost entirely of couplets describing presents given to guests at
the December festival of the Saturnalia. In the next 15 or 16 years,
however, appeared the 12 books of epigrams on which his renown rests. After
34 years in Rome, Martial returned to Spain, where his last book was
published, probably in AD 102. He died not much over a year later in his
early 60s.

Martial is virtually the creator of the modern epigram. Though some of the
epigrams (1,561 in all) are devoted to scenic descriptions, most are about
people. Martial made frequent use of the mordant epigram bearing a "sting"
in its tail, i.e. a single unexpected word at the poem's end that completes
a pun, antithesis, or an ingenious ambiguity. Poems of this sort would later
greatly influence the use of the epigram in the literature of England,
France, Spain, and Italy.

        -- [broken link] http://library.thinkquest.org/11402/bio_martial.html

28 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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After a long and wretched flight
That stretched from daylight into night,
Where babies wept and tempers shattered
And the plane lurched and whiskey splattered
Over my plastic food, I came
To claim my bags from Baggage Claim

Around, the carousel went around
The anxious travelers sought and found
Their bags, intact or gently battered,
But to my foolish eyes what mattered
Was a brave suitcase, red and small,
That circled round, not mine at all.

I knew that bag. It must be hers.
We hadnt met in seven years!
And as the metal plates squealed and clattered
My happy memories chimed and chattered.
An old man pulled it off the Claim.
My bags appeared: I did the same.


So, tell me, what do you think? be honest and write down your opinion.

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