6

Intermediate here. I am having a hard time parsing this poem (Carmina Priapea 31). Apologies for the tawdry material, by the way :)

Donec proterva nil mei manu carpes,
licebit ipsa sis pudicior Vesta.
sin, haec mei te ventris arma laxabunt,
exire ut ipse de tuo queas culo.

My problem is the last two lines. The translations I have seen seem to parse them roughly like this (using English word order)

[haec arma mei ventris] laxabunt [te], ut queas exire de tuo culo ipse
...will loosen you such that you'll be able to exit from your own butt

Apart from the fact that this doesn't make a huge amount of sense, I am not sure about what ipse is supposed to be doing - if it's to agree with culo or even tuo then isn't it in the wrong form (some manuscripts have ipsa there, which doesn't help)?

I would like to parse them like this:

[haec arma mei] laxabunt [te ventris], ut queas exire ipse de tuo culo
... will loosen your bowels such that you can pass them ...

That makes ipse stand for venter. But te ventris isn't really a construction I can find any support for.

Is there a definitively correct way to parse the lines as they stand, or will it always require emendation or something creative?

5

Ipse is nominative; so the only thing it can be doing in the last line is modifying the subject of queas, which is the (unstated) pronoun tu.

The way you want to parse/translate the lines doesn't work, because the forms don't support it:

  • If you're trying to make haec arma mei mean 'these weapons of mine,' that would be haec arma mea, using the adjective. You can't use mei, the genitive of the pronoun, for this.
  • You're right to be uncomfortable taking te and ventris together. 'Your bowels' would need either a form of tuus, agreeing in gender, number, and case with ventris, or the dative form of the pronoun, tibi.
  • Instead, mei and ventris go together, as noun+adjective. These genitive forms are dependent on haec arma, and te alone is the direct object of laxabunt.
  • Exire can't mean 'pass them,' because 'them' would be a direct object, but exire is intransitive.

Long story short: The first translation that you give is correct. The god Priapus is threatening passers-by with rape if they steal anything that's under his protection.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.