You seem a youth to look upon.
You dyed your hair — and lo,
The locks once whiter than a swan
Are blacker than a crow.
Not everyone can you deceive
And, though you hide the grey,
Yet Proserpine will not believe
But snatch the mask away.
[Mentiris iuvenem tinctis, Laetine, capillis,
Tam subito corvus, qui modo sygnus eras.
Non omnes fallis; scit te Proserpina canum
Personam capiti detrahet illa tuo.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 3, epigram 43 (3.43) (AD 87-88) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
Proserpina (the Roman version of Persephone) was the goddess / Queen of the Underworld.
(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:
Thou dy'st thy haire to seeme a younger man,
And turn'st a Crow, that lately wert a Swan.
All are not cousen'd; hels queene knows thee grey.
She'll take the vizor from thy head away.
[tr. May (1629)]
Lentinus counterfeits his youth
With periwigs, I trow,
But art thou changed so soon, in truth,
From a swan to a crow?
Though canst not all the world deceive:
Proserpine knows thee gray;
And she'll make bold, without your leave,
To take your cap away.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]
Thou that not many months ago
Wast white as Swan, or driven Snow,
Now blacker far than Aesop's Crow,
Thanks to thy Wig, set’st up for Beau.
Faith Harry, thou'rt i'the wrong box,
Old Age these vain endeavours mocks
And time that knows thou'st hoary locks,
Will pluck thy Mask off with a pox.
[tr. Brown (1699)]
Why should’st thou try to hide thy self in youth?
Impartial Proserpine beholds the truth,
And laughing at so find and vain a task,
Will strip thy hoary noddle of its mask.
[tr. Addison (fl. early 18th C)]
With tinctur'd locks the dotard youth puts on:
Behold a raven, from but now a swan!
Though cheat'st not all; not her, who rules the dead:
She soon shall pull the mask from off thy head.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Part 2, ep. 21]
Before a swan, behind a crow,
Such self-deceit ne'er did I know.
Ah! cease your arts-- death knows you're grey,
And spite of all will keep his day.
[tr. Hoadley (fl. 18th C) §240]
You simulate youth, Lentinus, with your dyed hairs; so suddenly a crow, who were so lately a swan. You do not deceive everyone: Proserpina knows you for a greybeard, she will tear off the masque from your head.
[tr. Amos (1858), ch. 4, ep. 140]
Letinus, fain to cheat men's eyes,
You smear your head with umber dyes;
And, late a swan as white as snow,
You've suddenly become a crow.
Is everyone deceived by you?
No, one can tell the genuine hue.
Proserpine knows your hair is grey,
And she will tear that mask away.
[tr. Webb (1879)]
You ape youth, Laetinus, with your dyed hair; and you, who were but now a swan, are suddenly become a crow! You will not deceive everyone: Proserpine knows that you are hoary, and will snatch the mask from your head.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1897)]
You pretend you're still youthful by dyeing your hair --
Now a crow, though a swan just of late --
But you don't fool us all, for Proserpina knows,
She'll show up the sham of your pate.
[tr. Nixon (1911)]
You falsely ape youth, Laetinus, with dyed hair, so suddenly a raven who were but now a swan. You don't deceive all; Proserpine knows you are hoary: she shall pluck the mask from off your head.
[tr. Ker (1919)]
You play the youth with raven hue assumed
But yesterday like swan of Leda plumed.
Not all you cheat; Proserpine knows you grey.
Some day she'll pluck your silly mask away.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924)]
You wish, Lætinus, to be thought a youth,
And so you dye your hair.
You're suddenly a crow, forsooth:
Of late a swan you were!
You can't cheat all: there is a Lady dread
Who knows your hair is grey:
Proserpina will pounce upon your head,
And tear the mask away.
[tr. Duff (1929)]
It's artificial for you to look like a young man
with your dyed hair, suddenly turning into a crow
when just a while ago you were a swan. You won't fool
everyone: Proserpina knows you are white-haired
and she will make you take your mask off.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]
You've dyed your hair to mimic youth,
Laetinus. Not so long ago
You were a swan; now you're a crow.
You can't fool everyone. One day
Proserpina, who knows the truth,
Will rip that actor's wig away.
[tr. Michie (1972)]
You were a swan, you’re now a crow.
Laetinus, why deceive us so,
With borrowed plumage trying?
The Queen of Shades will surely know
When she slips off your mask below,
In Death there's no more dyeing.
[tr. Pitt-Kethley (1987)]
You simulate youth, Laetinus, by dying your hair; so suddenly a raven, who were but now a swan. You don't fool everybody. Proserpina knows your hair is white. She will drag the mask from your head.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]
You dye your hair, Laetinus, to feign youth --
a swan before, a raven now instead.
You don't fool all. Proserpina can tell
you're gray. She'll pull that mask right off your head.
[tr. McLean (2014)]
You counterfeit youth with hair-dye, Laetinus: all of a sudden you're a raven, when just now you were a swan. You don't fool everyone: Proserpina knows you are grey; she will drag the mask from your head.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]
Thou, that not a month ago
Wast white as swan or driven snow,
Now blacker far than Aesop's crow,
Thanks to thy wig, sett'st up for beau:
Faith, Harry, thou'rt i' the wrong box;
Old age these vain endeavours mocks,
And time, that knows thou 'st hoary locks,
Will pluck thy mask off with a pox.
Before a swan, behind a crow,
Such self-deceit I ne'er did know.
Ah, cease your arts! Death knows you're grey,
And, spite of all, will have his way.
Added on 23-Jul-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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