Your verses are full of a sugary grace,
As spotless and pure as a well-powdered face,
Not an atom of salt or suspicion of gall,
So how can they but on an audience pall!
Even food does not please if the cooking’s too simple,
And cheeks lack in charm when they haven’t a dimple.
A child may like apples and figs without savour;
But give me the sort that have got a sharp flavour.

[Dulcia cum tantum scribas epigrammata semper
Et cerussata candidiora cute,
Nullaque mica salis nec amari fellis in illis
Gutta sit, o demens, vis tamen illa legi!
Nec cibus ipse iuvat morsu fraudatus aceti,
Nec grata est facies, cui gelasinus abest.
Infanti melimela dato fatuasque mariscas:
Nam mihi, quae novit pungere, Chia sapit.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 7, epigram 25 (7.25) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921), “To a Rival Poet”]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Since all your lines are only sweet and fine,
As is the skinn which with white wash doth shine,
Butt nott a corne of salt, of dropp of gall,
In them; yett, foole, though 'dst have me reade them all.
Meate has no gust without sharpe sawce; no face
Without a smiling dimple has a grace:
For children sweete insipid fruits are best;
The quick and poynant only me can feast.
[16th C Manuscript]

He writes Satyres; but herein's the fault,
In no one Satyre there's a mite of salt.
[tr. Herrick (1648), "On Poet Prat"]

In all the epigrams you write, we trace
The sweetness, and the candour of your face.
Think you, a reader will for verses call,
Without one grain of salt, or drop of gall?
'Tis vinegar gives relish to our food:
A face that cannot smile, is never good.
Smooth tales, like sweet-meats, are for children fit:
High-season'd, like my dishes, be my wit.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

While thus thou honey'st thine inscriptions all,
And mak'st them than the whited skin more white;
Thou giv'st no grain of salt, no drop of gall:
Yet madly dream'st, that reading is thy right.
No food can please, of acid if beguil'd:
Without a smile no face can charming be.
Sweet apples, tasteless figs cajole a child:
The Chian smart alone has charmes for me.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), "To Another Poet," Book 3, ep. 57]

Although the epigrams which you write are always sweetness itself and more spotless than a white-leaded skin, and although there is in them neither an atom of salt, nor a drop of bitter gall, yet you expect, foolish man, that they will be read. Why, not even food itself is pleasant, if it is wholly destitute of acid seasoning; nor is a face pleasing, which shows no dimples. Give children your honey-apples and luscious figs; the Chian fig, which has sharpness, pleases my taste.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859), "To a Bad Epigrammatist"]

Although you continually write epigrams that are merely sweet, and more immaculate than a white-enamelled skin, and no grain of salt, nor drop fo bitter gall is in them, yet, O madman! you wish them to be read! Not food itself is pleasant robbed of biting vinegar, nor is a face winning when no dimple is there. To an infant give honey-apples and insipid figs: for me the Chian fig with a tang has savour.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Your verses are insipid, mild and meek,
And white than the lead-beplastered cheek.
There is no tang of salt, no smack of gall,
The more fool you to wish them read at all.
No dish can spare a dash of vinegar;
No face will please without a dimple's scar.
Dull figs and honey-apples give the young;
I like my Chian to be tart and strong.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 339]

A drop of venom, a little bit of gall.
Lacking these, my friend, your epigrams lack all.
[tr. O'Connell (1991), "Critique"]

Your pale verse simply doesn't sell.
It lacks all spice, all taste, all smell.
You write as though for tiny tots,
And end up sold in discount lots.
You favor bland, or sickly-sweet;
I like a chimichurri meat.
[tr. Ericsson (1995)]

Your epigrams are really nice,
With nothing in them to entice.
They burble on as smooth as syrup,
And nothing there to prick the ear up.
They're whiter than a mimic's mask.
So why do you for hearers ask?
Where you should be a vice decrier,
You give a baby's pacifier.
For me, no lullabies I sing.
I want harsh lines that have a sting.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

The epigrams you write are always bland
and paler than skin powdered with white lead,
without a grain of wit or drop of bile,
and still, you fool, you want them to be read!
A face without a dimple has no charm;
food is insipid, lacking vinegar's zing.
Give honey apples and bland figs to toddlers;
I savor Chian figs, which know how to sting.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

The epigrams you write are full of grace,
More dazzling than a white-enamelled face;
No grain of salt, no drop of bitter gall --
You're mad to think they will be read at all.
Sharp vinegar improves the appetite,
No face without a dimple will delight.
Give children figs and apples without zest
For me strong figs of Chios taste the best.
[tr. Pitt-Kethley]

Added on 6-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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