My parents in the underworld! I send
This servant girl — take care and gently tend.
Conduct her past the terrifying shade.
Keep her of circling horrors unafraid,
For she, alas, was only six days shy
Of six years when too soon she came to die.
Protect her as she plays her childhood games,
And lisps, as shyly she was wont, our names.
Earth, sadly mounded on this gravesite new,
Press lightly on her, as she did on you.
[Hanc tibi, Fronto pater, genetrix Flaccilla, puellam
Oscula commendo deliciasque meas,
Parvula ne nigras horrescat Erotion umbras
Oraque Tartarei prodigiosa canis.
Impletura fuit sextae modo frigora brumae,
Vixisset totidem ni minus illa dies.
Inter tam veteres ludat lasciva patronos
Et nomen blaeso garriat ore meum.
Mollia non rigidus caespes tegat ossa nec illi,
Terra, gravis fueris: non fuit illa tibi.]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, epigram 34 (5.34) (AD 90) [tr. Wills (2007)]
Erotion was a slave child in Martial's household, per other epigrams. The identity of Fronto and Flaccilla -- whether they are the names of Martial's parents or Erotion's -- is ambiguous in the Original Latin, and a subject of debate. See also 10.61.
Ye parents Fronto and Flaccilla here,
To you I do commend my girl, my dear,
Lest pale Erotion tremble at the shades,
And the foul dog of hell's prodigious heads.
Her age fulfilling just six winters was,
Had she but known so many days to pass.
'Mongst you, old patrons, may she sport and play,
And with her lisping tongue my name oft say.
May the smooth turf her soft bones hide, and be,
O earth, as light to her as she to thee!
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]
Fronto, to thee, to thee, Flaccilla mild,
My darling I commend, your lively child.
Oh! may no sable shades make her more pale,
Nor the Tartarean dog the Love assail.
Six times the rig'rous solstice had the run,
Has she survey'd six times another sun.
Mid her old patrons, may the prattler play;
And lisp my name, as in the realms of day.
To her soft bones no turf oppressive be:
O earth lie light on her, who lay so light on thee.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 9, ep. 18]
O my father, Fronto! and my mother, Flacilla! I commend to you, in the realm below, this damsel, my delight and the object of my kisses, lest Erotion be terrified at the dark shades, and at the enormous mouth of the dog of Tartarus. She would have completed her sixth winter if she had lived six days longer. May she continue her sportive ways under your reverend patronage, and may she garrulously stammer forth my name! May the turf lie lightly on her delicate bones; you ought not, O earth, to be heavy to her; she was not so to thee!
[tr. Amos (1858) ep. 35]
To you, O Fronto my father, and to you, O Flaccilla my mother, I commend this child, the little Erotion, my joy and my delight, that she may not be terrified at the dark shades and at the monstrous mouth of the dog of Tartarus. She would just have passed the cold of a sixth winter, had she lived but six days longer. Between protectors so venerable may she sport and play, and with lisping speech babble my name. Let no rude turf cover her tender bones, and press not heavy on her, O earth; she pressed but lightly on thee.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]
To you -- dun spectres to forefend
And yon Tartarean monster dread --
This little maiden I commend,
Dead parents of my darling dead!
Had only my Erotion's span
While just so many days were told,
Been lengthened out to dwell with man,
She had been then six winters old.
Still sportive may she spend her days,
And lisp my name with prattling tongue;
Nor chide her little wanton ways,
Mid friends so old, and she so young.
Soft be the turf that shrouds her bed,
For delicate and soft was she.
And, Earth, lie lightly o'er her head,
For light the steps she laid on thee.
[tr. Webb (1879)]
Mother and sire, to you do I commend
Tiny Erotion, who must now descend,
A child, among the shadows, and appear
Before hell's bandog and hell's gondolier.
Of six hoar winters she had felt the cold,
But lacked six days of being six years old.
Now she must come, all playful, to that place
Where the great ancients sit with reverend face;
Now lisping, as she used, of whence she came,
Perchance she names and stumbles at my name.
O'er these so fragile bones, let there be laid
A plaything for a turf; and for that maid
That ran so lightly footed in her mirth
Upon thy breast -- lie lightly, mother earth!
[tr. Stevenson (1884)]
To thee, father Fronto, to thee, mother Flacilla, commend this maid, my sweetheart and my darling, that tiny Erotion may not shudder at the dark shades and the Tartarean hound's stupendous jaws. She would have completed only her sixth cold winter had she not lived as many days too few. Beside protectors so aged let her lightly play, and prattle my name with lisping tongue. And let not hard clods cover her tender bones, nor be though heavy upon her, O earth: she was not so to thee!
[tr. Ker (1919)]
Thou Mother dear and thou my Father's shade,
To you I now commit the gentle maid,
Erotion, my little love, my sweet;
Let not her shuddering spirit fear to meet
The ghosts, but soothe her lest she be afraid.
How should a baby heart be undismayed
To pass the lair where Cerberus is laid?
The little six-year maiden gently greet.
Dear reverend spirits, give her kindly aid
And let her play in some Elysian glade,
Lisping my name sometimes -- and, I entreat
Lie on her softly, kind earth; her feet,
Such tiny feet, on thee were lightly laid.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]
Flaccilla, Fronto, take her as I write,
My precious darling and my soul's delight,
Let not Erotion fear the shades around
And the fell jaws of the Tartarean hound.
Had she but lived till six more days were told,
She had survived six winters and their cold.
There let her play amidst our fellowship
And lisp my name with dainty stammering lip.
Her gentle head, Earth, with soft mosses dress,
And as her footstep light be thy caress.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #240]
Mother Flaccilla, Fronto sire that's gone,
This darling pet of mine, Erotion,
I pray ye greet, that nor the Land of Shade
Nor Hell-hound's maw shall fright my little maid.
Full six chill winters would the child have seen
Had her life only six days longer been.
Sweet child, with our lost friends to guard thee, play,
And lisp my name in thine own prattling way.
Soft be the turf that shrouds her! Tenderly
Rest on her, earth, for she trod light on thee.
[tr. Duff (1929)]
To thee, my father, and to thee, my mother,
I recommend this darling little maid.
Shield her from the dreadful hound of Hades,
Shield her from the dark infernal shades.
She would have known the chill of six cold winters
Had she lived only six more little days.
Amid such old defenders let her frolic
And babble my name as was her childish way.
Lie lightly on her, earth, O lie not heavy
Upon her bones, for she was light on thee.
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]
Fronto, father, and mother Flaccilla,
hold my darling Erotion firm in your memory:
Don't let her diminutive soul shiver
at the dusky shades of Hell
or flinch at the monstrous mouth
of the watchdog Tartarus.
Had she lived six days longer,
she would have seen her sixth winter solstice.
She was always happy,
always at ease
in the company of older people.
I hope she will still, down there,
be gaily lisping my name, in her afterlife.
Oh green earth, rest lightly on her! Do not
bear down too hard on her there, who was
never a trouble or burden to you, here.
[tr. Bovie (1970), "Erotion (1)"]
To you, my parents, I send on
This little girl Erotion,
The slave I loved, that by your side
Her ghost need not be terrified
Of the pitch darkness underground
Or the great jaws of Hades' hound.
This winter she would have completed
Her sixth year had she not been cheated
By just six days. Lisping my name,
May she continue the sweet game
Of childhood happily down there
In two such good, old spirits' care.
Lie lightly on her, turf and dew;
She put so little weight on you.
[tr. Michie (1972)]
To you, the shades of my begetters, Fronto
and Flacilla, where you lie in sweet
decay, I commend with love the body
of my darling child Erotion.
bred slave yet tender as a golden dormouse,
rarer than the Phoenix, whiter than
an unsmudged lily --
guide her spirit home
so she may look for lights in Tartarus
and miss the snapping jaws of hell-hound
Cerberus. She’d have lived six shivering winters
if she hadn’t died that many days before
Now let her play
light-heartedly in the ever-darkened house
beside such sure protectors.
May my name
be burbling on her tongue, the childish gift
of sorrow spent on age.
And monumental earth,
draw back eternal weight from her
don’t be severe and tread
on her with gravity: she never did on you.
[tr. Porter (1972)]
Fronto, Father, Flacilla, Mother, extend
your protection from the Stygian shadows.
The small Erotion (my household Iris)
has changed my house for yours. See that the hell-
hound's horrid jaws don't scare her, who was no
more than six years old (less six days) on the
Winter day she died. She'll play beside you
gossiping about me in child's language.
Weigh lightly on her small bones, gentle earth,
as she, when living, lightly trod on you.
[tr. Whigham (1987)]
To you, father Fronto and mother Flaccilla, I commend this girl, my pet and darling. Little Erotion must not be frightened by the dark shades and the monstrous mouths of Tartarus' hound. She was due to complete the chills of a sixth midwinter, no more, if she had not lived that many days too few. Let her now play and frolic with her old patrons and lispingly chatter my name. Not hard be the turf that covers her soft bones, be not heavy upon her, earth; she was not heavy upon you.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]
To your shades Fronto, and Flaccilla, this child
I commend: she was my sweet and my delight.
Little Erotion shall not fear the darkened shades
nor the vast mouths of the Tartarean hound.
She’d have completed her sixth chill winter,
if she’d not lived a mere six days too few.
Now let her frisk and play among old friends
now let her chatter, and so lisp my name.
And let the soft turf cover her brittle bones:
earth, lie lightly on her: she lay lightly on you.
[tr. Kline (2006)]
To you, my parents Fronto and Flaccilla,
I commend this girl, my darling and delight,
Don't let the dark shades and the huge-mouthed hellhound
fill my small Erotion with fright.
She would have known the chill of six midwinters
had she survived by just as many days.
Now let her lisping mouth prattle my name
to her old patrons, and she romps and plays.
Let no hard turf hide her soft bones. Earth, do
not press her harshly; she was light on you.
[tr. McLean (2014)]
This girl, father Fronto and mother Flaccilla, I commit to your care, so that little Erotion, my pet and darling, may not tremble at the dark shades and at the monstrous mouths of the hound of Tartarus. She would have just seen out the frosts of her sixth midwinter, had her life not fallen that many days short. I hope she plays and skips now in her former patrons' keeping; I hope her hare-lip mumbles my name. Please let the turf that covers her bones not be hard, and, earth, be not heavy upon her, she was no weight on you.
[tr. Nisbet (2015)]
I commend you this slave girl, father Fronto, mother Flaccilla, as she was my delight and the object of my kisses. May little Erotion not fear the dark shades nor the vast mouths of the Tartarean dog. She would have completed her sixth cold winter if she'd not lived as many days too few. Now, let her play amid old friends, let her chatter and lisp my name. May the soft turf cover her brittle bones: earth, lie lightly on her, as she was not heavy on you.
To you, my departed parents, dear mother and father,
I commend my little lost angel, Erotion, love’s daughter.
She fell a mere six days short of outliving her sixth frigid winter.
Protect her now, I pray, should the chilling dark shades appear;
muzzle hell’s three-headed hound, lest her heart be dismayed!
Lead her to romp in some sunny Elysian glade,
her devoted patrons. Watch her play childish games
as she excitedly babbles and lisps my name.
Let no hard turf smother her softening bones; and do
rest lightly upon her, earth, she was surely no burden to you!
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I hate that I’ve become one of those old men who visits a cemetery to be with his dead wife. When I was (much) younger I used to ask Kathy what the point would be. A pile of rotting meat and bones that used to be a person isn’t a person anymore; it’s just a pile of rotting meat and bones. The person is gone — off to heaven or hell or wherever or nowhere. You might as well visit a side of beef.
When you get older you realize this is still the case. You just don’t care. It’s what you have.
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