Quid? nisi Taenario placuisset Troica cunno
mentula, quod caneret, non habuisset opus.
mentula Tantalidae bene si non nota fuisset,
nil, senior Chryses quod quereretur, erat.
haec eadem socium tenera spoliavit amica,
quaeque erat Aeacidae, maluit esse suam.
ille Pelethroniam cecinit miserabile carmen
ad citharam, cithara tensior ipse sua.
nobilis hinc nata nempe incipit Ilias ira,
principium sacri carminis illa fuit.
altera materia est error fallentis Ulixei;
si verum quaeras, hunc quoque movit amor.
hic legitur radix, de qua flos aureus exit,
quam cum 'molu' vocat, mentula 'molu' fuit.
hic legimus Circen Atlantiademque Calypson
grandia Dulichii vasa petisse viri.
huius et Alcinoi mirata est filia membrum
frondenti ramo vix potuisse tegi.
ad vetulam tamen ille suam properabat, et omnis
mens erat in cunno, Penelopea, tuo:
quae sic casta manes, ut iam convivia visas
utque fututorum sit tua plena domus.
e quibus ut scires quicumque valentior esset,
haec es ad arrectos verba locuta procos:
'nemo meo melius nervum tendebat Ulixe,
sive illi laterum sive erat artis opus.
qui quoniam periit, vos nunc intendite, qualem
esse virum sciero, vir sit ut ille meus.'
hac ego, Penelope, potui tibi lege placere,
illo sed nondum tempore factus eram.
What then? Had Trojan yard Taenerian dame and her Cunnus
Never delighted, of song never a subject had he;
But for the Tantalid's tool being known to Fame and well noted
Old man Chryses had naught left him for making his moan.
This did his mate dispoil of a fond affectionate mistress
And of a prize not his plunderèd Aeacides,
He that aye chaunted his dirge of distress to the lyre Pelethronian,
Lyre of the stiff taut string, stiffer the string of himself.
Ilias, noble poem, was gotten and born of such direful
Ire, of that Sacred Song such was original cause.
Matter of different kind was the wander of crafty Ulysses:
An thou would verity know Love too was motor of this.
Hence does he gather the root whence springs that aureate blossom
Which whenas 'Moly' hight, 'Moly' but 'Mentula' means.
Here too of Circe we read and Calypso, daughter of Atlas,
Bearing the mighty commands dealt by Dulichian Brave
Whom did Alcinous' maiden admire by cause of his member
For with a leafy branch hardly that yard could be dad.
Yet was he hasting, his way to regain his little old woman:
Thy coynte (Penelope!) claiming his every thought;
Thou who bidest so chaste with mind ever set upon banquets
And with a futtering crew alway thy palace was filled:
Then that thou learn of these which were most potent of swiving,
Wont wast thou to bespeak, saying to suitors erect--
'Than my Ulysses none was better at drawing the bowstring
Whether by muscles of side or by superior skill;
And, as he now is deceased, do ye all draw and inform me
Which of ye men be the best so that my man he become.'
Thy heart, Penelope, right sure by such pow'r I had pleasèd,
But at the time not yet had I been made of mankind.
What? had not the Trojan mentule gladdened the Spartan coynte he would have had no theme for his song. If the mentule of the descendant of Tantalus had not been of renown, the aged Chryses would have had naught of complaint. The same [mentule] deprived his ally of a tender mistress, and she whom the grandson of Achilles possessed it desired for itself. Achilles chaunted his woeful dirge to the strains of the Pelethronian lyre, himself more 'rigid' than its strings. His ire, thus aroused, verily unfolds the famous Iliad: this was the origin of that immortal poem. The subject of the other [the Odyssey] is the wandering of the crafty Ulysses. If you would know the truth, love inspired this also. Hence is given [to Ulysses] a root from which a golden blossom springs: which, when called moly [by Homer], moly means mentule. Whence we read that Circe and Calypso, daughter of Atlas, bore children by the mighty implement of the Dulichian hero; and the daughter of Alcinous [Nausicaa] marvelled that his member could scarcely be covered by a leafy branch. Yet he hastened to his little old woman, and all his thoughts were centred in thy coynte, Penelope. Thou who keepest so chaste that in the meantime thou givest banquets and thine house is filled with futterers. And, that of these thou might'st ascertain which wight was the most vigorous, with these words spoken, thou art asking the nerve-extended crew: 'No man stretched his bow-string better than my Ulysses, whether 'twas by reason of his side-muscles or of his skill. Who being dead, do ye now stretch forth yours. Thus shall I see if there be a man like unto him; that that man be mine.' With such a treaty, I could have Pleased thee, Penelope: but at that time I was not yet made.
[1. Had not Helen eloped with Paris, Homer would not have written the Iliad. Priapus means that sexual love was the cause of the Trojan War. Horace writes--'For before Helen's time [many] a coynte was the dismal cause of war.'
2. Agamemnon was the great-grandson of Tantalus.
3. In the Trojan War the Greeks, having sacked some of the neighbouring towns and taken captive two beautiful maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, allotted the former to Agamemnon and the latter to Achilles. Chryses, priest of Apollo and father of Chryseis, on being refused his daughter's ransom, invoked a pestilence on the Greeks. Agamemnon was thus compelled to deliver up his captive, but in revenge he seized on Briseis, his comrade Achilles' prize. Achilles, in discontent, thereupon withdrew himself and his forces from the rest of the Greeks.
4. The moly was a fabulous herb said by Homer to have been given by Mercury to Ulysses, as a counter-charm against the spells of the enchantress Circe. According to the writer of this epigram, however, the charm simply consisted in the persuasive powers of Ulysses' mentule, through whose means he subjugated both Circe and Calypso.
5. Parodying the well-known episode of the slaying of the suitors. By a play upon words nervum is here used in the double sense of 'bow-string' and 'mentule'. Apuleius in his Metamorphoses gives the following description of an amorous encounter between Lucius and Fotis--
Again and again we pledged each other, until I, now flushed with wine, restless in mind as in body, and moreover wanton with desire (even slightly wounded on the top of my inguinal organ), having removed my garment, showed to Fotus the impatience of my longing.
'Pity me,' I cried, 'and speedily relieve me! For, as you perceive, since I received the first of cruel Cupid's arrows buried in my very vitals I have been intent upon the contest, now eagerly approaching, which you had proclaimed for us, without the intervention of a herald. Look at my bow! its very vigour stretches it, and fearfulness for the battle, [and I dread] lest its string should be broken by over-great tension. But if you would pleasure me still more, loosen your gathered tresses, and with your hair flowing like waves, give me loving embraces.'
In an instant, having hurriedly snatched away all the eating and drinking vessels, she stripped off all her garments, and with her hair dishevelled in joyous wantonness, she was beautifully transformed into the image of Venus rising from the waves, shading for an instant too with her rosy hand her bared coynte--rather through coquetry than concealing it from modesty--from which, after the fashion of a harlot, she had plucked the hair.
'Fight,' she cried, 'and fight manfully, for I will neither yield to thee, nor turn my back. Face to face and close quarter, if you are a man! Prepare yourself and diligently attack, kill and be slain! The battle this day is without quarter.']