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DIVINA VERBA SECUM NON
PUGNANT.

THE WORDS OF THE GODS DO NOT CONTRADICT EACH OTHER

Ex pulice, Antiquo Pota.[1] Hermaphroditus

AN EPIGRAM BY PULEX (“FLEA”), THE ANCIENT POET. HERMAPHRODITUS.

Cum mea me genitrix gravida gestaret in alvo:
Quid pareret: fertur consuluisse Deos.
Mas est (Phoebus ait) Mars, Foemina. Iunoque neutrum.
Cmque forem natus Hermaphroditus eram.
Quaerenti lethum. Sic Iuno ait. Occidet armis.
Mars cruce, Phoebus aquis. Sors rata quaeque fuit.
Arbor obumbrat aquas, ascendo. decidit ensis
Quem tuleram. casu labor & ipse super.
Pes haesit ramis. caput incidit amne, tulique
Foemina, Vir, Neutrum, Flumina, Tela, Crucem.

“When my mother was pregnant with me, and I in her womb, she is said to have asked the gods what she was going to bear. ‘He’s male’ (so Phoebus said); ‘she’s a girl’ - so Mars. Juno said ‘neither’. When I was born, I was Hermaphrodite. She asked about my death. Juno said ‘he’ll die by arms’, Mars: ‘by the cross’, and Phoebus: ‘by water’. All three were in the cards. I climbed a tree that hung over the water. The sword I carried dropped in, and I was sorely anguished at the fact. My foot stuck in the branches: my head fell in the river, and all the words were true at once: Woman, Man, Neither, River, Weapon, Cross.”

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GRAECUM SIC EXPRESSIT
POLITIANUS.

POLITIAN TRANSLATES IT THUS INTO GREEK

Ἔγκυος οὖσα γύνη τέκεος περὶ Φοῖβον, Ἄρῆα
Ἥρῆ τοὺς ἃμα Τρεῖς ἐξερέεινε θεοὺς
Ἄρσενα Φοῖβος, Ἄρης θηλὺν φάτο, κ’ οὔδ’ ἑτερον δὲ
Ἥρη. πάνθ’ὑγιῶς Ἄνδρόγυνος γὰρ ἔφυ.
Ἔιρομμένης δὲ μόρον. Μόρος οἷ ξίφος ἔχραεν ηρη
Σταῦρος[2] [=Σταῦρον] Ἄρης, Φοῖβος κύματα. πάντα ἀπέβη.
Δένδρῳ ἐφειστήκει: πέσε δ’ οἱ ξίφος, αὐτὸσ’ ἐπ’ αυτῳ.
Ἤριπεν εἲς πόταμον κύμβαχος ἐκ δὲ ποδοῖν
Ἤρθη ἀπ’ ἀκρεμόνων. θάνε γοῦν θαλὺς τὲ, καὶ ἄρρην
Κ’ οὐδέτερον σταύρῳ, κύμασι, καὶ ξιφέει.

A pregnant woman asked Phoebus, Ares, and Hera - all three gods at once - about her child. Phoebus said: “he’ll be male”, Ares: “female”, and Hera: “neither”. For he was born healthy, an Androgyn. And she asked about his death. “A sword”, said Hera; “a cross”, said Ares; “the waves”, said Phoebus. All happened. He stood atop a tree; his sword fell, and he atop it; he fell headlong into the river and hung from the boughs by his feet. So he died at once a woman and a man and neither, by cross and waves and sword.

Notes:

1. The nickname ‘Pulex’ refers in fact to the same author as the poem’s ‘translator’, below, Poliziano, a play on his name in Latin, Politianus (or Pulicianus), and the word for ‘flea’. Angelo Ambroghini Poliziano (d. 1494), was an early Italian humanist, whose interest in the more bawdy side of Classical poetry (notably Catullus), sometimes got him into trouble, much like his predecessor, Panormita (Antonio Beccadelli), whose Hermaphroditus (Latin epigrams that evoke Catullus) may have inspired this text - though the poem is much older, “The Epigram of the Hermaphrodite”, attributed to the 12th-century poet, Mathieu de Vendme. It is also worth noting that this image appears very much like the ‘Hanged Man’ in Tarot, a man hanging upside-down from a tree above water, an image also associated with dual nature.

2. In line six the accusative Σταῦρον is needed.



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