Symphosius Preface


Date: Fri 01 Jul 2022
Original text:

Haec quoque Symphosius de carmine lusit inepto.
Sic tu, Sexte, doces; sic te deliro magistro.

Annua Saturni dum tempora festa redirent
Perpetuo semper nobis sollemnia ludo,
Post epulas laetas, post dulcia pocula mensae,
Deliras inter vetulas puerosque loquaces,
Cum streperet late madidae facundia linguae,
Tum verbosa cohors studio sermonis inepti
Nescio quas passim magno de nomine nugas
Est meditata diu; sed frivola multa locuta est.
Nec mediocre fuit, magni certaminis instar,
Ponere diverse vel solvere quaeque vicissim.
Ast ego, ne solus foede tacuisse viderer,
Qui nihil adtuleram mecum quod dicere possem,
Hos versus feci subito de carmine vocis.
Insanos inter sanum non esse necesse est.
Da veniam, lector, quod non sapit ebria Musa.


These silly lines also Symphosius amused himself by composing.
Thus, Sextus, you teach; thus, with you as teacher, I rave.

When Saturn’s annual festive period came back around,
Always established as endless fun for us,
After the happy feasts, after the sweet cups of the table,
When, between the senseless old women and the chatty boys,
The eloquence of tipsy tongues rumbled widely,
Then the wordy cohort, with their enthusiasm for silly speech,
Long reflected everywhere upon nonsenses
Of great, unknown name; but much frivolity was voiced.
It was the image of not a middling but a great contest,
To set variously or to solve them in turn.
But I, who had brought nothing with me that I was able to say,
So that I not be seen as the only one to be shamefully silent,
Made up these verses on the spot out of voice’s poetry.
It is necessary not to be sane among the insane.
Be kind, reader, because the tipsy Muse was not discerning.

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The preface to Symphosius's riddle collection


This edition is based on Raymond T. Ohl, ed. The Enigmas of Symphosius. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.

If you're researching/studying this collection, you should also consult this excellent new edition: T. J. Leary, ed. Symphosius: The Aenigmata, An Introduction, Text and Commentary. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Textual differences in that edition include:

  • line 3: dum > cum
  • line 4: semper nobis > nec semper
  • line 9: nomine > tentamine (both seem to be hinting at the idea of solving riddles, i.e. offering up a "name" or "attempt")
  • line 11: nec > non

Tags: riddles  latin