The Society for Ancient Languages
CONTRA ORATIONEM SYMMACHI
A REPLY TO THE ADDRESS OF SYMMACHUS
| Paulus, praeco Dei, qui fera gentium
primus corda sacro perdomuit stilo,
Christum per populos ritibus asperis
inmanes placido dognate seminans,
inmansueta suas ut cerimonias
gens pagana Deo sperneret agnito,
actus turbinibus forte nigerimis
hibernum pelagus iam rate debili
et vim navifragi pertulerat noti.
Sed cum caerulei proelia gurgitis
iussisset Domini dextra quiescere,
ad portum fluitans cumba relabitur
exponitque solo litoris uvidi
contractos pluvio frigore remiges.
Tunc de litoreis saepibus algidi
arentum propere bracchia palmitum
convectant rapidos unde focos struant:
fascem quisque suum congerit ignibus
expectans calidi luxuriam rogi.
Paulus, dum fragiles cogere surculos
et densere foci congeriem studet,
incautam cumulis inseruit manum,
torpebat glacie pigra ubi vipera
sarmentis laqueos corporis inplicans.
Quae postquam intepuit fomite fumeo
laxavitque ferox colla rigentia,
iam flecti facilis, rettulit ad manum
vibrato capite spicula dentium.
Haerentem digiti vulnere mordicus
pendentemque gerens Paulus inhorruit.
Exclamant alii, quod cute livida
virus mortiferum serpere crederent.
At non intrepidum terret apostolum
tristis tam subiti forma periculi.
Adtollens oculos sidera suspicit
Christum sub tacito pectore murmurans,
excussumque procul discutit aspidem.
Abiectus coluber verberat aera
atque oris patuli solvit acumina.
Mox omnis sanies deserit et dolor
ceu nullo laceram vulnere dexteram,
siccatusque perit vipereus liquor.
Hydrum praecipitem dum rotat inpetus,
arsurum mediis intulit ignibus.
|Paul, the herald of God, who first with his holy pen subdued the wild hearts of the Gentiles, and with his peaceable teaching propagated the knowledge of Christ over barbarous nations that followed savage ways, so that the untamed pagan race might come to know God and reject its own rituals, chanced once to be driven before a black tempest and with his ship disabled endured a stormy sea and a furious, wrecking wind. But when the Lord's hand made the dark, warring waters sink to rest, the vessel, still afloat, glided into a haven and on the wet shore disembarked her crew all pinched with cold and rain; and then, shivering the while, they hastily gathered dry, branching shoots from bushes by the shore to make a vehement blaze, each one, as he piled his bundle on the flames, looking to enjoy the warmth of the bonfire. Paul, busily gathering brittle twigs and pressing them on the burning heap, put an unwary hand into the pile, where a viper had been lying torpid and benumbed with the frost, its body twined in coils about the sticks; and now that it was warmed up by the smoking fire and got its stiff neck loosened it grew fierce again, and with its suppleness restored it poised its head and struck at his hand with its sharp teeth. Paul shuddered as he lifted it while it clung to the wound in his finger, hanging on by its bite. Others cried out, for they supposed the deadly venom was spreading and discoloring the skin; but the apostle was undaunted; the sudden peril in this grim shape did not affright him. Raising his eyes, he looked up to heaven, silently uttering the name of Christ in his heart, and shook the reptile off and cast it from him, and the snake, as he threw it off, lashing the air opened its mouth and released its fangs. Then all the tainted blood and the pain vanished from the hand as though no wound had torn it, and the viper's venom dried up and disappeared. The forceful toss sent the serpent whirling into the midst of the fire to burn.|
| Sic nunc post hiemem vinque trucis freti, quo
iactata ratis tunc Sapientiae est,
cum sub sacricolis territa regibus
vix panso poterat currere carbaso
adflictosque suos turbine saeculi
vectarat rabidis fluctibus innatans,
morsum vulnificum lex pia pertulit.
Occultabat enim se prius abditum
virus nec gravidum protulerat caput,
contentum involucris atque cubilibus
subter conprimere clausa silentia.
Sed, dum forte latens inpietas riget,
dextram Iustitiae pigra momorderat
succensi stomacho fellis inaestuans.
Heu, quam catholicam nil prope profuit
puppem nasse sacri remigio stili
quem Paulus variis gentibus edidit!
Vix portu placido tuta quieverat
victrix edomitis mille furoribus,
vix adstricta suis iam retinaculis
vectores stabili condiderat solo:
erumpit subito triste periculum.
Nam dum praecalidos igniculos sibi
solvendis adolent et senio et gelu,
dum virgas steriles atque superfluas
flammis de fidei palmite concremant,
ut concreta vagis vinea crinibus
silvosi inluviem poneret idoli,
palpavit nimius perniciem tepor.
Seps insueta subit serpere flexibus
et vibrare sagax eloquii caput:
sed dextra inpatiens vulneris inritos
oris rhetorici depulit halitus;
effusum ingenii virus inaniter
summa Christicolis in cute substitit.
|So in our day, after the storm and violence of the angry sea whereon Wisdom's barque was driven about, what time she was put in fear under idolatrous rulers and could scarce run with canvas spread, and the people she carried as she floated over the raging waves were in distress from the storm of the world, her holy law suffered a bite that wounded it. For the poison had benn lurking hitherto in secret, nor put forth its virulent head, but had been content to lie wrapped up deep in its lair and keep close silence; but while Impiety was lying stiff and unperceived, numb as it was, it bit the hand of Righteousness, for its gall was inflamed and it was heated with rage. Alas, how all but bootless it has been that the Catholic barque has swum the seas under the oarage of the holy writings that Paul put forth to many nations! Scarce had she come to rest in the safety in the calm haven after her victory over a thousand wild storms, scarce had she been made fast with her mooring-ropes and landed her passengers on firm ground, when suddenly the grim peril burst forth. For while they were making hot fires to relieve their weariness and cold, burning in the flames the barren and useless shoots from the vine of the faith, which had grown into a thick mass of gadding tresses, to rid it of its rank forest-growth of idolatry, the all too warm caress of the heat brought the plague to life. The snake began to creep and twine anew and poise a head that was skilled in speech. But a hand that no wound can hurt turned aside the vain breathings of that eloquent mouth; its poisonous talent stopped short on the surface of the Christian's skin.|
| Salvator generis Romulei, precor,
qui cunctis veniam das pereuntibus,
qui nullum statuis non operis tui
mortalem, facili quem releves manu,
huius, si potis est, iam miserescito
praeruptam in foveam praecipitis viri.
Spirat sacrilegis flatibus inscius
erroresque suos indocilis fovet.
Obtestor, iubeas ne citus inpetus
arsurum mediis inferat ignibus.
|O Savior of the race of Romulus, who dost grant Thy grace to all that are perishing and dost establish as a work of Thine every mortal whom with ready hand Thou raisest up, I pray Thee, if it may be, have compassion now on this man who has fallen into a sheer pit. Unwittingly he breathes impiety, and in his ignorance clings to his errors. I beseech Thee, command that a swift toss shall not send him into the midst of the fire to burn.|