Another Epigram of Buchanan: Icones 3 (Updated)

After Saturn and Jupiter, we come in George Buchanan’s Word-Pictures to Mars.

Icones 3 once again consists of two elegiac couplets, which I have once again rendered as three iambic pentameter/tetrameter couplets.

If the previous poem was euhemerist, this one is etymological: Buchanan plays on the (actual) etymological connection between the archaic name of Mars, Mavors, and the verb evortere (evertere), “to overturn.”

As he often is, Mars is accompanied here by a host of foul personifications, such as Violence and Madness. A very early example of the same motif is found in Homer, Iliad 4.439-45, where we read of him under his Greek name:

Ares drove these on, and the Achaians grey-eyed Athene,

and Terror drove them, and Fear, and Hate whose wrath is relentless,

she the sister and companion of murderous Ares,

she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven.

She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides

as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.

Trans. Richmond Lattimore

Indeed, it is perhaps not too much to suggest that Buchanan may have been thinking of this passage. See for yourself, and come to your own conclusions.

In any case, here is the poem. I give the Latin text as found in Buchanan’s 1725 Opera omnia, Tomus secundus, pars prima, 386. Hope you enjoy it.

In Latin:

III. Mars

Magna quod evortam Mavors sum iure vocatus,

    quam validus dextra, tam rationis inops.

Vis, furor, ira, pavor, comites sunt, et mihi testes,

    Quantum consilii vis ferat orba mali.

And in English:

3. Mars

Because in war I overturn the great,

    Am I called Mars, the god of war.

And what I lack in reason, I in hate

    mend with my arm. Violence sore,

Crazed Wrath, pale Fear, my friends, portend the fate

    That force sans wisdom has in store.

Update: There was a metrical faux-pas in the final line, which I have fixed. While I was at it, I made a slight change to the second line.


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