Magna sed nimium loquor295
ignāra nostrae sortis. unde illum mihi
quō tē tuamque dexteram amplectar diem
reditūsque lentōs nec meī memorēs querar?
tibi, ō deōrum ductor, indomitī ferent
centēna taurī colla; tibi, frūgum potēns,300
sēcrēta reddam sacra: tibi mūtā fide
longās Eleusīn tacita iactābit facēs.
tum restitūtās frātribus rēbor meīs
animās, et ipsum rēgna moderantem sua
flōrēre patrem. sī qua tē māior tenet305
clausum potestās, sequimur; aut omnēs tuō
dēfende reditū sospes aut omnēs trahe.
— trahēs, nec ūllus ēriget frāctōs deus.
Megara’s bold tone suddenly shifts to acknowledge the uncertainty of her situation. She tentatively imagines Hercules’ return and the thank-offerings to the gods that would accompany it. She mourns the deaths of her brothers and father but imagines that being reunited with Hercules would compensate for her loss of them. She promises to join Hercules in death if he is truly trapped in the Underworld, then concludes on a note of despair.
295 magna sed nimium loquor: “but I speak too boldly.” nimium modifies magna (“things too great [for my current situation]”). Magniloquentia, “big speaking,” describes elevated or, more often, arrogant or presumptuous speech.
296 ignāra nostrae sortis: “unmindful of my lot,” i.e. my powerlessness. Megara realizes that without Hercules she has no means to fight back against the tyrant Lycus.
297–98 unde illum mihi … diem: unde mihi is idiomatic for “where can I find?” and takes an accusative after the implied verb (see OLD unde 1.a): “where will I find that day?” Megara realizes she does not know how to achieve Hercules’ return. quō tē tuamque dexteram amplectar: quō is ablative of time when, its antecedent is diem; amplectar is subjunctive in a relative clause of charactersitic (AG 534). Mention of clasping his hand suggests the dextrarum iunctio, a symbol of marital concordia from Roman art. The elision in dexter(am) amplectar suggests the joining that Megara hopes for.
298 querar: “(the day on which) I might complain that,” subjective in a relative clause of characteristic, introducing indirect speech (supply esse). nec meī memorēs: the adjective has been transferred from Hercules to reditūs: it is of course he, and not his “return,” which Megara would accuse of being “forgetful.” %% It might seem odd that Megara would imagine criticizing Hercules as part of their happy return, but complaints by the puella relicta (“abandoned girlfriend”) about the absent male lover are a standard part of Latin erotic discourse since at least the story of Theseus and Ariadne in Catullus 64, where Theseus is repeatedly characterized as “forgetful,” immemor.
299–301 tibi ... tibi … tibi: anaphora (AG 641) within a tricolon. Repetition of forms of tū is characteristic of prayer language, typically all referring to the same god; here, the first refers to Jupiter and the other to Ceres. Megara invokes the aid of Jupiter because he is cheif (ductor) of the gods. Ceres is a more surprising addressee, but Hercules was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries before going to the Underworld (Apollodorus 2.5.12, Euripides, Heracles 613), so the goddess would have a special connection to him.
299–300 indomitī … taurī: “untamed” bulls that have never carried a yoke to plow fields. Megara describes a hecatomb, the sacrifice of one hundred bulls.
300 frūgum potēns: “(the goddess) holding power over crops,” i.e. Ceres. The genitive with potēns is regular (LS potens B.1, at the end of the entry for possum).
301–2 sēcrēta … sacra: the Eleusinian Mysteries, a secret initiatory cult dedicated to Ceres and Proserpina. Though located at Eleusis, near Athens, the ceremony was the focus of pilgrimage from all over Greek-speaking world. reddam:“I will render (the rites).” The verb describes the performance of ritual offerings owed to a deity in thanks for granting the fulfilment of a prayer (OLD reddo 9.b), in this case participation in the nighttime torch-lit procession (longās … facēs) from Athens to Eleusis that was the most notable public part of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Eleusīn: feminine nominative (gen. Eleusīnis). Eleusis is tacita because initiates never divulged what had happened at the climactic secret ceremony. iactābit: Eleusis “will brandish” (LS iacto B.1) the torches, that is, the worshippers at Eleusis will do so. mūtā fide, “in silent faith,” i.e. in faithful silence.
303–4 restitūtās: supply esse, “have been returned,” indirect speech after rēbor (“I will think” > reor). animās: “lives” (LS anima C.2), emphasized by enjambment. The idea that the returned Hercules would be a replacement for Megara’s dead father and brothers recalls Andromache’s famous argument to her husband Hector (Iliad 6.429–30) that her father, mother, and brothers are dead and so he plays those roles for her.
304–5 flōrēre … patrem: a second accusative and infinitive construction (AG 397.e). Standard prose word order would read rēbor patrem ipsum moderantem sua rēgna flōrēre.
305-6 sī ... potestās: “if any greater power holds you trapped” in the Underworld. sequimur: “I (am about to) follow you,” i.e., by suicide. The plural is poetic; the present for future (common enough in English: “I’m coming”) suggests an immediate willingness (Fitch 1987); see AG 468. %%Unlike for modern readers, to a Roman audience this promise of suicide would have been understood as a sign of devotion and bravery. In Lucan’s Bellum Civile 5.773–75 Cornelia, the wife of Pompey, contemplates a similar suicide when she fears that he will die.
306–8 The categorical language (aut omnēs … aut omnēs … nec ūllus) is indicative of intense emotion. Megara can imagine only complete salvation or complete destruction for all (omnēs) of Hercules’ loved ones.
307 sospes: a predicative adjective, explaining how Hercules would have to be in order to defend his loved ones. Fitch (1987) provides an idiomatic English translation of omnēs … sospes: “return safely and defend us all.” trahe: “drag,” i.e., to destruction and to the Underworld. See OLD traho 8.b. “drag down in ruins (esp. in one’s own fall).”
307–8 trahe … trahēs: the repetition trahe… trahēs (anadiplosis) marks Megara’s shift from optimism to despair: Hercules will drag them all down. frāctōs: “(we who) have been crushed” by Lycus.
ignārus –a –um: ignorant; unaware, having no experience of
quō: by how much more or less
amplector amplectī amplexus sum: to embrace
lentus –a –um: flexible, sticky, slow
memor: remembering; mindful of (+ gen.)
ductor –ōris m.: leader
indomitus –a –um: untamed, wild
taurus taurī m.: bull
collum collī m.: neck
frūx frūgis f.: fruit
sēcrētus –a –um: separated, secret, hidden
sacrum sacrī n.: a holy thing; sacrifice; a sacred thing, temple
mūtus –a –um: inarticulate, silent
fīdus –a –um: faithful, trustworthy
tacitus –a –um: silent
iactō iactāre iactāvī iactātus: to throw; throw around; boast
restituō restituere restituī restitūtus: to restore
moderor moderārī moderātus sum: to manage
flōreō flōrēre flōruī: to bloom
sōspes –itis: a saving; safe, happy
ērigō ērigere ērēxī ērēctus: to raise; set up, erect