Bissula

bissulamosel

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The figure is drawn/painted from my imagination based on the poem “Bissula” by Decimus Magnus Ausonius (incidentally, the river in the background is the Moselle, which he also writes a poem about). Here’s an extract (translated by Harold Isbell):

“III.
Bissula, born beyond the banks of the Rhine,
saw the Danube start its drop into the sea.
She was captured in war but later freed
by order of him to whom she belonged.
Lacking a mother and needing a nurse,
she never felt the hand of a mistress.
Her birth and fortunes never caused her shame
because she barely knew her slavery.
She was Latin but remained a German
in her pretty face, blue eyes, and blonde hair.
Although she was a child of German birth,
her youthful tongue found our language easy.

IV.
Pleasant, charming and loving; though foreign,
my daughter has conquered all the Latins,
Bissula, gentle girl with rustic name,
you need never fear your master’s anger.

V.
Neither wax nor paint will ever capture
in its art Bissula’s form or colour.
The reds and whites of other girls are caught
by painting the shades of powder and rouge,
but hands won’t catch her beauty as it is.
Let a painter mix the lily and rose,
still that colour comes to her from the air.

VI.
Artist, if you plan to paint our daughter,
be diligent in your art like the bee
who finds a sweetness and colour among
the flowers high on the rocks of Athens.”

After over 1600 years I think I’m the first to take him up on the challenge of depicting her.

Note: there are other translations but they sound lecherous…


2 thoughts on “Bissula

    1. I’m very glad you like it :). I’ve sent a reply to your message via email, in case it doesn’t arrive the short answer is yes, you may use it with acknowledgement.

      Like

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