GANYMEDE AND HEBE, 13TH CENTURY
Ganymede was a beautiful boy with whom, according to Greek legend, the king of the gods, here called, like everyone else in Latin accounts of the story, by his Roman name of Jupiter or Jove, became enamoured. Taking the form of an eagle, Jupiter swept down to Mount Ida in Phrygia, where Ganymede, a son of the king of nearby Troy, was hunting, and took him up to Mount Olympus to be his cupbearer and beloved. Hebe, Jupiter’s daughter by his wife Juno, the goddess of youth and most beautiful of the goddesses, had been his cupbearer hitherto and was thus displaced to Juno’s fury.
In the high mediaeval poem presented here, Juno dares not challenge Jupiter over Ganymede and instead gets Hebe to protest, leading to a vitriolic verbal combat. Unlike in the slightly earlier and more influential Debate of Ganymede and Helen, in which the apparently neutral author weighs up the love of boys in comparison with the love of women, the writer here is overtly partisan, declaring that Ganymede outshines Hebe as the sun does the moon, and instead of a judgment by the gods ending the debate, his poem has several gods smitten with Ganymede and it ends with the boy left unchallenged in the field.
The 13th-century manuscript in which alone this is preserved is a poetic miscellany formerly at the Benedictine monastery of Scheftlarn on the river Isar in Bavaria and now held in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich (Clm. 17212, fols. 26v-27r). Both the Latin text and an English translation of it were first published by John Boswell in Appendix 2 of his Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago, 1980), pp. 392-8. However, those presented here are by Thomas Stehling in his Medieval Latin Poems of Male Love and Friendship (New York, 1984), pp. 130-135.
|After the boy's abduction by the eagle, after the sweet boyish wickedness,
Juno weeps by herself in her bedroom for the cups snatched from Hebe.
But Juno did not dare to breathe her sorrow openly.
She encourages Hebe to take up the quarrel and promises her special favor. 4
She fits her out with rhetorical ploys beforehand
And teaches her envious words to scorch the boy with.
The handmaiden learns her part from her mistress:
What kinds of speeches, what arts of gesture to use.
The court is assembled to consider these sporting arguments.
In their midst Hebe asks for silence and then opens her mouth.
Her face blushes, and its color colors her words; 11
She blushes to speak, and her blush itself pleads her case:
“Immortal race, image of the eternal father.
Nature's prize, Nature's first offspring, 14
You who bear down on the unjust with holy justice,
I beg justice for the just; I complain at this broken law.
While grace favored me, I was Jove's cupbearer,
Blessed by our decree and his.
But a new guest has entered my domain, an unequalled enemy!
Or should I keep quiet? He's only a boy But why? You know all this. 20
This Phrygian, this disgrace from Troy, has invaded the stars
And set up a Trojan camp in the heavens.
This rabbit excites the other rabbits, uses his wits,And wafts the scent of game into heaven.
So lately plunder, boy, now plundering what is mine, 25
After being stolen yourself, have you come to steal goddesses’ rights?
But at your encouragement. Apollo, the Fates are preparing vengeance:
Troy has fallen, and a woman will bring on it the devastation it deserves.
Already our little punk has inserted himself into the marriage bed's vows.
Already the earth and sky have been signed over to him as part of his dowry. 30
O house! o virtue's dwelling, innocent of lechery!
A Trojan parvenu, a Trojan flute plays lewdly in your halls.
He gestures with his shoulder or foot or with a twist of his side,
While virtue is pushed to one side where she sits and weeps.
He shows off his face, and curls his hair with a curling iron. 35
Evil sprouts everywhere, now that this Ganymede is master.
In his face he nurtures a thousand arguments for evil;
Now that he is calling the tune, the gods had better watch out for themselves,
And so should the thousand deities of sea, earth, and sky.
Among the stars a boy is getting married, an impure boy, that boy! 40
By day the king calls out for this Dardanian nephew;
And at night truly he rouses this Phrygian nephew.
But I'm not discussing what this cupbearer gives Jove to drink by day;
I ask only this: who turns the cupbearer on his back at night? 44
Now, gods, Nature is blushing and our kind mother
Asks you with her tears what punishment this crime deserves.
Juno, Pallas, and all the goddesses request
That the heavenly gods’ verdict be quickly reached.”
She had finished. A murmur snaked through the crowd and a tumult arose.
But the boy stood up and his face won silence.50
Night has departed and day follows: Phoebus, just as you are used to
Overcoming Phoebe, so Ganymede’s honor excels Hebe.
Atlas, who bears the burden of this star, is happy to do it,
And Pallas is stirred by this boy any woman would sigh for. 54
Phoebus thinks of Hyacinth, Silvanus of Cyparissus;
Venus recalls Adonis: so great was his beauty.
Mars takes him in with a lecherous eye as if in an embrace
And as he looks sighs for kisses from those tender lips.
Jove is silently possessed by his own joys, and believes
He is more of a god because grace has favored him with this boy. 60
Like a descendant of Dardanus, the boy raises his eyes from his feet,
And seems to flash twin suns from heaven.
If he had committed any sin, his beauty itself begs pardon;
His face and body plead for their lord.
Judgment returns as if moved by boyish wonder at the boy; 65
Winning words flow from his delicate mouth:
“Here is my father Dardanus, here the whole line of his descendants;
And the race of Teucer is well known among these stars.
What have I done? I did not storm the heavens,
And Jove did not abduct me, but like a faithful friend taught me the way. 70
For he said to me, ‘Jove’s table, the council of the gods,
The heavens, and the Fates all welcome you to life above the upper air.’
I came, this honor is given, and I enjoy it; am I to be punished for it?
Was what this rascal offered a disgrace – that I mix his nectar?
Or was it right that a foul old maid with black hands, 75
That such a frump be a servant at Jove's table?
Let me be at your disposal, let me be whomever you want, as long as Jupiter remains the same.
Where before women wiggled their asses. now men suck.
Those who plow the furrow of our sex without a plowshare
Squeeze a bellows and forge lightning that cleaves the air. 80
Tell me do you consult the heavens to see if the moon is favorable?
And do you blush every time the Red Sea is rough?In her fox’s den, Hebe’s mother sits and fabricates new stories.
Nasty fictions her tongue's pen cunningly sketches when she speaks.
Was it my fault that men liked to hunt on Mount Ida? 85
A woman faithless to herself knows nothing of good faith.
She eggs me on and provokes me with the bitterness of her prating words,
But a chaste whore or peace-loving woman is rare.
Either I enjoy the heavens with virtue as my guide, or else it must be
That what fate's course makes necessary is a crime.” 90
Post aquile raptus, post dulce nefas puerile,
 According to Pindar in Nemean Ode X.
 According to Ovid, Metamorphoses X 155-161 and Servius’s commentary on Vergil’s Aeneid, II 31, either or both of which may have inspired the poem presented here.
 Stehling says his new version of the text was actually provided by Boswell together with Ralph Hexter, so the slight differences with Boswell’s original text do not represent disagreements.
 In the Latin, this puns, as “lepores” means “rabbits” and “leporem” means “wits”.
 Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom.
 Phoebus and Phoebe were epithets of the deities of the sun and the moon, ie. the poet is saying the sun outshines the moon just as Ganymede does Hebe.
 The Titan rebel Atlas was condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity.
 Hyacinth was a mortal boy loved by Phoebus alias Apollo, Cyparissus another loved by the Roman woodland god Sylvanus, and Adonis a young man loved by Venus, the goddess of love.
 The ancestor of the royal house of Troy, to which Ganymede belonged.
 Teucer was another ancestor of the royal house of Troy, through his daughter, whom the afore-mentioned Dardanus married.
 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago, 1980), p. 395, note 87 says this means “homosexual and heterosexual love are as different as the sun and the moon.”.
 John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality (Chicago, 1980), p. 395, note 88 says ‘Apparently this odd line means “Must everything be just like everything else?’ (‘Do you have to be the same color as the Red Sea?’). I.e., can there not be two completely different kinds of love?”.
 Amended from the manuscript’s “lacrimantur”, as noted by Stehling, op. cit., p. 161.
 There is no Latin word vomen, therefore, I translate vomine as a variant form of vomere (plowshare). [Translator’s note, pp. 161-3].
 The translator says p. 163, that, following Lenzen’s unpublished dissertation Uberlieferungsgeschichtliche, he has here amended the manuscript’s “favea” to “fovea”.