Masterpiece Monday: Catullus

A Modern statue of the roman poet Gaius Valeri...

Bust of Catullus (Image via Wikipedia)

Rating: 5 out of 5

Well, today has sure been an emotional roller-coaster for me. I had a fabulous weekend with friends, but for reasons I will not divulge, my mood’s not so chipper right now. In fact, I was pretty livid earlier, so I thought I would share with you some poetic masterpieces by my favorite Roman poet Catullus.

I took a whole class on Catullus at UCSC when I was studying Latin as a Classics minor, but for those of you unfamiliar with the man, he lived circa 84-54 BCE and was familiar with other famous Romans, such as Julius Caesar and Cicero. He’s most known for his honest, often vulgar poetry about his lovers, friends, and enemies.

I try to keep my blog pretty G-rated, so I can’t share some of my favorite poems because they’re just too raunchy. Catullus was definitely a hot-head, and he had no problem unleashing his anger upon those who wronged him.

So if you’re ever in a bad mood, and feel like reading some dirty Latin poems, I recommend 16 and 42, but beware: they’re definitely NSFW!!! But if you’re not a prude, they’re so hilarious that they’ll cheer you up real quick! So Google those poems…if you dare!

However, for today I’m sharing his 12th poem, in which he insults a man named Asinius Marrucinus for stealing his precious dinner napkin. Sure, he’s petty and melodramatic, but the man can write! Makes me miss studying Latin!

Here’s the poem in its original Latin:

—Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra
non belle uteris in ioco atque vino:
tollis lintea neglegentiorum.
hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte!
quamvis sordida res et invenusta est
non credis mihi? crede Pollioni
fratri, qui tua furta vel talento
mutari velit; est enim leporum
disertus puer ac facetiarum.
quare aut hendecasyllabos trecentos
exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,
quod me non movet aestimatione,
verum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.
nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis
miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus
et Veranius: haec amem necesse est
et Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.

And here’s my own English translation:

—Asinius Marrucinus, you do not make a pretty use of your left hand: you steal linen napkins of the neglectful in joke and drink.  Do you think that this is funny? It runs away from you, silly man: the thing is as vulgar and unattractive as you like. You do not believe me?  Believe your brother Pollio, who would want your thefts to be exchanged for one talent of silver: for the boy is filled of charms and jokes.  Wherefore, either expect 300 hendecasyllables, or send back my napkin to me, which does not move me at its value, but it is a souvenir of my companions.  For Fabullus and Veranius sent Saetaban napkins to me as a gift from Hiberia: it is essential that I love these as I love my Fabullus and little Veranius. 
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5 thoughts on “Masterpiece Monday: Catullus

  1. I love Catullus. Definitely helped make Latin class interesting enough to continue with it (although my excellent teacher, a Mr. Bryant, was the main reason).

    I’m boring though, I probably can’t be budged from my position that “odi et amo…” is his best poem.

    Oh, and uh, mellon. Naturally.

  2. Pingback: 2016 Goals: Q2 Progress | Book Club Babe

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