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  • Selected Poems
  • Gaius Valerius Catullus
    Translated by Christopher Pilling (bio)


She must really be an eyesore, Flavius, for you to keep her dark. You'd want to tell me all – and more, if she weren't… well… out of the Ark! Perhaps she's a tramp or a head scarved frump, or you're embarrassed by her bark? Your nights, you say, are sex starved but I can smell your bed – it's scented with musk rose and the rose that fell… And look at that bolster – dented by not just you. The bedclothes tell their tale and the bed keeps creaking – I've heard it! I wait for the bell to end each round. You're freaking out, you protest, but I know better why you look in that shagged state! Whoever she is, just tell me, so Catullus can communicate the news, lauding, blow by blow, the uppercut and thrust of love to all envious angels up above: how you glut your everlasting appetite, for you are not fasting!


There we were at dinner: the Asti's flowing and the laughter. When you think we're off our guard, a knowing hand that knows what it's after – it's the left one and that is sinister – surreptitiously removes [End Page 140] the table napkins from Squire Finisterre, Lord Rockall, Yours truly, Baroness Grooves of Academe, Count Fortie Winks of Fastnet, Dame Scilly and Lady Propitiously – neither of whom could be taken for a soubrette and none of whom should be treated so viciously!

Your thieving hand's disgraced you, Asinius. And you are asinine – in the worst of taste. You don't believe me? Can you see any of us biting the hand that feeds one? Pollio, your brother, would make good our loss, if he could, and your folly – oh, by lining our clouds with silver to relieve the ache of napkin loss. His wit's nimble – he can pull out the table cloth from under your wine glass (it's a trope,                     this), but yours is a bull in a china shop, unstable

to say the least, an anti cyclone that's blown in from the Azores. Expect to be picked right down to the bone in lampoons and epigrams, in sawes and moderne instances, if you're not swift to act: let me have my napkin back. It was a gift from friends in Spain – one of a set, fine Saetaban table linen whose actual worth is not at issue for what sends me wild is that they're a memento of those friends, Veranius and Fabullus – both salt of the earth.


If you weren't my mate, Calvus, I would hate you as much as old Vatinius does. You've sold me a pup – offered it, [End Page 141] rather, as a fit gift for a poet.

You've got a nerve! Now, do I deserve it? What have I said? I really do dread having such a horde of reasons to be bored! Each the mouse that roared!

A book of new verse — o.k. – but what's worse than 'Gems' or 'Choice rhymes' or 'Lines for the times'? Give me bites, not bits. I can't pit my wits against counterfeits.

If, as I suspect, you did not select this present but were given it by Sulla the pedagogue for your help on his score, I will say no more.

But the poems stink! Such a waste of ink on approximations; the lucubrations weren't worth the candle. Look, they can't handle scansion – that's the scandal.

And you've sent me this pot pourri of piss – an utter failure – when Saturnalia 's rearing its lusty head: [End Page 142] this day of days – bed, bean feasts... 'nuff said!

I'll get my own back: there's no need to rack my brains for a way. I'll enjoy today, then in the morning... I give you full warning... As soon as day's dawning…

I'll comb bookshop shelves of verse (he who delves in volumes slim as this may well feel the kiss of death!) for Caesius: complete; Aquinus: the 'Odes'; suave Suffenus –

all three...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 140-151
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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