Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Poetry: Catullus

Sorry for the long delay, folks, but I had a lovely vacation and I hope you did as well. This trip home found me cleaning out my childhood bedroom and discovering, among other things, the quotes from my twelfth-grade Latin class. That made me realize that I do, indeed, miss studying Latin, and as such I'm posting an old favorite poem in both languages.

tr. James Michie

Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra
non belle uteris: in ioco atque uino
tollis lintea neglegentiorum.
hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte:
quamuis sordida res et inuenusta est.
no credis mihi? credi Pollioni
fratri, qui tua furta uel talento
mutari uelit: est enim leporum
differtus puer ac facetiarum.
quare aut henecasyllabos trecentos
exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,
quod me non mouet aestimatione,
uerum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.
nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis
miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus
et Veranius: haic amem necesse est
ut Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.

Asinius, you've an ugly way of using
Your left hand when we're deep in wine and jests:
You pinch the napkins of unwary guests.
Do you think it's smart? You're wrong, you imbecile.
It's infinitely cheap and unamusing.
You don't believe me? Well, believe your brother
Pollio, who'd pay any sum of money
To cancel facts and change back what you steal.
(Now there's a humorist with quite another
idea of wit: he knows what's really funny.)
I warn you, either give my linen back
Or massed hendecasyllables will attack.
It's not so much their worth that I regret,
It's that the napkins are a souvenir
From friends in Spain—they're Saetaban, a set
Veranius and Fabullus sent me. Thus
I'm bound to hold them every bit as dear
as my Fabullus and Veranius.


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