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June 30, 2007

The Ace of Spades HQ Poet Laureate: Gaius Valerius Catullus

One of the few things I remember from college was the wonderful versifying of famous (seriously! -- people study him and write thesis papers on him) Roman poet Catullus.

Green's translation should encourage readers of all kinds to read or re-read Catullus, one of the greatest and most influential of all classical poets.

Born in the provincial northern town of Verona sometime around 84 B.C.E., Catullus died in Rome, possibly of consumption, about thirty years later. He was an inspiration for the Augustan poets of the subsequent generation: Horace, Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid all look back to his work. So do many later European and American poets: Catullus's sparrow poems, for instance, have inspired many English imitations and acts of poetic homage, from John Skelton's remarkable poem "Phyllyp Sparowe" (written around 1500), to Carol Muske-Dukes's collection Sparrow (2003).

Catullus came from a wealthy family; unlike Virgil and Horace, he seems to have had no need to cultivate a rich patron to support him while writing poetry. His father was friendly with Julius Caesar and often invited him to dinner. Catullus wrote several vicious attacks on Caesar, which suggest that his military campaigns in Britain and Gaul are being criminally mismanaged by his chief engineer Mamurra, and that they are motivated by revolting avarice and greed on the part of Caesar himself, who is a "voracious/and shameless gut." Catullus also sneers at Caesar's bisexual promiscuity: "They're well matched, that pair of shameless buggers,/Bitch-queens both of them, Caesar and Mamurra" (Green's translation).

It gets worse, believe me.

My friend chose Catullus as the subject of his final term paper. I was so jealous at his brilliance. I did some gay one on Cicero. He seemed to have a lot more fun with his.

Here are some. I dedicate these to Larry "Super-Spy" Johnson, especially Catullus97. And they're quite real, and very accurate translations. Very Strong Content Warning For Extreme Profanity And Strong Sexual Content.


Here's the cite for the two that follow below.


Catullus 16

I'll fuck you up the ass, and you can blow me,

you cocksucker Aurelius and you faggot Furius,

for suggesting that my little verses

are effeminate and not pure enough.

A good poet should be virtuous,

but his verses don't need to be.

Who cares if verses that have spice and wit

are soft and not very pure?

They can also get you going.

I'm not talking to boys here, but to two hairy men

who can't even move their creaky old loins.

Are you two putting me down

just because you've read about my thousands of kisses?

Fuck you both. You can blow me.

And rappers think their rhymes are hard-core, huh?

Catullus 33

O most distinguished of the bathhouse thieves,

father Vibennius, and o buttfucking son,

(for the light-fingered father is quite foul,

and the son is voracious with his asshole),

why don't you go on a trip to someplace miserable,

since everyone knows about the robberies of the father.

And as for you, son, can't you manage

to sell your hairy ass to anyone for even a penny?

Pretty good. But it's Catullus 97 [The Foul Mouth of Aemelius] where he works his greatest poetical artistry.

You wouldn't think it made much difference

sniffing around Aemilius' mouth or his asshole,

one being no better or worse than the other,

but I figure his ass is a whole lot better,

it's got no teeth. His mouth has teeth in it

a half a yard long, the gums are all rotten,

sagging down loose as an old covered wagon,

and when he smiles the lips spread open wide

like a mule's cunt dripping on a hot summer day.

This is the big lover the ladies all fuck for?

I'd plug his face with a horse dick instead.

A girl who'd go near a creep like that, she

could get down and ream a sick hangman's ass.

I know a lot of you guys think poetry is teh ghey, but I'm sorry, I'm teary-eyed at this gorgeous imagery.

I wish Nostradamus had had half the talent Catullus did. Then we might have quartos like this:

Qaurtro XXVIII

When the Leader of the East rises

a real cocksucker by the way, and a butt-fucker of syphillitic fishmongers,

There will be rumors of war and raging fires,

crumbling mountains, boiling seas,

and a couple of old faggots with lupus monkey-fucking each other in a ditch.

At the place of the river Hister, where my retarded neighbor

jacks himself off with an old boot, and drops his load on passing gophers,

Then there will be great tumult, and then I think maybe I'll fuck my snaggletooth neighbor

up his dirty ass, because, seriously, he's such a fucking dick,

but he'd probably like it too much. The fairy.


I'd take his prophecies more seriously if they had that level of skill and detail.

digg this
posted by Ace at 06:50 PM

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