DemosNews: Catullus: Thirteen Poems
Catullus: Thirteen Poems
By: Carl Sesar

Hello, sparrow, my girl’s little pet,
she plays around with you, holds you,
gives you her fingertip to peck at,
teasing, poking to make you bite harder,
and glows, lovely, her eyes flashing,
thinking, I know, of other sweet games
and things to soothe the pain a little
once the heavy burning need dies down.
Wish I could play with you like that
and ease my mind of my deep trouble.

Veranius, my best friend, dearer to me than
any thousand friends I know, is it true
that you’ve come back home again, home
to your loving brothers, your elderly mother?
It is true.  And what beautiful news to me!
I’ll see you safe and sound, listen to you
tell all about Hiberia, people, places, things,
the way you always do, hug you by the neck,
kiss you on the mouth and those eyes I love . . .
So how do you do, all you happy people!
Can anyone be any happier than I am?

Maybe you don’t have money or slaves, Furius,
or heat in the house, or a pot to piss in,
but you’ve got your dad, and a new mother too,
both with teeth that can split rock and eat it,
and it’s beautiful the way you live together
with the old man and his stick of a wife,
and no wonder:  you’re all good and healthy,
have fine digestions, not a care in the world,
no fires, heavy damages, criminal thefts,
poisonous plots or any other possible hazards.
Besides, what with your body all dried out
and tougher than toenails, living in the
fresh air and sunshine on a starvation diet,
how in the hell can you help but be happy?
You’re never bothered with sweat or saliva,
or phlegm, or snot running out of your nose,
and to top off all of these good things yet,
your ass is as clean as a salt lick, seeing
you don’t take a shit more than ten times a year,
and that’s harder than a dry bean or pebble,
you can pick it up, rub it in your hands,
and you won’t even get your fingers dirty!
With blessings of life such as this, Furius,
don’t keep complaining about how poor you are,
and quit coming around asking for that loan
of a hundred – you’re rich enough already.

Listen kid, go bring us something
decent to drink, you heard the lady,
she’s smashed as a grape and wants
good old Falernian bubbly, the best.
Piss off, water, you kill the wine,
move, go chase the squares instead,
here we do only serious drinking.

You forget, Alfenus, you cheat on those who love you,
don’t you even feel sorry for your sweet little friend?
Or how many more lies will you tell me, you bastard?
Think you please the gods making fools out of people?
But you don’t care, you leave me feeling miserable,
and what’s someone supposed to do, who can he believe?
It was you, you said to give myself up to you, liar,
leading me on into love, it all seemed so easy . . .
Now you walk out on me, and all you ever said or did
trails meaninglessly off into thin air and vanishes.
You may forget, but the gods remember, truth remembers,
and some day soon they’ll make you pay for everything.

Ameana, that fucked-out little bitch,
said she’d charge me ten thousand flat,
yeah, the one with the pushed-in nose
who screws for that loser from Formiae.
Get together, you guardians of the kid,
call some friends or doctors or something –
the girl’s out of her mind, and better
go take a look in the mirror sometime.

It was quite a day yesterday, Licinius,
you came over, I broke out my writing kit,
and we had us such a wild time together
tossing off all those raw little verses,
one for you, one for me, laughing away,
drinking, that by the time it was over
and you went home, what with your charm
and wit, Licinius, I was on fire for you.
I felt so bad I couldn’t eat anything,
couldn’t sleep, I just lay there in bed
going crazy waiting for the sun to come up
so I could talk to you, be with you again.
But I’m so worn out now I can hardly move,
so, practically half-dead from my bedside,
here, beautiful, I wrote this poem for you.
Well, now you know what my trouble is.
And I’m warning you, don’t get too smart,
and you better not turn me down either,
sweetheart, or Nemesis’ll take care of you.
She’s a strict goddess, don’t play with her.

Please, Camerius, I’m asking you nicely,
you mind telling me where you’ve been hiding?
I’ve been asking around in the park for you,
over at the Circus, in all the libraries,
even up on the hill at the temple of Jove.
Finally, my friend, I went to the Promenade,
walked right up to all the ladies and said,
‘You bad, bad girls, give me my Camerius!’
They looked me right back straight in the eye,
and one of them opens her dress up in front,
‘Here he is, in between my big, rosy tits!’
Boy, finding you is a job for Hercules already.
Maybe you’re too good for us, is that it, pal?
Come on, talk, where the hell are you anyway,
let’s get the whole story out in the open,
is it true the milk-white lovelies have got you?
If you don’t give your tongue some exercise
you’re going to waste a whole lot of loving,
you know how Venus likes to get talked about.
All right, go ahead, keep your mouth shut,
but leave just a little love left over for me.

Worn out as I am, in constant pain and sorrow,
and no fit company, Hortalus, for learned maids
when, unable to bear sweet children by the Muses,
my mind tosses and turns in its own troubles,
for creeping tides of Lethe wash the death-pale
foot of my brother in their fathomless waters,
and he lies trampled under the earth, torn from
our sight, lost beneath the heavy coasts of Troy . . .
am I never, my brother, dearer to me than life,
to see you again?  But surely I will always love you,
and always sing songs of mourning for your death,
as from deep within the shadows of the forest
the nightingale cries out at the fate of Itylus . . .
still, for all of my grief, Hortalus, I send you
these translations of some verse by Callimachus,
so you won’t think that what you said to me just
slipped from the vague wandering fog in my mind
the way an apple her boy friend sent her in secret
pops right out of a girl’s innocent young breast
because – the poor thing! – she forgot all about it
under her dress and jumped up when mother came in,
there it goes bouncing across the floor, her face
is red, she’s so ashamed of herself she could cry.

If a man can take any pleasure remembering
good things he’s done, knowing he’s been true,
that he didn’t break his word, or swear by the
gods to promises that he never meant to keep,
then many joys await you for long years to come,
Catullus, from this thankless love of yours.
Because all the things a person could ever say
or do for another, were said and done by you.
All wasted, given to a heart that never cared.
So why keep on torturing yourself anymore?
Come on now, be tough, get yourself together,
the gods don’t want your misery, so quit it.
It’s hard suddenly after so long to forget her?
Sure it’s hard, but you’ve got to do it somehow.
It’s the only way out, you must see it through.
Do it.  Never mind if you can or you can’t.
O gods!  If you feel pity, if ever you gave
a man aid and comfort in death’s last agony,
see my misery, and if I’ve lived a pure life,
tear out this wasting disease from inside me,
this slow paralysis that creeps through my body,
driving all the joy of life out of my heart!
I don’t ask that she love me back any longer,
or, the impossible, that she ever know shame.
I want myself well, to be rid of this sickness.
Do this for me, O gods, in reward for my piety.

You were playing, Juventius, when I stole a kiss
that tasted sweeter to me than sweet ambrosia.
But I didn’t get away with it.  No, you had me
nailed to the cross, I remember, for hours after,
begging for forgiveness with tears in my eyes,
and you wouldn’t budge, you were that mad at me.
Even the minute I did it you washed your lips
with water and wiped them off with your fingers,
so you wouldn’t catch any disease from my mouth,
as if it were nasty spit from a sick old whore.
Then, because I wanted you so much, you made
me miserable, torturing me in all kinds of ways,
till that sweet little kiss went so bad finally,
it tasted bitter to me as bitterest hellebore.
If that’s the way you punish a poor lover, okay,
from now on I steal no more kisses from you.

I crossed many lands and a lot of ocean
to get to this painful ceremony, my brother,
so I could finally give you gifts for the dead,
and waste time talking to some silent ashes
being that you’re not here yourself with me.
Fate did wrong, my brother, to tear us apart!
But I bring you these offerings now anyway,
after the old custom our parents taught us.
Take them, soaked with your brother’s tears,
and forever more, my brother, goodbye.

Here’s Prickface with over thirty acres of range,
forty of farmland, plus beach property besides.
Now anybody who owns plowed fields, pasture,
tracts of forest, and wetlands all the way out to
the ocean’s edge in one estate, why the man’s
got to be richer than old Croesus himself, right?
But while all this is great, he’s still the greatest,
because he’s not even human like the rest of us
really, but a great big giant Prick on two legs.

© 2021 Carl Sesar of DemosNews

April 11, 2010 at 3:47am
DemosRating: 5
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Genre: Arts ()
Type: Creative
Tags: Catullus, poetry, Latin, ancient, Rome, translations, translator, Carl, Sesar


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