The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus, by Catullus

lxvii.

O dulci iocunda viro, iocunda parenti,

Salve, teque bona Iuppiter auctet ope,

Ianua, quam Balbo dicunt servisse benigne

Olim, cum sedes ipse senex tenuit,

Quamque ferunt rursus voto servisse maligno, 5

Postquam es porrecto facta marita sene.

Dic agedum nobis, quare mutata feraris

In dominum veterem deseruisse fidem.

‘Non (ita Caecilio placeam, cui tradita nunc sum)

Culpa meast, quamquam dicitur esse mea, 10

Nec peccatum a me quisquam pote dicere quicquam:

Verum istud populi fabula, Quinte, facit,

Qui, quacumque aliquid reperitur non bene factum,

Ad me omnes clamant: ianua, culpa tuast.’

Non istuc satis est uno te dicere verbo, 15

Sed facere ut quivis sentiat et videat.

‘Qui possum? nemo quaerit nec scire laborat.’

Nos volumus: nobis dicere ne dubita.

‘Primum igitur, virgo quod fertur tradita nobis,

Falsumst. non illam vir prior attigerit, 20

Languidior tenera cui pendens sicula beta

Numquam se mediam sustulit ad tunicam:

Sed pater illius gnati violasse cubile

Dicitur et miseram conscelerasse domum,

Sive quod inpia mens caeco flagrabat amore, 25

Seu quod iners sterili semine natus erat,

Et quaerendus is unde foret nervosius illud,

Quod posset zonam solvere virgineam.’

Egregium narras mira pietate parentem,

Qui ipse sui gnati minxerit in gremium. 30

Atqui non solum hoc se dicit cognitum habere

Brixia Cycneae supposita speculae,

Flavos quam molli percurrit flumine Mella,

Brixia Veronae mater amata meae.

‘Et de Postumio et Corneli narrat amore, 35

Cum quibus illa malum fecit adulterium.’

Dixerit hic aliquis: qui tu isthaec, ianua, nosti?

Cui numquam domini limine abesse licet,

Nec populum auscultare, sed heic suffixa tigillo

Tantum operire soles aut aperire domum? 40

‘Saepe illam audivi furtiva voce loquentem

Solam cum ancillis haec sua flagitia,

Nomine dicentem quos diximus, ut pote quae mi

Speraret nec linguam esse nec auriculam.

Praeterea addebat quendam, quem dicere nolo 45

Nomine, ne tollat rubra supercilia.

Longus homost, magnas quoi lites intulit olim

Falsum mendaci ventre puerperium.’

lxvii.

Dialogue Concerning Catullus at a Harlot’s Door.

Quintus.

O to the gentle spouse right dear, right dear to his parent,

Hail, and with increase fair Jupiter lend thee his aid,

Door, ’tis said wast fain kind service render to Balbus

Erst while, long as the house by her old owner was held;

Yet wast rumoured again to serve a purpose malignant, 5

After the elder was stretched, thou being oped for a bride.

Come, then, tell us the why in thee such change be reported

That to thy lord hast abjured faithfulness owèd of old?

Door.

Never (so chance I to please Cæcilius owning me now-a-days!)

Is it my own default, how so they say it be mine; 10

Nor can any declare aught sin by me was committed.

Yet it is so declared (Quintus!) by fable of folk;

Who, whenever they find things done no better than should be,

Come to me outcrying all:—“Door, the default is thine own!”

Quintus.

This be never enough for thee one-worded to utter, 15

But in such way to deal, each and all sense it and see.

Door.

What shall I do? None asks, while nobody troubles to know.

Quintus.

Willing are we? unto us stay not thy saying to say.

Door.

First let me note that the maid to us committed (assert they)

Was but a fraud: her mate never a touch of her had, 20



But that a father durst dishonour the bed of his firstborn,

Folk all swear, and the house hapless with incest bewray;

Or that his impious mind was blunt with fiery passion 25

Or that his impotent son sprang from incapable seed.

And to be sought was one with nerve more nervous endowèd,

Who could better avail zone of the virgin to loose.

Quintus.

‘Sooth, of egregious sire for piety wondrous, thou tellest,

Who in the heart of his son lief was ——! 30

Yet professed herself not only this to be knowing,

Brixia-town that lies under the Cycnean cliff,

Traversed by Mella-stream’s soft-flowing yellow-hued current,

Brixia, Vérona’s mother, I love for my home.

Door.

Eke of Posthumius’ loves and Cornelius too there be tattle, 35

With whom darèd the dame evil advowtry commit.

Quintus.

Here might somebody ask:—“How, Door, hast mastered such matter?

Thou that canst never avail threshold of owner to quit,

Neither canst listen to folk since here fast fixt to the side-posts

Only one office thou hast, shutting or opening the house.” 40

Door.

Oft have I heard our dame in furtive murmurs o’er telling,

When with her handmaids alone, these her flagitious deeds,

Citing fore-cited names for that she never could fancy

Ever a Door was endow’d either with earlet or tongue.

Further she noted a wight whose name in public to mention 45

Nill I, lest he upraise eyebrows of carroty hue;

Long is the loon and large the law-suit brought they against him

Touching a child-bed false, claim of a belly that lied.

Catullus.

O dear in thought to the sweet husband, dear in thought to his sire, hail! and may Jove augment his good grace to thee, Door! which of old, men say, didst serve Balbus benignly, whilst the oldster held his home here; and which contrariwise, so ’tis said, didst serve with grudging service after the old man was stretched stark, thou doing service to the bride. Come, tell us why thou art reported to be changed and to have renounced thine ancient faithfulness to thy lord?

Door.

No, (so may I please Caecilius to whom I am now made over!) it is not my fault, although ’tis said so to be, nor may anyone impute any crime to me; albeit the fabling tongues of folk make it so, who, whene’er aught is found not well done, all clamour at me: “Door, thine is the blame!”

Catullus.

It is not enough for thee to say this by words merely, but so to act that everyone may feel it and see it.

Door.

In what way can I? No one questions or troubles to know.

Catullus.

We are wishful: be not doubtful to tell us.

Door.

First then, the virgin (so they called her!) who was handed to us was spurious. Her husband was not the first to touch her, he whose little dagger, hanging more limply than the tender beet, never raised itself to the middle of his tunic: but his father is said to have violated his son’s bed and to have polluted the unhappy house, either because his lewd mind blazed with blind lust, or because his impotent son was sprung from sterile seed, and therefore one greater of nerve than he was needed, who could unloose the virgin’s zone.

Catullus.

Thou tellest of an excellent parent marvellous in piety, who himself urined in the womb of his son!

Door.

But not this alone is Brixia said to have knowledge of, placed ‘neath the Cycnean peak, through which the golden-hued Mella flows with its gentle current, Brixia, beloved mother of my Verona. For it talks of the loves of Postumius and of Cornelius, with whom she committed foul adultery.

Catullus.

Folk might say here: “How knowest thou these things, O door? thou who art never allowed absence from thy lord’s threshold, nor mayst hear the folk’s gossip, but fixed to this beam art wont only to open or to shut the house!”

Door.

Often have I heard her talking with hushed voice, when alone with her handmaids, about her iniquities, quoting by name those whom we have spoken of, for she did not expect me to be gifted with either tongue or ear. Moreover she added a certain one whose name I’m unwilling to speak, lest he uplift his red eyebrows. A lanky fellow, against whom some time ago was brought a grave law-suit anent the spurious child-birth of a lying belly.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37