The Carmina of Caius Valerius Catullus, by Catullus


Suffenus iste, Vare, quem probe nosti,

Homost venustus et dicax et urbanus,

Idemque longe plurimos facit versus.

Puto esse ego illi milia aut decem aut plura

Perscripta, nec sic ut fit in palimpseston 5

Relata: chartae regiae, novei libri,

Novei umbilici, lora rubra, membrana

Derecta plumbo, et pumice omnia aequata.

Haec cum legas tu, bellus ille et urbanus

Suffenus unus caprimulgus aut fossor 10

Rursus videtur; tantum abhorret ac mutat.

Hoc quid putemus esse? qui modo scurra

Aut siquid hac re scitius videbatur,

Idem infacetost infacetior rure,

Simul poemata attigit, neque idem umquam 15

Aequest beatus ac poema cum scribit:

Tam gaudet in se tamque se ipse miratur.

Nimirum idem omnes fallimur, nequest quisquam,

Quem non in aliqua re videre Suffenum

Possis. suus cuique attributus est error: 20

Sed non videmus, manticae quod in tergost.


To Varus Abusing Suffenus.

Varus, yon wight Suffenus known to thee

Fairly for wit, free talk, urbanity,

The same who scribbles verse in amplest store —

Methinks he fathers thousands ten or more

Indited not as wont on palimpsest, 5

But paper-royal, brand-new boards, and best

Fresh bosses, crimson ribbands, sheets with lead

Ruled, and with pumice-powder all well polished.

These as thou readest, seem that fine, urbane

Suffenus, goat-herd mere, or ditcher-swain 10

Once more, such horrid change is there, so vile.

What must we wot thereof? a Droll erst while,

Or (if aught) cleverer, he with converse meets,

He now in dullness, dullest villain beats

Forthright on handling verse, nor is the wight 15

Ever so happy as when verse he write:

So self admires he with so full delight.

In sooth, we all thus err, nor man there be

But in some matter a Suffenus see

Thou canst: his lache allotted none shall lack 20

Yet spy we nothing of our back-borne pack.

That Suffenus, Varus, whom thou know’st right well, is a man fair spoken, witty and urbane, and one who makes of verses lengthy store. I think he has writ at full length ten thousand or more, nor are they set down, as of custom, on palimpsest: regal paper, new boards, unused bosses, red ribands, lead-ruled parchment, and all most evenly pumiced. But when thou readest these, that refined and urbane Suffenus is seen on the contrary to be a mere goatherd or ditcher-lout, so great and shocking is the change. What can we think of this? he who just now was seen a professed droll, or e’en shrewder than such in gay speech, this same becomes more boorish than a country boor immediately he touches poesy, nor is the dolt e’er as self-content as when he writes in verse — so greatly is he pleased with himself, so much does he himself admire. Natheless, we all thus go astray, nor is there any man in whom thou canst not see a Suffenus in some one point. Each of us has his assigned delusion: but we see not what’s in the wallet on our back.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52