XLII (Catullus)

Here’s a put-down poem by one of my favorites, Catullus, one of a group of young Roman poets who revolutionized poetry in the 1st century BCE:


Come, Hendecasyllables, come one and all,
From everywhere, as many as you may be,
For an ugly, skanky slut thinks I’m a joke
And says she won’t return our notebook to me
(If we just sit back and put up with this shit).

Let’s chase her down and tell her to give it back.
Which one is she, you ask? That one you see with
The ugly walk, annoying, drama-queen laugh
And long face like a Gallucan puppy’s.
Surround her, boys, and tell her to give it back:
“Skanky slut, return our poetry notebook!
Return, skanky slut, our poetry notebook!”
She doesn’t give a shit. Oh, that whorehouse scum
Or whatever might be nastier than that.
But this doesn’t yet mean that we’ve done enough.
If nothing else, we should be able to make
A blush appear on that stuck-up, dog-like face.
So shout it again at the top of your lungs:
“Skanky slut, return our poetry notebook!
Return, skanky slut, our poetry notebook!”
But we are getting nowhere; she is not moved.
It’s time to change your strategy and your tone
To see whether you can get any further:

“Sweet innocent girl, the notebook, if you please.”

—translated by David Bowles
October 2003

Original Latin

adeste hendecasyllabi. quot estis
omnes. undique quotquot estis omnes.
iocum me putat esse moecha turpis.
et negat mihi nostra reddituram
pugillaria si pati potestis.
persequamur eam. et reflagitemus.
quae sit quaeritis. illa quam uidetis
turpe incedere mimice ac moleste
ridentem catuli ore Gallicani.
circumsistite eam. et reflagitate.
moecha putida. redde codicillos.
redde putida moecha codicillos.
non assis facis. o lutum. lupanar,
aut si perditius potest quid esse.
sed non est tamen hoc satis putandum
quod si non aliud potest ruborem
ferreo canis exprimamus ore.
conclamate iterum altiore uoce.
moecha putide. redde codicillos.
redde putida moecha moecha codicillos.
sed nil proficimus. nihil mouetur.
mutanda est ratio modusque uobis
siquid proficere amplius potestis.
pudica et proba. redde codicillos.

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