Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Molly's Catullus Translation

David Lehman wrote to me this afternoon to share one of Molly's translations he used in FU: An Anthology of Fuck You Poems. Of course I was already quite aware of this translation, it's the translation that made me fall in love with Molly.

Improba Carmina

I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth,
Aurelius, you sodomized ass-licker
And Furius, you perverted cock-sucker
Who read my sensual poems and conclude
I'm too wanton. For everyone knows
It's meet and proper for a poet to be
Pure, pious, and always correct in his behavior.
But we don't expect the same of his poems.
Of mine they'll say sure, they have wit, they have charm,
They're so sexy and lewd they can
Arouse -- I won't say boys, but these hairy
Men whose unstiff dicks wilt on the vine.
You who have kissed many thousands of mouths
Upper and nether, man and girl,
How dare you think me less than manly?
I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth.

-- Catullus, trans. Molly Arden

Catullus was born in Verona in 87 BC and died in Rome in 58 BC. He had a love affair with a consul's wife, whom he calls Lesbia and whose real name may have been Claudia. He praised her pussy ("A single whiff and you'll get on your knees") and denounced his rivals for her affections ("scumbags") in immortal verse.

Molly Arden went to Bryn Mawr. She is a contributing editor of "Classic Literature in Translation." She lives in Ithaca, New York.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Daniel Nester said...

Reminds me that my father-in-law wrote a Catullus article for TLR. It was about his collection of verios editions -- he's an antiquarian bookseller. Not online, though -- crap. He translates Catullus as well, and so many of them are soooo drity.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger Tony said...

It's true. Catullus is a potty-mouth. Who were naughtier? Greeks or Romans?

Have you seen Kent Johnson's fake Greek poems, "The Miseries of Poetry"? They're pretty funny.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Peter said...

One subtlety that's lost by choosing the word "cocksucker" for the original _fellator_ is the very Roman distinction that while being an _irrumator_ (a recipient of oral sex) to a male _fellator_ was not quite cricket, it was "understandable" and much less looked down upon.

Maybe I'm just projecting my own prejudices and issues on to it, but I read this translation as almost homoerotic, whereas in the original Latin it really isn't.

At 2:31 AM, Blogger Ivy said...

That is just the coolest translation -- so visceral! Yep, I like.


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