Four Poems by Catullus

Catullus 6: She’s No Dainty Fawn

She’s no dainty fawn found grazing at woodland’s
Edge, Flavius. She’s a thing more toothsome and
Whoresome! Snatched off the streets is your
New darling, am I right?
Sure I am, or like an ass
You’d be braying to me about her.

Confess it or not, it hardly matters,
For your bed BLARES the news:
What, with soiled sheets and caved-in pillows,
The rank smell of cheap olives and 10-cent
Garlands, the bedcovers heaped on the floor,
The creaking bedposts about to collapse
And you sagging at the knees about to keel over,
Why hide it?

Come, confess in Catullus’ ear every detail
Seemly and sordid, and with verse defter
Than Callimachus’ I’ll win you heaven’s blessing

Catullus 69: You Shouldn’t Be Surprised

You shouldn’t be surprised, Rufus, that no girl
Wants to lay her pretty thigh under yours,
That not even your enticements of silk dresses
And dazzling jewels can seduce a single one.

What’s keeping them away? A fatal rumor
That a wild goat capers in the barnyards
*************of your armpits!
He scares off the poor dears–and no wonder, for
He’s a rank, mangy beast. Who can blame a pretty maid
For retching at the thought of bedding with him?

Choose! Either kill the beast that fouls the nose
Or quit being surprised when the girls turn tail.

Catullus 36: Poems of Volusius

Poems of Volusius, shit writ on toilet paper,
Redeem yourself by helping fulfill the vow
My lady swore to Venus and Cupid:
That if I returned to her bed and ceased
Spearing her with my hurled iambics,
For offering, she would select the choicest
Bad poems of the very worst poet and give them
To crippled Vulcan for his bonfires. And my lady,
As she has wit and taste, picks you.

O Venus, born in spume of the bright blue
Sea . . . mark discharged my lady’s vow,
Which neither rude nor crude but charming is.

As for you, brainless bumpkin’s verse,
*************to the flames come,
Poems of Volusius, shit writ on toilet paper!

Catullus 33: O Best of Thieves

O best of thieves at the Roman baths,
Old Vibennius and catamite son,
(Father with scabby hand filching coins,
Son with flabby ass devouring cocks):
I think it’s time you hiked up your skirts
And beat it to the farthest border,
For your pickpocketing, old man,
Is blabbed all over town; and really, kid,
Is getting your hairy ass pounded worth
The pennies you’re paid?



Born in Verona, Gaius Valerius Catullus (b. circa 84-54 BC) spent most of his adult life in Rome. He lived and socialized among a wide variety of Roman citizens, including Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Cicero, all of whom he enthusiastically lampooned in his poetry. He wrote to and about many friends, at times charmingly, at other times invectively and obscenely. With fondest love and bitterest hatred, 26 of his 116 poems were written to his beloved “Lesbia” (Clodia Metelli), who was the root of his Eros despite the many women and some boys who sexually transited his life.

His one published libellus of 116 poems, Carmina Catulli, survives because Medieval scribes copied his poems in codexes going back to 1390. Catullus is the first and oldest of the Latin lyric poets. The only poet who preceded him was the philosophical Lucretius. His influence on Horace, Ovid, Virgil, and Tibullus was immense. His own influences were non-epic Greek poets, such as Callimachus and Sappho.

Stanton Hager

Stanton Hager (b. 1946) has cheerfully translated Catullus over many years, though his present passion is translating T’ang Dynasty poets, which he's been doing since 2004. A selection of 44 of his translations was published in a signed, limited edition, with photographs by Michael Kenna, entitled Huangshan Poems from the T’ang Dynasty (21st Editions, 2009). He has continued translating these poets since and hopes to begin publishing new ones. A former English professor, he studied at Georgetown University, McGill University, and Florida Atlantic University, where he earned his master’s. He lives on the North Shore of Boston.

English translation copyright (c) Stanton Hager, 2019.