Sunday, June 15, 2008

Peter Green's Catullus

In Number 15, Catullus begs Aurelius not to touch his boyfriend, for

It's you that scare me, you and your great whanger,
a standing threat to boys both good and naughty.
Look, wag the damn thing where and how you fancy,
all you've a mind to out there, cocked and ready--
just leave him out of it, make one exception!

The plea then turns into a threat. Should "ill-will or mindless madness" drive Aurelius to practice "low tricks" on Catullus, he will feel his retaliation,

feet spread and strapped, back-passage widely gaping,
reamed all its length with radishes and mullets!

Ouch! Roman adult masculinity: okay to fuck, but not to be fucked; even mindless madness is subject to the discipline of an iron will. The unstressed syllable at the end of every line gives the line a falling rhythm (as opposed to the strong rising rhythm in English verse), which seems to add to the urbane tone.

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