Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Catullus Censored: Not for Texting
Get out your Catullus. Latin professors all over the world will be translating Poem 16 with their students.
Classicists will be chagrined to learn that the English multimillionaire financier, Mark Lowe, accused of attempting to hire a hitman to kill a female employee, Jordan Wimmer, also harassed her by texting a line from Catullus’s poem 16, "Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.”
“Only in England would someone practice sexual harassment with Catullus,” I said, frantically flipping through my Merrill edition for Poem 61.
“Can you imagine what kind of country that is?” my husband asked.
“They don’t know who Catullus is here,” I said - and am I sad or merry?
The Guardian blogger, Charlotte Higgins, is gleeful over the BBC's reticence about translation. (They take the Fifth or something.)
The word pedico isn’t even translated in my dictionary.
Lewis & Short, the scholarly 1879 lexicon, says it means "to practice unnatural vice."
Honestly, what a weird line to select. Not Catullus's best poem - and why Lowe would send his employee a line from an invective against Furuius and Aureli, two writers “who judge Catullus from his verses to be as bad as themselves” (Merrill) is beyond me. It is madly out of context.
The line, in my best 19th century English, means:
“I will practice unnatural vice on you and I will 'give suck.'"
Catullus goes on to call Aurelius "one who submits to unnatural lust" and Furius the one who "practices it." He tells them they're wrong to assume he's homosexual because they are. Just because he writes about "milia multa basiorum" (many thousands of kisses) doesn't mean he's "badly masculine."
Here's a translation by Peter Whigman - and notice the first and last line, which are the same, are not translated, because the Latin says it all.
Pedicabo et irrumabo
Furius & Aurelius
you have dared deduce me from my poems
which are lascivious
which lack pudicity....
The devoted poet remains in his own fashion chaste
his poems not necessarily so:
they may well be
lacking in pudicity
stimulants (indeed) to prurience
and not solely in boys
but those whose hirsute genitals are not easily moved.
You read of those thousand kisses
You deduced an effeminancy there.
You were wrong, Sodomites. Furius & Aurelius.
Pedicabo et irrumabo vos.
Posted by Frisbee at 7:49 PM