Treasure Island

Gaius Valerius Catullus

(84-54 BC / Verona, Gaul)

Home Truths for Varus’s girl: to Varus


Varus drags me into his affairs
out of the Forum, where I’m seen idling:
to a little whore I immediately saw,
not very inelegant, not unattractive,
who, when we came there, met us
with varied chatter, including, how might
Bithynia stand now, what’s it like, and where
might the benefit have been to me in cash.
I told her what’s true, nothing at all,
while neither the praetors nor their aides,
return any the richer, especially since
our Praetor, Memmius, the bugger,
cared not a jot for his followers.
‘But surely,’ they said, you could have bought
slaves they say are made for the litter there.’
I, so the girl might take me to be wealthy,
said ‘no, for me things weren’t so bad,
that coming across one bad province,
I couldn’t buy eight good men.’
But I’d no one, neither here nor there,
who might even raise to his shoulder
the shattered foot of an old couch.
At this she, like the shameless thing she was, said
‘I beg you, my dear Catullus, for the loan of them,
just for a while: I’d like to be carried
to Serap’s temple.’ ‘Wait’ I said to the girl,
‘what I just said was mine, isn’t actually in
my possession: my friend Cinna, that’s Gaius,
purchased the thing for himself.
Whether they’re his or mine, what difference to me?
I use them just as well as if I’d bought them myself.
But you are quite tasteless, and annoying,
you with whom no inexactness is allowed.’

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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