Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
Dialogue Concerning Catullus at a Harlot’s Door
By Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 B.C.)
 
(From the Carmina; translated by Sir Richard F. Burton, 1894)

QUINTUS
O to the gentle spouse right dear, right dear to his parent,
  Hail, and with increase fair Jupiter lend thee his aid,
Door, ’tis said wast fain kind service render to Balbus
  Erst while, long as the house by her old owner was held;
Yet wast rumoured again to serve a purpose malignant,        5
  After the elder was stretched, thou being oped for a bride.
Come, then, tell us the why in thee such change be reported
  That to thy lord hast abjured faithfulness owèd of old?
 
DOOR
Never (so chance I to please Cऐcilius owning me now-a-days!)
  Is it my own default, how so they say it be mine;        10
Nor can any declare aught sin by me was committed.
  Yet it is so declared (Quintus!) by fable of folk;
Who, whenever they find things done no better than should be,
  Come to me outcrying all:—“Door, the default is thine own!”
 
QUINTUS
This be never enough for thee one-worded to utter,
        15
  But in such way to deal, each and all sense it and see.
 
DOOR
What shall I do? None asks, while nobody troubles to know.
 
QUINTUS
  Willing are we? unto us stay not thy saying to say.
 
DOOR
First let me note that the maid to us committed (assert they)
  Was but a fraud: her mate never a touch of her had,
*        *        *        *        *
        20
But that a father durst dishonour the bed of his firstborn,
  Folk all swear, and the house hapless with incest bewray;
Or that his impious mind was blunt with fiery passion
  Or that his impotent son sprang from incapable seed.
And to be sought was one with nerve more nervous endowèd,        25
  Who could better avail zone of the virgin to loose.
 
QUINTUS
’Sooth, of egregious sire for piety wondrous, thou tellest,
  Who in the heart of his son lief was…!
Yet professed herself not only this to be knowing,
  Brixia-town that lies under the Cycnean cliff,        30
Traversed by Mella-stream’s soft-flowing yellow-hued current,
  Brixia, Vérona’s mother, I love for my home.
 
DOOR
Eke of Posthumius’ loves and Cornelius too there be tattle,
  With whom darèd the dame evil advowtry commit.
 
QUINTUS
Here might somebody ask:—“How, Door, hast mastered such matter?
        35
  Thou that canst never avail threshold of owner to quit,
Neither canst listen to folk since here fast fixt to the side-posts
  Only one office thou hast, shutting or opening the house.”
 
DOOR
Oft have I heard our dame in furtive murmurs o’er telling,
  When with her handmaids alone, these her flagitious deeds,        40
Citing fore-cited names for that she never could fancy
  Ever a Door was endow’d either with earlet or tongue.
Further she noted a wight whose name in public to mention
  Nill I, lest he upraise eyebrows of carroty hue;
Long is the loon and large the law-suit brought they against him        45
  Touching a child-bed, false, claim of a belly that lied.
 
 
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