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.
 
On a Wanton’s Door
By Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 B.C.)
 
(Translated by John Nott, 1775)

PASSENGER
HAIL, 1 door, to husband and to father dear!
And may Jove make thee his peculiar care!
Thou who, when Balbus liv’d, if fame say true,
Wast wont a thousand sorry things to do;
And, when they carried forth the good old man,        5
For the new bride who didst them o’er again;
Say, how have people this strange notion got,
As if thy former faith thou hadst forgot?
 
DOOR
  So may Cæcilius help me, whom I now
Must own my master, as I truly vow!—        10
Be the offences talk’d of great or small;
Still I am free, and ignorant of all:
I boldly dare the worst that can be said;
And yet, what charges to my fault are laid!
No deed so infamous, but straight they cry,        15
“Fie, wicked door! this is your doing, fie!”
 
PASSENGER
  This downright, bold assertion ne’er will do;
You must speak plainer, and convince us too.
 
DOOR
I would;—but how, when no one wants to know?
 
PASSENGER
I want;—collect your facts, and tell them now.
        20
 
DOOR
  First, then, I will deny, for so ’tis thought,
That a young virgin to my charge was brought;
Not that her husband, with ungovern’d flame,
Had stol’n, in hasty joy, that sacred name;
So vile his manhood, and so cold his blood,        25
Poor, languid tool! he could not, if he wou’d:
But his own father, ’tis expressly said,
Had stain’d the honours of his nuptial bed;
Whether, because, to virtue’s image blind,
Thick clouds of lust had darken’d all his mind;        30
Or, conscious of his son’s unfruitful seed,
He thought some abler man should do the deed.
 
PASSENGER
  A pious deed, in truth; and nobly done—
A father makes a cuckold of his son!
 
DOOR
  Nor was this all that conscious Brixia knew;
        35
Sweet mother of the country where I grew
In earliest youth! who, from Chinæa’s height,
Sees boundless landscapes burst upon the sight;
Brixia! whose sides the yellow Mela laves
With the calm current of its gentle waves:        40
She also knows what bliss Posthumius prov’d;
And how, in triumph, gay Cornelius lov’d;
With both of whom, so wanton was the fair,
She did not blush her choicest gifts to share.
“But how,” you’ll ask, “could you, a senseless door,        45
These secrets, and these mysteries explore;
Who never from your master’s threshold stirr’d,
Nor what the people talk’d of ever heard;
Content upon your hinges to remain,
To ope, and shut, and then to ope again.”—        50
Learn, that full oft I’ve heard the whisp’ring fair,
Who ne’er suspected I had tongue, or ear,
To her own slaves her shameful actions tell,
And speak the very names I now reveal.
One more she mention’d, whom I will not speak,        55
Lest warm displeasure flush his angry cheek:
Thus far I’ll tell thee; he’s an awkward brute,
Whose spurious birth once caused no small dispute.
 
Note 1. 1 See Burton’s translation in this volume. [back]
 
 
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