Nov 192010

(Catullus XII)

Marrucinus Asinius, your sinister manoeuvre –
letting your left hand hover over
a fellow diner’s lap as he leans to hear
a punchline or pour wine
from a carafe – respects neither
the gods of wine nor conversation.
And what does it mean? It means I’m afraid
you’re at your old trick of stealing napkins
– an act that isn’t clever, nor even that skilful,
merely sad and graceless in my book. But why
believe me when you can go ask your brother
Pollio, a gifted, witty, really charming boy,
who’d glad fork out coffers full of hush-money
to keep your vileness unremarked? So either
steel yourself for a several-hundred-liner
of relentless, barbed hendecasyllables
or send me back that lovely piece of linen.
And don’t think I’m irked because it’s worth so much:
memory is something other than a cash till –
the whole set of Valencian serviettes
was sent from distant Spain by Fabullus
and Veranius as a gift I’m therefore
bound to care for as I care
for Veranolo mio and for Fabullus.

translated by James McKendrick

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