Catullus 6 Translation

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This poem is written to Flavius about his mistress who Catullus calls unrefined and rustic. She is not of the city, according to Catullus. Since she is unrefined, Flavius does not tell her about Catullus. And, Catullus thinks that Flavius is ashamed of her because she is so unhealthy looking. 

But, Catullus knows that Flavius is not ashamed to have sex with her, because his bed is adorned with garlands and perfume. The pillow also appears to be used by two people as both sides are equally used. Catullus also knows that the bed has been squeaky since it has been used for Flavius’s sexual exploits. 

Near the end of the poem, Catullus calls out Flavius for doing something inelegant that has wreaked havoc on his thighs. Catullus wishes his friend would confide in him about his love so he could write merry things in his poetry about them. Catullus recognizes that Flavius is up to something, but he will not tell him about his love and sexual exploits. 

Because Flavius is so quiet about the matter, Catullus assumes that he has something to hide. These men must frequently talk about the exploits with each other; they must frequently kiss and tell. So, when one man is silent, something has to be wrong. The only thing Catullus safely assumes is that the woman in Flavius’s life is ugly. In Catullus’s eyes, all Flavius has to do is show his woman to him. 

However, the women could be a man, as many of Catullus’s friends are bisexual. Shakespeare wrote a similar poem about his mistress’s eyes being nothing like sun. The poem, on the surface, is about a woman. But, scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote it to his male lover. This could be the same case for Catullus, writing about Flavius’s woman who is really just a man – who would be an incredibly ugly woman.

Carmen 6

LineLatin textEnglish translation
1FLAVI, delicias tuas Catullo, Flavius, if it were not that your mistress 
2ni sint illepidae atque inelegantes, is rustic and unrefined, 
3uelles dicere nec tacere posses. you would want to speak of her to your Catullus; you would not be able to help it.
4uerum nescio quid febriculosi But (I am sure) you are in love with some 
5scorti diligis: hoc pudet fateri. unhealthy-looking wench; and you are ashamed to it. 
6nam te non uiduas iacere noctes But though you are silent, the bed itself
7nequiquam tacitum cubile clamat with its garlands and Syrian perfume, 
8sertis ac Syrio fragrans oliuo, proclaim that you do not sleep alone,
9puluinusque peraeque et hic et ille as does the pillow, used equally on this side and that,
10attritus, tremulique quassa lecti on both sides equally, and the shaking of the bed
11argutatio inambulatioque. as it squeaks and moves about.
12nam non stupra ualet nihil tacere. But it’s no good keeping quiet about your sexual exploits.
13cur? non tam latera ecfututa pandas, Why? You wouldn’t show such sexually exhausted thighs
14ni tu quid facias ineptiarum. if you weren’t doing something inelegant.
15quare, quidquid habes boni malique, Well then, whatever you have to tell, good or bad, 
16dic nobis. uolo te ac tuos amores let me know. I have to call you and your love 
17ad caelum lepido uocare the skies by the power of my merry verse.

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