Trial by Handkerchief

This morning I took my Latin exam.

The big Latin exam.

The one that assures my school that I know the ins and outs of at least one language well enough to be let into the truculant world. The one that allows me to graduate with an official Master of Arts degree. (Now I just need to start finish my thesis!)

So in celebration, I thought I would share with you all on of Catullus’s (I was translating Catullus) more deep, dark, and delicate of poems.

The poem that he wrote to a former friend or guest who had stolen his linen handerchief. To threaten him with three hundred more poem unless the handerchief were returned.

As poets do, ya know.


Catullus 12:

Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra

non belle uteris in ioco atque vino:

tollis lintea neglegentiorum.

hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte!

quamvis sordida res et invenusta est

non credis mihi? crede Pollioni

fratri, qui tua furta vel talent

mutari velit; est enim leporum

disertus puer ac facetiarum.

quare aut hendecasyllabos trecentos

exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,

quod me non movet aestimatione,

verum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.

nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis

miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus

et Veranius: haec amem necesse est

et Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.

My Translation. Behold:

Asinius Marrucinus, your left hand

You do not use nicely in either jest or in wine;

You pilfer the linens of the more careless!

You consider this to be amusing? It escapes from you, idiot!

As how sordid and uncharming a thing it is.

You do not credit me? Believe Pollionus

Your brother, who for your thefts to be undone

would give a fortune. He is, in fact,  a boy

Of agreeableness, loquacious and witty.

So unless you would expect three hundred hendecasyllabic poems,

Return to me my linen!

It does not trouble me for its worth,

But in truth, it is a remembrance of my friends.

For Fabullus and Veranius sent to me

From Spanish Saetaba the handkerchiefs as a

Saturnalia gift: so it is necessary that I love the handkerchiefs

As I do my Veranius and Fabullus.


Woe to those who pilfer from poets; you might be pestered with poetry!

Someday I will go back and try to make it look more like a poem in the English, but I find the straight up translation fun and sweet enough.


3 thoughts on “Trial by Handkerchief

    • I couldn’t help myself there. Alliterating is always addictive!

      (And I still have not heard from Dr. Sweet. It is possible I did not pass . . . although I felt it went very well at the time, despite the fact that I made up several genitive uses. Can there be a “genitive of characteristic? The delay is worrisome. What if I did soooo horribly that he can’t get the nerve to tell me?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s