Catullus XVI

Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,
qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,
quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.
nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est;
qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem
si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici
et quod pruriat incitare possunt,
non dico pueris sed his pilosis
qui duras nequeunt movere lumbos.
vos, quod milia multa basiorum
legistis, male me marem putatis?
pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.

-Gaius Valerius Catullus

Catullus 16

I will sodomise and face-fuck you,
cocksucking Aurelius and poofter Fucius,
because you thought me, because of my little verses,
which are a bit sissy, indecent.
For a proper poet should be pure,
himself, but his poems don’t need to be;
indeed, they have salt and wit
if they’re sissified and indecent,
and only when they can arose an itch,
not, I say, in boys, but those hairy men
who cannot move their rough cocks.
Because you’ve read of my thousands of kisses,
you suppose I’m a soft man?
I will sodomise and then skull-fuck you.


A somewhat freer translation than usual, mostly because of the difficulties of some of the Latin vulgarities involved. Ah, Latin. What other language has such… powerfully vulgar words. People say that German sounds like one is permanently angry, but recite Catullus 16 at someone and see how much they like you afterwards.

The Wikipedia entry for the poem actually discusses the terminology used here quite well, so I encourage you to read that if you are curious about the precise meanings of the Latin. As so often is the case, translation really fails to capture the cleverness of Catullus’ plays upon words here. One cannot appreciate the chiasm in the English. Sigh.

It’s worth noting, speaking of translation, that this particular piece of work escaped full transference into modern English for many, many years. For some reason that I cannot fathom, Victorian academics preferred to skip over the first and final lines, as well as other sections in the middle. Philistines.

Of course, XVI is not just about the insults and clever use of Latin terms for inserting penises in orifices. The poem points out that a poet -or any artist, I suppose- is distinct from the work. I wish more people would realise that, actually. Especially on the internet.

The edition is that of Guy Lee, from The Poems of Catullus, the Oxford’s World Classics series, paperback edition, 1992. The translation, as always, is my own (as is the tendency to use both ‘v’ and ‘u’), although I did look at Lee’s as well as various others to get a feel for the more unusual words such as pathice and cinaede. For some reason the vocabulary for ‘catamite’ wasn’t really covered in depth during my semesters of Latin.