Carmen 16 – De dichter en zijn werk

Latijnse tekst

Ik zal jullie van voor en achter naaien, nicht Aurelius en mietje Furius; jullie die mij op grond van mijn gedichtjes als onfatsoenlijk beschouwden, omdat ze soft zijn. Want het hoort dat een rechtschapen dichter zelf fatsoenlijk is, (maar) het is helemaal niet nodig dat zijn gedichtjes (dat zijn); deze hebben dan pas smaak en humor. Wanneer ze soft en schaamteloos zijn en dat wat jeukt kunnen opwekken (of: en geiligheid kunnen opwekken). Ik bedoel niet voor jongens, maar voor behaarde oude mannen, die hun stijve lendenen niet kunnen bewegen. Beschouwen jullie mij niet als een echte man, omdat jullie lazen (over) vele duizenden kussen? Ik zal jullie van voor en achter naaien.


The contrast berween, and intermingling of, coarse threats and literary theory is
striking, but opaque (Buchheit 1976, 332ff. takes it as a poetic manifesto). Again,
commentators are fairly heavy-handed here, especially over the first and last lines,
which are surely no more than a baroque extension of the kind of threat typified
in English by the phrase, "Fuck you," without any suggestion of actual sexual intercourse.
For the reinforcement of masculine feelings of superiority via verbs such
as paedico ("bugger") and irrumo'("mouth-fuck") see Wray 2001, chapters 4-5.
Though we do not need to posit a real-life situation here (Godwin 1999, 134), I
should be surprised were Catullus not, in fact, responding to the obvious charge
of slight effeminacy and immodesty (all that explicit stuff, those kisses) by pointing
out that he's as masculine as you please, and would be happy to prove it on hiscritics. Poem 16, as Krostenko reminds us (200I, 277ff.) "encapsulates the hazards
[Catullus] encountered in formulating a new view of erotics, poetics, and the social
world in Roman society." It is, nevertheless, elusive in detail; its train of thought
"wavers or weaves between the poles of poetic reality and literal reality" (Batstone
I993, 154-)5)· Wray (200I, I85-86) suggests that in his distinction between a
writer's life and his work, Catullus may have had in mind Archilochos, "the most
conspicuous example known to antiquity of a holy poet who wrote dirty poems."
Had Catullus survived a few more years he could have justified himself by the example
of Octavian, as Martial (I 1.20) did later, citing a political squib by the future
Augustus that is as obscene as anything Catullus ever wrote. Furius and Aurelius
are portrayed as naIve critics, who deserve the kind of ad hominem treatment
characterizing their own attitude to Catullus and his poetry. Cf. Pedrick I993,
I 82-87; Macleod I973b, 300-30I; and my note on 48. to which this poem must allude.