6 July 2015

Varus me meus ... (1)

"This is how it happened. Me in the Forum. Totally at a loose end. My chum Varus carted me off to see his Significant Other; a dear little bimbo - it stuck out a mile - amusing, sexy, fashionable. She steered the conversation round to Bithynia. 'What's it like there? I bet you made lots of like money while you were on the governor's like staff there.' I told her the truth: that the Governor was an absolute ** ** ** **; so that not one of us had made brass quadrans. 'But' says she, 'you must have got hold of some like slaves to carry your litter. Everybody knows that Bithynia's the like place they come from'. I wanted to look good ... it's the sort of effect a girl has on a chap ... so I said: 'Well, obviously it wasn't so terrible that I couldn't at least get hold of eight upright blokes.' (Fact is, neither there nor here could I lay my hands on a single bloke to put a single stick of broken bedstead anywhere near his shoulder.)

"The dirty depraved little bitch! Her true character showed up in what she said next! 'Darling Catullus, please ... dearest Catullus', says she, 'just for a teensy weensy moment, please lend them to me ... I want to go down to the Temple of Serapis just like so badly ...'"

I will leave you to find out for yourselves, if you don't already know, how Catullus struggled to wriggle out of that social dilemma. Incidentally; a recent commenter on this blog listed Catullus as one of the Roman poets who did absolutely nothing for him when he was being dragged through Latin at school. I find that totally bewildering. As an inquisitive adolescent, in the still heavily censored 1950s, pre-Lady-Chatterley, I found it absolutely fascinating to read about all those things one wasn't supposed to know about ... ... censorship seemed only to apply to the English language books in the School Library. The Latin and Greek sections: no holds barred there; I mean, no holds ... everything was sitting there on the open shelves, available to any third former who had bothered, as I had, to learn his declensions and his conjugations ... even if it did mean acquiring some vocabulary which wasn't on the official O-Level wordlist.

But we digress. I should make clear, by the way, that the above rendering is my attempt to translate Catullus following ad litteram the principles of the infamous Vatican document Comme le prevoit which enjoined 'dynamic equivalence' upon 1960s translators of liturgical books. Didn't I like do well?

Back to Catullus, and 'his' litter, Dv, tomorrow. Believe me, this is important stuff.


Alan said...

Interesting point there, Father, even if you're by no means the first to make it. What is the theological basis for determining that knowledge of a foreign tongue makes on less easy to "deprave and corrupt"?

I remember half a century coming across a translation of the Decameron (Everyman, I think) in which one of the stories was left partly in Italian. When I learned that language and read the original, it was to discover that the story of the monk and the girl keen to help him put the Devil in hell was a variant of a joke I'd known since puberty.

And the presence of subtitles certainly seems to have some influence on what the BBFC will pass!

Aitch said...

Sounds like I should have persevered with Latin?

Belfry Bat said...

Vraiement le prevoyait-il?

Rose Marie said...

It's a little ironic to follow Comme le prevoit ad litteram.

Looove your version of Catullus. Is there, like, more?

Charlesdawson said...

As far as censorship goes, now my (grammar) school was completely the opposite of yours. Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, Swift, Ulysses, unexpurgated, were on the open shelves (my father caught me reading the last at age fourteen; his words were "Where did you get that? Oh. Please let me have it after you have finished with it.",) whereas Catullus was represented by an edition in which the "naughty" poems such as Carmen 16 were notable by their absence. I have often wondered since what was the mental process which dictated removal of the poems but simply left a blank space, a move which positively encouraged inky schoolboys to go looking for an explanation.