SHEFFIELD CLASSICAL ASSOCIATION
Sheffield Classical Association
Salve , nec minimo puella naso
nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
nec sane nimis elegante lingua .
decoctoris amica Formiani , 5
ten provincia narrat esse bellam?
tecum nostra comparatur?
o saeclum insapiens et infacetum !
Good day, young lady, neither snub-nosed enough
nor with beautiful feet, without the coal eyes,
without the long fingers, without the dry mouth,
hardly with the most beautiful of accents.
Consort to that broke debtor of Formiae,
you the Province announces as the stunner?
In comparison to my Lesbia?
Oh, what times we live in without taste or reason!
After Valerius Catullus
All Hail; a young lady with a nose by no means too small,
With a foot unbeautiful, and with eyes that are not black,
With fingers that are not long, and with a mouth undry,
And with a tongue by no means too elegant,
You are the friend of Formianus, the vendor of cosmetics,
And they call you beautiful in the province,
And you are even compared to Lesbia.
O most unfortunate age!
W. Shakespeare: Sonnet 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
Salve: here, a sarcastic greeting
nec: introducing a litotes describing her nose, a structure continued for all seven of her features discussed here
puella: assumed to be Ameana, girlfriend of Mamurra; cf. Poem 41, a prostitute who apparently charges an outrageous sum for her favors
longis digitis: ancient Greek vase paintings exaggerated the length of women’s fingers as a mark of beauty
ore: “lips”; cf. Poem 80
lingua: Catullus may possibly be vague on purpose as to what he means by lingua; this has been variously interpreted to mean the way she shows her tongue, her disfigured speech, or the things she says
decoctoris: m., “a bankrupt”
Formiani: “from Formiae”, referring to Mamurra, an officer of engineers under Caesar; decoctoris…Formiani is a repetition of line 41.4, and allows Catullus to dispense of naming either Mamurra or Ameana
ten: = tene
provincia: probably referring to Cisalpine Gaul
Lesbia nostra: for the use of Lesbia as the standard of comparison, cf. Poem 86
infacetum: cf. 22.14 (Suffenus as writer); contrast 12.9 (Asinius Pollio)