It has been thought that ‘Lesbia’ is a construct, or even a figment of the poet’s imagination. This poem, I think, proves that the love affair was a real one, since the feelings forcefully expressed here are surely real.
The concept of beauty expressed here is quite modern – and refreshing. Beauty is not skin-deep, it appears, and personality counts, in fact, for a great deal.
Quintia formosa est multis, mihi candida, longa,
recta est. haec ego sic singula confiteor,
totum illud “formosa” nego: nam nulla venustas,
nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcherrima tota est,
tum omnibus una omnis subripuit Veneres.
To many Quintia is beautiful; to me, she is fair, tall,
poised, even. These I can severally admit,
but that word ‘beautiful’ I deny. For there is no charm,
in all that willowy frame, no spark, no wit;
Lesbia is beautiful; Lesbia, being absolutely alluring,
has alone filched all the gifts of Venus from all.
Translation by Terry Walsh.
The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.
Terry recommends A S Kline’s translation.