Catullus, Poem 86 (Contributed by Terry Walsh)

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.

Terry Walsh

 

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.

Portrait-Painting-Roman-woman

Translation by Terry Walsh.

The above text is provided by the Perseus Digital Library.

Read more of this text at the Perseus site.

Terry recommends A S Kline’s translation.

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