Updated: 2023-10-26 (Bronwen MacDonald)
You can find this poem on Rudy’s Catullus Website if you want the scansion.
Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud1 me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida2 puella
et vino et sale3 et omnibus cachinnis. (5)
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros4 amores
seu quid suavius5 elegantiusve est: (10)
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque6,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis
totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.
You will dine well, my Fabullus, at my house
in a few days, if the gods favour you,
if you bring a good and sumptuous
meal, not without a gleaming girl
and wine and wit and all the laughter. (5)
If you were to bring these, I say, our charming friend,
you will dine well, for the purse of your Catullus
is full of spiderwebs.
But, in return, you will receive pure love
or something more delightful or more elegant: (10)
For I will give you a perfume, which the Venuses and Cupids
have given to my girl,
that, when you smell it, you will ask the gods
to make you all nose!
- apud: holds the literal connotations of proximity or adjacency (near, at, by). Within this context, it is a short-hand for “at the house of~”, similar to English’s “at my place”. It takes the accusative case. ↩︎
- candida: (candidus) denotes a bright white colour. The toga candida, which candidates for Roman magisterial office wore, was more brilliant white than the usual unbleached white wool of the toga virilis. (Cleland et al. 2007: 29). Catullus isn’t talking literally about a white girl, but rather a fair girl with pale skin, which was seen as fashionable and upper class, in contrast to girls who worked outdoors and were thus tanned. ↩︎
- sale: literally “salt,” but in this case, it refers to wit, clever conversation, etc. A modern analogy might be how we sometimes talk of someone being ‘spicy’. ↩︎
- meros: is a kind of pun because it’s more commonly used to mean undiluted wine than someone’s affections. ↩︎
- suavis: literally “sweet” (suave and sweet are doublets from the same etymological source but which came into English via different linguistic routes). It also carries with it a generic idea of something pleasant. ↩︎
- Veneres Cupidinesque: Erich Heiden suggests that the Venuses and Cupids are not trying to attribute a divine gift, nor some ‘upselling’ the perfume melodramatically — but rather that what Catullus means by the Venuses and Cupids are the trendy, famous people in vogue around Rome at the time. So not only is this perfume amazing, but the most fashionable people gave it to his girlfriend. ↩︎
- Cleland, L. et al. 2007. Greek and Roman Dress from A to Z. London: Routledge