Photo: Lesbia and her Sparrow, 1860, artist unknown
By Lily Nesvold
ōdī Faustam tantum, quae (ēn!) habet ōs, sane, turpe.
Flaccus dīligit illud monstrum, nescio quārē.
taedet mē vītae cum spectō fēminam et illum.
omnēs noscunt esse scortum, prō pudor, illam.
lector: nē stultē saevam, Iove, cēnsuerīs mē
sōdēs. nōn ōdī Faustam vērō, virum amō, vae!
I loathe Fausta, she who (look!), has a truly hideous face.
Flaccus delights in that horrible monster, I cannot fathom why.
Life wearies me whenever I see that woman and him together.
Everyone knows that she’s just a whore, for shame!
Reader: don’t foolishly think that I am cruel, by Jove, for saying these things
I beg you. It’s not that I truly hate Fausta, I am simply in love with the man, oh!
Composed in dactylic hexameter, “Turpis Fausta” is an original work of poetry inspired by a few of Catullus’ pieces: Poem 41 about Mamurra’s ugly mistress; Poem 83, in which Catullus hurls invective at Lesbia’s husband; and Poem 51, showcasing Catullus’ great envy of a mystery man for his ability to capture Lesbia’s attention. Combining the idea of a love triangle with Catullus’ hallmarks of obscenity and insult, I created a story that features the rants of an unidentified, jealous narrator who slanders a fictitious woman named Fausta, girlfriend of Flaccus. In my rendition, I relied on the use of interjections to convey a dramatic tone, directly addressed the reader as an engagement tactic, and concluded with a surprising twist to maintain a lasting impression.
Lily Nesvold (College ’23) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Classical Studies and minoring in Economics.