Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2014  Vol. 13  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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translation from the Latin

Catullus: Carmina, XXXIX

Egnatius, because his teeth are gleaming white,
Smiles all the time. Yes, even if he’s at some trial,
And looking on at tears the lawyer’s words excite,
He smiles. A mother who has lost a loving son
Is mourning him as she performs the funeral rites?
He smiles. For him, it doesn’t matter who or where,
Or what he does; you’re going to see Egnatius smile.
It’s a disease . . . and neither charming nor polite.
That’s why I warn you now, Egnatius, one-to-one:
Were you a Roman, Sabine, or fat Umbrian;
An overweight Etruscan or a Tiburtine;
Or worse, some swarthy, rabbit-toothed Lanuvian;
Even a Transpadane (my people, to be fair);
Or anyone who keeps his chompers water-clean;
I’d still prefer you’d cover up those pearly whites.
Because there’s nothing dumber than a dumb-ass grin.
Now as it happens, you’re a Celtiberian,
And there, men drain the chamber pot they’ve piddled in
To slosh with piss their teeth and pink gums when they rise.
So all this blinding, gleaming white can only mean
That you’ve imbibed a tun—and that’s beyond surmise.  end  

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