Notes on Scandal

Archived from original

N.B.  The themes examined in the following translations are sexual in nature, as was perfectly acceptable in Roman literature, and may be too explicit for your tastes.

1. Thesis

While the bath was being drawn, the damsel was holed-up in her bedroom,
Scrutinizing a table with that scene painted on it—
The one where it’s said that Jove sends, you know,
A golden shower onto the bosom of Danaë.
I, too, began to examine the table, and because once upon a time
That god had played at the same game I was playing at now,
I was beside myself—to have turned himself into money, and slid
So surreptitiously through someone else’s roof tiles, a sham
In the form of a shower all done to bag his broad.
Ah, but what a god! He who makes the highest temples of heaven tremble with his explosions!
Should not I, a poor little man, do the same?
I did it just this way and am pleased. […]
Was I to let pass so great an opportunity, so brief, so hoped-for,
So pined-after?
If that were the case, I would have actually been the eunuch I was pretending to be!

(Translated from Terence’s The Eunuch, Act III, Scene v)

2. Antithesis

Hence are words learnt, hence eloquence acquired — the greatest of necessities for outlining and inveigling your opinion. We oughtn’t to know such words as “golden shower,” “bosom,” “sham,” “heaven’s abodes,” and others, all writ in that passage, unless Terence had introduced a lewd teenager to his audience, proposing that Jupiter was his exemplar for illicit trysts—

Whilst examining a certain table in her bower,
Where the tale was sketched
Of Jove’s descent in a golden shower
Into the bosom of Danaë – a ploy to get the dame to bed.

And look how much he excites himself to lusty whim as if by celestial mandate:—

‘Oh! But what a god!’ spake he, ‘who sets to trembling
Heaven’s highest abodes with his explosions.
Am I, a mere mortal, not to do the same?
I did as much … gladly, too.’

For all their moral torpor, these words aren’t learnt so easily—by means of them, vileness is just done with a little less scandal. I do not accuse the words themselves, being, as they are, choice and dear vessels. Yet the wine of error is supped by us, served to us by teachers drunk on its poison; should we drink, we are thrashed, with no sober judge to whom we may appeal. Yet, O my God, in whose sight my retelling is now safe-guarded, I learnt these dangerous thoughts willingly and delighted in them, and for this I was singled out as a promising student.

(Translated from Augustine’s Confessions, Book I, Chapter XVI)

3. Synthesis

Oh, what an outrageous, funny bind, Cato!
It’s worth your attention and your guffaws.
Laugh, Cato, the more you love Catullus:
The matter is ridiculous, too funny.
Just moments ago, I caught my butt-boy red-handed,
Thrusting up against some girl.
If it please you, Venus, with my pen
I slew him for want of a weapon.

(Translated from Catullus’ Carmina LVI)

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