Monday, April 07, 2008


Poetry and Life

Underbelly, Scarlet Letters:
"My book might be filthy, but my life is blameless."—has a certain Victorian ring, not so? But the new issue of The "Quote, Unquote" Newsletter traces it [to] the Latin writer Martial: Lascivia est nobis pagina, vita proba. Wonder where Martial pinched it.
Read lasciva (adjective modifying pagina), not lascivia (noun). Martial (1.4.8) might have pinched it either from Catullus 16.5-6:
For it is fitting for the virtuous poet to be chaste himself, but there is no need for his verses to be so.

nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est.
or Ovid, Tristia 2.353-354:
Believe me, my character is not the same as my poetry (my life is chaste, my Muse is playful).

Crede mihi, distant mores a carmine nostro
  (vita verecunda est, Musa iocosa mea).
Martial's contemporary and acquaintance Pliny the Younger, in defense of his own racy hendecasyllables (Letters 4.14), quoted the lines from Catullus.

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