Saturday, October 06, 2018


A Disgusting Man

Sidonius, Letters 3.13.6 (to Apollinaris, tr. W.B. Anderson):
Also he has ears elephantine in their vastness; the two apertures are encircled by ulcerated skin, and stony knots and warts oozing with pus project along the exterior curves. Also he carries a nose that is large in its openings and constricted at its bridge, gaping wide enough to give you the creeps, yet too narrow for the sense of smell. He displays a mouth with leaden lips and the ravening jaws of a wild beast, with festering gums and yellow teeth; it is frequently befouled by a mephitic stench exhaled from the hollow seat of decaying grinders; and this stench is reinforced by meaty belching from yesterday's feast and the sewage of suppers that keep coming back upon him.

gerit et aures immanitate barrinas, quarum fistulam biforem pellis ulcerosa circumvenit saxeis nodis et tofosis umore verrucis per marginem curvum protuberantibus. portat et nasum, qui cum sit amplus in foraminibus et strictus in spina, sic patescit horrori quod angustatur olfactui. praetendit os etiam labris plumbeum rictu ferinum, gingivis purulentum dentibus buxeum, quod spurcat frequenter exhalatus e concavo molarium computrescentum mephiticus odor, quem supercumulat esculenta ructatio de dapibus hesternis et redundantum sentina cenarum.
Id. (3.13.8, with translator's note):
I say nothing of the goatish, fetid caverns of the armpits, which imprison his sides with their ramparts, so that he mortifies his neighbour's nostrils by spreading abroad the plague of a double Ampsanctus.1 I do not mention that his breasts are flaccid and depressed by a weight of fat, and hang down like a mother's paps, though for a man's breast even to protrude at all would have been disgusting enough. I say nothing of his belly curving in pendulous folds, its wrinkles, ugly in themselves, making a still uglier cover for genitals rendered doubly shameful by their impotence.

1 Le Mofete in the centre of Italy; a valley having a cave known for its unpleasant fumes (Virgil, Aen., VII.563–571).

taceo quod alarum specubus hircosis atque acescentibus latera captiva vallatus nares circumsedentum ventilata duplicis Ampsancti peste funestat. taceo fractas pondere arvinae iacere mammas quasque foedum esset in pectore virili vel prominere, has ut ubera materna cecidisse. taceo ventris inflexi pendulos casses parti genitalium, quia debili, bis pudendae turpibus rugis turpius praebere velamen.
The entire letter is amusing. See Jan Ziolkowski, "Avatars of Ugliness in Medieval Literature," Modern Language Review 79.1 (January, 1984) 1-20.

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