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Narrated by a doorway, probably Cynthia's

1 Once I was opened to great triumphs,
doorway famous for Tarpeian modesty.
Gold-wrought chariots celebrated my threshold,
wet with the supplicant tears of captives.
Now I am insulted by the nightly brawls of party-goers,
battered so often by unworthy fists I complain,
ugly garlands hung all over me
and the familiar torches, signs of the excluded.

I can't defend the nights my infamous mistress leads;
though noble, I'm betrayed by obscene poetry.
(Still, she is not swayed to abstain from her fame
and to dwell in the excess of an uglier age).
Between these, I am forced to mourn—from the heavy
complaints, the long vigils of the tragic suppliant.
He never gives my posts a rest,
perenially reciting his poetry of grating flattery:

“Doorway, perhaps even crueller than my mistress within,
why are you so silent, your hard gates closed to me?
Why don't you ever open up and admit my passion?
Don't you know how to respond, if moved by furtive pleas?
Will you never give in and put an end to my grief,
will I have to sleep like a dog on your warm step?
Midnight presses me, I lie in full view of the stars,
a frigid breeze whips me with ice from the East.
You alone take no pity on my human sufferings,
no response from your silent hinges.

If only my words, piercing some crack,
could travel to strike my mistress' ears!
She may be stubborner than Sicily's headland,
she may be harder than iron and steel,
but she won't be able to control her eyes,
and emotion will well up in uninvited tears.

Now she lies in someone's happy arms,
my words fall with the nocturnal Zephyr.
But you alone are the main cause of my sorrow,
doorway, never conquered by my gifts!
My tongue's petulance never strikes you
(and I always speak my mind when wronged);
you provoke me to complain till I'm hoarse,
and I spend the whole night on the street.
I've often written poetry to you in new verse
and pressed earnest kisses to your steps.
How often, traitor, have I turned over before your posts,
and I've brought the appropriate offerings with hidden hands!”

So he speaks (as do all you poor lovers),
and he drowns out the morning birds.
I in turn am torn apart by my mistress' vices,
the constant tears of the lover, and unending envy.


  • refers to Tarpeia, one of the original Vestal Virgins. Ironically, Tarpeia was the Virgin who opened Rome to the Sabines. She betrayed her city through infatuation.
  • load focus Latin (Vincent Katz, 1995)
    load focus Latin (Lucian Mueller, 1898)
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    hide References (4 total)
    • Commentary references to this page (4):
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 63
      • E. T. Merrill, Commentary on Catullus, 67
      • Charles Simmons, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Books XIII and XIV, 14.250
      • Charles Simmons, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Books XIII and XIV, 14.707
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