Catullus, gnostic gibber, Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo, poem, Poetry, priggish schlock, sonnet, translation
Before the Great War poets saw Gnostic
gibber everywhere. “Hark! The voice of Dawn!”
they’d write and then Dawn would say some stomach
turned tripe about Divine will and Bygone
virtues. After great wars and great horror
the shit got real. “Make it new,” had no place
for, “Lord’s sweet orbs of night,” or whatever
passed as gritty for those sad fucks. “Embrace
vulgar and speak truth,” Catullus charged us.
Brother, even now they still don’t get it;
if those hard sibylline K’s in Cunt, Cock
and Cum offend how will they bear witness
to real horror? –– “Irrumabo?” Shit,
time to go Orphic on your priggish schlock.
When the subject of wretched poetry comes up my first thought is of those slushy, inbred Victorians, who gave us some of the worst doggerel to be found in the English language. Full of pomposity, being grandiloquent without humor or irony, they seemed entirely unwilling or unable to write about anything without heaping bathos all over it: “Theirs not to make reply,/ Theirs not to reason why,/ Theirs but to do and die.” Yes, please put this schmaltz out of its misery. It’s no surprise that the artists who survived WWI quickly realized that their forebears were altogether useless when describing the horrors that they themselves had just witnessed. Burning it all down and salting the earth after was the only logical way to go. Thus, “Make it new,” became Modernism’s imperative and we’ve been following that maxim ever since … with mixed results. I lay claim to the Roman poet Catullus (84-54 B.C.) as poetic progenitor (that’s approximately 84 generations back). He’s a clean old man; though these days Catullus is chiefly remembered for a line of verse considered so obscene that a complete English translation of it wasn’t even published until the 20th century. “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,” which translates as: “I will sodomize and face-fuck you” (best opening line to one’s critics ever). That is the, “vulgar truth,” that I look for in poetry.