Petronius Arbiter

I was going to blog this poem some weeks ago, but I discovered Dr. Weevil had already blogged it. I insert here the contents of his page, which includes the Latin text and a translation by Ben Jonson, along with the blogger's notes. We can read and consider things together in class.

Here’s a little poem attributed to Petronius (Fragment 54 in the collections, though it doesn’t look particularly fragmentary):

Foeda est in coitu et brevis voluptas
et taedet Veneris statim peractae.
non ergo ut pecudes libidinosae
caeci protinus irruamus illuc
(nam languescit amor peritque flamma);
sed sic sic sine fine feriati
et tecum iaceamus osculantes.
hic nullus labor est ruborque nullus:
hoc iuvit, iuvat et diu iuvabit;
hoc non deficit incipitque semper.

And here is Ben Jonson’s translation (Underwood 88):

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay,
But thus, thus, keeping endless Holy-day,
Let us together closely lie, and kiss,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleased, doth please and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.

Line 6 (“thus, thus”) seems to depict or enact the kiss itself, and is even more effectively alliterative in the Latin (sed sic sic sine fine). Jonson’s “Holy-day” is what we would call a holiday. I doubt that our author is particularly sincere in impugning “doing” (coitus) in favor of kissing.