Iocus in Gallum cuculum (n.d.)

Neo-Latin poets emulating Catullus utilised a well-established set of poetic techniques and word-choice to make their poetry feel and sound authentic, including the use of diminutives, adverbs (particularly those with an -im ending), indefinite constructions, repetition, abstract nouns, the employment of a familiar and jocular tone, and of course the use of phalaecian hendecasyllables, a major Catullan metre. As Philip Ford noted in his seminal study of classical influences on the profane poetry of George Buchanan (Philip J. Ford, George Buchanan: Prince of Poets (Aberdeen, 1982), pp. 95-100), Buchanan followed all these techniques in the hendecasyllables and iambics he directed against Beleago and to Naeara. Maitland clearly follows these forms and conceits in the hendecasyllabic poems that he wrote, including this one addressed to Gallus (see also d2_MaiT_019, d2_MaiT_025, and d2_MaiT_028). Although there is little direct textual borrowing in this poem, the use of the obscene term 'mentula' indicates a strong awareness on Maitland's part with Catullus, Martial and the Carmina Priapaea, while the 'neo-Catullan style' is again clearly in evidence in the use of repetition ('se...aestimare, et cum ... aestimare'), indefinite clausuli ('mirabile quod magis videtur') and the diminutives used to describe Gallus's bastard sons ('adulterinos', 'filiolos', 'venustos'). Metre: phalaecian.

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Iocus in Gallum cuculum

1Conjux dicitur impudica Galli, et
cocis improba mulionibusque
substerni, ac juvenum fovere natos,
quorum glubere mentulas solebat. 1
5Nec Gallum tamen haec movere possunt.
Rumores graviter negat ferendos.
Se, ni viderit, assis aestimare.
Et cum viderit, assis aestimare.
Et, mirabile quod magis videtur,
10uxoris pueros adulterinos
partus legitimos cupit putari;
passim filiolos suos vocatque:
quod formam referant bonae parentis.
Non quod conjugis impudica vita
15possit tam vigilem virum latere,
aut quod se sobolis putet parentem,
sicco corpore mentula exfutita:
sed quod quos sibi copulata conjux
enixa est, pueros putet mariti.
20Nec deceptus alius colonus arva
vertat, contuleritque semen alter,
22debetur Domino quod inde crescit.

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A Jest against Gallus the cuckold

Gallus' wife is said to be wanton and wicked, and wicked, and to spread herself beneath cooks and mule-drivers, and to raise the sons of the young men whose tools she was accustomed to strip raw. Yet these tales cannot upset Gallus. He says that the rumours are not to be taken seriously. Unless he has seen them himself, he reckons they are worth a penny. And when he has seen them for himself, he still reckons they are worth a penny. And, what is more incredible, he seeks that the children born from his wife's adultery be recognised as legitimate offspring; wherever he goes he praises his little boys, and calls his little boys charming because they bring to mind again their mother's beauty. It is not because the wife's lewd living can be hidden from so observant a man, or because he thinks himself the father of children despite a dried-up body and a clapped-out tool; but because he thinks that those to whom his wife gave birth after sex with him are her husband's sons. Nor is he deluded by a false notion; for however many other tillers plough the field, and have enriched it with different seed, what grows from there is owed to the Lord.



1: 'glubit': Catullus, Carmina LVIII.5; 'mentula' used frequently by Catullus (eg Carmina XXIX.3, XCIV.1) and Carmina Priapea (eg II.1, VIII.5).