'Phaselus ille' - Catullus' yacht - in hendecasyllabic metre. In this poem, Catullus boasts of his sea voyage - somewhat backwardly - by accusing his boat of boasting. The result is a delightful poem full of learned geographical references. The text:
Phaselus ille, quem videtis, hospites,
ait fuisse navium celerrimus,
neque ullius natantis impetum trabis
nequisse praeterire, sive palmulis
opus foret volare sive linteo.
et hoc negat minacis Hadriatici
negare litus insulasve Cycladas
Rhodumque nobilem horridamque Thraciam
Propontida trucemve Ponticum sinum,
(ubi iste post phaselus antea fuit
comata silva; nam Cytorio in iugo
loquente saepe sibilum edidit coma.)
Amastri Pontica et Cytore buxifer,
tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
ait phaselus: ultima ex origine
tuo stetisse dicit in cacumine,
tuo imbuisse palmulas in aequore,
et inde tot per impotentia freta
erum tulisse, laeua sive dextera
vocaret aura, sive utrumque Iuppiter
simul secundus incidisset in pedem;
neque ulla vota litoralibus deis
sibi esse facta, cum veniret a mari
nouissimo hunc ad usque limpidum lacum.
sed haec prius fuere: nunc recondita
senet quiete seque dedicat tibi,
gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.
James Elroy Flecker
's verse translation:
Proud is Phaselus here, my friends, to tell
That once she was the swiftest craft afloat:
No vessel, were she winged with blade or sail,
Could ever pass my boat.
Phaselus shunned to shun grim Adria's shore,
Or Cyclades, or Rhodes the wide renowned,
Or Bosphorus, where Thracian waters roar,
Or Pontus' eddying sound.
It was in Pontus once, unwrought, she stood,
and conversed, sighing, with her sister trees,
Amastris born, or where Cytorus' wood
Answers the mountain breeze.
Pontic Amastris, boxwood-clad Cytorus! -
You, says Phaselus, are her closest kin:
Yours were the forests where she stood inglorious:
The waters yours wherein
She dipped her virgin blades; and from your strand
She bore her master through the cringing straits,
Nought caring were the wind on either hand,
Or whether kindly fates
Filled both the straining sheets. Never a prayer
For her was offered to the gods of haven,
Till last she left the sea, hither to fare,
And to be lightly laven
By the cool ripple of the clear lagoon.
This too is past; at length she is allowed
Long slumber through her life's long afternoon,
To Castor and the twin of Castor vowed.
This poem seems to have inspired a young Virgil
, who wrote the following parody
. Scholars have speculated that from his childhood home, he may have seen Catullus' return to Sirmio
from his voyage on Phaselus.
Sabinus ille, quem videtis, hospites,
ait fuisse mulio celerrimus
neque ullius volantis impetum cisi
nequisse praeterire, sive Mantuam
opus foret volare sive Brixiam.
Cremona frigida et lutosa Gallia,
tibi haec fuisse et esse cognissima
ait Sabinus: ultima ex origine
tua stetisse dicit in voragine,
tua in palude deposisse sarcinas,
et inde tot per orbitosa milia
ingum tulisse, laeva sive dextera
strigare mula sive utrimque coeperat.
neque ulla vota semitalibus deis
sibi esse facta, praeter hoc novissimum,
paterna lora proximumque pectinem
sed haec prius fuere: nunc eburnea
sedetque sede seque dedicat tibi,
gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.
In my own verse
That Sabinus, whom you see, my guests,
says he was the fastest mule driver,
never unable to surpass the speed
of a flying chariot, whether he had to
travel to Mantua or Brixia.
Cold Cremona and muddy Gaul,
Sabinus says he was and is most
famous to you: that he stood from
the very beginning in your depth,
that he laid down his burden in your marsh,
and then through so many miles of cart-ruts
he bore the yoke, whether on the left, right
or on both sides the mule began to tire.
Neither was any prayer ever made by himself
to the road's gods, besides this latest one,
but these paternal straps and nearest comb
were before: now he sits on an ivory
throne and gives himself to you,
twins Castor and Pollux.
| Catullus 5