If we accept absolutely the Stoic principle of the close relationship between life and language and we apply it absolutely to literary creation we will be forced to judge the writer’s life in relation to his writings: if his writings are elevated, his life will be morally high , If his writings are scabrous and scandalous, his life will be equally scandalous.
This holds the enormous danger of confusing reality with fiction and unfairly valuing people. Considering that literature, the word in general, is a powerful instrument of communication and influence in people, it is easy to understand how on many occasions the dissident has been condemned in various kinds according to his literary work.
It often happens now but it also happened in antiquity that some people considered immoral some of Ovid's writings and consequently who judged Ovid as immoral in his life and thus he passed on to posterity as an "immoral poet" for writing a couple of erotic books. And it did so with Catullus and Martial, and so many others.
But there are those who, on the contrary, understand that the writer and the speaker (orator) has an enormous capacity to create a fiction, an imagined work that has nothing to do with the existing reality. From this it can be deduced that the moral condition of an author can not be deduced from the moral content of a writing.
For example, Straton of Sardis was a Greek author of epigrams of whom we do not know with precision the time in which he lived, although generally he is belonged to century II of ours era. His epigrams were all homoerotic, most of them referred to the Greek "pederasty", and they were collected in book XII of the Palatine Anthology, or compilation of Greek poems from the classic to the Byzantine period. The crudity with which he describes homosexual physical love made him considered an "immoral author" and his poems concealed in many manuscripts.
Well, he clarifies himself in epigram 258 with which closes the mentioned book XII of the Palatine Anthology, that the feelings that he sings are not own, but he makes poems for other peopl, given his facility to compose verses:
Perchance someone in future years,
listening to these trifles of mine,
will think these pains of love
were all my own.
No! I ever scribble this
and that for this
and that boy-lover,
since some god gave me this gift.
(Translated by W.R. Paton)
I shall now confine myself to presenting only a few examples where "erotic literature," almost always jocular, cheerful, uninhibited, but also critical and bitter, collides with morally rigid behaviors, sometimes evidently hypocritical.
The matter is most shocking when generally respected authors have allowed themselves to write something of a "higher" tone that was not expected of them. Modern examples of this can be in Spanish literature the theater author Nicolás Fernández de Moratín and his “Arte de las putas”, "Art of the whores", or the fabulist Felix María de Samaniego and his “Jardín de Venus”, "Garden of Venus, or the eschatological Quevedo and his “Gracias y desgracias del ojo del culo”, " Fortunes and misfortunes of the eye of the ass "; or much more recent the Academician of the Royal Spanish Academy and Nobel Prize for Literature Camilo José Cela and his “La insólita y gloriosa hazaña del cipote de Archidona”. The most belligerent and intransigent reader morally tends to confuse and use as a weapon the identification of what is expressed in the text, which can be an absolute fiction, with the real life of the author.
Referring to the ancient world, erotic obscenity in Rome is a frequent theme used by Latin satirical writers in their aim to criticize the vices of their society. We saw it in the previous article http://www.antiquitatem.com/en/talis-oratio-qualis-vita
The Greeks, on the other hand, whom the Roman moral authors attribute much of the guilt, are much more permissive in the critic of the obscene behaviors.
The obscenity of erotic writings clashes with the "gravitas" and "severitas" or "seriousness" of the ancient "mores maiorum" of the primitive Republic, or moral behavior of the ancestors; it is a source of moral corruption especially for young people and can be interpreted as a sign of immoral life of the writer himself, which is the subject of this article.
Thus it has passed from the antiquity to our days, as I said. This question of the influence of the obscenity, today we would say pornography, in the formation, education and behavior of the people continues being a matter of absolute topicality.
Among the examples, I will cite those of the three famous Latin poets mentioned above, who were forced to claim their personal righteousness in the face of the poignant joy of their poems, which some of their readers do not seem to admit.
The first of the three at the time is Catullus (84 BC-Rome, 57 BC).
The poem 16 of Catullus is a complex poem, whose interpretation has been dedicated many pages because it reflects some of the characteristics of the sexuality of the Romans to the point of having been considered as an expression of masculine identity in all its strength : The "vir romanus" can be homosexual and receive the "fellatio" only if he is active and domineering and not passive. It also seems that Catullus has been greatly disturbed that he is considered "little man" because he asks thousands of kisses from his beloved (in the condition of the Roman "vir" it is to take and not to ask an inferior being, as the woman is considered) .
But I am not interested in analyzing these questions now, but rather the fact that Catullus contrasts literary inventiveness, the poetic person, to the real person, thus denying the Stoic principle of “talis oratio qualis vita” (the discourse has to be in accordance with life), which at least obliges to keep up appearances and how he claims a certain freedom for literature if it is to be attractive.
I’ll fuck you and bugger you,
Aurelius the pathic, and sodomite Furius,
who thought you knew me from my verses,
since they’re erotic, not modest enough.
It suits the poet himself to be dutifully chaste,
his verses not necessarily so at all:
which, in short then, have wit and good taste
even if they’re erotic, not modest enough,
and as for that can incite to lust,
I don’t speak to boys, but to hairy ones
who can’t move their stiff loins.
You, who read all these thousand kisses,
you think I’m less of a man?
I’ll fuck you, and I’ll bugger you.(Translated by A. S. Kline, )
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,
qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,
quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est;
qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem,
si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici,
et quod pruriat incitare possunt,
non dico pueris, sed his pilosis
qui duros nequeunt movere lumbos.
Vos, quod milia multa basiorum
legistis, male me marem putatis?
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo
Another later example in time is that of Ovid (43 BC-17 AD). Accused of "immoral" in his time and for all posterity with the decisive collaboration of the emperor Augustus who used his famous Art of Love as an excuse to condemn him to exile in the confines of the Empire and with the aid of Christianity that called him "absolutely pagan and immoral poet," he was forced to justify and vindicate again and again the honor of his personal life explaining the difference between literary creation and real life.
In the elegy addressed to a friend orator, he says in Tristia I, 9,55 et seq:
It had been best that light had failed my pursuit. And just as you are aided, my eloquent friend, by serious arts, so arts unlike them have injured me. Yet my life is well known to you ; you know that
with those arts their author's character had no connexion ; you know that this poem I was written long ago, an amusement of my youth, and that those jests, though not deserving praise, were still mere jests. (Translation by Arthur Leslie Wheeler. The Loeb Classical Library.)
at nostrum tenebris utinam latuisset in imis !
expediit studio lumen abesse meo.
utque tibi prosunt artes, facunde, severae,
dissimiles illis sic nocuere mihi.
vita tamen tibi nota mea est. scis artibus illis
auctoris mores abstinuisse sui :
scis vetus hoc iuveni lusum mihi carmen, et istos
ut non laudandos, sic tamen esse iocos.
Ovid clarifies things in Tristia II, 345 et seq. :
This wantonness has caused thee to hate me on account of the arts which thou didst think disturbed unions that all were forbidden to attack. But no brides have learned deceptions through my teaching ; nobody can teach that of which he knows too little. I have composed songs of pleasure and love but in such fashion that no scandal has ever touched my name. No husband exists even amid the common people who doubts his fatherhood through sin of mine. I assure you, my character differs from my verse (my life is moral, my muse is gay), and most of my work, unreal and fictitious, has allowed itself more licence than its author has had. A book is not an evidence of one's soul, but an honourable impulse that presents very many things suited to charm the ear. Else would Accius be cruel, Terence a reveller, or those would be quarrelsome who sing of fierce war. (Translated by Arthur Leslie Wheeler)
Haec tibi me inuisum lasciuia fecit, ob Artes,
Quis ratus es uetitos sollicitare toros.
Sed neque me nuptae didicerunt furta magistro,
Quodque parum nouit, nemo docere potest.
Sic ego delicias et mollia carmina feci,
Strinxerit ut nomen fabula nulla meum.
Nec quisquam est adeo media de plebe maritus,
Vt dubius uitio sit pater ille meo.
Crede mihi, distant mores a carmine nostro
(Vita uerecunda est, Musa iocosa mea)
Magnaque pars mendax operum est et ficta meorum:
Plus sibi permisit compositore suo.
Nec liber indicium est animi, sed honesta uoluntas:
Plurima mulcendis auribus apta feres.
Accius esset atrox, conuiua Terentius esset,
Essent pugnaces qui fera bella canunt.
He insists on the same idea in Tristia II, 303 ff.
Far from the " Art," written for courtesans
alone, its first page warns the hands of upright
women. Any woman who breaks away to a place
forbidden by a priest, forthwith removes from him
the sin and becomes herself guilty. Nevertheless
it is no crime to read tender verse ; the chaste may
read much that they should not do. Often matrons
of serious brow behold women nude*, ready for
every kind of lust. The eyes of Vestals behold the
bodies of courtesans nor has that been the cause
of punishment to their owner.
Yet why is my muse so wanton ? Why does
my book advise anybody to love ? There is naught
for me but confession of my error and my obvious
fault : I repent of my talent and my tastes
(Translated by Arthur Leslie Wheeler)
* Note: Because they attended the festivals of Floralia between April 28 and May 3 in which prostitutes were displayed naked, according to the work also of Ovid Fasti V, 159-378.
et procul a scripta solis meretricibus Arte
summovet ingenuas pagina prima manus.
quaecumque erupit, qua non sinit ire sacerdos,
protinus huic dempti criminis ipsa rea est.
nec tamen est facinus versus evolvere mollis ;
multa licet castae non facienda legant.
saepe supercilii nudas matrona severi
et veneris stantis ad genus omne videt.
corpora Vestales oculi meretricia cernunt,
nec domino poenae res ea causa fuit.
at cur in nostra nimia est lascivia Musa,
curve meus cuiquam suadet amare liber ?
nil nisi peccatum manifestaque culpa fatenda est :
paenitet ingenii iudiciique mei.
And in Tristia 3, 2, 5-9
It avails me not that without real guilt I wrote playful verse, that my Muse was merrier tan my life, but many are the perils by land and sea that I have undergone, and now the Pontus shrivelled with constant frost possesses me. (Translated by Arthur Leslie Wheeler)
Nec mihi, quod lusi uero sine crimine, prodest,
Quodque magis uita Musa iocata mea est:
Plurima sed pelago terraque pericula passum
Vstus ab assiduo frigore Pontus habet.
Of Martial (40 AD-104), the Hispanic poet of Bilbilis (Calatayud) who went like many others to Rome, to the City, to the center of the world, we have about 1,550 epigrams; about 100 of them can be considered obscene applying contemporary moral criteria: they are which refer or mention the male and female cunnilingus, fellatio and sodomy.
Martial also must repeat the same clarification and almost with the same words as the previous poets, about the difference between literature and life:
If perchance, Caesar, you shall come upon my books, lay aside the frown that rules the world. Your triumphs too have been wont to endure jests, and no shame is it to a commander to be matter for wit. With the air that views Thymele and the mime Latinus, therewith I pray you to read my verses. A censor can permit harmless trifling : wanton is my page ; my life is good. (Translated by Walter C.A.Ker)
Contigeris nostros, Caesar, si forte libellos,
Terrarum dominum pone supercilium.
Consuevere iocos vestri quoque ferre triumphi,
Materiam dictis nec pudet esse ducem.
Qua Thymelen spectas derisoremque Latinum,
Illa fronte precor carmina nostra legas.
Innocuos censura potest permittere lusus:
Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba.
Also in the presentation of Book VIII and the first epigram of that book he deals the question of the language of his little poems:
To the emperor Domitianus, Caesar, Augustus, conqueror of Germany and Dacia, Valerius Martialis sends Greeting.
OF a truth all my little books, Sire, to which you have given fame, that is, life, are your suppliants, and I think will, for this reason, be read. This one, however, which is marked the eighth of my works, enjoys more frequently the opportunity of showing loyalty. Accordingly I had less occasion for the labour of invention, for which the subject-matter formed a substitute ; that, however, I have here and there attempted to diversify by some intermixture of pleasantry, so that every verse should not heap upon your divine modesty its meed of praise which would more easily weary you than satiate me. And although epigrams have been written in such a style, even by men the most austere and of the highest position, as apparently to have aimed at the verbal licence of mimes, yet I have not allowed these to speak with their usual playfulness. As part of my book and that the greater and better is attached to the Majesty of your sacred name, it should remember that it is unfitting to approach the temple save cleansed by religious purification. That readers may know I shall regard this obligation, I have determined to make my profession on the very threshold of this little book by a very brief epigram.
Thou, my book, who art purposed to enter my Master's laurel-wreathed abode, learn to speak more reverently in modest speech. Undraped Venus, stand back : this little book is not thine ; do thou come to me, thou, Pallas, patron of Caesar. (Translated by Walter C.A.Ker)
Imperatori Domitiano Caesari Augusto Germanico Dacico Valerius Martialis S.
Omnes quidem libelli mei, domine, quibus tu fa-
mam, id est vitam, dedisti, tibi supplicant; et, puto,
propter hoc legentur. Hic tamen, qui operis nostri octa-
vus inscribitur, occasione pietatis frequentius fruitur.
Minus itaque ingenio laborandum fuit, in cuius locum
materia successerat: quam quidem subinde aliqua ioco-
rum mixtura variare temptavimus, ne caelesti verecun-
diae tuae laudes suas, quae facilius te fatigare possint,
quam nos satiare, omnis versus ingereret. Quamvis
autem epigrammata a severissimis quoque et summae
fortunae viris ita scripta sint, ut mimicam verborum
licentiam adfectasse videantur, ego tamen illis non per-
misi tam lascive loqui quam solent. Cum pars libri et
maior et melior ad maiestatem sacri nominis tui alli-
gata sit, meminerit non nisi religiosa purificatione
lustratos accedere ad templa debere. Quod ut custo-
diturum me lecturi sciant, in ipso libelli huius limine
profiteri brevissimo placuit epigrammate.
Laurigeros domini, liber, intrature penates
Disce verecundo sanctius ore loqui.
Nuda recede Venus; non est tuus iste libellus:
Tu mihi, tu Pallas Caesariana, veni.
And in Martial I,35
That I write verses little squeamish, and not such
as a schoolmaster would dictate in school, is your
complaint, Cornelius ; but these poems cannot please,
any more than husbands can please their wives,
without amorousness. What if you bade me indite
a marriage song not in the words of a marriage
song ? Who brings garments into Flora's festival,
and permits prostitutes the modesty of the stole ?
This is the rule assigned to jocular poems, to be
unable to please unless they are prurient. 2 Where-
fore lay aside your squeamishness, and spare my
pleasantries and my jokes, I beg you, and do not
seek to castrate my poems. Than a Priapus as
Cybele's priest nothing is more disgusting.(Translated by Walter C.A.Ker)
Versus scribere me parum severos
Nec quos praelegat in schola magister,
Corneli, quereris: sed hi libelli,
Tamquam coniugibus suis mariti,
5Non possunt sine mentula placere.
Quid si me iubeas talassionem
Verbis dicere non talassionis?
Quis Floralia vestit et stolatum
Permittit meretricibus pudorem?
Lex haec carminibus data est iocosis,
Ne possint, nisi pruriant, iuvare.
Quare deposita severitate
Parcas lusibus et iocis rogamus,
Nec castrare velis meos libellos.
Gallo turpius est nihil Priapo.
The same in 9, 28
The darling pride of the stage, the glory of the
games, that Latinus am I, the favourite of your
applause, who could have made a spectator of
Cato, who could have dissolved in laughter the
stern Curii and Fabricii. But nought from Rome's
theatre did my life assume ; and only through my
art am I accounted of the stage ; nor could I have
been dear to my master had I not character : that
God looks into the heart within. Call me, if ye
will, the parasite of laurelled Phoebus, so Rome
but know that I am the servant of her Jove. (Translated by Walter C.A.Ker)
Dulce decus scaenae, ludorum fama, Latinus
Ille ego sum, plausus deliciaeque tuae,
Qui spectatorem potui fecisse Catonem,
Solvere qui Curios Fabriciosque graves.
Sed nihil a nostro sumpsit mea vita theatro,
Et sola tantum scaenicus arte feror:
Nec poteram gratus domino sine moribus esse;
Interius mentes inspicit ille deus.
Vos me laurigeri parasitum dicite Phoebi,
Roma sui famulum dum sciat esse Iovis.
An in book 11, 15
I have writings that Cato's wife and that grim Sabine dames might read ; I wish this little book to laugh from end to end, and be naughtier than all my little books. Let it be drenched in wine and not ashamed to be stained with rich Cosmian unguents ; let it play with the boys, love the girls, and in no roundabout phrase speak of that where- from we are born, the parent of all, which hallowed Numa called by its own name. Yet remember that these verses are of the Saturnalia, pollinaris : this little book does not express 3 my own morals. (Translated by Walter C.A.Ker)
Sunt chartae mihi, quas Catonis uxor
Et quas horribiles legant Sabinae:
Hic totus volo rideat libellus
Et sit nequior omnibus libellis.
5Qui vino madeat nec erubescat
Pingui sordidus esse Cosmiano,
Ludat cum pueris, amet puellas,
Nec per circuitus loquatur illam,
Ex qua nascimur, omnium parentem,
10Quam sanctus Numa mentulam vocabat.
Versus hos tamen esse tu memento
Mores non habet hic meos libellus.
Pliny the Younger refers to the use of crude words in the poemes to give them their grace. I reproduce in full Epistula 4, 14:
Perhaps you are asking and looking out for a speech of mine, as you usually do, but I am sending you some wares of another sort, exotic trifles, the fruit of my playtime. You will receive with this letter some hendecasyllabics of mine with which I pass my leisure hours
pleasantly when driving, or in the bath, or at dinner. They contain my jests, my sportive fancies, my loves, sorrows, displeasures and wrath,described sometimes in a humble, sometimes in a lofty strain. My object has been to please different tastes by this variety of treatment, and I hope that certain pieces will be liked by every one. Some of them will possibly strike you as being rather wanton, but a man of your scholarship will bear in mind that the very greatest and gravest authors who have handled such subjects have not only dealt with lascivious themes, but have treated them in the plainest language. I have not done that, not because I have greater austerity than they–by no means, but because I am not quite so daring. Otherwise, I am aware that Catullus has laid down the best and truest regulations governing this style of poetry in his lines:
"For it becomes a pious bard to be chaste himself,though there is no need for his verses to be so. Nay, if they are to have wit and charm, they must be voluptuous and not too modest."
You may guess from this what store I set on your critical judgment when I say that I prefer you should weigh the whole in the balance rather than pick out a few for your special praise. Yet pieces, perfect in themselves, cease to appear so the moment they are all on a dead level of perfection. Besides, a reader of judgment and acumen ought not to compare different pieces with one another, but to weigh each on its own merits and not to think one inferior to another, if it is perfect of its kind. But why say more? What more foolish than to excuse or commend mere trifles with a long preface? Still there is one thing of which I think I should advise you, and it is that I am thinking of calling these trifles "Hendecasyllables," a title which simply refers to the single metre employed. So, whether you prefer to call them epigrams, or idylls, or eclogues, or little poems, as many do, or any other name,remember that I only offer you "Hendecasyllables." I appeal to your candour to speak to me frankly about my tiny volume as you would to a third person, and this is no hard request. For if this trifling work of mind were my chef d'oeuvre, or my one solitary composition, it might perhaps seem harsh to say, "Seek out some other employment for your talent," but it is perfectly gentle and kindly criticism to say, "You have another sphere in which you show to greater advantage." Farewell. (Translated by John B. Firth
C. PLINIUS [DECIMO] PATERNO SUO S.
Tu fortasse orationem, ut soles, et flagitas et exspectas; at ego quasi ex aliqua peregrina delicataque merce lusus meos tibi prodo. Accipies cum hac epistula hendecasyllabos nostros, quibus nos in vehiculo in balineo inter cenam oblectamus otium temporis. His iocamur ludimus amamus dolemus querimur irascimur, describimus aliquid modo pressius modo elatius, atque ipsa varietate temptamus efficere, ut alia aliis quaedam fortasse omnibus placeant. Ex quibus tamen si non nulla tibi petulantiora paulo videbuntur, erit eruditionis tuae cogitare summos illos et gravissimos viros qui talia scripserunt non modo lascivia rerum, sed ne verbis quidem nudis abstinuisse; quae nos refugimus, non quia severiores – unde enim? -, sed quia timidiores sumus. Scimus alioqui huius opusculi illam esse verissimam legem, quam Catullus expressit:
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est,
qui tunc denique habent salem et leporem
si sunt molliculi et parum pudici.
Ego quanti faciam iudicium tuum, vel ex hoc potes aestimare, quod malui omnia a te pensitari quam electa laudari. Et sane quae sunt commodissima desinunt videri, cum paria esse coeperunt. Praeterea sapiens subtilisque lector debet non diversis conferre diversa, sed singula expendere, nec deterius alio putare quod est in suo genere perfectum. Sed quid ego plura? Nam longa praefatione vel excusare vel commendare ineptias ineptissimum est. Unum illud praedicendum videtur, cogitare me has meas nugas ita inscribere 'hendecasyllabi', qui titulus sola metri lege constringitur. Proinde, sive epigrammata sive idyllia sive eclogas sive, ut multi, poematia seu quod aliud vocare malueris, licebit voces; ego tantum hendecasyllabos praesto. A simplicitate tua peto, quod de libello meo dicturus es alii, mihi dicas; neque est difficile quod postulo. Nam si hoc opusculum nostrum aut potissimum esset aut solum, fortasse posset durum videri dicere: 'Quaere quod agas'; molle et humanum est: 'Habes quod agas.' Vale.
Apuleius also gives us valuable information in his Apology, or discourse on magic, in self-defense.
Which of us is most to blame? I who am fool enough to speak seriously of such things in a law-court? or you who are slanderous enough to include such charges in your indictment? For sportive effusions in verse are valueless as evidence of a poet's morals. Have you not read Catullus, who replies thus to those who wish him ill:
_A virtuous poet must be chaste. Agreed.
But for his verses there is no such need._
The divine Hadrian, when he honoured the tomb of his friend the poet Voconius with an inscription in verse from his own pen, wrote thus:
_Thy verse was wanton, but thy soul was chaste_,
words which he would never have written had he regarded verse of somewhat too lively a wit as proving their author to be a man of immoral life. I remember that I have read not a few poems by the divine Hadrian* himself which were of the same type. Come now, Aemilianus, I dare you to say that that was ill done which was done by an emperor and censor, the divine Hadrian, and once done was recorded for subsequent generations. But, apart from that, do you imagine that Maximus will censure anything that has Plato for its model, Plato whose verses, which I have just read, are all the purer for being frank, all the more modest for being outspoken? For in these matters and the like, dissimulation and concealment is the mark of the sinner, open acknowledgement and publication a sign that the writer is but exercising his wit. For nature has bestowed on innocence a voice wherewith to speak, but to guilt she has given silence to veil its sin. I say nothing of those lofty and divine Platonic doctrines, that are familiar to but few of the elect and wholly unknown to all the uninitiate, such for instance as that which teaches us that Venus is not one goddess, but two**, each being strong in her own type of love and several types of lovers.
(Translated by H.E.Butler)
* Aelius Spartianus, in Scriptores historiae Augustae, XIV, affirms that Emperor Hadrian composed several amatory poems: Et de suis dilectis multa versibus composuit, amatoria carmina scripsit.
** Plato in his dialogue The Symposium, 180C opposes the Aphrodite Pandemos to the Aphrodite Urania.
Sed sumne ego ineptus, qui haec etiam in iudicio? an uos potius calumniosi, qui etiam haec in accusatione, quasi ullum specimen morum sit uersibus ludere? Catullum ita respondentem maliuolis non legistis:
nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, uersiculos nihil necesse est?
Diuus Adrianus cum Voconi amici sui poetae tumulum uorsibus muneraretur, ita scripsit: ‘lasciuus uersu, mente pudicus eras,’ quod nunquam ita dixisset, si forent lepidiora carmina argumentum impudicitiae habenda. ipsius etiam diui Adriani multa id genus legere me memini. aude sis, Aemiliane, dicere male id fieri, quod imperator et censor diuus Adrianus fecit et factum memoriae reliquit. ceterum Maximum quicquam putas culpaturum, quod sciat Platonis exemplo a me factum? cuius uersus quos nunc percensui tanto sanctiores sunt, quanto apertiores, tanto pudicius compositi, quanto simplicius professi; namque haec et id genus omnia dissimulare et occultare peccantis, profiteri et promulgare ludentis est; quippe natura uox innocentiae, silentium maleficio distributa.
mitto enim dicere alta illa et diuina Platonica, rarissimo cuique piorum ignara, ceterum omnibus profanis incognita: geminam esse Venerem deam, proprio quamque amore et diuersis amatoribus pollentis;
earum alteram uulgariam, quae sit percita populari amore, non modo humanis animis, uerum etiam pecuinis et ferinis ad libidinem imperitare ui immodica trucique perculsorum animalium serua corpora complexu uincientem: alteram uero caelitem Venerem, praeditam quae sit optimati amore, solis hominibus et eorum paucis curare, nullis ad turpitudinem stimulis uel illecebris sectatores suos percellentem; quippe amorem eius non amoenum et lasciuum, sed contra incomitum et serium pulchritudine honestatis uirtutes amatoribus suis conciliare, et si quando decora corpora commendet, a contumelia eorum procul absterrere; neque enim quicquam aliud in corporum forma diligendum quam quod ammoneant diuinos animos eius pulchritudinis, quam prius ueram et sinceram inter deos uidere. quapropter, ut semper, eleganter Afranius hoc scriptum relinquat: ‘amabit sapiens, cupient ceteri,’ tamen si uerum uelis, Aemiliane, uel si haec intellegere unquam potes, non tam amat sapiens quam recordatur.
I will cite, in order to finish this long series of texts, the last part of the Cento Nuptialis, of Ausonius, poet of Bordeaux, who lived between 310 and 395 and was tutor to the emperor Gratianus in his childhood.
Ausonius wrote a very famous poem called Cento Nuptialis, that puzzles us with eroticism, pornography perhaps for some, which we would not expect in this poet.
We must clarify that a Cento is a poem made up of verses drawn from another author that are integrated into a different set in which they acquire a different meaning. Ausonius made a poem about marriage precisely with verses of Virgil, the purest poet, whom people played word games with his name Virgil relating it to "virgine", calling it "virginal".
At another time, I will dedicate an article to this poem, of which I now only want to cite the last part, Cento Nuptialis, 10, in which he justifies his text, recalling precisely what is said and done by many other authors, among others the mentioned in this same article.
Be satisfied, friend Paul,
Paul,with this naughty page;
Laughter –naught else- I ask.
But when you have donenreading, stand by me to face those who, as Juvenal says-
“Put on the airs of Curius and live like Bacchanals,” – lest percance they picture my life in colours of my poem.
“My page is naughty, but my life is clean,”
as Martial says. Bur let them remember, learned as they are, that Pliny, a most honourable man, shows looseness in his scraps of verse, rigour in his private life; that Sulpicia’s Little work is wanton, her Outlook prim; that in morals Apuleius was a philosopher, in his epigrams a lover; that in the precepts of Cicero strictness is prominent, in his letters to Caerellia licence lurks; that Plato’s Symposium contains rhapsodies upon favourites. For what shall I say of the Fescennine verses of Annianus, what of the volumes of the Jeu d’Amour of Laevius, that most ancient poet? What of Evenus, whom Menander has called “the Wise”? What of Menander himself? What of all the comic poets, whose lives were strict for all the broad humour of their subjects? What also of Maro, called Parthenias (the Maidenly) because of his modesty, who in the eighth book of the Aeneid, when desdcribing the intercourse of Venus and Vulcan, has gravely introduced a mixed element of lofty obscenity? And again, in the third book of the Georgics, on cattle-breeding, has he not veiled an indecent meaning under an innocent metaphor? And if the primly-draped propriety of certain folk condemns aught in my playful piece, let them know that it is taken out of Virgbil. So anyone who disapproves of this farce of mine should not read it, or once he has read it, let him forget it, ori f he has not forgotten it, let him pardom it. For, as a matter of fact, it is the story of a wedding, and, like it or dislike it, the rites are exactly as I have described. (Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White.)
Sulpicia is one of the few Roman female writers of whom we know his name, who quotes Martial in book X, 35 and 38; it seems that she wrote erotic epigrams addressed to her husband; it could also be a ficitio character created by Martial. Anianus, author of the second century, wrote some Fescennini versi. These are verses with obscene content. The name derives from "fascinum" and its function is related to the avoidance of "evil eye". See http://www.antiquitatem.com/en/fascinating-evil-eye-apotropaic-phallus
It is said about Virgil in Donatus, Vita Vergilii, 6 (11): It is known that his life (Virgil) was so honest , both in his face and in his soul that he was called in Naples "Parthenias" (virginal). Cetera sane vita et ore et animo tam probum fuisse constat ut Neapoli Parthenias appellaretur; The Greek word παρθένος, parthenos, means "virgin" (Remember that the famous Parthenon is the temple to the Virgin Athena, patroness of Athens).
Contentus esto, Paule mi,
lasciva, Paule, pagina:
ridere, nil ultra, expeto.
Sed cum legeris, adesto mihi adversum eos, qui,
ut Iuvenalis ait, ‘Curios simulant et Bacchanalia
vivunt,’ ne fortasse mores meos spectent de carmine.
‘Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba,’
ut Martialis dicit, meminerint autem, quippe eruditi,
probissimo viro Plinio in poematiis lasciviam,
in moribus constitisse censuram; prurire opusculum
Sulpiciae, frontem caperare; esse Appuleium in vita
philosophum, in epigrammatis amatorem; in praeceptis
Ciceronis extare severitatem, in epistulis ad
Caerelliam subesse petulantiam; Platonis Symposion
composita in ephebos epyllia continere, nam quid
Anniani Fescenninos, quid antiquissimi poetae Laevii
Erotopaegnion libros loquar? quid Evenum, quem
Menander sapientem vocavit? quid ipsum Menandrum?
quid comicos omnes, quibus severa vita est
et laeta materia? quid etiam Maronem Parthenien
dictum causa pudoris, qui in octavo Aeneidos, cum
describeret coitum Veneris atque Vulcani, atque αἰσχροσεμνίαν
decenter immiscuit? quid? in tertio Georgicorum
de summissis in gregem maritis nonne obscenam
significationem honesta verborum translatione
velavit? et si quid in nostro ioco aliquorum hominum
severitas vestita condemnat, de Vergilio arcessitum
sciat, igitur cui hic ludus noster non placet, ne
legerit, aut cum legerit, obliviscatur, aut non oblitus
ignoscat, etenim fabula de nuptiis est et, velit nolit,
aliter haec sacra non constant.
The final words of Ausonius can serve as the perfect ending to this article.
It only remains for me to add that consequently there does not have to be a real and absolute coincidence between what the poet or literary author writes and his way of life; Let's leave a broad field to the author's creativity and imagination. It may even be that the aim of the writer is simply to deceive the reader.
In this case we must also admit the possibility that authors of writings of high and rigid moral tone lead a personal life that is not edifying. But does it add anything to the dense work of the extreme Christian author to know that he frequently visited the brothels of Madrid or died of alcoholic cirrhosis? Should we fall into those gossip?
But we will also have to conclude that there are also many cases in which literature is a reflection of the author's real life and in which the literary style itself is directly related to the author's way of being. All this always requires an attentive, informed and critical reading of any literary work.