aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Juvenal, Satires 6.130

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A single line of Juvenal today, but one with an interesting afterlife. Juvenal is describing the alleged debauchery of Claudius’ third wife Messalina, who, according to Juvenal, would whore herself out in a brothel, even staying on past closing-time:

et lassata viris necdum satiata recessit

And exhausted by men, but not yet satisfied, she came home.

This line has been much quoted in the modern era; I might even get around to writing a paper on it one day. Click ‘more’ for some examples!

In Teleny, the pornographical novel now attributed by some to Oscar Wilde, we read: “The senses, like Messalina, lassata sed non satiata, ever tingling, keep hankering after the impossible.” (p.153 of the 1984 Gay Sunshine Press edition).

Samuel Beckett alludes to this line twice, in Dream of Fair to Middling Women (‘never even lassata, let alone satiata’), and in Murphy (‘lassata’). But in typical Beckett fashion, both of these are kind of mysterious unless one knows the line already.

Simone de Beauvoir uses it in Le deuxième sexe, illustrating her assertion that ‘c’est souvent une fatigue nerveuse ou cardiaque ou une satiété psychique qui limite les possibilités érotiques de la femme’ (‘L’inititation sexuelle’, Part 5, p.180).

Montaigne quotes it in his essay on Virgil.

Baudelaire, who gives several of his poems titles in Latin, uses sed non satiata as the title for the 26th poem in Les fleurs du mal. (I imagine this is what the author of Teleny was alluding to.)

Finally, in a typical Gibbon moment, we find in a discussion of the Empress Theodora: ‘After exhausting the arts of sensual pleasure, she most ungratefully murmured against the parsimony of Nature: but her murmurs, her pleasures, and her arts, must be veiled in the obscurity of a learned language.’ The learned language appears in the footnote: ‘At a memorable supper, thirty slaves waited round the table; ten young men feasted with Theodora. Her charity was universal.

Et lassata viris, necdum satiata, recessit.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 1, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Juvenal

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