Egnatius, quod candidos habet dentes,
renidet usque quaque. si ad rei ventum est
subsellium, cum orator excitat fletum,
renidet ille; si ad pii rogum fili
lugetur, orba cum flet unicum mater,
renidet ille. quidquid est, ubicumque est,
quodcumque agit, renidet: hunc habet morbum,
neque elegantem, ut arbitror, neque urbanum.
quare monendum est te mihi, bone Egnati.
si urbanus esses aut Sabinus aut Tiburs
aut parcus Umber aut obesus Etruscus
aut Lanuvinus ater atque dentatus
aut Transpadanus, ut meos quoque attingam,
aut quilubet, qui puriter lavit dentes,
tamen renidere usque quaque te nollem:
nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
nunc Celtiber es: Celtiberia in terra,
quod quisque minxit, hoc sibi solet mane
dentem atque russam defricare gingivam,
ut, quo iste vester expolitior dens est,
hoc te amplius bibisse praedicet loti.
(Catullus 39)

Egnatius always smiles, everywhere,
because his teeth are white. Go to court.
When the lawyer is trying to make jurors weep,
he smiles. At an only son’s blazing pyre,
when the grieving mother’s sobs fill the air,
he smiles. At every event, never mind
the time or place, he smiles. That is his
disease and not, I think, suave or smart.
Good Egnatius, heed prudent words.
If you were a native of Rome, Sabine land,
or Tibur, the Umbrian hills’ thrifty son,
a fat Etruscan, or dark, toothy child
of Lanuvium, one of my own northerners,
—from any tribe with teeth cleanly cleaned,
still I would argue against constant smiles,
for nothing is worse than a smile out of place.
But you are from Spain. In Spain’s countryside,
it is normal to use what one urinates
to polish his teeth and red gums at dawn.
And so the brighter your teeth shine, the more
they loudly declare how much piss you drank.
(tr. David Mulroy)


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