No Poem Without a Penis: Martial 1.35

“Cornelius, you complain that I write poems which are not serious enough, and which a teacher would not read in school: but my poems, just like a husband with his wife, cannot please without a penis. Would you have me write a wedding song without mentioning a wedding? Who would require clothes at the Floralia, or would put a long dress on a whore? This is the rule with funny poems: they are no good unless they have something a bit licentious. So put away your serious glare and please, cut my games and jokes a little slack, and don’t cut the balls off my books. There is nothing uglier than a castrated Priapus.”

Versus scribere me parum seueros
nec quos praelegat in schola magister,
Corneli, quereris: sed hi libelli,
tamquam coniugibus suis mariti,
non possunt sine mentula placere.              5
Quid si me iubeas thalassionem
uerbis dicere non thalassionis?
quis Floralia uestit et stolatum
permittit meretricibus pudorem?
Lex haec carminibus data est iocosis,              10
ne possint, nisi pruriant, iuuare.
Quare deposita seueritate
parcas lusibus et iocis rogamus,
nec castrare uelis meos libellos
Gallo turpis est nihil Priapo.

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