A Tale Told by Atheneus (Venus Callipygus)

By Marie Ponsot b. 1921 Marie Ponsot
Two sisters of ancient Greece both laid claim
To the finest, fairest rear of their time.
Which tail forged ahead? Which bottom’s true fame
Topped? Which back was in front, which terce most prime?
A judge chose the elder girl’s back matter;
Her finish was more fine and far matter.
She got the prize, and his heart; soon they wed.
“But the younger’s sitter’s not a smatter
Less meet; I’ll marry her,” his brother said.
It went so well, their joys were so perfected,
That after them a temple was erected
In honor of  Venus Callipygus.
No other church — though I don’t know its rite —
Could so, from head to epididymis,
Move me with deep devotion to its site.

        Translated from the French of  Jean de La Fontaine, Contes, Part I, 6.

From Springing: New and Selected Poems by Marie Ponsot, copyright © 2002 by Marie Ponsot. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House, Inc. for permission.

Source: Poetry (May 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the May 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2013
 Marie  Ponsot


Born in New York, poet and translator Marie Ponsot is the daughter of a teacher and a wine importer and was raised Catholic, a faith she still observes. She earned a BA at St. Joseph’s College for Women in Brooklyn, New York, and an MA in 17th-century literature at Columbia University. On a ship to Paris after World War II, she met poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who later published Ponsot’s debut collection through . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Desire, Relationships, Men & Women, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Sonnet

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