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Thais smells even worse than a fuller’s old crock,
When, set in the street, it succumbs to a knock,
A he-goat when rutting, a lion’s foul breath,
A skin of a dog done by tanners to death,
A chicken gone rotten while still in the shell,
A jar filled with sauce that has not kept too well.
So wishing somehow to disguise this foul reek,
Whenever she comes to the baths in the week,
She’s covered with unguent and vinegared flour
And layers of powder at least three or four.
But spite of these dodges, and do what she will,
The fact is that Thais of Thais smells still.

[Tam male Thais olet, quam non fullonis avari
Testa vetus, media sed modo fracta via,
Non ab amore recens hircus, non ora leonis,
Non detracta cani transtiberina cutis,
5Pullus abortivo nec cum putrescit in ovo,
Amphora corrupto nec vitiata garo.
Virus ut hoc alio fallax permutet odore,
Deposita quotiens balnea veste petit,
Psilothro viret aut acida latet oblita creta
10Aut tegitur pingui terque quaterque faba.
Cum bene se tutam per fraudes mille putavit,
Omnia cum fecit, Thaida Thais olet.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 6, epigram 93 (6.93) (AD 91) [tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Worse than a fuller's tubb doth Thais stink,
Broke in the streets, and leaking through each chink;
Or lion's belch; or lustfull reeking goats;
Or skin of dogg that dead o' the' bankside floats;
Or half-hatch'd chicken from broke rotten eggs,
Or taynted jarrs of stinking mackrell dreggs.
This vile rank smell with perfumes to disguise,
Whene'er she's in the bath, she doth devise;
She's with pomatum smugg'd, or pain good store,
Or oyle of the bean-flow'r varnishe'd o'er and o'er:
A thousand wayes she tries to make all well;
In vayne, still Thais doth of Thais smell.
[Egerton Manuscript 2982 (16th C)]

Poor Thais so smells, as no ill-fated tray,
Of all-catching scourer, just broke in the way:
No love-leaving goat, and no lion's made maw;
No skin from a dog the Transtiberines draw:
No pullet abortive, that rots in the shell:
No cask, where the brine of anchovy did dwell.
Yet all her contagion, the sly would suppress,
Whene'er, at the bath, she deposits her dress.
She smugs in sweet lotion, or sculks in sour chalk;
In mail of fat bean-meal she wisely will calk.
Thus ev'ry art conjur'd, th' offensive to kill,
Alas! the poor Thais brethes poor Thais still.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 6, Part 3, ep. 28]

Thais smells worse than an old jar of a covetous fuller just broken in the middle of the street; worse than a goat after an amorous encounter; than the belch of a lion; than a hide torn from a dog on the banks of the Tiber; than chick rotting in an abortive egg; than a jar fetid with spoilt pickle. Cunningly wishing to exchange this disagreeable odour for some other, she, on laying aside her garments to enter the bath, makes herself green with a depilatory, or conceals herself beneath a daubing of chalk dissolved in acid, or covers herself with three or four layers of rich bean-unguent. When by a thousand artifices she thinks she has succeeded in making herself safe, Thais, after all, smells of Thais.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Thais smells worse even than a grasping fuller's long-used crock, and that, too, just smashed in the middle of the street; than a he-goat fresh from his amours; than the breath of a lion; than a hide dragged from a dog beyond Tiber; than a chicken when it rots in an abortive egg; than a two-eared jar poisoned by putrid fish-sauce. In order craftily to substitute for such a reek another odour, whenever she strips and enters the bath she is green with depilatory, or is hidden behind a plaster of chalk and vinegar, or is covered with three or four layers of sticky bean-flower. When she imagines that by a thousand dodges she is quite safe, Thais, do what she will, smells of Thais.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Old Thais is so rank, shed reeks to heaven,
Like greedy fuller's crock in pieces riven.
No hot he-goat, no lion's breath so rare
Or over-Tiber dog-skin out to air.
An ancient pickle-jar describes her best
Or unhatched chicken in forsaken nest.
To mask her odour by another stench
She doffs her robe and bathes, the dainty wench.
She's green with ointment, smeared with biting clay,
And coats of oily bean her charms array.
Let Thais play what tricks and turns she will,
The scent's breast high; she's the old vixen still.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924)]

Worse than a fuller’s crock full of stale piss
Smashed in the gutter by the slaughterhouse;
Worse than a he-goat straight from rut, and worse
Than a lion’s breath or chicken when it rots
In an aborted egg, or hide of a dog
Dragged from the Tiber, or a two-eared jar
Of poisonous fish sauce -- so Thais smells
Of Thais, when she steps fresh from the bath.
[tr. O'Connell (1991)]

Thais smells worse than the veteran crock of a stingy fuller, recently broken in the middle of the road, or a billy goat fresh from his amours, or a linon's mouth, or a hide from behind Tiber torn from a dog, or a chicken rotting in an aborted egg, or a jar polluted with putrid garum. In order to exchange this stench for a differnet odor, whenever she takes off ehr clothse to get into the bath, the crafty lady is green with depilatory or lurks under a lining of chalk and vnegar, or is coated with three or four layers of thick bean meal. A thousand tricks, and she thinks she's safe. But when all's done, Thais smells of Thais.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Thais smells worse than caustic oil,
Or corpses rotting in the soil,
Or rotten eggs, or rutting goats,
Or swill that's vomited by stoats.
To hide the odor, Thais drenches
Her body with distracting stenches.
But worse than ointments on her shelf,
The smell most dreadful is -- herself.
[tr. Wills (2007), 6.98]

Added on 10-Dec-21 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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More quotes by Martial

Slavery is doomed, and that within a few years. Even Judge Douglas admits it to be an evil, and an evil can’t stand discussion. In discussing it we have taught a great many thousands of people to hate it who had never given it a thought before. What kills the skunk is the publicity it gives itself.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Interview with David R. Locke (1859)

Recounted in A. T. Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, ch. 25 (1896).
Added on 3-Apr-20 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it is also more nourishing.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major, ch. 2, § 3 (1916)


IDEALIST: one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
A Book of Burlesques, "The Jazz Webster" (1924)

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
Chrestomathy, ch. 30 "Sententiae" (1949)

Added on 16-Nov-07 | Last updated 13-Jul-23
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It’s starting to smell a little like danger in here — or heavily fried food.

Ben Edlund (b. 1968) American cartoonist, writer, producer
The Tick, Ep. 12, “The Tick vs. Proto Clown” (1995)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 4-Sep-14
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