Last week I was expecting a number of things in the mail. They were unexpectedly sluggish arriving. As I was complaining to my son at dinner one night, Cruz sneezed three times. My son said confidently “They'll be here tomorrow.” It hadn't occurred to me that the resident dog, with his endearing black eyepatches and a terror of thunder, might be a prophet, but sure enough the next day the sluggish mail arrived. I'd never heard of this superstition of sneeze as omen.
At the weekend I was telling J the story and he, putting on his classicist's hat, said “Surely you remember that Catullus poem? Sneezes a good omen for a love affair?” No. I didn't remember. I found the number of the poem on the Internet (Carmen 45) and he hunted it down in his murky green Catullus. Over coffee and toast he translated it for me.
As the two lovers, Septimius and Acme protest their love for each other, Cupid that perennial bystander when love's in the air, sneezes approval on the left, and sneezes approval on the right.
Now, having set out with good omens they love and are loved with mutual passion.
From now on I'll be scrutinising every sneeze for its prophetic insight.