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CATULLUS, Gaius Valerius

Carmen 2 - Sparrow, my sweet girl’s delight

Sparrow, my sweet girl’s delight,

whom she plays with, holds to her breast,

whom, greedy, she gives her little finger to,

often provoking you to a sharp bite,

whenever my shining desire wishes

to play with something she loves,

I suppose, while strong passion abates,

it might be a small relief from her pain:

might I toy with you as she does

and ease the cares of a sad mind

Musje, lieveling van mijn meisje,

met wie zij gewend is te spelen,

die zij aan haar boezem koestert,

aan wie zij haar vingertopje reikt

en tot scherpe beetjes verleidt

wanneer het stralende voorwerp van mijn verlangen

met haar een spelletje speelt, mij vreemd,

om, naar ik vermoed, troost te vinden voor haar hartenleed

en verzachting van haar hevige minnegloed.

Kon ik maar met haar spelen zoals zij

en het verdriet verlichten van mijn bezwaard gemoed.

Carmen 3 – Lesbia’s Sparrow

All you Loves and Cupids cry

and all you men of feeling

my girl’s sparrow is dead,

my girl’s beloved sparrow.

She loved him more than herself.

He was sweeter than honey, and he

knew her, as she knows her mother.

He never flew out of her lap,

but, hopping about here and there,

just chirped to his lady, alone.

Now he is flying the dark

no one ever returns from.

Evil to you, evil Shades

of Orcus, destroyers of beauty.

You have stolen the beautiful sparrow from me.

Oh sad day! Oh poor little sparrow!

Because of you my sweet girl’s eyes

are red with weeping, and swollen.

Carmen 5 – My sweetest Lesbia

MY sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,

And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,

Let us not weigh them. Heaven's great lamps do dive

Into their west, and straight again revive.

But, soon as once set our little light,

Then must we sleep one ever-during night.

If all would lead their lives in love like me,

Then bloody swords and armor should not be;

No drum or trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,

Unless alarm came from the camp of Love:

But fools do live and waste their little light,

And seek with pain their ever-during night.

When timely death my life and fortune ends,

Let not my hearse be vext with mourning friends,

But let all lovers rich in triumph come

And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb:

And, Lesbia, close up thou my little light,

And crown with love my ever-during night.

(Translation: Thomas CAMPION)

Carmen 8 - Advice to myself

Sad Catullus, stop playing the fool,

and let what you know leads you to ruin, end.

Once, bright days shone for you,

when you came often drawn to the girl

loved as no other will be loved by you.

Then there were many pleasures with her,

that you wished, and the girl not unwilling,

truly the bright days shone for you.

And now she no longer wants you: and you

weak man, be unwilling to chase what flees,

or live in misery: be strong-minded, stand firm.

Goodbye girl, now Catullus is firm,

he doesn’t search for you, won’t ask unwillingly.

But you’ll grieve, when nobody asks.

Woe to you, wicked girl, what life’s left for you?

Who’ll submit to you now? Who’ll see your beauty?

Who now will you love? Whose will they say you’ll be?

Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?

But you, Catullus, be resolved to be firm.

Carmen 64 (transl. T. Banks)
           The Minoan girl, at seaweed's edge, stares far, far out at him

           with suffering eyes. Like a Bacchante's stone statue she stares out--

           how sad!--and she swirls in great billows of hurt:

           blond hair not in place under delicate scarf,

           bosom not covered by thin outer dress,

           milk-white breasts not bound under smooth inner dress.

           All cloth, from her whole body fallen,

           the salt tide sports with at her feet.

           But not then for the fate of her scarf, not then for her swirling dress

           does she care, Theseus: with all her heart, with all her spirit,

           with all her mind the forlorn girl needs you.

           Ah, poor girl, with what ceaseless griefs rough Venus

           threw you down. She sowed in your heart the nettles of hurt

           on that day--from that day--when fierce Theseus

           left the curved shores of Piraeus, Athenian harbor,

           and reached the Cretan palace of unjust King Minos.

           Once, they say, King Cecrops' Athens was forced by cruel

           plague to pay the price for Androgeos' murder: was accustomed

           to give chosen youths and the loveliness of unwed maids

           together as feast for the Minotaur.

           Since his narrow city walls were shaken by these evils,

           Theseus himself, for the sake of his dear Athenians, yearned

           to put forth his own body, rather than let such living dead

           of Cecrops' land be borne to Crete.

           Thus, then, firm in the light ship, in gentle breezes,

           he came to proud Minos and his haughty palace.

           No sooner did Princess Ariadne gaze at him with glowing eye--

           she whom her chaste little bed that sighed sweet scents

           had raised in her mother's soft embrace

           (scents like the myrtles the streams of River Eurotas engender

           or like the spectrum of colors the spring breeze brings forth)--

           no sooner did she lower from him her incandescent eyes

           than she conceived throughout her body a flame,

           and totally, to the center of her bones, she burned.

           Alas, while you stirred her pitiful ragings with a pitiless heart,

           O divine Cupid, boy who mixes humans' joys with hurts,

           and you, Venus, who reign over the Golgi and leafy Idalium,

           on what billows you tossed the girl, her mind aflame,

           sighing over and over for her blond guest!

           How great the fears she bore in her barely beating heart,


Carmen 66 - The Lock of Hair: Berenice

He who gazed at all the lights in the vast heavens,

who learnt the rise and setting of the stars,

how the fiery beauty of the swift sun’s darkened,

how constellations vanish at fixed times,

how sweet love entices Diana, secretly passing

near the Latmian cliffs, in her airy course:

that same Conon, the astronomer, saw me shining brightly

at heaven’s threshold, a lock of hair from Berenice’s head,

she who stretching out her delicate arms

made promises to a multitude of gods,

at that time when the great king newly married

was gone to lay waste the borders of Assyria,

bearing sweet traces of nocturnal strife,

those that are brought about by virgin spoils.

Is Venus really hated by new brides? Is parents’ joy

deceived by their false tears, shed copiously within

the threshold of the bed? If it were truth they sighed

they’d not have supported my divinity so. 

My queen taught me that, with her many woeful cries,

when her new husband went off to grim battle.

And is it not the bereavement of an empty bed you mourn,

but the tearful separation from a dear brother?

How sad cares eat at the heart’s core from within!

As though, troubled, your mind is wholly lost,

robbed of all feeling in your breast!

But I recognise true greatness in a girl.

Surely that brave act is not forgotten by which a husband’s

kingdom was gained, that no one stronger dared?

But what sad words were said in sending off this husband!

Jupiter, how often your eyes were brushed by your hand!

What god has changed you so? Or is it a lovers wish

not to be absent from the beloved body for long?’

And, there too, you promised me, to all the gods,

not without blood of bulls, for your dear husband,

if it brought his return. It did not take him long

to add captive Asia to the bounds of Egypt.

I discharge former promises, for those deeds,

by this new tribute that joins me to the heavens.

Unwillingly, O Queen, I was parted from your hair,

unwillingly: I swear it by you and that head of yours,

that is worthy, even though one were to swear in vain:

but who could claim to be equal to steel itself?

Even the mountain’s overthrown by it, the greatest

bright child of Macedonia’s shores, over-passed

when the Persians created a new sea, when barbarians

drove their fleet through the midst of Athos.

What can hair do when such things fall to the blade?

By Jupiter, that the tribe of Chalybes might all perish,

and those who first pursued the search for veins of metal

below the earth, and how to cut tough things with iron!

A little while ago the sisters were mourning my fate

as a shorn lock, when, out of Locri, Arsínoe sent

the winged horses of Ethiopian Memnon himself,

beating, with quivering wings, Zephyrus’s,

the West Wind’s, air, the brother born with him,

and carrying me through the shadowed sky, he flew,

and placed me in chaste Venus’s lap.

Arsínoe herself sent her servant there,

Greek inhabitant of the Canoptic shore.

My arrival changed the heavens, so the golden crown

from Ariadne’s brow might not be fixed alone

in the bright sky: but, so that I too might shine,

a faithful spoil of that golden hair, the goddess

passing, wet from the flood, to the gods’ temple,

placed me as a new constellation among the old.

For, touching the Virgin’s stars and the savage Lion,

joined to Callisto daughter of Lycaon,

I fall towards the west, leading slow Bootës,

who merges tardily with the deep Ocean.

But though the footsteps of the gods touch me by night,

light still returns me to the ancient sea.

(Let this be known, by your leave, Fate, Virgin Ramnusia,

since I hide nothing of the truth through fear,

nor though the stars disperse me with angry words,

do I choose to hide the buried truth of the heart.)

I don’t delight in these things, as much as I suffer

from being parted, parted from my lady’s hair,

with which, when the girl used to try out

all perfumes, I myself absorbed many thousands.

Now you, whom the longed-for marriage torches join,

don’t surrender your bodies to mutual embrace,

baring your breasts with clothes removed,

before the onyx delights me with its pleasing gift,

your onyx, you who by right adorn the chaste bed.

But she who gives herself to impure adulteries,

let her absorb from sin the vain gift of light dust:

since I seek no prize from the undeserving.

But let great harmony, O brides, always inhabit

your house, continual love always.

You, my Queen, when you see your divine constellation,

as you placate Venus with festive lights,

don’t leave me free of your perfumes,

but endow me with more great gifts.

I wish that the stars would fall! I’d become royal hair,

and then let Orion shine next to Aquarius!

Carmen 85

Odio et amo. Quare id faciam,

Fortasse requiris.

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior

I hate and I love. Why do I do this, perhaps you ask.

I do not know, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.

Ik haat en heb lief.

Waarom ik dat doe, is uw vraag?

Geen idee. Maar ik merk:

Het verscheurt me

Vert.: Marietje d’HANE-SCHELTEMA