Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84-c. 54 b.c.) was born at Verona in northern Italy and, as a young man, came to Rome. His private means were apparently sufficient to allow him to enjoy the pleasures of city life and to follow his literary interests. As a poet, he belonged to the group of writers (sometimes called the poetae novi) who, following the lead ofQuintus Lutatius Catulus and others, were introducing contemporary Greek literary traditions and practices of the time to Roman audiences.
Catullus wrote some formal poetry, including a short epic (an epyllion), but the greater part of his work consists of short, informal poems of a personal nature that are concerned with the poet himself and his contemporaries. Several of the latter poems relate to an affair he had with a woman whom he calls Lesbia. (We are told by a later author, Apuleius, that her real name was Clodia. In order to conceal the real name of his lover, Catullus, like other Roman poets, used a name that was metrically equivalent: Lesbia = Clodia.) His passionate devotion was at first reciprocated, but when she finally tired of him, he was overwhelmed with bitterness and despair.
a Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus, rumoresque senum severiorum omnes unius aestimemus assis. soles occidere et redire possunt: nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux, 5
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R. A. B. Mynors
(Oxford Classical Texts, 1958) meter hendecasyllable [§m3]
vlva|mus mea | Lesbl(a) | atqu(e) a|memus rumd|resque se|num se|veri|orum a iff. Vivamus ... amemus ... aestimemus (aestimo -are value) jussive subj. [§g69] let us live, etc.—Catullus uses vivo here in the sense enjoy life, not simply be alive; trans, rumores (rumor rumoris m.) as sg„ gossip; senum gen. pi. of senex old man; severior compar. of severus strict, narrow-minded—the comparative here expresses a high degree [§g 54], trans, too/very narrow-minded; unius... assis gen. of value [§G2i] at a single as (as assis m. a coin of small value). 4 soles pi. used for poetic effect; occido -ere set.
sf. Take nobis (dat. of agent [§G2g]) with est... dormienda (gerundive [§g8o] of dormid -Ire), must be slept by us, i.e., we must sleep; occidit 3 sg. perf. ind. act. has set; perpetuus continuous.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum, dein mille altera, dein secunda centum, deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus, 10
conturbabimus, ilia ne sciamus, aut ne quis malus invidere possit, cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
7ff. ml shorter form of mihi; basium -(i)i n. kiss; mille indecl. adj. in sg. thousand; centum indecl. adj. hundred; dein = deinde; altera (another) agrees with mille [basia]; secunda (a second) agrees with centum [basia]; usque here continuously, without stopping.
10 milia thousands (noun, pi. of mille); fecerimus fut. perf., but trans, have made up [§g66], x 1 conturbo -are go bankrupt—as if their kisses were money, Catullus and Lesbia will dishonestly declare themselves bankrupt and so be able to start again (con-turbo is the verb used for fraudulent bankruptcy); ilia ne sciamus so that we do not know their number (lit., them)—if they did, they might feel hesitation in going on.
12 quis malus some malicious [person]; invideo -ere here cast the evil eye—according to a widespread superstition, certain people could cause misfortune simply by looking at someone they disliked or envied.
13 tantum ... basiorum lit., so much of kisses (partitive gen. [§024]), trans. 50 many kisses.
The power of alcohol to stimulate poetic imagination, a claim still made today, was already recognized in ancient times.
Nulla placere diu nec vivere carmina possunt, quae scribuntur aquae potoribus. Epistulae i.ig.zi.
No poems that are written by water drinkers can give pleasure or endure for long.
For more Horatiana, seepages 86, Sg, 97,100, and 176.
B Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque. quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis, oraclum Iovis inter aestuosi et Batti veteris sacrum sepulcrum; aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox, furtivos hominum vident amores: tam te basia multa basiare vesano satis et super Catullo est, quae nec pernumerare curiosi possint nec mala fascinare lingua.
<-: Catullus Carmina 7
text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford Classical Texts, 1958)
mbter hendecasyllable [§m3]
quaeris | quot mihl | basi|ati|ones tuae | Lesbia | sint sa|tis su|perque b if. quot (indecl. adj. how many) introduces an indirect question [§g91], hence sint is subjunctive; mihi dat. of reference [§g 32] for me; basiatio basiationis f. kiss; satis superque an idiomatic phrase, enough and more [than enough].
3 Catullus compares the number of kisses required to the sands of the Libyan desert and the stars of the night sky; these comparisons are contained in subordinate clauses introduced by quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae (lit., how great the number of Libyan sands (sg. for pi. [§g 53])) and quam sidera multa (1. 7) (how many stars (sidus slderis n.)), and the main clause begins tam te basia multa basiare (1.9) (to kiss you so many kisses). A change in order and conjunctions is necessary for idiomatic English, to give you as many kisses as [there are] Libyan sands [that] ...or (aut) stars [that]
4 lasarpiciferis ... Cyrenis abl. of place where [§038] in silphium-bearing Cyrene (Cyrenae -arum f.pl.)—Cyrene was a Greek city in what is now Libya; its main export was silphium, a plant used for medicinal purposes; here the name Cyrene is used for the city itself and all the territory it controlled.
5f. orac(u)lum (-1 n. oracle) ... et... sepulcrum (-1 n. tomb) are governed by inter; the oracle of Iuppiter (Iovis m.) aestuosus (parched Jupiter, identified with the Egyptian god Ammon) was on an oasis in the Libyan desert (see also page 177); Battus (-1 m.) was the legendary founder of Cyrene, where his tomb stood.
8f. furtivos ... amores the stolen loves (i.e., love affairs); basid -are kiss.
loff. vesano ... Catullo dat. of reference [§G32.J/or demented Catullus—Catullus is demented by his love for Lesbia; the antecedent of quae is basia (1. 9); per-numero -are count in full; curiosi curious [people], here busybodies; possint potential subj. [§g68] would be able; mala lingua an evil tongue, i.e., someone who could utter a curse or spell; with fascinare (fascind -are bewitch) supply possit.
c Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire, et quod vides perisse perditum ducas. fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles, cum ventitabas quo puella ducebat, amata nobis quantum amabitur nulla, ibi ilia multa cum iocosa fiebant, quae tu volebas nec puella nolebat, fulsere vere candidi tibi soles, nunc iam ilia non vult: tu quoque, impotens, noli, nec quae fugit sectare, nec miser vive, sed obstinata mente perfer, obdura. vale, puella, iam Catullus obdurat, nec te requiret nec rogabit invitam.
text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R, A. B. Mynors (Oxford Classical Texts, 1958)
meter limping iambic [§m 10]
miser | Catul|le || de|sinas | inep|tlre et quod | vides | peris|se |[ per|ditum | ducas c if. Catullus sometimes addresses himself (as here), sometimes Lesbia; desinas ... ducas jussive subj. [§g69] stop!... consider!; ineptio -ire be foolish; 1.2 contains two acc.+inf. constructions [§gio], one embedded in the other: quod vides perisse perditum [esse] ducas consider that what you see to have vanished has been lost.
3 fulsere (= fulserunt [§g95]; 3 pi. perf. ind. act. fulgeo -ere) shone; candidi ... soles bright suns used metaphorically for happy times; tibi dat. of advantage [§G3i] for you.
4 ventitabas (ventito -are go frequently) trans, you always went; quo lit., to where; puella here irythe sense of girlfriend, trans .your girl; ducebat used to lead [you],
5 amata agrees with puella (1. 4); nobis dat. of agent [§g29], pi. for sg. [§g53] by me; quantum lit., how much, i.e., as much as; nulla no [woman].
6 ibi ... cum then when; ilia multa ... iocosa those many playful [things]; fiebant lit., used to be done, trans, happened.
7 The antecedent of quae is iocosa (1.6).
9 nunc and iam are combined for emphasis, trans, but now; impotens (lacking in self-control, irresolute) is vocative (Catullus is upbraiding himself), trans, [although] irresolute; noli (2 sg. imp. nolo nolle) be unwilling.
10 The antecedent of quae is the understood object of sectare (2 sg. imp. sector -arl pursue), [earn] her, i.e., Lesbia; trans, miser by an adverbial phrase, in unhappiness.
11 obstinata mente instrumental abl. [§g 47] with resolute mind; perfer (2 sg. imp. perfero -ferre) bear up!; obduro -are be firm.
13 require -ere seek out; rogabit invitam ask for your favors [if you are] unwilling—rogo -are here ask for sexual favors.
at tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nulla.
scelesta, vae te! quae tibi manet vita? x 5
quis nunc te adibiti cui videberis bella?
quern nunc amabis? cuius esse diceris?
quem basiabis? cui labella mordebis?
at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura!
14 rogaberis (2 sg. fut. pass.; rogo is used here in the same sense as in 1.13) nulla you will not be asked for your favors—the adjective nulla, which agrees with the understood subject tu, is used as the equivalent of the adverb non.
15 scelesta wretched [womanJ; vae te woe to you!, i.e., damn you!; quae tibi manet vltai what life is left (lit., remains) for you?
16 adibit (3 sg. fut. act. aded adire) will approach; cui dat. of reference [§G3a] to whom, in whose eyes; videberis (2 sg. fut. pass.) will you seem; bella beautiful—a colloquial word of the sort Catullus uses in his personal poetry.
17 cuius esse diceris? whose (i.e., whose love) will you be said to be?
18 basio -are kiss; cui (dat. of possessor [§G3o]) labella (labellum -i n.) whose lips; mordeo -ere bite—Romans were less restrained in showing affection than the average Anglo-Saxon.
19 destinatus obdura lit., [being] steadfast, be firm, trans, be steadfast and firm.
d Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
<-: Catullus Carmina 85
text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R. A. B. Mynors
(Oxford Classical Texts, 1958) meter elegiac couplet [§m2]
ôd(i) ët â|mô quâ|r(e) id || facï|àm fôr|tàssë rë|quirïs nêscïô I sëdfïë|rï || sëntï(o) ët | ëxcrûcï|ôr
D 1 faciam subj. in indir. question [§GgiJ; requîrô -ere ask. 2 excrucior lit,, I am being tormented (excruciô -are).
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