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Twelve Poems by Catullus

Carpe Diem


After Catullus — Poem 5

Let’s live and love, my Lesbia, today!
And all the dismal talk of grim old men
is worth… a farthing to us, shall we say?
The sun may set; the sun may rise again.
We know that after our brief candle’s light
we’ll sleep together in unending night.
So give me kisses M, and kisses C,
then M again, and C pursuing those,
then M, then C, up to infinity…
so many millions, and the number grows.
And then we’ll muddle up the score
so even we won’t know the bottom line.
Let helpless envy look on such a store
of kisses without number, yours and mine!

Carmen V

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis.
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.c
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut nequis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

Poem 32

I beg you, Ipsitilla, darling, my delight,
invite me round to spend the afternoon with you.
And if you do, sweet girl, do me this favour too:
don’t let the servants bar the entrance to your flat.
And stay at home; don’t think, ‘Perhaps I’ll wander out.’
Prepare yourself to fuck me nine times on the trot.
So, are you willing? Bid me come without delay.
I’ve lunched. I’m lying down. My cock is on its way
already, sticking through my tunic and my coat.

Carmen XXXII

Amabo, mea dulcis Ipsithilla,
meae deliciae, mei lepores,
iube ad te veniam meridiatum.
et si iusseris, illud adiuvato,
nequis liminis obseret tabellam,
neu tibi lubeat foras abire.
sed domi maneas paresque nobis
novem continuas fututiones.
verum, siquid ages, statim iubeto:
nam pransus iaceo et satur supinus
pertundo tunicamque palliumque.

Personal Hygiene


After Catullus — Poem 69

Rufus, do tell me, are you wondering why
no woman wants to slide her tender thigh
beneath your bulk? She may indeed be stirred
by gifts of dresses of the choicest stuff
or by the gleam of some exquisite stone.
It’s not enough. Result: you sleep alone.
I’ll whisper it: the gossip that I’ve heard
— which does you harm — concerns your underarm.
‘A stinking goat lives there,’ the women say.
It’s no surprise they’re scared out of their wits;
the odour thence emerging is the pits.
No pretty girl would willingly consort
— the very thought! — with such a horrid beast.
So stop this nasal outrage; or at least
stop asking why the women run away.

Carmen LXIX

Noli admirari, quare tibi femina nulla,
  Rufe, velit tenerum supposuisse femur,
non si illam rarae labefactes munere vestis
  aut perluciduli deliciis lapidis.
laedit te quaedam mala fabula, qua tibi fertur
  valle sub alarum trux habitare caper.
hunc metuunt omnes. neque mirum: nam mala valdest
  bestia, nec quicum bella puella cubet.
quare aut crudelem nasorum interfice pestem,
  aut admirari desine cur fugiunt.

Poem 70

My woman says she wants to marry me; and only me.
If Jove himself came courting her, she wouldn’t change her mind.
But what a woman tells her lover in his heat should be
inscribed in running water and imprinted on the wind.

Carmen LXX

Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle
  quam mihi, non si se Iuppiter ipse petat.
dicit: sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti
  in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua.



After Catullus — Poem 75

Your faithlessness has brought my mind to such a state
of ruination in its own obsessive love
that it can neither wish you well should you turn out
a paragon of womankind (unlikely thought),
nor cease, my Lesbia, to love you as your slave
in spite of every wickedness you might commit.

Carmen LXXV

Huc est mens deducta tua mea, Lesbia, culpa,
  atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,
ut iam nec bene velle queat tibi, si optima fias,
  nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.

Poem 85

I hate you and I love you; and perhaps you ask me why.
I can’t explain. It’s how I feel, and I’m in agony.

Carmen LXXXV

Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requires.
  nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.


Poem 87

No woman truthfully could say that she’s been loved as much
as you were loved by me, my Lesbia, my own.
No staunch adherence to a bargain struck was ever such
— at least on my side — as the love for you I’ve shown.


Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
  vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea’s.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta,
  quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta meast.

Six of One…


After Catullus — Poem 92

That Lesbia won’t stop bad-mouthing me around the town,
yet may I perish if she doesn’t love me nonetheless.
How can this be? I’m in the same position, I confess.
By day and night, in front of everyone, I run her down,
but may I perish if I don’t adore her utterly.

Carmen XCII

Lesbia mi dicit semper male nec tacet umquam
  de me: Lesbia me dispeream nisi amat.
quo signo? quia sunt totidem mea: deprecor illam
  assidue, verum dispeream nisi amo.


Poem 96

If in the silent grave the dead can feel our grief
and gain some consolation from our sense of loss
— from the regret by which we make old loves revive
and when we weep for early friendships we let slip —
surely, dear Calvus, your Quintilia now feels less
the sorrow of her own too early death, alas,
than she rejoices in the memory of your love.

Carmen XCVI

Si quicquam mutis gratum acceptumve sepulcris
  accidere a nostro, Calve, dolore potest,
quo desiderio veteres renovamus amores
  atque olim amissas flemus amicitias,
certe non tanto mors immatura dolorist
  Quintiliae, quantum gaudet amore tuo.

Poem 101

Through many countries, over many seas I’ve come
in sadness, brother, to perform this parting rite,
to honour you in death with these, my final gifts,
and pay my vain addresses to your silent ash.
Since Fate has snatched your very self from me — alas,
poor brother, stolen from my sight unworthily —
accept, at least, these offerings my tears have washed,
these tokens of my grief, my taking leave, bequeathed
by ancient custom of our family. And take
this greeting, brother, and, for ever, fare you well.

Catullus — Carmen CI

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
   advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
   et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem,
quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,
   heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi.
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
   tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
   atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.


She’s Back!


After Catullus — Poem 107

Unlooked-for blessings are the truest pleasures to the mind.
So, Lesbia, that you restore yourself to one who pined
but dared not hope, brings joy; to one who longed, a precious prize.
My own! Beside this bounty, gold is worthless in my eyes.
I’ve marked it in the calendar: ‘She’s back! Red-letter date!’
Who’s luckier than I? Or who more smiled-upon by Fate?

Carmen CVII

Sicui quid cupido optantique optigit umquam
  insperanti, hoc est gratum animo proprie.
quare hoc est gratum nobis quoque, carius auro,
  quod te restituis, Lesbia, mi cupido,
restituis cupido atque insperanti, ipsa refers te
  nobis: o lucem candidiore nota!
quis me uno vivit felicior, aut magis hac rem
  optandam in vita dicere quis poterit?

Poem 109

Life promises that she and I shall love, and never part,
and dwell in happiness. Great gods, please help her keep her word!
Please grant that what she says she means sincerely, from the heart,
and that this pledge of lifelong hallowed friendship may hold good.

Carmen CIX

Iucundum, mea vita, mihi proponis amorem
  hunc nostrum inter nos perpetuumque fore.
di magni, facite ut vere promittere possit,
  atque id sincere dicat et ex animo,
ut liceat nobis tota perducere vita
  aeternum hoc sanctae foedus amicitiae.