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CATULLI CARMINA

Text with comments

William Harris, Prof. Em. Middlebry College



THE LOVE POEMS

2

These two lovely little "Sparrow Poems" combine a vignette of a lady playing with her pet bird, combined with the poet's envy of the pet and his covert desire to be there in her lap instead. Sir Paul Harvey maintained that "it was probably not the sparrow but the blue thrush often seen at the present day in Italian bird cages". In any case it is a singing bird (pipiabat), and a delicate little poem to suit, much admired and imitated for the last five centuries.

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,
cui primum digitum dare appetenti
et acris solet incitare morsus,
cum desiderio meo nitenti
carum nescio quid lubet iocari
et solaciolum sui doloris,
credo ut tum grauis acquiescat ardor:
tecum ludere sicut ipsa possem
et tristis animi leuare curas!




2 b

This is an odd fragment, apparently the poet is thinking of the foot race of Atalanta and the apples given by Aphrodite to Milanion. One of the MSS has a marginal note "erat: negatam", perhaps thought of an earlier reading changed, but meaning is the same. It must be just the thought of undressing a woman that is pleasing Catullus so greatly!

Tam gratum est mihi quam ferunt puellae
pernici aureolum fuisse malum,
quod zonam soluit diu ligatam.

3

Now the canary has died! Alas and alack......and Catullus plays it to the hilt: Her distraught pain, how lovely the birdie was, and some funereal lines (qui nunc... tenebricosum)."Who now goes through the valley of the shadow of death" as well as "That undiscovered country from which no traveller returns...". Then blame it on birdie, and the poet's ultimate sorrow: Her eyes are so red from crying! Woe!

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum uenustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae,
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius mouebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at uobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, quae omnia bella deuoratis:
tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.




5

One of the loveliest love poems ever, but with complex inner works: the Sun evokes thoughts of darkness with that long night of the dead, but then with a wild jerk it is back to kisses and kissing and it all turns into play with the numbers, the digits in series, the Fibonacci extrapolations of kisses on kisses. But you watch out: There is always ENVY.

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




7

Now again we play with Numerobasiology, it is the sum tally he is thinking of, remembering Archimedes treatise on the number of grains of sands it would take to fill the Universe (this document survives). Or the stars in that silent Night watching our little secrets of lovemaking. Crazy Catullus! But then remember the Roman fear of magic, the evil eye, the secret watcher in the dark.

Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes
tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque.
quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae
lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis
oraclum Iouis inter aestuosi
et Batti ueteris sacrum sepulcrum;
aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox,
furtiuos hominum uident amores:
tam te basia multa basiare
uesano satis et super Catullo est,
quae nec pernumerare curiosi
possint nec mala fascinare lingua.




86

Here is the Roman formula for beauty: "Tall, white and pretty", not unlike our formula for the perfect man as "Tall, dark and handsome" a la Clark Gable. But this is nothing important in such formulae, then or now, when compared with real beauty, grace, charm and that ineffable something which makes all the heads in the room turn.... toward Mme. Clodia.

Quintia formosa est multis. mihi candida, longa,
     recta est: haec ego sic singula confiteor.
totum illud formosa nego: nam nulla uenustas,
     nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcerrima tota est,
     tum omnibus una omnis surripuit Veneres.




87

Note that in this poem the strength of his love protested, is all generated from his side, virtually a statement of faith, "love for you....on my side". Seeds of discontent are already germinating!

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




107

This poem sings out with joy, not only the words and their sounds; but somehow there is a warning in this happy and wholesome ring of the lines, a pathetic overjoy which is too strong to last in the rush and flush of early lovingness.

Si quicquam cupido optantique obtigit unquam
     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 quid
     optandum vita dicere quid poterit?




109

In contrast to the previous poem, Catullus here is talking about sincerity,a lasting relationship, love forever, and at the end virtually a Pledge for a holy, sincere relationship. It is as if he knew Poem 107 was unfinished, and had to be restated in words. This is what we all do, when we know a relationship is about the break apart.

Iucundum, mea vita, mihi proponis amorem
     hunc nostrum inter nos perpetuum usque 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.




THE LOVE-HATE POEMS

85

This distich is so short and so famous that one need say little. (But if you want a detailed discussion of its inner intricacies, look at the Catullus link under the Chrestomathy section on the main page. There is much more here than meets the eye!)

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




70

The last line of this quatrain has almost become a Trite Quote from overuse by macho males, who like to imagine women as light and flighty, their words writ in water. Far worse are the words of many a blustering male whose words are writ in nothing but pure air!

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




72

Here as before Catullus is thinking of a deeper relationship like those of family life, the steady love for children and spouse. He knows his love is different, hot and inflammatory by nature, urging itself on with combustible fury. But at the same time he knows that he loves her more and more, even as he likes her less and less.

Bitter truth to tell yourself!

Dicebas quondam solum te nosse Catullum,
     Lesbia, nec prae me uelle tenere Iouem.
dilexi tum te non tantum ut uulgus amicam,
     sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.
nunc te cognoui: quare etsi impensius uror,
     multo mi tamen es uilior et leuior.
qui potis est, inquis? quod amantem iniuria talis
     cogit amare magis, sed bene uelle minus.




75

But he is caught in the love-trap, he knows who is to blame, who did things wrong. But he can't cut it off, even if she suddenly became somehow fine and wholesome...... or if she went totally bad. Emotional states often have no means of exit.

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




79

We know fairly securely that Lesbia "the literary Lady" was one of the several Clodias, probably Clodia Metelli, and that her brother was Publius Clodius Pulc(h)er, as bad an egg as you could find in any apple barrel. So here Catullus reverses the processes, producing a Lesbius (you know who!) now styled as "Pretty Boy", whom Clodia prefers to the poet and his whole family. Incest has been suggested, which might make the three witnesses (noti) shrink from his legalistic, Italian kiss on the cheek at the notary's office..

Lesbius est pulcer, quid ni? quem Lesbia malit
     quam te cum tota gente, Catulle, tua.
Sed tamen his pulcer vendat cum gente Catullum
     si tria notorum savia repperit.




82

This amazing little poem, which keep on repeating "eyes" and dearer than the eyes, and dearer than the eyes.........has an almost Joycean tone to it. You know exactly what it means, but it is very hard to explain to someone in words. Of course this is one of the reasons for the existence of poetry in the first place.

Quinti, si tibi vis oculos debere Catullum,,
     aut aliud si quid carius est oculis,
eripere ei noli, multo quod carius illi
     est oculis, si quid carius est oculis.




8

And now we come to a perfect masterpiece of condensed sadness, compacted together with tight, terse wording, which will evoke a jerk on the heartstrings of any sensitive reader. When you say to yourself "Look, stop kidding yourself..." the moment of truth is starting to emerge. Of course, you remember all those happy days, sunlight and picnics and fun with jokes and words......... which have suddenly stopped! ----- Hold on to yourself, button up! ----- You rotten bitch, look what you did. What remains for you now, new lovers......... ? -----No! Hold on to yourself, button up!

Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire,
et quod uides perisse perditum ducas.
fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles,
cum uentitabas quo puella ducebat
amata nobis quantum amabitur nulla.
ibi illa multa cum iocosa fiebant,
quae tu uolebas nec puella nolebat,
fulsere uere candidi tibi soles.
nunc iam illa non uult: tu quoque impotens noli,
nec quae fugit sectare, nec miser uiue,
sed obstinata mente perfer, obdura.
uale puella, iam Catullus obdurat,
nec te requiret nec rogabit inuitam.
at tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nulla.
scelesta, uae te, quae tibi manet uita?
quis nunc te adibit? cui uideberis bella?
quem nunc amabis? cuius esse diceris?
quem basiabis? cui labella mordebis?
at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura.




83

This is a strange scene of a threesome at dinner or a party, as she lambasts Catullus in front of her railing husband, who thoroughly enjoys the scene. Only a fool would miss the fact that hate and love have much of the same fabric, that as long as she barks and yaps, she is NOT cured...she is still in love!

Lesbia mi praesente uiro mala plurima dicit:
     haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
     sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
     irata est. hoc est, uritur et loquitur.




92

Again the Love-Hate relationship! But this time he runs it by a little more quietly, noting that he can tell what this means: She loves him still when screaming hate at him, he understands because he does exactly the same thing. Anthropologists have noticed that the phenomena of Smiling, Love and Hate are not cultural variables but seem to originate from the basic human sub-structure.

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




104

You think I am going to curse her, the one dearer than my eyes? I woudn't if I could, its you who blow things up with that stagey dramatic sense of yours. (Tappo it seems represents a common stage personality, stock the trouble- maker.)

Credis me potuisse meae maledicere vitae,
      ambobus mihi quae carior est oculos.
non potui, ne si possem, tam perdite amarem.
      sed tu cum Tappone omnia monstra facis.




11

And now we do come to the end of the road, the point of no return. Catullus asks two friends to take a message for him. These are trustworthy friends, who would go the to the ends of the world with him, here actually laid out in geographical detail. (But who are these friends? Look back to Poem 16... are we sure about this friendship?) Friends, take this message: The tone changes from geniality to become suddenly gross and savage, then exquisitely sad with the plow-crushed flower of his precious love at the edge of the field. There are things which cannot be repaired, and indeed this is the end.

Furi et Aureli comites Catulli,
siue in extremos penetrabit Indos,
litus ut longe resonante Eoa
     tunditur unda,
siue in Hyrcanos Arabesue molles,
seu Sagas sagittiferosue Parthos,
siue quae septemgeminus colorat
     aequora Nilus,
siue trans altas gradietur Alpes,
Caesaris uisens monimenta magni,
Gallicum Rhenum horribile aequor ulti-
     mosque Britannos,
omnia haec, quaecumque feret uoluntas
caelitum, temptare simul parati,
pauca nuntiate meae puellae
     non bona dicta.
cum suis uiuat ualeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans uere, sed identidem omnium
     ilia rumpens;
nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit uelut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.




76

And after the end is reached, after the love is all gone, ruined and destroyed, there is one more level to be reached, that of the loving soul's personal salvage and repair. No friends can aid with this, no psychiatric "help", nothing to do but pray for release from the diseased state of dispair. This is no formal, Roman prayer to a far-removed deity, it is the praying of a sick soul in its personal privacy, a call for release from pain. This poem is to be read slowly, with all restraint.

Siqua recordanti benefacta priora uoluptas
     est homini, cum se cogitat esse pium,
nec sanctam uiolasse fidem, nec foedere nullo
     diuum ad fallendos numine abusum homines,
multa parata manent in longa aetate, Catulle,
     ex hoc ingrato gaudia amore tibi.
nam quaecumque homines bene cuiquam aut dicere possunt
     aut facere, haec a te dictaque factaque sunt.
omnia quae ingratae perierunt credita menti.
     quare iam te cur amplius excrucies?
quin tu animo offirmas atque istinc teque reducis,
     et dis inuitis desinis esse miser?
difficile est longum subito deponere amorem,
     difficile est, uerum hoc qua lubet efficias:
una salus haec est. hoc est tibi peruincendum,
     hoc facias, siue id non pote siue pote.
o di, si uestrum est misereri, aut si quibus umquam
     extremam iam ipsa in morte tulistis opem,
me miserum aspicite et, si uitam puriter egi,
     eripite hanc pestem perniciemque mihi,
quae mihi subrepens imos ut torpor in artus
     expulit ex omni pectore laetitias.
non iam illud quaero, contra me ut diligat illa,
     aut, quod non potis est, esse pudica uelit:
ipse ualere opto et taetrum hunc deponere morbum.
     o di, reddite mi hoc pro pietate mea.




POEMS AND PEOPLE

This set of poems ranges over all sorts of people Catullus may have met or imagined meeting in the complicated world of the last years of the Republic. If some of them seem overdrawn, think of the parallels in Dickens' world and the caricaturing portrayals of Hogarth a little earlier and Cruikshank in Dickens' mid-century. These all fit into a wild mosaic of faces and attitudes, actions and inactions, and have more to do with the way Catullus saw life than what life was really like in his time. Erase the personal stamp of insight and anger, and you have only words and verses. Keep the poems intact and you oobserve an incredible sense of mental hyperactivity and sheer involvement in watching life.




10

This is a prototype for the modern "slice of life" short story or poem, a chunk of reality microtomed from the tissue of time just as it is passing by. It gives a wonderful sense of ordinary Roman speech, that half hour in some foxy lady's apartment, their talk, her city manners, and the poet's admitted confusion at being caught in a sly lie.

Varus me meus ad suos amores
visum duxerat e foro otiosum,
scortillum, ut mihi tum repente visum est,
non sane illepidum neque invenustum.
huc ut venimus, incidere nobis
sermones varii: in quibus, quid esset
iam Bithynia; quo modo se haberet;
ecquonam mihi profuisset aere.
respondi, id quod erat, nihil neque ipsis
nec praetoribus esse nec cohorti,
cur quisquam caput unctius referret,
praesertim quibus esset irrumator
praetor, nec faceret pili cohortem.

"At certe tamen, "inquiunt "quod illic
natum dicitur esse, comparasti
ad lecticam homines." ego, ut puellae
unum me facerem beatiorem,
"non" inquam "mihi tam fuit maligne,
ut, provincia quod mala incidisset,
non possem octo homines parare rectos."
at mi nullus erat nec hic neque illic,
fractum qui veteris pedem grabati
in collo sibi collocare posset.
hic illa, ut decuit cinaediorem,
"quaeso" inquit mihi, "mi Catulle, paulum
istos commoda; nam volo ad Serapim
deferri." "mane" inquii puellae,
"istud quod modo dixeram me habere,
fugit me ratio: meus sodalis
Cinna est Gaius, is sibi paravit.
verum, utrum illius an mei, quid ad me?
utor tam bene quam mihi pararim.
sed tu insulsa male et molesta vivis,
per quam non licet esse neglegentem."




12

Cleptomania is nothing new, it has Classical antecedents and models. Every motel-owner knows that the towels are the first thing to get lifted, and the lady with 200 teddy bears under her bed swiped from Bloomingdale's is firmly within the tradition of Catullus' napkin- snatcher. But to avoid being petty, it is the souvenir value which Catullus weakly professes to value.

Marrucine Asini, manu sinistra
non belle uteris in ioco atque vino:
tollis lintea neglegentiorum.
hoc salsum esse putas? fugit te, inepte;
quamvis sordida res et invenusta est.
non credis mihi? crede Pollioni
fratri, qui tua furta vel talento
mutari velit: est enim leporum
dissertus puer ac facetiarum.
quare aut hendecasyllabos trecentos
exspecta, aut mihi linteum remitte,
quod me non movet aestimatione,
verum est mnemosynum mei sodalis.
nam sudaria Saetaba ex Hiberis
miserunt mihi muneri Fabullus
et Veranius; haec amem necesse est
ut Veraniolum meum et Fabullum.




13

We always ask at a party, what can I bring, even if we don't mean it. Catullus makes it easy by furnishing a complete list, down to the salt (which will season the wit!), but there is a gift for the friend too.......perfume! (It is assumed that Fabullus had a great Roman nose, which would season the situation all the wittier.)

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene, nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros amores
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis
totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.




49

There has been much argument about this poem on a historical level, but it seems pretty clear from his ten volumes of stiff, formal letterwriting, that Cicero was a very stuffed shirt. Hence the extravagant wording covering his reputation in " Past Present and Future". And in the last two lines a formal, balanced pair of clauses (tanto.....quanto) mimicking Cicero's senatorial style! Funny thing, Cicero may have thought to himself that Catullus was a very polite young man, indeed!

Dissertissime Romuli nepotum,
quot sunt quotque fuere, Marce Tulli,
quotque post aliis erunt in annis,
gratias tibi maximas Catullus agit
pessimus ommum poeta,
tanto pessimus omnium poeta
quanto tu optimus omnium patronus.




17

Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse........and there was actually an ancient tradition for dancing on bridges. I suspect it was the yield of the wood floor which dancers require, as well as the acoustic reverberation of the thump, but there may have been religious aspects as well. But Catullus turns it into a poem which revolves about an old man who doesn't know the proper use of his pretty, young wife. This is an old story, and ends quite appropriately with hope that he (literally) won't be such a "stick in the mud".

o Colonia, quae cupis ponte ludere longo,
et salire paratum habes, sed vereris inepta
crura ponticuli axulis stantis in redivivis,
ne supinus eat cavaque in palude recumbat.
sic tibi bonus ex tua pons libidine fiat,
in quo vel Salisubsili sacra susciplantur,
munus hoc mihi maximi da, Colonia, risus.
quendam municipem meum de tuo volo ponte
ire praecipitem in lutum per caputque pedesque,
verum totius ut lacus putidaeque paludis
lividissima maximeque est profunda vorago.
insulsissimus est homo, nec sapit pueri instar
bimuli tremula patris dormientis in ulna.
cui cum sit viridissimo nupta fore puella
et puella tenellulo delicatior haedo,
adservanda nigerrimis diligentius uvis,
ludere hanc sinit ut lubet, nec pili facit uni,
nec se sublevat ex sua parte; sed velut alnus
in fossa Liguri iacet suppernata securi,
tantundem omnia sentiens quam si nulla sit usquam,
talis iste merus stupor nil videt, nihil audit;
ipse qui sit, utrum sit an non sit, id quoque nescit.
nunc eum volo de tuo ponte mittere pronum,
si pote stolidum repente excitare veternum,
et supinum animum in gravi derelinquere caeno,
ferream ut soleam tenaci in voragine mula.




42

This brilliant and sparkling little piece is as clever as it can get. He starts of speaking to his "little eleven" conspirators of this verse as if they were Disney dwarfs, little gnomelike figures dancing down the street squealing and screaming at passerby's. The lady who won't return his manuscript is the target, they taunt and scream, but no avail. And on its goes, down the street and around the corner, in the network of alleys in a tight little town like Herculaneum. And the end? Well, that's how to get around a foxy lady, if you want to get things done.

Adeste, hendecasyllabi, quot estis
omnes undique, quotquot estis omnes.
iocum me putat esse moecha turpis,
et negat mihi nostra reddturam
pugillaria, si pati potestis.
persequamur eam et reflagitemus.
quae sit, quaeritis? illa, quam videtis
turpe incedere, mimice ac moleste
ridentem catuli ore Gallicani.
circumsistite eam et reflagitate:
"moecha putida, redde codicillos,
redde, putida moecha, codicillos!"
non assis facis? o lutum, lupanar,
aut si perditius potest quid esse.
sed non est tamen hoc satis putandum.
quod si non aliud potest, ruborem
ferreo canis exprimamus ore.
conclamate iterum altiore voce
"moecha putida, redde codicillos,
redde, putida moecha, codicillos!"
sed nil proficimus, nihil movetur.
mutanda est ratio modusque vobis,
siquid proficere amplius potestis:
"pudica et proba, redde codicillos."




39

There is nothing more annoying than the Continuous Smiler. French people are always annoyed by the American automatic grin, a Smiley Fellow is constantly repudiated by Jerry Seinfeld, and the Romans clearly felt no different about it. But by listing a roster of people from places where toothpaste or its Roman analog is normal, Catullus cleverly holds our attention for the punch-line, which introduces the "Spanish mouthwash". ---- There are societies which use urine for some disinfectant purposes, including use on the teeth, which may be good dentally but mad mentally. In any case Catullus curiously overrides his punch-line with the final verse, which is in my eyes a serious anti-climax to a dirty business.

Egnatius, quod candidos habet dentes,
renidet usque quaque. Si ad rei ventum est
subsellium, cum orator excitat fletum,
renidet ille; si ad pii rogum fili lugetur,
orba cum flet unicum mater, renidet ille;
quidquid est, ubicumque est, quodcumque agit,
renidet: hunc habet morbum,
neque elegantem, ut arbitror, neque urbanum.
quare monendum es mihi, bone Egnati.
si urbanus esses aut Sabinus aut Tiburs
aut pinguis Umber aut obesus Etruscus
aut Lanuvinus ater atque dentatus
aut Transpadanus, ut meos quoque attingam,
aut quilubet, qui puriter lavit dentes,
tamen renidere usque quaque te nollem:
nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
nunc Celtiber es: Celtiberia in terra,
quod quisque minxit, hoc sibi solet mane
dentem atque russam defricare gingivam;
ut, quo iste vester expolitior dens est,
hoc te amplius bibisse praedicet loti.




41

Not only is this poem intentionally ugly, "worn-out (defututa!), but she is the girlfriend of no-good mob type, and she has a disgusting nose to boot. All of which is nothing beside her law suit for ten grand, which points to hallucinations, or at least the lack of a mirror which might possibly set her straight. Nasty!

Ameana puella defututa
tota milia me decem poposcit,
ista turpiculo puella naso,
decoctoris amica Formiani.
propinqui, quibus est puella curae,
amicos medicosque convocate:
non est sana puella, nec rogare
qualis sit solet aes imaginosum.




43

We go on with Miss Ugly! But then someone said she looked like My Fair Lady, Ms. Clodia. What a dumb and tasteless age this is!

Salve, nec minimo puella naso
nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
nec sane nimis elegante lingua,
decoctoris amica Formiani.
ten prouincia narrat esse bellam?
tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur?
o saeclum insapiens et infacetum!




47

The names themselves are fascinating: Mr McPig and Little Soccy! Thinking of some of the Presidential aides who worked around Nixon and others, what better title than this: "Left Hand Men"? I suppose world-class Itch and Greed means Sex and Bribes, still not obsolete parts of the current governments of the world. But then we suddenly see these Gentlemen at a great, mid-afternoon party with snacks and drinks (despite Sumptuary Laws which were intended to outlaw such extravagant spending ---- a suggestion worth bringing to your State Senator). And all the time these two good pals of mine go walking up and down the street, hungry and looking in vain for someone to invite them home for dinner.

Porci et Socration, duae sinistrae
Pisonis, scabies famesque mundi,
vos Veraniolo meo et Fabullo
verpus praeposuit Priapus ille?
vos convivia lauta sumptuose
de die facitis, mei sodales
quaerunt in trivio vocationes?




52

"How about it, Man, why not just DROP DEAD". I think many of us had such a thought in the politics of the Watergate years, and maybe later too. And the fact that Vatinius is up on a perjury charge brings it a little close to home. ("How about it, why not just DROP DEAD")

Quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?
sella in curuli struma Nonius sedet;
per consulatum peierat Vatinius;
quid est, Catulle? quid moraris emori?




53

His friend, little Calvus, maing a speech in court, and someone saying: My God, that litle squirt can actually make a speech. (Salaputium is such a rare word that we have it nowhere else, but Seneca Sr. says it mean a "runt" or small fellow, which is good enough.)

Risi nescio quem modo e corona,
qui, cum mirifice Vatiniana
meus crimina Calvus explicasset,
admirans ait haec manusque tollens:
di magni, salaputium disertum!




84

The Romans had trouble with the initial aspirate / h /, which they sometimes omitted, other times produced without reason. The wide prevalance of Romans as soldiers and adminsitrators in the Greek speaking world may account for the fact that the Greek grammarians of Alexandria felt it necessary to introduce the "smooth and rough breathing" marks at the start of Greek words which have an initial vowel. Everyone in a decent position ha to know Greek, and this would be a help to men like Arrius when they tried with difficulty to do their Greek lessons.

Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet
     dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias,
et tumn mirifice sperabat se esse locutum,
     cum quantum poterat dixerat hinsidias.
credo, sic mater, sic liber avunculus eius,
     sic maternus avus dixerat atque avia.
hoc misso in Syriam requierant omnibus aures:
     audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter,
nec sibi postilla metuebant talia verba,
     cum subito affertur nuntius horribilis,
lonios fluctus, postquam illuc Arrius isset,
     iam non lonios esse sed Hionios..




101

Within the curious and weird world of the first century B.C., as sketched out by Catullus in the above poems, there were also serious personal relationships, especially within the family. This poem, a distillation of consummate sadness and resigned regret, is Catullus' farewell to a brother who died untimely. Read it with care, you may come back to read it again as I have many years later, with an ever deeper sense of respect and awe before a genuine poet's muting words.

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
     advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
     et multam nequiquam adloquerer 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.




A LITTLE LITERARY CRITICISM

36

First, there is a technical problem about Toilet Paper, which is what we understand with the startling first words of this poem. The Romans used the xylospondium for wiping after defecation, somewhat better than the traditional Japanese toilet-stick, but inferior to what we like to call Toilet Tissue, one of the better inventions of the Post-Industrial Revolution Culture. But we could refer to any piece of ridiculously bad writing simply as Toilet Paper, without inferring that it came off the bathroom roll. Just so the Roman, who had both paper and papyrus as writing material, so he could say that some writing was cacata carta, or possibly putida papyrus, because it figuratively stinks. And when it is bad enough, burning is better than burying, and that is just what happens at one of Venus' shrines, possibly the raunchy one at Dyrrachium where sailors and prostitutes are regularly found. Is that enough detail?

Annales Volusi, cacata carta,
votum solvite pro mea puella.
nam sanctae Veneri Cupidinique
vovit, si sibi restitutus essem
desissemque truces vibrare iambos,
electissima pessimi poetae
scripta tardipedi deo daturam
infelicibus ustulanda lignis,
et hoc pessima se puella vidit
iocose lepide vovere divis.
nunc, 0 caeruleo creata ponto,
quae sanctum Idalium Uriosque apertos
quaeque Ancona Cnidumque harundinosam
colis quaeque Amathunta quaeque Golgos
quaeque Dyrrachium Hadriae tabernam,
acceptum face redditumque votum,
si non illepidum neque invenustum est.
at vos mterea venite in ignem,
pleni ruris et inficetiarum
annales Volusi, cacata carta.




93

Nobody knows for sure what this poems means, is it that Caesar is good/bad, or gay/straight or just anything at all. There has been a tremendous amount of scholarship on these two lines, because it concerns a major political figure, Caesar, but the result has to be registered as: UNCLEAR!

Nil nimium studeo, Caesar, tibi velle placere,
     nec scire utrum sis albus an ater homo.




ART POEMS

4

Unlike many of Catullus' poems which have clear relevance to something in the author's life or in his world, this delicately and finely finished poem is simply a work of art, an art-poem as much as a Schubert Lied is an art- song. ---- A Greek phaselos is a light fast skiff, perhaps not unlike the modern Lightning Class, but there are problems galore. If the ship was built from wood from the forest of northern Asia Minor, what is it doing floating calmly in the waters of scenic Lake Como in northern Italy? Was it shipped over to Italy? You wouldn't sail it over those waters, certainly. Any why ever bring a Near Eastern boat halfway across Europe? ----- Better take it to be a 3 ft. scale model, which can rest on a display table or be floated on the lake like a child's toy. "But here it is, my guests, and let me tell you the story....". ---- It may be useful to consider if Browing's Last Dutchess was modeled on this poem; Browning certainly knew his Classics, and his demonstration of the painting of his late wife to the guests is remarkably similar. So too the gentle tone of the poem, to which Browning adds his sinister variant of course. The assumption of a model does seem perfect for this poem, and we get rid of all the scholarly argumentation. But be sure to note the following poem by Vergil!

Phaselus ille, quem videtis, hospites,
ait fuisse navium celerrimus,
neque ullius natantis impetum trabis
nequisse praeterire, sive palmulis
opus foret volare sive linteo.
et hoc negat minacis Hadriatici
negare litus insulasve Cycladas
Rhodumque nobilem horridamque Thracia
Propontida trucemve Ponticum sinum,
ubi iste post phaselus antea fuit
comata silva; nam Cytorio in iugo
loquente saepe sibilum edidit coma.
Amastri Pontica et Cytore buxifer,
tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
ait phaselus: ultima ex origine
tuo stetisse dicit in cacumine,
tuo imbuisse palmula in aequore,
et inde tot per impotentia freta
erum tulisse, laeva sive dextera
vocaret aura, sive utrumque Juppiter
simul secundus incidisset in pedem.
neque ulla vota litoralibus deis s
ibi esse facta, cum veniret a mari
novissime hunc ad usque limpidum lacum.
sed haec prius fuere: nunc recondita
senet quiete seque dedicat tibi,
gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.




Vergil Catalepton X

This line by line parody of the above poem of Catullus is attributed to Vergil and printed in the Appendix Vergiliana as Catalepton ("left- over") X. In a way it proves the lightness and delicacy of the original, by the way everything which was bright and noble, is here turned (without losing the light touch) to become dirty and ignoble. Whoever wrote this parody certainly bears witness to the finish of the Catullus original, which must have seemed over-refined to deserve such a comic change. If you know enough Latin, it is very funny, especially the next-to-last line which mimics the original sounds perfectly.

Sabinus ille, quem uidetis, hospites
ait fuisse mulio celerrimus,
neque ullius uolantis impetum
cisi nequisse praeterire, siue Mantuam
opus foret uolare siue Brixiam,
et hoc negat Tryphonis aemuli domum
negare nobilem insulamue Caeruli,
ubi iste post Sabinus ante Quintio
bidente dicit attondisse forcipe
comata colla, ne Cytorio iugo
premente dura uulnus ederet iuba.
Cremona frigida et lutosa Gallia,
tibi haec fuisse et esse cognitissima
ait Sabinus: ultima ex origine
tua stetisse dicit in uoragine,
tua in palude deposisse sarcinas
et inde tot per orbitosa milia
iugum tulisse, laeua siue dextera
strigare mula siue utrumque coeperat
neque ulla uota semitalibus deis
sibi esse facta, praeter hoc nouissimum,
paterna lora proximumque pectinem.
sed haec prius fuere: nunc eburnea
sedetque sede seque dedicat tibi,
gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.




31

This little gem of a poem has a magical quality which I can hardly hope to explain. I never really could say why he called this place on the Lago di Garda "ocelle", or bright eye, but I know it is exactly the right word for that special place with a villa on a promontory on the lake which I have never seen. Leaving behind the railway stations, the interminable bus-stops and delays, and arriving at a piece of land floating on the fingertips of an unseen Sea God, is the reason to take off your backpack, go to your old familiar bedstead, and breathe a sign of relief in rest. Now just go out and look at the lake, all those shining and rippling waters welcoming you, and looking back to the house, hearing the happy laughter of family coming out to welcome you.... What more is there?

Paene insularum, Sirmio, insularumque
ocelle, quascumque in liquentibus stagnis
marique vasto fert uterque Neptunus,
quam te libenter quamque laetus inviso,
vix mi ipse credens Thyniam atque Bithynos
liquisse campos et videre te in tuto.
o quid solutis est beatius curis,
cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino
labore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum,
desideratoque acquiescimus lecto?
hoc est quod unum est pro laboribus tantis.
salve, o venusta Sirmio, atque ero gaude
gaudete, vosque lucidae lacus undae
ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum.




45

One of the lovliest of Catullus' poems, this one, surprisingly, is a virtual Sonnet. The two sections, one for the Roman named boy and the other for his Greek girlfriend, are punctuated by a Gesundheit in the branches above, and lead to a concluding section which brings everything together with delicate, almost conjugal harmony. Even the final couplet of the Shakespearean sonnet is there in the last two verses. To comment would be to gild the lily. ----- Certainly this very poem, widely read since the early Renaissance, was the model for the modern sonnet from the 14 c. on, but the final chapter was written by W E Henley, who in his sonnets "In Hospital" intentionally and emphatically de-emphasizes the final couplet. Hospital life does not end situations with a bang, life simply drags on unnoticed.

Acmen Septimius suos amores
tenens in gremio "mea" inquit "Acme,
ni te perdite amo atque amare porro
omnes sum assidue paratus annos,
quantum qui pote plurimum perire,
solus in Libya Indiaque tosta
caesio veniam obvius leoni."
hoc ut dixit, Amor sinistra ut ante
dextra sternuit approbationem.


at Acme leviter caput reflectens
et dulcis pueri ebrios ocellos
illo purpureo ore saviata,
"sic," inquit "mea vita Septimille,
huic uni domino usque serviamus,
ut multo mihi maior acriorque
ignis mollibus ardet in medullis."
hoc ut dixit, Amor sinistra ut ante
dextra sternuit approbationem.


nunc ab auspicio bono profecti
mutuis animis amant amantur.
unam Septimius misellus Acmen
mavult quam Syrias Britanniasque:
uno in Septimio fidelis Acme
facit delicias libidinesque.

quis ullos homines beatiores
vidit, quis venerem auspicatiorem?




46

The question always returns about which is the finest poem Catullus ever wrote, and this one may be a good candidate. I have read this with students year after year around spring term's end, substituting Washington and Charlestown for clarity's sake, and watched the outward leap as everyone streams off campus, to be countered by friends coming back by different routes for a fall reunion. But within that formal circle, there are wonderful words and phrases, which evoke the breath of a fresh spring breeze, the sense of space and travel. In all of this there is much subtle magic!

lam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit auris.
linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
Nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
ad claras Asiae volemus urbes.
iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
o dulces comitum valete coetus,
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diversae vane viae reportant.




51

Everyone knows that this is a translation of an extant poem by Sappho, and we also know that the Lady of Lesbos did it far better, since it is one of her few poems which we have. Maybe it is partly a problem of the constraints of translations in general, which should warn us about the unlikeliness of Catullus doing much fine translation from Alexandrian sources. But partly it is the shadow of Sappho in whose shade nobody should ever try to stand. (The last stanza is inconsequential and unconnected.)

Ille mi par esse deo uidetur,
ille, si fas est, superare diuos,
qui sedens aduersus identidem te
     spectat et audit

dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
     [vocis in ore].

lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures, gemina et teguntur
     lumina nocte.

otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
     perdidit urbes.




61

This poem does really require an introduction. First, it is so long with its 230 lines, that you will never see it in a textbooks. Second it is about a formally arranged, socially approved marriage ceremony, which is probably anathema to Americans who are still having trouble with their own self-arranged relationships. Old-fashioned it may be, but this was the stock and strength of the Roman Republican way of life, and only when Roman marriage began to disappear ("after X divorces, it is considered adulterium") did the old way of life disappear. ----- This is a great street ceremony, the processional winds along narrow alleys like those of Pomepii, it is as formal as a Chinese celebration in the public ways, and it is a remarkable source of insight into intimate chapters of Roman social history. The march from bride's house to the groom's house, which is waiting with the marriage-chamber fitted out with its couch and coverlets for the married pair, ends with long-married couples turning to the crowd and conferring their blessing and wishes for a happy life for all. ----- The stanzas are lightly lyrical, the continual repetitions of phrases signals the slow stepping forth of the procession, and should be thought of as a song to be sung rather than a written poem

Collis O Heliconii
cultor, Uraniae genus,
qui rapis teneram ad virum
virginem, O Hymenaee Hymen
O Hymen Hymenaee.

cinge tempora floribus
suave olentis amaraci,
flammeum cape, laetus huc
huc veni, niveo gerens
luteum pede soccum

excitusque hilari die,
nuptialia concinens
voce carmina tinnula,
pelle humum pedibus, manu
pineam quate taedam

namque Junia Manlio,
qualis Idalium colens
venit ad Phrygium Venus
iudicem, bona cum bona
nubet alite Virgo,

floridis velut enitens
myrtus Asia ramulis
quos Hamadryades deae
ludicrum sibi roscido
nutriunt umore:

quare age, huc aditum ferens,
perge linquere Thespiae
rupis Aonios specus,
nympha quos super irrigat
frigerans Aganippe

ac domum dominam
voca coniugis cupidam novi,
mentem amore revinciens,
ut tenax hedera huc et huc
arborem implicat errans.

vosque item simul, integrae
virgines, quibus advenit
par dies, agite in modum
dicite, o Hymenaee Hymen,
o Hymen Hymenaee,

ut lubentius, audiens
se citarier ad suum
munus, huc aditum ferat
dux bonae Veneris, boni
coniugator amoris.

quis deus magis anxiis
est petendus amantibus?
quem colent homines magis
caelitum, o Hymenaee Hymen,
o Hymen Hymenaee?

te suis tremulus parens
invocat, tibi virgines
zonula soluunt sinus,
te timens cupida novus
captat aure maritus.

tu fero iuveni in manus
floridam ipse puellulam
dedis a gremio suae
matris, o Hymenaee Hymen,
o Hymen Hymenaee.

nil potest sine te Venus,
fama quod bona comprobet,
commodi capere, at potest
te volente. quis huic deo
compararier ausit?

nulla quit sine te domus
liberos dare, nec parens
stirpe nitier; at potest
te volente. quis huic
deo compararier ausit?

quae tuis careat sacris,
non queat dare praesides
terra finibus; at queat
te volente. quis huic deo
compararier ausit?

claustra pandite ianuae;
virgo, ades. viden ut faces
splendidas quatiunt comas?
..........................
..........................

..........................
..........................
tardet ingenuus pudor.
quem tamen magis audiens
flet quod ire necesse est.

flere desine. non tibi, Au-
runculeia, periculum est
ne qua femina pulcrior
clarum ab Oceano diem
viderit venientem.

talis in vario solet
divitis domini hortulo
stare flos hyacinthinus.
sed moraris, abit dies.
prodeas, nova nupta.

prodeas, nova nupta, si
iam videtur, et audias
nostra verba. viden? faces
aureas quatiunt comas;
prodeas, nova nupta.

non tuus levis in mala
deditus vir adultera,
probra turpia persequens,
a tuis teneris volet
secubare papillis,

lenta sed velut adsitas
vitis implicat arbores,
implicabitur in tuum
complexum. sed abit dies;
prodeas, nova nupta.

o cubile, quod omnibus
......................
......................
......................
candido pede lecti,

quae tuo veniunt ero,
quanta gaudia, quae vaga
nocte, quae medio die
gaudeat! sed abit dies;
prodeas, nova nupta.

tollite, o pueri, faces:
flammeum video venire.
ite concinite in modum
"io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

ne diu taceat procax
Fescennina iocatio,
nec nuces pueris neget
desertum domini audiens
concubinus amorem.

da nuces pueris, iners
concubine; satis diu
lusisti nucibus; libet
iam servire Talasio.
concubine, nuces da.

sordebant tibi vilicae,
concubine, hodie atque heri;
nunc tuum cinerarius
tondet os. miser a miser
concubine, nuces da.

diceris male te a tuis
unguentate glabris, marite,
abstinere, sed abstine.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

scimus haec tibi quae licent
sola cognita, sed marito
ista non eadem licent.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

nupta, tu quoque quae tuus
vir petet cave ne neges,
ni petitum aliunde eat.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

en tibi domus ut potens
et beata viri tui,
quae tibi sine serviat
io Hymen Hymenaeeio,
io Hymen Hymenaee

usque, dum tremulum movens
cana tempus anilitas
omnia omnibus annuit.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

transfer omine cum bono
limen aureolos pedes,
rasilemque subi forem.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

aspice intus ut accubans
vir tuus Tyrio in toro
totus immineat tibi.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

illi non minus ac tibi
pectore urit in intimo
flamma, sed penite magis.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

mitte brachiolum teres,
praetextate, puellulae:
jam cubile adeat viri.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

vos bonae senibus viris
cognitae bene feminae
collocate puellulam.
io Hymen Hymenaee io,
io Hymen Hymenaee.

iam licet venias, marite:
uxor in thalamo tibi est,
ore floridulo nitens,
alba parthenice velut
luteumve papaver.

at, marite, ita me iuvent
caelites, nihilo minus
pulcer es, neque te Venus
neglegit. sed abit dies;
perge, ne remorare.

non diu remoratus es:
iam venis. bona te Venus
iuverit, quoniam palam
quod cupis cupis, et bonum
non abscondis amorem.

ille pulveris Africi
siderumque micantium
subducat numerum prius,
qui vestri numerare vult
multa milia ludi.

ludite ut lubet, et brevi
liberos date. non decet
tam vetus sine liberis
nomen esse, sed indidem
semper ingenerari.

Torquatus volo parvulus
matris e gremio suae
porrigens teneras manus
dulce rideat ad patrem
semihiante labello.

sit suo similis patri
Manlio, ut facile obviis
noscitetur ab insciis
et pudicitiam suae
matris indicet ore.

talis illius a bona
matre laus genus approbet,
qualis unica ab optima
matre Telemacho manet
fama Penelopaeo.

claudite ostia, virgines:
lusimus satis. at, boni
coniuges, bene vivite et
munere assiduo valentem
exercete iuventam.




63

This is a shocker, the recreation of a cult rite in which a man voluntarily castrates himself as prelude to joining the Cult of the Great Mother. By becoming an inter-sex person, the devotee is thought to come nearer to the inner nature of the Great Goddess, the Lady of Dindymus. The cult was well established at Dindymus, modern tourists are still told about the temple and the ritual, which had spread to Rome before 200 B.C. Catullus no doubt passed by the temple of Cybele in Rome and heard the wails and shreiks of the Gallae priestesses, the horns and cymbals, and he wrote this poem with a clear knowledge of Cult and what it can do to an uncautious recruit. ---- In a modern world in which cults of all sorts are rife, often with sex- impeding drugs like crack and heroin, this story should not be taken as totally foreign. It is frightening to the core, and it is intended to be taken exactly that way. ------ The Latin verse form is unique, it is based on a Greek pattern of u u - -, but often there are groups like u u u u without a long beat, and the pattern is so irregular as to defy normal scanning. You have to read it as it comes, watching the shorts in sequence even more than the longs, and let it come forth as it will. The meter or at time non-meter suits the material well in its unfamiliar exoticness.

super alta vectus Attis celeri rate maria
Phrygium ut nemus citato cupide pede tetegit
adiitque opaca silvis redimita loca deae
stimulatus ibi furenti rabie, vagus animis,
devolsit ile acuto sibi pondera silicis.

Itaque ut relicta sensit sibi membra sine viro,
etiam recente terrae sola sanguine maculans,
niveis citata cepit manibus leve tympanum,
tympanum tuom, Cybele, tua, mater initia,
quatiensque terga taurei teneris cava digitis
canere haec suis adorta est tremebunda comitibus.

"agite ite ad alta, Gallae, Cybeles nemora simul,
simul ite, Dindymenae dominae vaga pecora,
aliena quae petentes velut exiles loca
sectam mean executae duce me mihi comites
rapidum salum tulistis truculentaque pelagi
et corpus evirastis Veneris nimio odio,.
hilatate aere citatis erroribus animum.
more tarda mente cedat, simul ite, sequimini
Phrygiam ad domum Cybeles, Phrygia ad nemora deae,
ubi cymbalum sonat vox, ubi tympana reboant,
tibicen ubi canit Phryx curvo grave calamo,
ubi capita Maenades vi iaciunt hederigerae,
ubi sacra sancta acutis ululatibus agitant,
ubi suevit illa divae volitare vaga cohors."

simul haec comitibus Attis cecenit notha mulier,
thiasus repente linguis trepedantibus ululat,
leve tympanum remugit, cava cymbala recrepant,
viridem citus adit Idam properante pede chorus.
furibunda simul anhelans vaga vadit animum agens
comitata tympano Attis per opaca nemora dux
veluti iuvenca vitans onus indomita iugi.
rapidae ducem sequuntur Gallae properipedem.
Itaque ut domum Cybeles tetigere lassulae,
nimio e labore somnum capiunt sine cerere.
Piger his labante languore oculos sopor operit,
abit in quiete molli rabidus furor animi.

Sed ubi oris aurei Sol radiantibus oculis
lustravit aetherum album, sola dura, mare ferum,
pepulitque noctis umbras vegetis sonipedibus,
ibi somnus excitam Attin fugiens citus abiit.
Trepidante eum recepit dea Pasithea sinu.
Ita de quiete molli rapida sine rabe
simul ipsa pectore Attis sua facta recoluit
liquidaque menta visit sine queis ubique foret,
animo aestuante rursum reditum ad vada tetulit.
Ibi maria vasta visens lacrimantibus oculis
patriam allocuta maesta'st ita voce miseriter.

"Patria o mei creatrix, patria o mea genetrix
qgo quam miser relinquens, dominos ut herifugae
famuli solent, ad Idae tetuli nemora pedem,
ut apud nivem et ferarum gelida stabula forem
et ferarum omnia adirem furibunda latibula.
Ubinam aut quibus locis te positam, patria, reor?
Cupit ipsa pupula ad te sibi dirigere aciem,
rabie fera carens dum breve tempus animus est.
Egone a mea remota haec ferar in nemora domo?
Patria, bonis, amicis, genitoribus abero?
Abero foro, palaestra, stadio et gymnasiis?
Miser ah miser, querendum est etiam et etiam, anime.
Quod enim genus figurae'st ego quod non habuerim?
Ego mulier? ego adolescens, ego ephebus, ego puer
ego gymnasi fui flos, ego eram decus olei,
mihi ianuae frequentes, mihi limina tepida,
mihi floridis corollis redimita domus erat
linquendum ubi esset orto mihi sole cubiculum.
Ego nunc deum ministra et Cybeles famula ferar?
Ego Maenas, ego pars mei, ego vir sterilis ero.
ego viridis algida Idae nive amicta loca colam?
Ego citam agam sub altis Phrygiae columinibus
ubi cerva silvicultrix, ubi aper nemorivagus?
Iam iam dolet quod egi, iam iamque paenitet."

Roseis ut huic labellis sonitus abiit celer
geminae matris ad aures nova nuntia referens,
ibi iuncta iuga resolvens Cybele leonibus
laevumque pecoris hostem stimulans ita loquitur:
"Agedum" inquit "age ferox, i, face ut hunc furor agitet.
Fac'uti furoris ictu reditum in nemora ferat,
mea libere nimis qui fugere imperia cupit.
Age caede terga cauda, tua verbera patere,
face cuncta mugienti fremitu loca retonent,
rutilam ferox torosa cervice quate iubam.

Ait haec minax Cybele religatque iuga manu.
Ferus ipse sese adhortans rapidum incitat animo,
vadit, fremit, refringit virgulta pede vago,
at ubi humida albicantis loca litoris adiit,
teneramque vidit Attin prope marmora pelagi,
facit impetum. Illa demens fugit in nemora fera,
ibi semper omne vitae spatium famula fuit.

Dea, magna dea, Cybele, dea domina Dindymei,
procus a mea tuus sit furor omnis, hera, domo,
alios ago incitatos, alios age rabidos




Since this poem is difficult because of the strange vocabulary and also the unusual sentence structure, I am subjoining a version with translation preceding each section of the Latin text, to help you through this remarkable piece of writing:

Over the high seas in a quick boat carried, Attis
When he had reached the Phrygian forest with mad desire
Touched with his foot the shore and came unto
The dark places of the goddess, hidden in deep forests,
Driven there by raging madness, his mind wandering away,
With a sharp piece of rock he tore off the weights of his groin.

super alta vectus Attis celeri rate maria
Phrygium ut nemus citato cupide pede tetegit
adiitque opaca silvis redimita loca deae
stimulatus ibi furenti rabie, vagus animis,
devolsit ile acuto sibi pondera silicis.




And when he saw that his body was now without man,
Staining with fresh blood the soil of the earth,
Then with snow white hands he took the tambour up,
Your tambourine, O Cybele, O Mother your rites,
And shaking with slim fingers the hollow hide of the herd
Began to sing to her comrades in trembling tones this:

Itaque ut relicta sensit sibi membra sine viro,
etiam recente terrae sola sanguine maculans,
niveis citata cepit manibus leve tympanum,
tympanum tuom, Cybele, tua, mater initia,
quatiensque terga taurei teneris cava digitis
canere haec suis adorta est tremebunda comitibus.




"Come, priestesses, together to the high forests of Cybele,
Come now, wandering herd of the lady of Dindymus,
Like exiles seeking a new home, seeking new places,
Following my lead, following me as leader. O my friends,
You have endured the raging water, the wildness of the sea,
And un-manned your bodies by greatest hate of Love.
Make you joyous the heart of our Lady with wandering dancing,
Let hesitation disappear from your minds. Come now, follow
To the Phrygian home of Cybele, to the forest of the goddess,
Where the Phrygian player sounds a low note on his curving horn,
Where voice of cymbals clash, where the drums resound,
Where women wearing ivy wreath toss their heads in ecstasy,
With sharp screams performing the holy rites of Our Lady.
There the wandering band of Our Lady is forever fleeting"

"agite ite ad alta, Gallae, Cybeles nemora simul,
simul ite, Dindymenae dominae vaga pecora,
aliena quae petentes velut exiles loca
sectam mean executae duce me mihi comites
rapidum salum tulistis truculentaque pelagi
et corpus evirastis Veneris nimio odio,.
hilatate aere citatis erroribus animum.
more tarda mente cedat, simul ite, sequimini
Phrygiam ad domum Cybeles, Phrygia ad nemora deae,
ubi cymbalum sonat vox, ubi tympana reboant,
tibicen ubi canit Phryx curvo grave calamo,
ubi capita Maenades vi iaciunt hederigerae,
ubi sacra sancta acutis ululatibus agitant,
ubi suevit illa divae volitare vaga cohors."




As Attis, now a woman, sang these words to her companions,
The band suddenly with trembling tongues uttered a howl,
The tambour roared back, and hollow cymbals clanged,
The moving chorus with hastening feet now comes to Mt Ida
Ever green. Wildening, breathing heavily, driving mind, Attis
The leader, with drum beating, goes through the darkest forest,
Leaping like a calf unused to the yoke, untrained, wild.
The devotees moving fast follow their fast foot leader,
And so when they touched the home of Cybele, exhausted
From great labor, even without eating fall they into sleep.
Slow slumber with sliding languor slipped over their eyes.
All the crazed madness of mind vanished in gentle restfulness.

simul haec comitibus Attis cecenit notha mulier,
thiasus repente linguis trepedantibus ululat,
leve tympanum remugit, cava cymbala recrepant,
viridem citus adit Idam properante pede chorus.
furibunda simul anhelans vaga vadit animum agens
comitata tympano Attis per opaca nemora dux
veluti iuvenca vitans onus indomita iugi.
rapidae ducem sequuntur Gallae properipedem.
Itaque ut domum Cybeles tetigere lassulae,
nimio e labore somnum capiunt sine cerere.
Piger his labante languore oculos sopor operit,
abit in quiete molli rabidus furor animi.




But when with the radiating SUN with eyes of its golden face,
Gazed light over the bright sky, hard earth, the wild sea,
Drove off the shades of night with tramplefooting steeds strong,
Then sleep fleeting fast away left Attis now awake.
Lady Pasithea herself had gathered him in her quivering bosom.
Now rising from soft rest, the wild madness gone,
Attis recalled in his heart those things he had done
And with crystal clear mind saw what he had lost forever.
With seething soul he traced his return back to the sea,
There gazing over the vast waters with streaming eyes
She called out to her homeland in misery, with this word:

Sed ubi oris aurei Sol radiantibus oculis
lustravit aetherum album, sola dura, mare ferum,
pepulitque noctis umbras vegetis sonipedibus,
ibi somnus excitam Attin fugiens citus abiit.
Trepidante eum recepit dea Pasithea sinu.
Ita de quiete molli rapida sine rabe
simul ipsa pectore Attis sua facta recoluit
liquidaque menta visit sine queis ubique foret,
animo aestuante rursum reditum ad vada tetulit.
Ibi maria vasta visens lacrimantibus oculis
patriam allocuta maesta'st ita voce miseriter.




"My country which bore me, my country which created me,
Country I left, fool, fleeing like a runaway slave, I have come
Bringing my footstep to the far forests of Ida's mount,
To live in the snow, in the chilling dens of wild beasts,
Approaching with madness all their wildening dens.
Where, O, in what place shall I think you lie, my land?
The pupil of my eye yearns to turn its gaze to you,
While for brief time my mind is clear of maddened thought.
Am I to be borne into these far off forests, far from my home?
Forever far from the town, the playing fields, the schoolground?
Sadness O sad, complain again and again, my poor soul.
What kind of appearance is there which I did not once have?
Now I a woman? But I was a youth, a boy, a child,
I was the flower of the playingfield, the pride of the olive wreath,
Our doors were crowded, the doorstep warm with friends,
Our whole house was cloaked with flowering garlands.
Only when sun was up had I to leave my chamber room.
Shall I now be priestess of the gods, handmaiden of Cybele?
Shall I be a Maenad, I just a part of myself, a eunuched man?
Shall I dwell in cold places of green Ida ever covered with snow?
Shall I live my life under the high cliff columns of Phrygia?
Now now I feel the pain of what I did, yes now now I rue."

"Patria o mei creatrix, patria o mea genetrix
qgo quam miser relinquens, dominos ut herifugae
famuli solent, ad Idae tetuli nemora pedem,
ut apud nivem et ferarum gelida stabula forem
et ferarum omnia adirem furibunda latibula.
Ubinam aut quibus locis te positam, patria, reor?
Cupit ipsa pupula ad te sibi dirigere aciem,
rabie fera carens dum breve tempus animus est.
Egone a mea remota haec ferar in nemora domo?
Patria, bonis, amicis, genitoribus abero?
Abero foro, palaestra, stadio et gymnasiis?
Miser ah miser, querendum est etiam et etiam, anime.
Quod enim genus figurae'st ego quod non habuerim?
Ego mulier? ego adolescens, ego ephebus, ego puer
ego gymnasi fui flos, ego eram decus olei,
mihi ianuae frequentes, mihi limina tepida,
mihi floridis corollis redimita domus erat
linquendum ubi esset orto mihi sole cubiculum.
Ego nunc deum ministra et Cybeles famula ferar?
Ego Maenas, ego pars mei, ego vir sterilis ero.
ego viridis algida Idae nive amicta loca colam?
Ego citam agam sub altis Phrygiae columinibus
ubi cerva silvicultrix, ubi aper nemorivagus?
Iam iam dolet quod egi, iam iamque paenitet."




The sound went quick from his rosy red lips
Bringing this message new to the goddess' twain ears.
And Cybele then, loosening the rein on her lions' neck,
Driving forth the herd's hard harmer, with these words, said:
"Go, wild one, go on, make frenzied fear get him now,
With the thrust of madness make him bring his footstep here,
He who thinks too freely flee my word and master's rule.
Whip tail over back, flagellate and endure the blows,
Make the places all resound with your roaring cry,
With that strong neck, O Wild One, shake your ruddy mane."

Roseis ut huic labellis sonitus abiit celer
geminae matris ad aures nova nuntia referens,
ibi iuncta iuga resolvens Cybele leonibus
laevumque pecoris hostem stimulans ita loquitur:
"Agedum" inquit "age ferox, i, face ut hunc furor agitet.
Fac'uti furoris ictu reditum in nemora ferat,
mea libere nimis qui fugere imperia cupit.
Age caede terga cauda, tua verbera patere,
face cuncta mugienti fremitu loca retonent,
rutilam ferox torosa cervice quate iubam.




With threat she spoke and with her hand untied the rein.
Now the beast roaring himself on in his mind, with speed
Marches, bellows, breaks back the thicket with eager foot.
But when he came to the wet strand of the white-shining sea--
-
ATTACK ! Attis out of his mind rushes back into the woods
To be the whole space of his life the handmaiden of the god.

Ait haec minax Cybele religatque iuga manu.
Ferus ipse sese adhortans rapidum incitat animo,
vadit, fremit, refringit virgulta pede vago,
at ubi humida albicantis loca litoris adiit,
teneramque vidit Attin prope marmora pelagi,
facit impetum. Illa demens fugit in nemora fera,
ibi semper omne vitae spatium famula fuit.




Goddess, Great Lady, O Cybele, Lady of Dindymus,
Far from my family, Lady, may all you madness be.
Drive others crazy I beg you, drive others mad.

Dea, magna dea, Cybele, dea domina Dindymei,
procus a mea tuus sit furor omnis, hera, domo,
alios ago incitatos, alios age rabidos




William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris