Yolo, Mea Lesbia (Catullus 5)

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Catullus’ beloved fifth poem is an injunction to seize the day and love, but, argues Victoria Waldron, it needs to be seen in the context of Roman beliefs about the evil eye as well. The word Catullus uses for “to be jealous” (invidere) is also the word for casting aggressive magic spells. Catullus 5 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Victoria Waldron.

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.

Dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,

conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,

aut ne quis malus invidere possit,

cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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It’s Just Another Delightfully Trivial Affair (Catullus 3)

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Catullus’ lament on the death of his girlfriend’s pet sparrow is not serious, but playful, argues Alex Schwartz. The bird’s worth lies in its attractiveness and ability to provide pleasure, and the poem is an urbane assertion that these values are distinctly important in life. Catullus 3 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Alex Schwartz.

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,

et quantum est hominum venustiorum:

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 movebat,

sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc

ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.

qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum

illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.

At vobis male sit, malae tenebrae

Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:

tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis.

O factum male! o miselle passer!

Tua nunc opera meae puellae

flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

 

Image:

Grave stele of a little girl, ca. 450–440 BC, Greek, Parian marble H. 31 1/2 in. (80 cm). Metropolitan Museum, New York. Photo: Jorge Elias, flickr.

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To Love Another Person (Catullus 5)

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Catullus’ 5th poem teaches us that life is too short not to love, argues Elizabeth Schultz. Catullus 5 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Elizabeth Schultz.

source: Wikimedia Commons

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.

Dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,

conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,

aut ne quis malus invidere possit,

cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

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Suck It (Catullus 16)

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The obscenity of Catullus’ 16th poem is playful and satirical, argues Chloe Miller. Rather than literally threatening to sodomize Furius and Aurelius, he is exaggerating the performance of a Roman male. Catullus 16 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Chloe Miller.

Marble Portrait bust of a man, 1st century BC, New York, Metropolitan Museum. Photo: Jorge Elia, Wikimedia Commons

Roman portrait bust, 1st century BC.

Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,

Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,

qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,

quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.

Nam castum esse decet pium poetam

ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est;

qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem,

si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici,

et quod pruriat incitare possunt,

non dico pueris, sed his pilosis

qui duros nequeunt movere lumbos.

Vos, quod milia multa basiorum

legistis, male me marem putatis?

Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.

 

Image: Marble Portrait bust of a man, 1st century BC, New York, Metropolitan Museum. Photo: Jorge Elias, flickr.

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Homecoming (Catullus 46)

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Catullus on his way home from Bithynia is like a college student who feels homesick, argues Emily Lawrence. Catullus 46 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Emily Lawrence.

Iam 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 varie viae reportant.

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Buttering Up a Goddess (Catullus 34)

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Catullus’ hymn to Diana represents a welcome change of pace to his love poetry and invectives, argues Matthew Korb. Catullus 34 discussed and read aloud by Matthew Korb.

painting of Roman goddess Diana with bow and hunting dog

Orazio Gentileschi, Diane the Huntress, (ca. 1640) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. Photo: Henry Townsend, Wikimedia Commons.

Dianae sumus in fide

puellae et pueri integri:

Dianam pueri integri

puellaeque canamus.

O Latonia, maximi

magna progenies Iovis,

quam mater prope Deliam

deposivit olivam,

montium domina ut fores

silvarumque virentium

saltuumque reconditorum

amniumque sonantum:

tu Lucina dolentibus

Iuno dicta puerperis,

tu potens Trivia et notho es

dicta lumine Luna.

Tu cursu, dea, menstruo

metiens iter annuum,

rustica agricolae bonis

tecta frugibus exples.

Sis quocumque tibi placet

sancta nomine, Romulique,

antique ut solita es, bona

sospites ope gentem.

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Beautiful Affairs (Ovid, Amores 1.5.1-12)

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Ovid’s poem about his afternoon love-making with Corinna is not just boasting about his sexual conquests, argues Chris Holmes, but the elegance of the poetry is also meant to be flattering to Corinna. Ovid, Amores 1.5.1-12 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Chris Holmes.

Aestus erat, mediamque diēs exēgerat hōram;

apposuī mediō membra levanda torō.

pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae,

quāle ferē silvae lūmen habēre solent,

quālia sublūcent fugiente crepuscula Phoebō

aut ubi nox abiit nec tamen orta diēs.

lla verēcundīs lūx est praebenda puellīs,

quā timidus latebrās spēret habēre pudor.

ecce, Corinna venit tunicā vēlāta recīnctā,

candida dīviduā colla tegente comā,

quāliter in thalamōs formōsa Samīramis īsse

dīcitur et multīs Lāis amāta virīs.

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A Dinner Invitation (Catullus 13)

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Catullus’ mock dinner invitation to his friend Fabullus is really a compliment to his own girlfriend (probably to be identified as the Lesbia he addresses elsewhere in his work), argues Chris Heden. She is to bring the most important ingredient of the party: an unguent or perfumed oil, an expensive luxury item typically featured in fashionable Roman dinner parties. Catullus 13 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Chris Heden.

Roman fresco with banquet scene (detail) from the Casa dei Casti Amanti (IX 12, 6-8) in Pompeii. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

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.

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Life and Death: Past and Present (Catullus 1001)

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Julie Fields explains how Catullus’ poem in honor of his dead brother gives insight into some of the most intimate Roman customs surrounding funerals. They are representative of pagan customs rejected by all the great monotheistic religions. Catullus 101 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Julie Fields.

Roman relief sculpture depicting a funeral

Roman relief depicting a funeral. Source: http://bit.ly/16uYDy0

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.

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The Sacks on Our Backs (Catullus 22)

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Catullus blends Aesopic fable with literary criticism and good old fashioned ridicule in poem 22, about the stylish but overly wordy poet Suffenus. Joelle Cicak argues that this many-sided poem must be understood in the context of the movement of “new poets” (poetae novi) of which Catullus was a part. Catullus 22 discussed, translated, and read aloud by Joelle Cicak.

Suffenus iste, Vare, quem probe nosti,

homo est venustus et dicax et urbanus,

idemque longe plurimos facit versus.

Puto esse ego illi milia aut decem aut plura

perscripta, nec sic ut fit in palimpsesto

relata: cartae regiae, novi libri,

novi umbilici, lora rubra membranae,

derecta plumbo et pumice omnia aequata.

Haec cum legas tu, bellus ille et urbanus

Suffenus unus caprimulgus aut fossor

rursus videtur: tantum abhorret ac mutat.

Hoc quid putemus esse? Qui modo scurra

aut si quid hac re scitius videbatur,

idem infaceto est infacetior rure,

simul poëmata attigit, neque idem umquam

aeque est beatus ac poëma cum scribit:

tam gaudet in se tamque se ipse miratur.

Nimirum idem omnes fallimur, neque est quisquam

quem non in aliqua re videre Suffenum

possis. Suus cuique attributus est error;

sed non videmus manticae quod in tergo est.

 

Image source: http://www.loc.gov/wiseguide/jan06/images/rare-b.jpg

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