Sunday, October 24, 2010


Translations of Catullus by James Reeves

James Reeves, in his Collected Poems, 1929-1974 (London: Heinemann, 1974), includes translations of four poems by Catullus, which I've transcribed below, together with the Latin.

pp. 66-67 (title Catullus to Lesbia = Catullus 5):
I tell you, Lesbia, life is love,
Though rumbling dotards disapprove
  And chew their beards in spite.
For ever shines the blessed sun,
But we have little space to run,
And after our brief day is done,
  How long will be the night.

So kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, sweet.
Kiss me neither once nor twice,
But kiss me several hundred times
  And then the tale repeat.
A thousand, then a thousand times,
  And that will not suffice—
A thousand, then a hundred more,
And after many thousand kisses
  We'll forget the score,
In case some mad misanthropist,
Hearing how many times we've kissed,
Should bring down curses on our heads
  To think what he has missed.

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.
p. 82 (title Three Poems after Catullus = Catullus 60, 85, and 58):
What lioness that roamed the Libyan waste
  Or raucous Scylla barking from her womb
Bore you, she-monster of the stony will?
  For when in the extremity of doom
Your vassal calls, you hold his words in scorn.
Too savage heart, of what beast were you born?

Num te leaena montibus Libystinis
aut Scylla latrans infima inguinum parte
tam mente dura procreavit ac taetra,
ut supplicis vocem in novissimo casu
contemptam haberes, a nimis fero corde?

I hate: yet where I hate, I love.
  You ask me why: I cannot tell.
But this I know—I feel it so.
  And suffer all the pangs of hell.

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

Think of it, Caelius, only think, my friend:
  Lesbia, that Lesbia, Lesbia our dearest,
  She whom Catullus better than his nearest
Better than his own soul loved without end,
Now where the noblest sons of Rome explore
Rome's dirtiest backstreets, there she plays the whore.

Caeli, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
plus quam se atque suos amavit omnes,
nunc in quadriviis et angiportis
glubit magnanimi Remi nepotes.

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