Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BC) was a Roman poet, the dominant figure among the New Poets (neoterici) of the 1st century BC.
== Quotes ==
=== Carmina ===
Quotations in English are taken from The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus, trans. Francis Warre Cornish (Cambridge University Press, 1904), unless otherwise noted.
Cui dono lepidum novum libellumArido modo pumice expolitum?
To whom am I to present my pretty new book, freshly smoothed off with dry pumice stone?
I, lines 1–2
Lugete, O Veneres Cupidinesque,Et quantum est hominum venustiorum.Passer mortuus est meae puellae,Passer, deliciae meae puellae.
Mourn, ye Graces and Loves, and all you whom the Graces love. My lady's sparrow is dead, the sparrow my lady's pet, whom she loved more than her own eyes.
III, lines 1–4
Lord Byron's translation:
Ye Cupids, droop each little head,Nor let your wings with joy be spread:My Lesbia's favourite bird is dead,Whom dearer than her eyes she loved.Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosumilluc, unde negant redire quemquam.
Now he goes along the dark road, thither whence they say no one returns.
III, lines 11–12Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemusrumoresque senum severiorumomnes unius aestimemus assissoles occidere et redire possunt:nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,nox est perpetua una dormienda.
Let us live, my Lesbia, and love, and value at one farthing all the talk of crabbed old men. Suns may set and rise again. For us, when the short light has once set, remains to be slept the sleep of one unbroken night.
V, lines 1–6
My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love;And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,Let us not weigh them: Heaven's great lamps do diveInto their west, and straight again revive,But, soon as once set is our little light,Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
Thomas Campion, A Book of Airs (1601)
Come my Celia, let us prove,While we can, the sports of love;Time will not be ours forever,He at length our good will sever.Spend not then his gifts in vain;Suns that set may rise again,But if once we lose this light,'Tis with us perpetual night.
Ben Johnson, "Song: To Celia" from Volpone (1616)
Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then yet another thousand, then a hundred.
V, lines 8–7Quaeris, quot mihi basiationestuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque?
You ask how many kissings of you, Lesbia, are enough for me and more than enough?
VII, lines 1–2Per caputque pedesque.
Over head and heels.
XVII, line 9Ipse qui sit, utrum sit an non sit, id quoque nescit.
What he himself is, whether he is or is not, he does not know so much as this.
XVII, line 22O quid solutis est beatius curis,cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrinolabore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum,desideratoque acquiescimus lecto?hoc est quod unum est pro laboribus tantis.
Ah, what is more blessed than to put cares away, when the mind lays by its burden, and tired with labour of far travel we have come to our own home and rest on the couch we longed for? This it is which alone is worth all these toils.
XXXI, lines 7–11Nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
There is nothing more silly than a silly laugh.
XXXIX, line 16
Ille mi par esse Deo videtur,ille, si fas est, superare Divos,qui sedens adversus identidem tespectat et auditdulce ridentem.
He seems to me to be equal to a god, he, if it may be, seems to surpass the very gods, who sitting opposite thee again and again gazes at thee and hears thee sweetly laughing.
LI, lines 1–5. Cf. Sappho 31.Otium et reges prius et beatasperdidit urbes.
Idleness ere now has ruined both kings and wealthy cities.
LI, last linesQuid datur a divis felici optatius hora?
What is given by the gods more desirable than the fortunate hour?
LXIIUt flos in saeptis secretus nascitur hortis,Ignotus pecori, nullo contusus aratro,Quem mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber;Multi illum pueri, multae optavere puellae.
As a flower springs up secretly in a fenced garden, unknown to the cattle, torn up by no plough, which the winds caress, the sun strengthens, the shower draws forth, many boys, many girls, desire it.
LXIINunc iam nulla viro iuranti femina credat,nulla viri speret sermones esse fideles;quis dum aliquid cupiens animus praegestit apisci,nil metuunt iurare, nihil promittere parcunt:sed simul ac cupidae mentis satiata libido est,dicta nihil metuere, nihil periuria curant.
Henceforth let no woman believe a man's oath, let none believe that a man's speeches can be trustworthy. They, while their mind desires something and longs eagerly to gain it, nothing fear to swear, nothing spare to promise; but as soon as the lust of their greedy mind is satisfied, they fear not then their words, they heed not their perjuries.
LXIVOmnia fanda nefanda malo permixta furoreiustificam nobis mentem avertere deorum.
All right and wrong, confounded in impious madness, turned from us the righteous will of the gods.
Mulier cupido quod dicit amanti in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua.
What a woman says to her ardent lover should be written in wind and running water.
LXX, lines 3–4. Compare Keats' epitaph: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."Desine de quoquam quicquam bene velle mereri,Aut aliquem fieri posse putare pium.
Leave off wishing to deserve any thanks from anyone, or thinking that anyone can ever become grateful.
LXXIII, lines 1–2Huc est mens deducta tua mea, Lesbia, culpaatque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,ut iam nec bene velle queat tibi, si optima fias,nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.
To this point is my mind reduced by your fault, Lesbia, and has so ruined itself by its own devotion, that now it can neither wish you well though you should become the best of women, nor cease to love you though you do the worst that can be done.
LXXV, lines 1–4Siqua recordanti benefacta priora voluptasEst homini.
If a man can take any pleasure in recalling the thought of kindnesses done.
LXXVI, lines 1–2Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem.
It is difficult suddenly to lay aside a long-standing love.
LXXVI, line 13Si vitam puriter egi.
If I have led a pure life.
LXXVI, line 19Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris. nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
I hate and love. Why I do so, perhaps you ask. I know not, but I feel it, and I am in torment.
LXXXV, lines 1–2
Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectusAdvenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,Ut te postremo donarem munere mortisEt mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.Quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,Heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi,Nunc tamen interea haec prisco quae more parentumTradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,Accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,Atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.
Wandering through many countries and over many seas I come, my brother, to these sorrowful obsequies, to present you with the last guerdon of death, and speak, though in vain, to your silent ashes, since fortune has taken your own self away from me—alas, my brother, so cruelly torn from me! Yet now meanwhile take these offerings, which by the custom of our fathers have been handed down—a sorrowful tribute—for a funeral sacrifice; take them, wet with many tears of a brother, and for ever, my brother, hail and farewell!
CI, lines 1–10
Sir William Marris's translation:
By many lands and over many a waveI come, my brother, to your piteous grave,To bring you the last offering in deathAnd o'er dumb dust expend an idle breath;For fate has torn your living self from me,And snatched you, brother, O, how cruelly!Yet take these gifts, brought as our fathers badeFor sorrow's tribute to the passing shade;A brother's tears have wet them o'er and o'er;And so, my brother, hail, and farewell evermore!Si quicquam cupido optantique optigit umquaminsperanti, hoc est gratum animo proprie.
If anything ever happened to any one who eagerly longed and never hoped, that is a true pleasure to the mind.
CVII, lines 1–2
== Quotes about Catullus ==
An admirable poet. No Latin writer is so Greek. The simplicity, the pathos, the perfect grace, which I find in the great Athenian models, are all in Catullus, and in him alone of the Romans.
Thomas Babington Macaulay, in The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, ed. G. Otto Trevelyan, Vol. I (1875), Appendix, p. 410It is just this quality, this clear and almost terrible simplicity, that puts Catullus in a place by himself among the Latin poets. Where others labour in the ore of thought and gradually forge it out into sustained expression, he sees with a single glance, and does not strike a second time.
John William Mackail, Latin Literature (1896), p. 61Catullus is a completely sophisticated, urbane poet, and his sophistication is sincere because his emotions were sophisticated. He expresses the spirit and essence of what we call "society".
Paul MacKendrick, in Classics in Translation (1952), pp. 204–205Catullus was the leading representative of a revolution in poetry created by the neoteroi or "new men" in Rome. Rather than writing about battles, heroes, and the pagan gods, Catullus draws his subjects from everyday, intensely personal life.
Frank N. Magill (ed.), Critical Survey of Poetry: Foreign Language Series, Vol. 1 (1984), p. 282It passes my comprehension why Tennyson could have called him 'tender'. He is vindictive, venomous and full of obscene malice. He is only tender about his brother and Lesbia, and in the end she gets it hot as well.
Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters, Vol. III: The Later Years, 1945–1962, pp. 332–333Catullus was the first Roman who imitated with success the Greek writers, and introduced their numbers among the Latins.
John Platts, in A New Universal Biography (1825), p. 725.The most hard-edged and intense of the Latin poets.
Ezra Pound, letter to Harriet Monroe (February 1916), in The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound, 1907–1941 (1950), p. 69Valerium Catullum, a quo sibi versiculis de Mamurra perpetua stigmata imposita non dissimulaverat, satis facientem eadem die adhibuit cenae hospitioque patris eius, sicut consuerat, uti perseveravit.
Valerius Catullus, as Caesar himself did not hesitate to say, inflicted a lasting stain on his name by the verses about Mamurra; yet when he apologised, Caesar invited the poet to dinner that very same day, and continued his usual friendly relations with Catullus's father.
Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 73 (tr. John Carew Rolfe)Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen-hundred years ago.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Frater Ave atque Vale' (1883), line 6
== External links ==
Catullus translations: Catullus' work in Latin and multiple modern languages
Catullus in Latin and English
Catullus: Latin text, concordances and frequency list
Catullus purified: a brief history of Carmen 16 by Thomas Nelson Winter
SORGLL: Catullus 5, read by Robert Sonkowsky