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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.



Here's my small book out, nice and new,
Fresh-bound — whom shall I give it to?
  • Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
    Arido modo pumice expolitum?
    • Here's my small book out, nice and new,
      Fresh-bound — whom shall I give it to?
    • I, lines 1–2
    • Variant translation by F. W. Cornish:
      • To whom am I to present my pretty new book,
        freshly smoothed off with dry pumice-stone?
  • Lugete, O Veneres Cupidinesque,
    Et quantum est hominum venustiorum.
    Passer mortuus est meae puellae,
    Passer, deliciae meae puellae.
    • 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.
    • III, lines 1–4
You ask me, Lesbia, how many kisses
it will take to make me fully satisfied?
  • 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.
    • Let us live and love, my Lesbia
      and value at a penny all the talk of crabbed old men.
      Suns may set and rise again:
      for us, when our brief light has set,
      there's the sleep of perpetual night.
    • V, lines 1–7. Verse translation by Thomas Campion from A Book of Airs (1601):
      • My sweetest Lesbia let us live and love,
        And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
        Let us not weigh them: Heav'n's great lamps do dive
        Into their west, and straight again revive,
        But soon as once set is our little light,
        Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
  • Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
    Dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
    Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
    • Give me a thousand kisses, and then a hundred,
      Then another thousand, then a second hundred,
      And then yet another thousand, then a hundred.
    • V, lines 7–9
  • Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes
    tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque?
    • You ask me, Lesbia, how many kisses
      it will take to make me fully satisfied?
    • VII
  • Per caputque pedesque.
    • Over head and heels.
    • XX
  • Nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.
    • For there is nothing sillier than a silly laugh.
    • XXXIX. Variant translation: For there is nothing more ridiculous than a ridiculous laugh.
Like to a God he seems to me,
Above the Gods, if so may be,
Who sitting often close to thee
May see and hear
Thy lovely laugh.
  • Ille mi par esse Deo videtur,
    ille, si fas est, superare Divos,
    qui sedens adversus identidem te
    spectat et audit
    dulce ridentem.
    • He seems to me to be like a God,
      even superior to the Gods, if it is
      permitted to say so, the man who sits
      gazing on you all day and listens to
      your sweet laughter.
    • LI (translation of Sappho)
  • Otium et reges prius et beatas
    perdidit urbes.
    • Often has leisure ruined great kings and fine cities.
    • LI
  • Ut 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 grows concealed in an enclosed garden, unknown to the cattle, bruised by no plough, which the breezes caress, the sun makes strong, and the rain brings out; many boys and many girls long for it.
    • LXII. Variant translation: As in a garden close a flower grows in a nook, unknown to the flock, unscathed by any plough, which winds caress, sun strengthens, rain draws forth; it have many boys, it have many girls desired.
  • Sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti
    in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua
    • What a woman says to a passionate lover
      should be written in the wind and the running water.
    • LXX, lines 3–4; compare: Keats' epitaph: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."
    • Variant translation: But what a woman says to her lusting lover it is best to write in wind and swift-flowing water.
  • Desine de quoquam quicquam bene velle mereri,
    Aut aliquem fieri posse putare pium.
    • Give up wanting to deserve any thanks from anyone, or thinking that anybody can be grateful.
    • LXXIII
  • Siqua recordanti benefacta priora voluptas
    Est homini.
    • If a man can take any pleasure in recalling the thought of kindnesses done.
    • LXXVI. Variant translation: If there is any pleasure reserved for a man recalling past kindnesses he has performed.
  • Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem.
    • It is difficult suddenly to lay aside a long-cherished love.
    • LXXVI
  • Si vitam puriter egi.
    • If I have led a pure life.
    • LXXVI
  • Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
    nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
    • I hate and I love. Perhaps you ask why I do it?
      I don't know, but I feel it happening and am tortured.
    • LXXXV
    • Variant translation: I hate and I love: why I do so you may well ask.
      I do not know, but I feel it happen and am in agony.
And so, my brother, hail, and farewell evermore!
  • 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.
    • By many lands and over many a wave
      I come, my brother, to your piteous grave,
      To bring you the last offering in death
      And 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 bade
      For 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!
    • CI, translated by Sir William Marris
  • Si quicquam cupido optantique optigit umquam
    insperanti, hoc est gratum animo proprie.
    • If anything has happened to one who ever yearned and wished
      but never hoped, that is a rare pleasure of the soul.
    • CVII

Quotes about Catullus[edit]

  • It 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.
  • Catullus 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".
  • Catullus 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. 282
  • Catullus 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.

See also[edit]

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