Catullus 51

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Catullus 51 is a poem by Roman love poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BC). It is an adaptation of one of Sappho's fragmentary lyric poems, Sappho 31. Catullus replaces Sappho's beloved with his own beloved Lesbia. Unlike the majority of Catullus' poems, the meter of this poem is the sapphic meter. This meter is more musical, seeing as Sappho mainly sang her poetry.

Catullus is not the only poet who translated Sappho’s poem to use for himself: Pierre de Ronsard is also known to have translated a version of it.

The poem[edit]

The following Latin text of Catullus 51 is taken from D.F.S. Thomson;[1] the translation is literal, not literary.

1



5




10




15

Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
     spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnes
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 teguntur
     lumina nocte.
otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
     perdidit urbes.

He seems to me to be equal to a god,
he, if it is permissible, seems to surpass the gods,
who sitting opposite watches and listens
     To you again and again
sweetly laughing, which rips out all senses
from miserable me: for at the same moment I looked upon you,
Lesbia, nothing is enough for me.
     * * * *
But the tongue grows thick, a thin flame
Runs down beneath our limbs, with their own sound
our ears ring, our twin lights (eyes)
     are covered by night.
Idleness is a troublesome thing for you, Catullus:
In idleness you revel and delight too much:
Idleness has destroyed both kings and
     Blessed cities before.

  • Line 8 is missing from the original manuscript. Oxford Classical Texts (ed. R.A.B. Mynors) provides no substitution, as the previous line is grammatically complete.

Modern musical setting[edit]

This poem was set to music by Carl Orff as part of his Catulli Carmina (1943).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thomson DFS (1997). Catullus: Edited with a Textual and Interpretative Commentary. University of Toronto Press.