Catullus 5 is a passionate ode to Lesbia and one of the most famous poems by Catullus. The poem encourages lovers to scorn the snide comments of others, and to live only for each other, since life is too brief and death brings on a night of perpetual sleep. Over the centuries, this poem has been translated and imitated many times; its sentiments seem timeless.
17th Century translations
- 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 dive
- Into their west, and straight again revive,
- But soon as once is set our little light,
- Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
Soon thereafter, Sir Walter Raleigh included the following verse, apparently based on Campion's translation, in his The Historie of the World, which he wrote while imprisoned in the Tower of London
- The Sunne may set and rise
- But we contrariwise
- Sleepe after our short light
- One everlasting night.
A fairly literal modern translation:
- Let us live, my Lesbia, and love,
- and the rumors of the stern old men
- let us value all at just one penny!
- Suns may set and rise again;
- when our brief light has set once,
- we must sleep an eternal night.
- Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
- then another thousand, then a second hundred,
- then yet another thousand, then a hundred;
|1||Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,|
|2||rumoresque senum severiorum|
|3||omnes unius aestimemus assis!|
|4||soles occidere et redire possunt;|
|5||nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,|
|6||nox est perpetua una dormienda.|
|7||da mi basia mille, deinde centum,|
|8||dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,|
|9||deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum;|
|10||dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,|
|11||conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,|
|12||aut ne quis malus invidere possit|
|13||cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.|
- Lines 2-3
This is a reference to the gossip going around the Roman Senate, as it was believed that Catullus was having an affair with a senator's wife, known as Clodia Pulchra Tercia. This is also thought to be the woman Lesbia in his poetry. Catullus is urging Clodia to disregard what people are saying about them, so she can spend more time with him. There is also a chiasmus in these lines:
- Line 5-6
The position of lux - light, and nox - night right next to each other serve to emphasise his two comparisons. Symbolically, the "perpetual night" represents death and the "brief light" represents life. Furthermore, there is also a second chiasmus in these lines:
Allusions in modern culture
Nox Dormienda is the name of a novel by Kelli Stanley.
"Nox Perpetua Dormienda" is the title of a poem by New Zealand poet R.A.K. Mason (1905-1971).
This poem is paraphrased in The Elder Scrolls Online, with a title reminiscent of Catullus 2, "An Ode to the Red Bird".
- McPeek JAS (1939). Catullus in Strange and Distant Britain. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. ASIN B0006CPVJM.
- Lucas DW (1940). "Catullus in English literature". The Classical Review 54: 93. doi:10.1093/cr/54.1.93. JSTOR 703619.
- CATULLUS, 5, 7‑11 AND THE ABACUS, American Journal of Philology Vol. 62, No. 2 (1941), pp222‑224
- Suzanne Dixon, Reading Roman Women (London: Duckworth, 2001), 133-156 (chapter 9, "The Allure of 'La Dolce Vita' in Ancient Rome").
|Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|English Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Fredricksmeyer, EA (1970). "Observations on Catullus 5". American Journal of Philology 91 (4): 431–445. doi:10.2307/293083. JSTOR 293083.
- Segal, C (1968). "Catullus 5 and 7: A Study in Complementaries". American Journal of Philology 89 (3): 284–301. doi:10.2307/293446. JSTOR 293446.
- Commager, S (1964). "The Structure of Catullus 5". Classical Journal 59: 361–364.
- Grimm, RE (1963). "Catullus 5 Again". Classical Journal 59: 16–21.
- Pratt, NT (1956). "The Numerical Catullus 5". Classical Philology 51 (2): 99–100. doi:10.1086/364015.
- Grummel, WC (1954). "Vivamus, mea Lesbia". Classical Bulletin 31: 19–21.