The poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus (Cornish)/Carmina I-XXX
To whom am I to present my pretty new book, freshly smoothed off with dry pumice stone? To you, Cornelius: for you used to think that my trifles were worth something, long ago when you took courage, you alone of Italians5, to set forth the whole history of the world in three volumes, learned volumes, by Jupiter, and laboriously wrought. So take and keep for your own this little book, such as it is, and whatever it is worth; and may it, O Virgin my patroness, live and last for more than one century. 10
Sparrow, my lady's pet, with whom she often plays and holds you in her bosom, or gives you her finger-tip to peck and teases you to bite sharply, whenever she, the bright-shining lady of my love, has 5a fancy for some dear dainty toying, that (as I think) when the sharper pangs of love abate, she may find some small solace of her pain—ah, might I but play with you as she herself does, and lighten the gloomy 10cares of my heart!
II a (a fragment)
****This is as grateful to me as to the swift maiden was (they say) the golden apple, which loosed her girdle too long tied.
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 5her own eyes; for honey-sweet he was, and knew his mistress as well as a girl knows her very mother. Nor would he stir from her bosom, but hopping now here, now there, still chirped to his mistress alone. 10Now he goes along the dark road, thither whence they say no one returns. But curse upon you, cursed shades of Orcus, which devour all pretty things! such a pretty sparrow have you taken away from 15me. Ah, how sad! Ah, poor little bird! All because of you my lady's darling eyes are heavy and red with weeping.
The galley you see, my friends, says that she was once the fleetest of ships, and that there was never any timber afloat whose speed she was not able to pass, whether she would fly with oar-blades or with 5canvas. And this (says she) the shore of the blustering Adriatic does not deny, nor the Cyclad islands and famous Rhodes and the wild Thracian Propontis, nor the gloomy gulf of Pontus, where she who has since been a galley was formerly a leafy 10 forest: for in the height of Cytorus she often rustled with talking leaves. Pontic Amastris and Cytorus green with box, my galley says that all this was and is well known to thee; she says that from her earliest15 birthtime she stood on thy top, in thy waters first dipped her blades, and thence over so many riotous seas brought her owner, whether the breeze from left or right invited, or Jove20 came down astern on both sheets at once; and that no vows to the gods of the shore were made by her all the time she was sailing from the furthest sea even to this limpid lake.
But these things are past and gone; now she25 rests in old age and retired leisure, and dedicates herself to thee, twin Castor, and thee, Castor's twin.
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 sleep5 of one unbroken night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then yet another thousand, then a hundred. Then, when we10 have made up many thousands, we will confuse our counting, that we may not know the reckoning, nor any malicious person blight them with evil eye, when he knows that our kisses are so many.
Flavius, if it were not that your mistress is rustic and unrefined, you would want to speak of her to your Catullus; you would not be able to help it. But (I am sure) you are in love with some unhealthy-looking wench; and you are ashamed to confess it. 5
Well then, whatever you have to tell, good or bad, let me know it. I wish to call you and your love to the skies by the power of my merry verse.
You ask how many kissings of you, Lesbia, are enough for me and more than enough. As great as is the number of the Libyan sand that lies on silphium-bearing Cyrene, between the oracle of sultry5 Jove and the sacred tomb of old Battus; or as many as are the stars, when night is silent, that see the stolen loves of men, — to kiss you with so many kisses, Lesbia, is enough and more than enough for your10 mad Catullus; kisses, which neither curious eyes may be able to count up nor an evil tongue to bewitch.
Poor Catullus, 'tis time you should cease your folly, and account as lost what you see is lost. Once the days shone bright on you, when you used to go so often where the maiden led, the maiden loved by me as none will ever be loved. There were5 given us then those joys, so many, so merry, which you desired nor did the maiden not desire. Bright to you, truly, shone the days. Now she desires no more — no more should you desire, poor fool, nor follow her who flies, nor live in misery, but with re-10 solved mind endure, be firm. Farewell, maiden; now Catullus is firm; he will not seek you nor ask you
against your will. But you will be sorry, when your favours are no more desired, ah, poor wretch! what life is left for you? Who now will visit you? to15 whom will you seem fair? whom now will you love? by whose name will you be called? whom will you kiss? whose lips will you press? But you, Catullus, be resolved and firm.
Veranius, preferred by me to three hundred thousand out of all the number of my friends, have you then come home to your own hearth and your affectionate brothers and your aged mother? You have indeed; O joyful news to me! I shall look5 upon you safe returned, and hear you telling of the country and its history, the various tribes of the Hiberians, as is your way, and drawing your neck nearer to me I shall kiss your beloved mouth and eyes. O, of all men more blest than others, who is10 more glad, more blest than I?
My dear Varus had taken me from the forum, where I was idling, to pay a visit to his mistress, a little thing, as I thought at a first glance, not at all amiss in manner or looks. When we got there, we5 fell talking of this and that, and amongst other things, what sort of place Bithynia was now, how its affairs were going on, whether I had made any money there. I answered (what was true) that as things now are neither the praetors themselves nor10 their staff had found any means of coming back fatter than they went, especially as they had for a
praetor such a beast, one who did not care a straw for his subalterns. 'Well, but at any rate' say they, 'you must have got some bearers for your chair.15 I am told that is the country where they are bred.' I, to make myself out to the girl as specially fortunate above the rest, say, ' Things did not go so unkindly with me — bad as the province was which fell to my chance — as to prevent my getting20 eight straight-backed fellows.' Now I had not a single one, here or there, strong enough to fit to his shoulder the broken leg of an old sofa. Says she (just like her shamelessness) ' I beg you, my dear25 Catullus, lend me those slaves you speak of for a while; I want just now to be taken to the temple of Serapis.' ' Stop,' say I to the girl, ' What I said just now, that I had those slaves — it was a slip — there is a friend of mine, Gaius Cinna; it was he who bought 30 them for his own use; but it is all one to me whether they are his or mine, I use them just as if I had bought them for myself: but you are a most ill-mannered and tiresome creature, who will not let one be off one's guard.'
Furius and Aurelius, who will be Catullus' fellow-travellers, whether he makes his way as far as to the distant Indies, where the shore is beaten by the far-resounding eastern wave, or to the Hyrcanians and soft Arabs, or Sacae and archer Parthians, or the5 plains which sevenfold Nile discolours, or whether he will tramp across the high Alps, to visit the memorials of great Caesar, the Gaulish Rhine, the10 formidable and remotest Britons, — O my friends, ready as you are to encounter all these risks with me, whatever the will of the gods above shall bring, take a little message, not a kind message, to15 my mistress. Bid her live and be happy with her paramours, three hundred of whom she holds at once in her embrace, not loving one of them really, but again and again breaking the strength of all.20 And let her not look to find my love, as before; my love, which by her fault has dropped, like a flower on the meadow's edge, when it has been touched by the plough passing by.
Asinius Marrucinus, you do not make a pretty use of your left hand when we are laughing and drinking; you take away the napkins of people who are off their guard. Do you think this a good joke? You are mistaken, you silly fellow; it is ever5 so ill-bred, and in the worst taste. You don't believe me? believe your brother Pollio, who would be glad that what you have stolen should be redeemed at the cost of a whole talent: for he is a boy who is a connoisseur of all that is witty and amusing. So now10 either look out for three hundred hendecasyllables, or send me back my napkin — which does not concern me for what it is worth, but because it is a keepsake from my old friend; for Fabullus and Veranius sent me some Saetaban napkins as a present from Hiberia. '15 How can I help being fond of these, as I am of my dear Veranius and Fabullus?
You shall have a good dinner at my house, Fabullus, in a few days, please the gods, if you bring with you a good dinner and plenty of it, not forgetting a pretty girl and wine and wit and all5 kinds of laughter. If, I say, you bring all this, my charming friend, you shall have a good dinner; for your Catullus' purse is full of cobwebs. But on the other hand you shall have from me love's very essence, or what is sweeter or more delicious than love, if sweeter there be; for I will give you some perfume 10 which the Venuses and Loves gave to my lady; and when you smell it, you will pray the gods to make you, Fabullus, nothing but nose.
If I did not love you more than my own eyes, my dearest Calvus, I should hate you, as we all hate Vatinius, because of this gift of yours; for what have I done, or what have I said, that you should bring5 destruction upon me with all these poets? May the gods send down all curses upon that client of yours who sent you such a set of sinners.. But if, as I suspect, this new and choice present is given you by Sulla the schoolmaster, then I am not vexed, but well10 and happy, because your labours are not lost. Great gods! what a portentous and accursed book! And this was the book which you sent your Catullus, to kill him off at once on the very day of the Saturnalia,15 best of days. No, no, you rogue, this shall not end so for you. For let the morning only come—I will be off to the shelves of the booksellers, sweep together Caesii, Aquini, Suffenus, and all such poisonous stuff, and with these penalties will I pay you back for your gift. You poets meantime, farewell, away with you, back to where you brought your cursed feet from, you plagues of our time, you worst of poets.
XIV* (a fragment)
O my readers—if there be any who will read my nonsense, and not shrink from touching me with your hands.
XVI (a fragment)
who have supposed me to be immodest, on account of my verses, because these are rather voluptuous. For the holy poet ought to be chaste himself, his verses need not be.
Colonia, you who wish to have a long bridge on which to celebrate your games, and are quite ready to dance, but fear the ill-jointed legs of your little bridge, standing as it does on old posts done up again, lest it should fall sprawling and sink down in the depths of the marsh;—so may you have a good bridge made for you according to your desire, one in which the rites of Salisubsilus himself may be undertaken, as you grant me this gift, Colonia, to make me laugh my loudest. There is a townsman of mine whom I wish to go headlong from your bridge over head and heels into the mud;—only let it be where is the blackest and deepest pit of the whole
bog and stinking marsh. The fellow is a perfect blockhead, and has not as much sense as a little baby of two years old sleeping in the rocking arms of his father. Now whereas he has for a wife a girl in the freshest flower of youth, — a girl too, more exquisite than a tender kidling, one who ought to be guarded15 more diligently than ripest grapes, — he lets her play as she will, and does not care one straw, and for his part does not stir himself, but lies like an alder in a ditch hamstrung by a Ligurian axe, with just as much perception of everything as if it did not exist anywhere at all. Like this, my booby sees nothing, hears20 nothing; what he himself is, whether he is or is not, he does not know so much as this. He it is whom I want now to send head foremost from your bridge, to try whether he can all in a moment wake up his stupid lethargy, and leave his mind sprawling there25 on its back in the nasty sludge, as a mule leaves her iron shoe in the sticky mire.
That Suffenus, Varus, whom you know very well, is a charming fellow, and has wit and good manners. He also makes many more verses than anyone else. I suppose he has got some ten thousand or even more written out in full, and not, as is often done, put down on old scraps; imperial paper, new5 rolls, new bosses, red ties, parchment wrappers; all ruled with lead and smoothed with pumice. When you come to read these, the fashionable wellbred Suffenus I spoke of seems to be nothing but any goatherd or ditcher, when we look at him again; so >° absurd and changed he is. How are we to account for this? The same man who was just now a dinner
tabic wit or something (if such there be) even more practised, is more clumsy than the clumsy country, whenever he touches poetry; and at the same time15 he is never so complacent as when he is writing a poem, he delights in himself and admires himself so much. True enough, we all arc under the same delusion, and there is no one whom you may not see to be a Suffenus in one thing or another. Every-10 body has his own fault assigned to him: but we do not see that part of the bag which hangs on our back.
Furius, you who have neither a slave, nor a moneybox, nor a bug, nor a spider, nor a fire, but who have a father and a stepmother too, whose teeth can chew even a flintstone, you lead a merry life with your5 father and that dry stick, your father's wife. No wonder: you all enjoy the best health, your digestions are excellent, you have nothing to be afraid of; fires, dilapidations, cruel pilferings, plots to poison you,10 other chances of danger. And besides this, your bodies are drier than horn, or drier still if drier there be, what with sun and cold and fasting. How can you, Furius, be otherwise than well and prosperous? You are free from sweat, free from15 spittle and rheum and tiresome running of the nose.
Since you have such blessings as these, Furius, do not despise them nor think lightly of them; and cease to pray, as you do, for the hundred sestertia; to for you are quite well off enough as it is.
You who arc the flower of the Juventii, not only of those we know, but of all who either have been or shall be hereafter in other years, — I had rather you had given the riches of Midas to that fellow who has neither servant nor money-box, than so allow your-5 self to be liked by him. ' What? is he not a gentleman?' you will say. O yes; but this gentleman has neither a servant nor a money-box. You may put this aside and make as little of it as you like: still, he has neither a servant nor a money-box. '°
Effeminate Thallus, softer than rabbit's fur or down of goose or lap of ear, or dusty cobweb; and also, Thallus, more violent than a wild storm when f f Send me back my cloak which you5
have pounced upon, and my Saetaban napkin and. Bithynian tablets, you silly fellow, which you keep by you openly, as if they were heirlooms. Unglue and let drop these at once from your claws, lest your soft downy flanks and pretty tender hands should have10 ugly figures branded and scrawled on them by the whip, and lest you should toss about as you are little used to do, like a tiny boat caught in the vast sea, when the wind is raging wildly.
Furius, my little farm stands exposed not to the blasts of Auster nor Favonius nor fierce Boreas or Apheliotes, but to a call of fifteen thousand two hundred sesterces. A wind that brings horror and5 pestilence!
Come boy, you who serve out the old Falernian,
fill up stronger cups for me, as the law of Postumia, mistress of the revels, ordains, Postumia more drunken than a drunken grape. But water, begone, away with5 you, water, destruction of wine, and take up your abode with scrupulous folk. This is the pure juice of the Thyonian god.
You subalterns of Piso, a needy train, with Da 8'g a g e handy and easily carried, my excellent Veranius and you my Fabullus, how are you? have you borne cold and hunger with that windbag long enough? is there any gain, however small, to be seen in your tablets, entered as paid out, as there is in mine, who after following in my praetor's train put down on the credit side. So much for running
after powerful friends! But may the gods and goddesses bring many curses upon you, you blots on the names of Romulus and Remus.
Who can look upon this, who can suffer this, except he be shameless and voracious and a gambler, that Mamurra should have what Gallia Comata and furthest Britain had once? Debauched Romulus,5 will you see and endure this? [You are shameless and voracious and a gambler.] And shall he now, proud and full to overflowing, make a progress through the beds of all, like a white cock pigeon or f?
Debauched Romulus, will you see and endure10 this? You are shameless and voracious and a gambler. Was it this then, you one and only general, that took you to the furthest island of the West? was it that that worn-out profligate of yours, Mentula, should devour twenty or thirty millions?15 What else then, if this be not, is perverted liberality? Mis ancestral property was first torn to shreds; then came his prize-money from Pontus, then in the third place that from the Hiberus, which the gold-20 bearing river Tagus knows all about. And him do the Gauls and Britains fear? Why do you both support this scoundrel? or what can he do but devour rich patrimonies? Was it for this f t that you,25
father-in-law and son-in-law, have ruined everything?
Alfenus, ungrateful and false to your faithful comrades, do you henceforward (ah cruel!) not pity your beloved friend? — henceforward not shrink from betraying me, deceiving me, faithless one? Do the deeds of deceivers please the gods above? — All this you disregard, and desert me in my sorrow and5 trouble; ah, tell me, what are men to do, whom are they to trust? For truly you used to bid me trust my soul to you (ah unjust!), leading me into love as if all were safe for me; you, who now draw back from me, and let the winds and vapours of the air bear k away all your words and deeds unratified. If you have forgotten this, yet the gods remember it, remembers Faith, who will soon make you repent of your deed.