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INTERPRETING POETRY / ADDITIONAL READING

 

Assignment: Read these translations of several of Catullusí other poems.  Your assignment is to attempt to put them in order by using the context clues.  Support your decision by using specific words and phrases.  These poems summarize Catullus' affair with Lesbia in three stages - the beginning, when they were very much in love; in the middle, when he begins to doubt her after she has been unfaithful; at the end, when he can no longer stand her.   The numerical titles donít have any relevance here so ignore them.  The numbers refer to the order in which they appeared when the manuscripts were discovered in the middle ages.   There has been much debate about the actual order of Catullusí poems - so much, in fact,  that it was decided to keep the numerical order.

 5

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,

and let us value all the criticisms

of prudish old men at one penny.

The sun that sets may rise again

but when our light has sunk to the earth,

night becomes one perpetual sleeping.

So - give me a thousand kisses, and then a hundred

and then another thousand and a second hundred

then again another thousand, then a hundred,

Then, when we have made many thousands;

confuse their number, so that poor fools envious even now

shall never know learn our wealth and curse us

with their evil eyes.

51

He seems to me to be equal to a god,

to surpass the gods, if I may say so,

who sits opposite you and, again and again,

   sees you and hears you

 

laughing sweetly. This thought snatches away

all my senses; for, as soon as

I look at you, Lesbia, nothing remains

   of my senses, nothing.

 

My tongue becomes numb, a slender flame

spreads through my limbs, my ears ring

with a sound of their own, and both my eyes

   are veiled by darkness.

 

Idleness, Catullus, is your trouble;

idleness is what delights you and moves you

to passion: idleness has proved before now the ruin of kings

   and prosperous cities.

7

You ask, Lesbia, how many  kissings

of you are enough and to spare for me.

As great the number if the sands of Libya

to be found in silphium bearing Cyrene

between Jove's billowy oracle

and the sacred tomb of Battus;

or as many as the stars which in the silence of night

behold the secret loves of mankind:

so many kisses to kiss you with

would be enough and to spare for love crazed Catullus,

too many for the inquisitive to able to count

or bewitch with their evil  tongues.

70

My woman says that she prefers to marry no one,

than me, not even if Jupiter himself was after her.

This she says: but whatever a woman says to a lover who wants her

he ought to write on the wind and the running water.

75

You are the cause of this destruction, Lesbia,

that has fallen upon my mind;

this mind has ruined itself by fatal constancy.

And now it cannot rise from its own misery to wish that you become

best of women, nor can it fail

to love you even though all is lost and you destroy

all hope.

72

You once said, Lesbia, that you belonged to Catullus alone

and wished not to possess even Jove above me.

I cherished you then, not just as an ordinary man a mistress,

but as a father cherishes his children and their spouses.

Now I know you: so, though I burn more ardently,

you are much cheaper and slighter in my eyes.

"How so?" you ask.  Because such hurt  as you have inflicted

forces a lover to love you more, but to like you less.

92

Lesbia is for ever criticizing me and never is silent

about me: I'll be darned if Lesbia does not love me.

How do I know? Since they are the same for me.  I curse her

constantly, but I'm darned if I don't love her.