Friday, July 18, 2008

Catullus 51 Translation

Ille mi par esse deo videntur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,

qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit

dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis

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.




This man seems to be an equal of the gods.
This man, if it is right, appears to surpass the gods:
He who, sitting opposite you,
gazes at you and listens to your
sweet laughter again and again. Those things
from my misery snatch my senses: indeed,
the instant I look at you, Lesbia,
nothing of my voice is left in my mouth.

My tongue is tied, a thin flame of love
flows down through my limbs,
my ears ring with their own sound and
my eyes are covered with the twin night.

Catullus, leisure for you is troublesome:
In leisure do you rejoice and delight too much:
Leisure has, in the past, ruined kings and beautiful cities.


Short Commentary [lines refer to the Latin text]:

Line 2: si fas est (if it is right); The sense here is really "if it is divinely sanctioned". That is, Catullus doesn't want to offend the gods in saying that he might even surpass them, thus he's being more polite about it.

Line 7: Lesbia; This is who Catullus addresses his love poetry and, after the relationship deteriorates, his hate poetry, to. The name is not a reference to her sexual orientation; instead, it is a poetic nod to Sappho, the Greek poet of the the 6th Century BC. She was from the island of Lesbos and addressed most of her love poetry to another woman (hence the word "lesbian"). Catullus makes use of Sappho's meters as well in some of his poetry. I think Catullus is trying to fit himself in with the lyric love poetry of the Greeks.

Line 8: [vocis in ore]; This line is missing in all the Catullus manuscripts. This is the "standard" reconstruction of what the line probably said

Lines 11-12: gemina teguntur/lumina nocte (my eyes are covered with the twin night); These lines, though incredibly good, are incredibly confusing in the Latin. I think the sense is that darkeness overwhelmes his two eyes.

1 comment:

dodge said...

Great stuff but one wee comment about the translation of ille it is always that not this.