Sunday, May 23, 2010

V - Catullus

Catullus (maybe 84 B.C. to 55 B.C.) is possibly one of the great lyric poets of antiquity.  Colloquial and earthy, he's as accessible (once translated!) as  a poet can getHis surviving body of work isn't huge, but there is enough to get a sense of him and his talent.  I've read that he is tough to translate, precisely because his language is so every-day.  One piece of trivia: he used a word for kiss (basium) that was ".... not known to have been used before in writing: it became the common word for kiss in most European languages".  In this poem, he is teasing others about "bookkeeping" the number of kisses between lovers.

So let’s live - really live! – for love and loving,
honey! Guff of the grumpy old harrumph!-ers
- what’s it worth? Is it even worth a penny?
Suns go under and bubble bright as ever
up but – smothered, our little light, the night’s one
sudden plunge – and oblivion forever.
Kiss me! kiss me a thousand times! A hundred!
Now a thousand again! Another hundred!
Don’t stop yet. Add a thousand. And a hundred.
So. Then post, sitting pretty on our millions,
sums that none – we the least – make head or tail of.
Don’t let’s know, even us. Or evil eyes might
glitter green, over such a spell of kisses.
                                                                                                  Catullus - Roman

No comments: