The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/51

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Text and Translation[edit]

Metre - Sapphic Strophe

Line Latin Text English Translation
1 ille mi par esse deo videtur, That man seems to me to be equal to a god,
2 ille, si fas est, superare divos, he, if it is right to say, seems to surpass the gods,
3 qui sedens adversus identidem te who sitting opposite you again and again
4 spectat et audit looks at you and listens to you
5 dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis laughing sweetly, this thing
6 eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te, snatches away all feeling from love-sick me: for as soon as
7 Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi... I caught sight of you, Lesbia, nothing
8 vocis in ore of my voice remains in my mouth
9 lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus but my tongue is numb, a subtle flame
10 flamma demanat, sonitu suopte flows down my limbs, with their own sound
11 tintinant aures, gemina teguntur my ears are ringing, and my eyes are covered
12 lumina nocte. in a twin night.
13 otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est: leisure, Catullus is irksome to you:
14 otio exsultas nimiumque gestis: in idleness you exult and get too excited:
15 otium et reges prius et beatas before now idleness has destroyed both kings
16 perdidit urbes. and wealthy cities.

Connotations Of The Text[edit]

Line 2[edit]

  • si fas est - if it is right to say

This is referring to the Gods, and trying to avoid blasphemy because Catullus is indicating that the man in the poem is better than a god.

Line 3[edit]

  • identidem - again and again

This conveys the poet's jealousy of the man being able to see and hear Lesbia over and over again.

  • sedens - sitting

This shows just how much Catullus needs Lesbia to please him. Just sitting with her is enough to make him happy, rather than requiring closer contact.

Line 4[edit]

  • spectat et audit - seeing and hearing

The two verbs are emphasised by their postions in the short line. The use of the two main senses, seeing and hearing indicates his wish to see and hear Lesbia.

Line 12[edit]

  • gemina nocte - twin night

This is an original way of saying that he cannot see. I.E. blindness brought on by Lesbia's stunning beauty.

Extra Notes[edit]

Line 7[edit]

  • vocis in ore - of my voice remains in my mouth

This line is a reconstructed line based on the metre, the original Sappho from which the poem is from and the sense of the last line. The language and grammar also fits. The person who suggested this was a German translator Döring.

Lines 13-16[edit]

  • This is thought to be part of another poem as there is clearly a break in the sense. However, the ancient monk who was copying this, may have copied the beginning of another poem on to the end of this one, resulting in the confusion.

Vocabulary[edit]

Line 1[edit]

  • par, paris (adj.) - equal; like

Line 2[edit]

  • fas, n. - divine law; allowable; lawful

Line 6[edit]

  • eripio, eripere, eripui, ereptum - tear away; pull away
  • sensus, -us, m. - sense; feeling; perception

Line 7[edit]

  • aspicio, aspicere, aspexi - catch sight of; look at

Line 9[edit]

  • torpeo, torpere - to be numb; inactive
  • tenuis, -e (adj.) - slender; slim; fine

Line 10[edit]

  • demano, -are, -avi - flow down; descend

Line 11[edit]

  • tintino, tintinare - ring; humm; jingle; tingle; buzz
  • auris, auris, f. - ear; sense of hearing
  • tego, tegere, texi, tectum - cover; hide; conceal

Line 14[edit]

  • exsulto, -are, -avi, -atum - jump up; exult; boast
  • gestio, gestire, gestivi, gestitum - use excited gestures; be joyful

Line 15[edit]

  • prius (adv.) - in former times; formerly; before

External Links[edit]

Catullus 51 Catullus 51

Catullus 51 Another Translation of Catullus 51