Catullus 35 Translation

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Introduction

 

In this poem, Catullus references a poet named Caecilius. Catullus writes an invitation to Caecilius to come to Verona and leave his home in Novum Comum (which we now know as Como, Italy). In this invitation, Catullus wants Caecilius to receive thoughts from a mutual friend. 

Catullus comments that if Caecilius is wise, he will leave now. But, there is a fair lady in Como who will call him back and beg him to stay. Catellus has been told, and he questions whether the tale is true, that this woman gives passionate love to Caecilius, ever since she read his poem called “Lady of Dindymus.” This is a reference to Cybele who is the ancient mother goddess of the Phrygian people. She evokes primal emotions and the people of Phrygia performed orgiastic rituals in her name. She is similar to the Greek goddess Rhea. 

When Caecilius’s girl reads this poem about Cybele, the fires in her marrow ignite and she needs to be passionate with him. Even though the poem is unfinished, the girl enjoys the first lines of it. Catullus then references Sappho at the end of the poem. Catullus recognizes that Caecilius’s girl has more experience and is more learned that the muse who inspired Sappho’s love poems. Catullus then comments that Caecilius made a “lovely beginning to his ‘Magna Mater’.” 

This is a poem filled with references, which can be confusing for inexperienced readers of Catullus’s poetry. Caecilius might not be a real person; he might be a pseudonym for Catullus, and the girl who cannot deny the sexuality of his poems could be Lesbia. There was a well-known Roman named Caecilius, but he was a banker in Pompeii. His home was partially destroyed by Vesuvius. However, this is most likely not the Caecilius that Catullus writes about in this poem. 

Catullus does not appear to be overly impressed with Caecilius’s works and the way his girl becomes heated by the words in the beginning of the poem. Catullus was a fan of Sappho’s poems, so his ending seems nothing short of sarcastic. In Catullus’s eyes, Caecilius would not have better poems than Sappho. So, the girl would not have been more learned that Sappho’s muse. 

 

Carmen 35

 
LineLatin textEnglish translation
1

POETAE tenero, meo sodali,

I ask you, papyrus page, to tell

2

uelim Caecilio, papyre, dicas

the gentle poet, my friend Caecilius,

3

Veronam ueniat, Noui relinquens

to come to Verona, leaving the walls

4

Comi moenia Lariumque litus.

of Novum Comum and the shore of Larius:

5

nam quasdam uolo cogitationes

for I wish him to receive certain thoughts

6

amici accipiat sui meique.

of a friend of his and mine.

7

quare, si sapiet, uiam uorabit,

Wherefore if he is wise he will devour the way with haste

8

quamuis candida milies puella

though his fair lady should call him back

9

euntem reuocet, manusque collo

a thousand times, and throwing both her arms

10

ambas iniciens roget morari.

round his neck beg him to delay.

11

quae nunc, si mihi uera nuntiantur,

She now, if a true tale is brought to me,

12

illum deperit impotente amore.

dotes on him with passionate love.

13

nam quo tempore legit incohatam

For since she read the beginning of his

14

Dindymi dominam, ex eo misellae

“Lady of Dindymus,” ever since then, poor girl,

15

ignes interiorem edunt medullam.

the fires have been wasting her inmost marrow.

16

ignosco tibi, Sapphica puella

I can feel maiden more scholarly

17

musa doctior; est enim uenuste

than the Sapphic muse; for Caecilius has indeed

18

Magna Caecilio incohata Mater.

made a lovely beginning to his “Magna Mater.”

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Resources

 

VRoma Project: http://www.vroma.org/~hwalker/VRomaCatullus/035.html