Guest poem submitted by TJ:
(Poem #1463) Song Five
Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and let us judge all the rumors of the old men to be worth just one penny! The suns are able to fall and rise: When that brief light has fallen for us, we must sleep a never ending night. Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred, then another thousand, then a second hundred, then yet another thousand more, then another hundred. Then, when we have made many thousands, we will mix them all up so that we don't know, and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out how many kisses we have shared.
I noticed that there wasn't any Catullus anywhere in the Archive, so I thought that I'd toss some your way. I include the Latin just in case anybody is interested, there's a certain texture to the language that i find wonderful. "Carmen Quinque" Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus, rumoresque senum severiorum omnes unius aestimemus assis! soles occidere et redire possunt: nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda. da mi basia mille, deinde centum, dein mille altera, dein secunda centum, deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum. dein, cum milia multa fecerimus, conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus, aut ne quis malus inuidere possit, cum tantum sciat esse basiorum. -- Gaius Valerius Catullus I remember having to translate all of this stuff by myself in my high school Latin class years ago. At the time it was a chore, but now looking at it just for the enjoyment, it's quite wonderful. Poor Catullus, he was always going back and forth on Lesbia, love to hate, hate to love. I highly recommend him for the conflicted sort. Regards, TJ. [Biography] Very little is objectively known of the life of Gaius Valerius Catullus. It is believed that he was born in Verona in 84 B.C. to a wealthy and well-connected family. Catullus' father was a friend of Julius Caesar. He died in Rome in 54 B.C. at the age of thirty. From his poems it is known that he went to Bithynia as an aide to the governor of that province in 57-56 B.C. We also know from Cicero that Catullus was one of the "neoteric" or new poets. Whereas the majority of poets in Rome at that time produced epic poems, often commissioned by aristocratic families, Catullus and other neoteric rejected the epic and its public themes. The neoteric poets used colloquial language to write about personal experience. Their poems are mostly smaller lyrics that are characterized by wit and erudition. Aside from these facts, what is known of the life of Catullus comes from the thoughts expressed in his poems. The knowledge of Catullus' poems comes from a single manuscript that survived the Dark Ages. This manuscript was discovered in Verona in around 1305 and disappeared again at the end of the century. Two copies of it, however, were made and one survives in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The other copy, which was believed to be owned by Petrarch, was also lost. The surviving copy contains 116 poems in three sections: sixty shorter poems written mostly in Greek lyric meters, primarily hendecasyllabic or eleven-syllable lines; eight long poems; and a set of short epigrams. The shorter poems are often extremely playful and personal. Catullus speaks directly to his friends in a casual voice. For instance, the dedication poem begins with the lines "To whom am I giving my charming, new, little book / polished just now with the dry pumice stone? / Cornelius, to you: for you were the one / who thought this rubbish was something ..." The short lyrics are often funny, and on occasion extremely crude. He also used these poems to explore the limits of friendship and love. He wrote twenty-five poems to a woman he named Lesbia, offering both erotic banter as well as heartbreak at her infidelity and their eventual breakup. English poets such as Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe wrote imitations of these poems, particularly poem five, which begins "Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love." The longer poems deal with many of the same concerns. They also chronicle the death of his brother at Troy and Catullus' visit to his grave. In this poem, Catullus speaks frankly of loss and the inability to express such a loss. Many people consider it to be one of the finest elegies ever written. The remaining group of poems consists of short epigrams that offer satiric observations on the life in Rome. Although nearly lost, Catullus' poems had a profound impact on later poets. This influence can be seen not only in Latin love poets such as Horace or Ovid, but also in English Renaissance poets such as Robert Herrick. John Milton spoke Catullus' "Satyirical sharpness, or naked plainness." Catullus has also been praised as a lyricist by twentieth century poets, and translated by writers as diverse as Thomas Campion, William Wordsworth, and Louis Zukofsky. -- www.poets.org [thomas adds] While searching the web for background information on today's poem, I discovered that Ben Jonson, Walter Raleigh and Thomas Campion have all written their own poems inspired partly or wholly by Catullus' fifth Song. I plan to run these 'spinoff' poems as a theme over the next week. The 17th century poet Richard Crashaw also wrote a poem based on Catullus, but where Jonson, Raleigh and Campion all use the original as merely a starting point for their own excursions, Crashaw's version is a literal (and somewhat dry) translation: Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love, and let us count the opinion of censurious old men as a penny. Suns can set and rise again: our brief light only sets and then there is an endless night for sleeping. Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand, and a second hundred, then a thousand and a hundred over and over again then when we will have kissed that many thousand times, even we will not know how many, and no one who wishes us ill because he is envious, can hold against us the kisses he cannot count. -- Gaius Valerius Catullus / tr. Richard Crashaw thomas.