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Carmen XLVI -- Gaius Valerius Catullus

Guest poem sent in by Emlen
(Poem #1706) Carmen XLVI
 Now spring is bringing back the warmer days,
 Now the rage of the equinoctial sky
 Falls silent in Zephyr's pleasant breezes.
 Catullus, leave behind the Phrygian fields,
 And the rich land of sweltering Nicaea:
 Let's fly off to Asia's glorious cities.
 Now the anxious mind is wild to travel,
 Now the happy feet come alive with zeal,
 O dear band of comrades, fare you well,
 Who set off together from our far-off home,
 But different roads lead back in different ways.
-- Gaius Valerius Catullus
Note: Latin version appended below. Please write in if you know the
translator. Carmen (plural carmina) is the Latin for a lyric poem.

 I think this fits the theme of "poems known by heart" (I just joined the
list, and so far haven't been able to access the most recent poems on the
Index, so my sense of the theme may be off). Certainly, at my high school,
which had a big Latin program, it was always on a few senior yearbook pages.
And it definitely fits the season (well, maybe a bit late), and my life at
the moment.

 Like a lot of Catullus, this poem is a bit dizzying: even though it's
only 11 lines, when you get on at the beginning you really don't know where
you're going to end up. It starts off as a spring poem, then suddenly it's a
travel poem, and then finally a good-bye poem.

 The poem is pretty naturally divided into two halves, marked by the two
anaphoras (repetitions) of "now." The first half begins with the coming of
spring, then moves down from the sky to the earth, and personalizes from
"springtime" to "time for Catullus to leave" (addressing himself by name is
a pretty common device in Catullus). Then the two "now" lines of the second
half are sort of a second version of lines 1-2; the changes in Catullus are
like another set of natural spring changes (the word "vigescunt," which is
what C.  says his feet are doing, is commonly applied to plants). The way he
describes his longing to leave as an involuntary, natural process helps
create the sadness of the last lines: he doesn't want to part from his
comrades, but he has no control over his anxious mind and feet. (Describing
conflicting emotions is perhaps what Catullus is best at; probably his most
famous poem is the one that begins "I hate and I love.")

 Context: Catullus went to Bithynia (the "Phrygian fields," now
northwest Turkey; Nicaea was a city in Bithynia, at the time rather
unimportant), probably in 57-56 BCE, in the service of the praetor Memmius
(it didn't go very well, and elsewhere C. has obscene insults for Memmius).
Apparently (from this poem; we have almost no outside sources about C.'s
life) he decided to do some tourism in Asia on the way home. "Asia" is not
what we call Asia, but the province to the south of Bithynia, still in
modern Turkey. It included a number of famous and (already) ancient cities.

 It's a nice poem. Hope you like it. And, finally, the original Latin:

  Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
  Iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
  Iucundis Zephyri silescit aureis.
  Linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
  Nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
  Ad claras Asiae volemus urbes.
  Iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
  Iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
  O dulces comitum valete coetus,
  longe quos simul a domo profectos
  diversae varie viae reportant.

N.B.: "aureis" is an archaic spelling for "auris."

-Emlen

[Links]

There's a biography attached to Poem #1463

Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catullus

27 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

viagra online said...

This is a very nice poem! I remember once I went to a small teather near my house and an actress read this poem in the middle of the play!

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