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The Poems of Catullus

ISSUE:  Spring 1996

How shall I dedicate my smart new book,
Scarcely dry, and polished smooth with pumice?
To you, Cornelius: You are always saying
My trifles are, somehow, of some importance,
Even when you, of all Italians, strive
To bind our entire history in three volumes,
Scholarly and Jovian and tough.
    Accept this book for what it is, O Muse,
And may it last at least a hundred years.


Sparrow, the treasure of my darling girl
With which she flirts and fiddles in her lap,
Giving you a fingertip to peck,
Provoking you to nip it even sharper,
The same way that the spark of my desire
Would, with sweet nothings, seek to play around
While, let me hope, her passion gathers force
And she might crave some comfort from her aching;
If I could play with her as she with you
My melancholy heart would know some peace!


Let us live, my Lesbia, let us love,
And all the gossip of the crabbed old men
We’ll overvalue at a single farthing.
Although the sun can set and rise again;
For us when once our short-lived light has set,
There follows one unending night of sleep.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
Another thousand, then a second hundred,
And then a thousand thousand, and a hundred.
When we have given many thousand kisses
We will confound the count and lose all track.
No evil one could jinx us then by knowing
How many many kisses we have kissed.


Wretched Catullus, put away this folly;
What you perceive as lost, declare it lost.
There were times when the sun shone bright for you,
When you would follow where the mistress led,
Who’s loved by you as no one’s ever loved.
Those were the times when little games were played
The way you wished; she let you have your way.
In very truth the sun shone bright for you.
She doesn’t want it that way now. You’ve lost.
Don’t follow her. Don’t live in wretchedness.
Compose your mind. Maintain resolve. Be tough.
Good-bye, my girl. Catullus hanging tough
Won’t look for you or beg you think it over.
But you’ll regret it. What a life you’ll have!
For who will visit you? Who’ll find you pretty?
Whom will you love? And who will call you his?
Whom will you kiss? And whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, stand resolved. Be tough.


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