Catullus 5 is a passionate and perhaps the most famous poem by Catullus. The poem encourages lovers to scorn the snide comments of others, and to live only for each other, since life is too brief and death brings on a night of perpetual sleep. Over the centuries, this poem has been translated and imitated many times; its sentiments seem timeless.
17th Century translations
- My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love;
- And though the sager sort our deeds reprove,
- Let us not weigh them. Heaven's great lamps do dive
- Into their west, and straight again revive,
- But soon as once is set our little light,
- Then must we sleep one ever-during night.
- The Sunne may set and rise
- But we contrariwise
- Sleepe after our short light
- One everlasting night.
A free-verse translation of the following Latin text:
- Let us live, my Lesbia, and love.
- As for all the rumors of those stern old men,
- Let us value them at a mere penny.
- Suns may set and yet rise again, but
- Us, with our brief light, can set but once.
- One never-ending night must be slept.
- Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred.
- Then, another thousand, and a second hundred.
- Then, yet another thousand, and a hundred.
- Then, when we have counted up many thousands,
- Let us shake the abacus, so that no one may know the number,
- And become jealous when they see
- How many kisses we have shared.
|1||Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,|
|2||rumoresque senum severiorum|
|3||omnes unius aestimemus assis!|
|4||soles occidere et redire possunt;|
|5||nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,|
|6||nox est perpetua una dormienda.|
|7||da mi basia mille, deinde centum,|
|8||dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,|
|9||deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum;|
|10||dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,|
|11||conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,|
|12||aut ne quis malus invidere possit|
|13||cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.|
- Lines 2-3
This is a reference to the gossip going around the Roman Senate, as it was believed that Catullus was having an affair with a senator's wife, known as Clodia Pulchra Tercia. This is also thought to be the woman Lesbia in his poetry. Catullus is urging Clodia to disregard what people are saying about them, so she can spend more time with him. There is also a chiasmus in these lines:
- Line 5-6
The position of lux - light, and nox - night right next to each other serve to emphasise his two comparisons. Symbolically, the "perpetual night" represents death and the "brief light" represents life. Furthermore, there is also a second chiasmus in these lines:
Allusions in modern culture
The line nox est una dormienda is a recurring theme in Anthony Burgess's novel The Kingdom of the Wicked.
Nox Dormienda is the name of a novel by Kelli Stanley.
- McPeek JAS (1939). Catullus in Strange and Distant Britain. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. ASIN B0006CPVJM.
- Lucas DW (1940). "Catullus in English literature". The Classical Review 54: p. 93. doi:10.1093/cr/54.1.93. JSTOR 703619.
- CATULLUS, 5, 7‑11 AND THE ABACUS, American Journal of Philology Vol. 62, No. 2 (1941), pp222‑224
- Suzanne Dixon, Reading Roman Women (London: Duckworth, 2001), 133-156 (chapter 9, "The Allure of 'La Dolce Vita' in Ancient Rome").
|Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|English Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Fredricksmeyer, EA (1970). "Observations on Catullus 5". American Journal of Philology 91 (4): 431–445. doi:10.2307/293083. JSTOR 293083.
- Segal, C (1968). "Catullus 5 and 7: A Study in Complementaries". American Journal of Philology 89 (3): 284–301. doi:10.2307/293446. JSTOR 293446.
- Commager, S (1964). "The Structure of Catullus 5". Classical Journal 59: 361–364.
- Grimm, RE (1963). "Catullus 5 Again". Classical Journal 59: 16–21.
- Pratt, NT (1956). "The Numerical Catullus 5". Classical Philology 51 (2): 99–100. doi:10.1086/364015.
- Grummel, WC (1954). "Vivamus, mea Lesbia". Classical Bulletin 31: 19–21.
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