Gaius Valerius Catullus was born in Verona in 84 B.C. and died in Rome in 54 B.C. He is the Roman poet who, perhaps more than anyone else, spoke about love in his poems. The one that immediately comes to mind is his love affair with Clodia, who was handed down to posterity as Lesbia.
It was a very troubled and stormy love story, Clodia was an elegant and cultured woman, free in her behavior, Catullus instead dreamed of an exclusive, tender and faithful love. Perhaps she wanted him to be her lover, but he considered her the woman of his life. She finally lived her life without scruples and did not pay much attention to the poet’s feelings.
There is also a curious detail in his works: he has a very thick collection of erotic poems, which, however, we will not cover in this article, preferring love poems.
In order to appreciate Catullus’ poems, it would be necessary to read the original Latin version, but in this article we have chosen to include some translations in an attempt, perhaps vain but nonetheless humble and respectful, to better understand the spirit of these beautiful words. Here are some translations of poems and aphorisms that we have chosen for you.
Poems by Gaio Valerio Catullo
Give me a thousand kisses
Let us live, my Lesbia, and love, and let every wicked murmur of the old men be worth the vilest coin to us.
The day may die and then rise again, but when our short day dies, an endless night we shall sleep.
You give me a thousand kisses, and so a hundred, then give me another thousand, and so a hundred, then a thousand more continue, and so a hundred.
And when then there are a thousand and a thousand we will hide their true number, lest the envious cast the evil eye for so many kisses.
Only with you says my woman.
Only with you says my woman only with you would I make love, I would say no even to Jupiter.
She says so but what woman says to a lover crazy about her in the wind is written on the water is written.
Carme 87 (love and fidelity)
No woman can boast of having been loved so sincerely, as my Lesbia was loved by me.
No covenant was ever so faithfully kept, as, for all the time I loved you, I on my own have kept it.
Hymn II (the sparrow)
Sparrow, my girl’s delight, with whom she plays, whom she holds to her breast, to whom she gives the tip of her finger as she jumps and incites your hard pecks when my desire, my light likes to invent some sweet solace, as reduced comfort to her pain, I think, so that then her ardor may find peace: could I play like her, with you and appease the dramatic thoughts of my soul!
Poor Catullus (stop deluding yourself) Carme 8
Poor Catullus, stop deluding yourself!
What is lost – and you know it – is lost: admit it.
Your days of light, a distant flash, when you ran to where your maiden was calling you, she loved as none will ever be.
So much joy, then: how many games you wanted, and she accepted.
Truly a distant flash, those days.
Now she doesn’t want any more: and you must accept.
Don’t follow her, if she runs away, and don’t close yourself off to life: resist, with all your strength.
Farewell, maiden. Catullus is strong: he will not come after you, he will not beg you, if you do not want him to.
But you, without his prayers, will suffer.
Ah, unhappy girl, what life is left to you?
Who will want you? To whom will you look beautiful?
Who will you love? Who will tell you: “You are mine!” ?
Who will you kiss? Whose lips will you bite?
But you, Catullus, don’t give in, resist.
Canticle 109 (promise)
You, who are my life, promise me a love without clouds and that this love of ours will be eternal between us.
O gods of heaven, grant her to promise without lies: let her promise be sincere and come from the depths of her heart, so that throughout our existence we may keep faith with this everlasting pact of sworn friendship.
Canticle 107 (Surprise of love)
If something ever happened to one who, though eager, did not expect it, it is truly pleasing to the heart.
For this reason, your return, Lesbia, is pleasing to us too, more welcome than gold, and desired by me.
Thou return’st to an eager, and hopeless, Thou thyself bring’st back to us. O light of a fairer sign!
Who lives happier than I, alone, Or who can name a more desirable life than this?
Carme 72 (lament)
You once said that you would meet Catullus, Lesbia, and that in my place you would not wish to embrace (not even) Jupiter.
I loved you, at that time, not so much as people love their friends, but as a father loves his children and sons-in-law.
Now I know who you are: therefore, though I burn with a more arduous flame, you are to me far more vile and contemptible.
“How is it possible?” you say.
For such an offense as this compels the lover to love more, but to love less.
Carme 75 (because of you)
So because of you, Lesbia, my heart was lost to me, and so worn out in its fidelity, that now it could neither love you even if you were better, nor cease to love you, even whatever you do.
Carme 85 (I hate and I love)
Hate and Love. Perhaps you’ll ask how that’s possible; I don’t know, but it’s just the way it is and I torment myself.
Hymn 11 (like a cut flower)
Furius and Aurelius, companions of Catullus, whether when he penetrates among the extreme Indians, where the shore is beaten by the wave Eoa that resounds from afar, whether he goes among the Hircans and soft Arabs, whether among the Sagians and Parthians carrying arrows
Whether to the plains, the sea that the Nile from the seven mouths colors, or whether he crosses the high Alps to go to see the memorable places, the trophies of the great Caesar and the Gallic Rhine and the frightful Britons extremes.
You who are ready (parried) to face all these things, of whatever kind the will of the gods brings, report to my woman a few not good words:
“Live and be well with her lovers whom all at once she holds embracing them in numbers of 300, none truly loving, uninterruptedly exhausting the kidneys of all; and turn not away from my love, as before,
that because of her has fallen like the flower of the extreme meadow that stands on the edge, after it has just been touched by the passing plough.
Charme 11 (O Gods give me grace)
If it is true that men take pleasure in remembering the good they have done, when they know that they cultivate pious sentiments, that they have never failed in their promises, nor deceived their fellow men in any oath, invoking, in bad faith, the divinity of the gods, then, O Catullus, in your future existence many satisfactions await you, arising from this unrequited love of yours.
For all that good men can either say or do to their fellow men, thou hast said and done.
But goodness has been useless with that woman whom the heart has ungrateful.
Then why torment thyself longer?
Why don’t you take courage and move away from her and stop being unhappy, if the deities are against you?
It is difficult to suddenly break a long love bond.
I know it is difficult; but you must succeed anyway.
This is the only salvation; here you must win yourself.
You must do it, whether you can or whether you cannot.
O gods, if it is true that you are merciful, or if at the very point of death you have ever brought someone the supreme help, turn your gaze on me unhappy and, if I have lived without fault, tear from my heart this evil that leads me to ruin, this scourge that, penetrated like a languor to the bottom of my fibers, has completely chased away from my chest the joy.
By now I no longer address that prayer to you, that you return my love, or (so much is not possible) that you want to remain faithful to me.
It is I who want to heal and free myself from this dark evil.
O gods, give me this grace in return for my devotion.
Canticle 32 (I will love you my sweet Ipsitilla)
I will love thee, my sweet Ipsitilla, my delight, my beloved, let me come to thee in the afternoon.
And if you do, help me this way, don’t leave the door bolted, nor be pleased to slip out,
Rather stay in the house and prepare to lie nine times together.
In fact, come now, if you wish, command it at once: for I am here, after lunch, sated and lying down, my tunic and cloak set.
Canticle 51 (Godlike)
It seems to me to be equal to a god, if it is lawful, it seems to me that he is superior to the gods who, sitting in front of you, incessantly looks at you and listens to you while you laugh softly, something that to me wretched tears all the faculties: in fact as soon as I see you, O Lesbia, nothing remains in my throat not even the voice but the tongue goes numb, a thin flame flows under the limbs, the ears ring with a sound of their own, both eyes are covered with a double night.
Idleness, Catullus, is detrimental to you; in idleness you pant and fidget too much.
Idleness has previously destroyed both kings and happy cities.
Aphorisms by Gaius Valerius Catullus
Suns can fall and return, for us, when the brief light falls, there is the sleep of an endless night.
It is difficult to heal suddenly of a long lasting love.
What more desirable can be bestowed by the gods than a lucky hour?
What the woman says to the longing lover must be written on the flowing water.
Do not chase those who flee, do not live in pain, suffer with a firm soul, endure, resist.