Flagrantia

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Willem Strijcker, Theseus en Ariadne (1657)

Nam perhibent olim crudeli peste coactam
Androgeoneae poenas exsolvere caedis
electos iuvenes simul et decus innuptarum
Cecropiam solitam esse dapem dare Minotauro.
quis angusta malis cum moenia vexarentur,
ipse suum Theseus pro caris corpus Athenis
proicere optavit potius quam talia Cretam
funera Cecropiae nec funera portarentur.
atque ita nave levi nitens ac lenibus auris
magnanimum ad Minoa venit sedesque superbas.
hunc simul ac cupido conspexit lumine virgo
regia, quam suavis exspirans castus odores
lectulus in molli complexu matris alebat,
quales Eurotae praecingunt flumina myrtus
aurave distinctos educit verna colores,
non prius ex illo flagrantia declinavit
lumina, quam cuncto concepit corpore flammam
funditus atque imis exarsit tota medullis.
heu misere exagitans immiti corde furores
sancte puer, curis hominum qui gaudia misces,
quaeque regis Golgos quaeque Idalium frondosum,
qualibus incensam iactastis mente puellam
fluctibus, in flavo saepe hospite suspirantem!
quantos illa tulit languenti corde timores!
quanto saepe magis fulgore expalluit auri,
cum saevum cupiens contra contendere monstrum
aut mortem appeteret Theseus aut praemia laudis!
(Catullus 64.76-102)

For long ago, the tale goes, in thrall to a pestilential
cruel demand for atonement after Androgeos’ murder,
the city of Cecrops would send the pick of her young men,
the flower of her maidens, as a feast for the Minotaur.
With this evil hanging heavy over her narrow ramparts,
Theseus chose, for the sake of the Athens he loved, to
expose his own body rather than suffer these dead,
these living dead, to be shipped to Crete like cattle.
So trusting to his light vessel and following breezes
he came to haughty Minos and his palatial abode.
Him, the instant that with eyes of desire the royal
virgin spied him, though still confined to a single
sweet-scented bed and her mother’s soft embraces,
like myrtle brought forth by the waters of Eurotas
or the dappled colors that vernal breezes conjure,
she did not lower her smoldering gaze from him till
through the length of her body the flame was kindled
deep at the core, and blazed up in her inmost marrow.
Ah, wretchedly stirring wild passions, ruthless at heart,
Sacred Boy, you who mingle joy with sorrow for mortals,
and you, Lady, ruler of Golgi and leaf-thick Idalium,
on what rough surges you tossed that girl, mind flaring,
as over and over she sighed for the blond stranger:
what looming terrors with heavy heart she suffered,
how often she turned paler than gold’s bright splendor
when Theseus, hot to contend with the savage monster,
courted either death or the rewards of glory!
(tr. Peter Green)

Amemus

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Auguste Rodin, Le baiser (1886)

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, dinde centum;
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
(Catullus 5)

Let’s live, Lesbia mine, and love—and as for
scandal, all the gossip, old men’s strictures,
value the lot at no more than a farthing!
Suns can rise and set ad infinitum—
for us, though, once our brief life’s quenched, there’s only
one unending night that’s left to sleep through.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then a thousand more, a second hundred,
then yet another thousand then a hundred—
then when we’ve notched up all these many thousands,
shuffle the figures, lose count of the total,
so no maleficent enemy can hex us
knowing the final sum of all our kisses.
(tr. Peter Green)

Nuntiate

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Furi et Aureli, comites Catulli,
sive in extremos penetrabit Indos,
litus ut longe resonante Eoa
tunditur unda,

sive in Hyrcanos Arabasve molles,
seu Sagas sagittiferosve Parthos,
sive quae septemgeminus colorat
aequora Nilus,

sive trans altas gradietur Alpes,
Caesaris visens monimenta magni,
Gallicum Rhenum, horribiles vitro ulti-
mosque Britannos,

omnia haec, quaecumque feret voluntas
caelitum, temptare simul parati,
pauca nuntiate meae puellae
non bona dicta.

cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens;

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.

(Catullus 11)

Catullus’ comrades, wherever he goes,
whether he reaches the Indians’ realm,
where the far-resounding eastern wave
pummels the shore,
visits Hyrcani, effeminate Arabs,
Sacae, or Parthians laden with arrows,
or the fields where the floods of the sevenfold Nile
deposit their colors,
or walks across the lofty Alps,
seeing the achievements of Caesar the Great,
the Gallic Rhine, the choppy main,
the faraway Britons,
ready for any adventure, whatever
the will of heaven’s inhabitants brings,
say a few words to my girl, a few
unfriendly words.
Let her live and rejoice with her band of adulterers,
embracing three hundred at once, though truly
loving none, and never fail
to rupture their groins,
but not rely on my love as before.
It died by the guilt of that girl, as a flower
falls at the edge of a meadow when touched
by a passing plough.
(tr. David Mulroy)

Excrucior

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Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris?
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
(Catullus 85)

I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?
I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.
(tr. Peter Green)

Venustas

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Quintia formosa est multis, mihi candida, longa,
recta est: haec ego sic singula confiteor.
totum illud formosa nego: nam nulla venustas,
nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcherrima tota est,
tum omnibus una omnis surripuit Veneres.
(Catullus 86)

Many find Quintia beautiful. For me she’s fair-complexioned,
tall, of good carriage. These few points I concede.
But overall beauty – no. There’s no genuine attraction
in that whole long body, not one grain of salt.
It’s Lebia who’s beautiful, and, being wholly lovely,
has stolen from all of the others their every charm.
(tr. Peter Green)

Dilexi

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Dicebas quondam solum te nosse Catullum,
Lesbia, nec prae me velle tenere Iovem.
dilexi tum te non tantum ut vulgus amicam,
sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.
nunc te cognovi: quare etsi impensius uror,
multo mi tamen es vilior et levior.
qui potis est, inquis? quod amantem iniuria talis
cogit amare magis, sed bene velle minus.
(Catullus 72)

You told me once, Lesbia, that Catullus alone understood you,
That you wouldn’t choose to clasp Jupiter rather than me.
I loved you then, not just as the common herd their women,
but as a father loves his sons and sons-in-law.
Now, though, I know you. So yes, though I burn more fiercely,
yet for me you’re far cheaper, lighter. “How,”
you ask, “can that be?” It’s because such injury forces
a lover to love more, but to cherish less.
(tr. Peter Green)