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 Gaius Valerius Catullus     
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Carmen 66 (in English by Brendan Rau)
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Available in Latin, Chinese, Croatian, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Scanned, and Vercellese. Compare two languages here.
Conon searched the heavenly bodies of the vast sky and saw
the risings and settings of the stars, how the fiery
brightness of the scorching sun is darkened, how heavenly
bodies depart at certain times, and how, from any orbit in
the air, sweet love stealthily calls Diana down and banishes
her under the rocks of Latmus: that selfsame Conon, in the
light of the heavens, saw me, a lock of long hair from the
crown of Berenice's head. As I shimmered, Berenice promised
me to many of the goddesses as she stretched her smooth arms
forth, and in that season a king, glorified by his new
marriage, had gone to sack Syrian land; he carried
victorious marks from a nocturnal brawl that he had
conducted for the spoils of a virgin. But is sex really
baleful to brides? Or can it be that their parentsí
pleasures are spoiled by the duplicitous tearlets that
brides shed in torrents within the bedroom's doorway? The
gods sigh over these questions and therefore would not
please me. By her many complaints, her majesty taught me
this when her new husband went to witness fierce battles:
when you were alone, Berenice, you mourned not your
destitute couch, but your lamentable separation from your
brother, the second Ptolemy! How deeply your anxiety has
eaten away at your sad interior! Your senses had been
snatched away, and how your mind failed you then, when you
were anxious with all your heart! Nevertheless, I knew for a
fact that you were brave since you were a little girl. Can
it be that you have forgotten the good intrigue whereby you
won your royal spouse because nobody else dared more
bravely? But what sad words you spoke then, as you were
letting your husband go! O Jupiter, how often you rubbed
your eyes with your hand! What such a god has changed you?
Can it be because lovers do not want to be away from a dear
body? And then you offered me, not without the blood of a
bull, to all of the gods in return for your sweet husband,
if it would bring his return. He had added captured Asia
Minor to the borders of Egypt in what was not a long time.
In return for these deeds, as a novel offering of thanks, I
repay ancient prayers fulfilled by the heavenly crowds.
Unwillingly, your majesty, I departed from your head,
unwillingly: I swear by you and your head, but if anyone
will have foolishly sworn by this, may he get the things he
deserves; but who would claim that he is equal to scissors?
That largest mountain in the land, over which the bright sun
is driven, was also brought down when the Persians produced
a new sea and when a barbaric soldiery sailed by fleet
through the center of Athos. What will hair do, when such
things fall because of an iron blade? O Jupiter, I wish that
the Chalybes and those who first began to look underground
for veins of ore and draw the hardness of iron into bars
would perish! My sisters were mourning my fate, the fate of
hair recently severed, when the brother of Ethiopian king
Memnon, beating against the air with changing wings,
presented himself as the winged horse of Locrian ArsinoŽ,
and, carrying me off through the shades of the sky, flew
away to place me on the chaste lap of Venus. ArsinoŽ
Zephyritis, who is Venus herself, the Greek inhabitant of
Canopus' shores, had sent her servant there as an envoy.
From that point, in order that the golden crown from
Ariadne's times should not become fixed alone in the sky's
dappled radiance, but that the both of us should shine as
dedicated mementos of a blonde head, divine Venus placed me
in the regions of the gods, a new constellation among
ancient constellations as I was damp, departing from a wave.
For, touching the light of Virgo and savage Leo, and close
to Callisto, who stands next to her father Lycaon, I wheel
to my setting, leading the way before slow BoŲtes, who is
immersed quite late in deep Oceanus. But although the
footprints of the gods weigh me down at night, the light of
day nevertheless gives me back to white haired Tethys.
(Nemesis, by your leave, may I speak here? I will not hide
truths out of fear, and if the stars will tear me to pieces
for my troublesome words, I will not hide truths and fail to
reveal what has been put away in a true heart.) I do not
rejoice in these circumstances so much as I am vexed that
I'll always, always be absent from the head of my mistress,
the one with whom I drank many thousands of unguents, while
she was a young girl formerly devoid of all perfumes. Now
you, whom the wedding torch has united by a hoped for flame
and who look after the laws with a chaste bed, when your
clothing has been thrown aside, do not entrust your bodies
to your like-minded husbands as you denude your breasts,
before an onyx jar, your onyx jar, pours me its delightful
libations. But she who has given herself to morally foul
adultery - oh! - the shallow dust drinks her vain and
malicious gifts; I seek no offerings from unworthy people.
But rather, you wives, may harmony and an unremitting love
always, always inhabit your homes. To be sure, your majesty,
when you appease the divine Venus as you look at the stars
on holidays, do not allow me, who am your own, to go
unanointed, but rather treat me with abundant offerings. I
wish that the stars would fall down! I wish that I were to
become royal hair and that Orion were now shining by
Aquarius!

Taken with kind permission from Brendan
© copyright 17-4-1999 by Brendan Rau
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