Vivamus, mea Lesbia

Otherwise known as the Catullus Fangirling Post. (If you don't know who Catullus was, read the link and be ye educated. It's very, very worth it.)

Right. So while off at Latin camp (shameless self-promotion is shameless, but still), the Hellenic Book Service came along to sell stuff to us. Ignore the aesthetics of their website - their actual physical shops and services are very, very good, especially for Latin/Greek/Classics geeks (and non-geeks as well - a day in there is a day well spent for anyone who wants to cram their head full of knowledge). They also sell some second-hand stuff as well, including a copy of Fifty Latin Lyrics which I picked up for a pittance compared to the price on Amazon. This isn't product placement - this is me explaining how I got where I am now.

Anyway, I'm working through said Latin Lyrics to keep my brain sharp and broaden my horizons a little, since I've been meaning to read more Latin literature but haven't really had the time. In them, of course, is Catullus 5 - the Vivamus, mea Lesbia of the title.

It's a love poem. I don't normally go all soppy and sentimental over love poetry, firstly because I'm not really that into love and secondly because I don't want to have a reputation as a big softie. This one, I think, is different...mainly because it's not really the stereotype of crying love and dove, or of praising physical beauty at the expense of everything else - like actual good writing. No, Catullus 5 is passionate. It loves nothing but life and love themselves - no lovers' qualities are mentioned, just good old-fashioned living, loving - and passion, represented by the thousands upon hundreds of kisses. And it delivers a massive, almost literal "fuck you" to everyone who might disagree.

I'll post the original and a translation up now, then some more ranting and raving.

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, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

The English translation is mine.

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us value all the rumours of more stern old men
at one as.
Suns can set and return:
when brief light sets once,
we must sleep in unbroken night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand, then a hundred.
Then, when we've made many thousands,
we'll mix them up, lest we know
or lest anyone could give us the evil eye
since he may know there were so many kisses.

I'm sorry if the translation's a little stilted, or if there are mistakes, or if it doesn't quite capture the original Latin - I still need to work on my fluency. I haven't even taken my GCSEs yet! Still, I hope that I at least got the gist across.

Now for more fangirling! (Warning: proof that I have no life and that Latin GCSE has taken its toll on me. Read on at your peril.)
The opening line gets me every time - let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love. It actually works better in English, I think, due to the alliteration of "live" and "love" and the open vowels - like they're sprawling themselves out on the page and enjoying the good life, like Catullus exhorts Lesbia to do. Second and third lines are, as I've mentioned, essentially a "fuck you" to the old ways of life: who cares about them when we have our love?! The fourth line is a transition between the first three joyful lines, with its talk of the sun, and the darker fifth line - the sun sets. Granted, it rises too, but we've only got a short time on earth before we die.

Whenever I translate "da mi basia mille" - "give me a thousand kisses" - my heart starts beating more and more quickly with the passion Catullus gave the lines...yes, even the geek girl has a heart and feels passion, stop laughing! I hope that any Latinists out there got the same feeling, and I hope that I captured it in my translation. You can't not feel it, I think. It's a part of the poem, and it just continues on and on in the same repetitive yet wild language, until it all gets mixed up...and finally, the poem ends with just a touch of secretiveness. It's arguably the love poem, the one which doesn't quite capture it all but which captures a damn good deal.