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Catullus was an exquisite lyrist.


Quænam te mala mens, miselle Ravide
agit præcipitem in meos iambos?
quis deus tibi non bene advocatus
vecordem parat excitare rixam?
an ut pervenias in ora vulgi?
quid vis? qualubet esse notus optas?
eris, quandoquidem meos amores
cum longa voluisti amare pæna.

Sri Aurobindo’s remarks:

«I did not think meos amores necessarily alludes to more than one love affaitr. I think it is more than good-humoured banter; there seems to me to be a note of careless scorn in it, but no serious anger. I suppose with Catullus one cannot take either his self-depreciation or his self-assertion as a poet very seriously — like most poets of his power he must have been aware of his genius, but expressed it half humourously as one would expect from a well-bred man of the world. I don’t know either about his scurrilous attacks — literari invective perhaps, but is there not a little more to it than that? He puts the lash with something more than a whimsical violence in many places — the verses he wrote after the rupture leave a terrible mark.»

«Catullus had no more philosophy in it than a red ant. He was an exquisite lyrist — much more spontaneous in his lyrism than the more sophisticated and well-balanced Horace, a poet of passionate and irregular love, and he got out of the Latin language a melody no man could persuade it to before him or after. But that was all.»

Vicamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus.
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 invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.

O my Lesbia, let us live for loving.
Suns can set and return to light the morrow,
We, when once has sunk down the light of living, —
One long night we must sleep, and sleep for ever.
Give me kisses a thousand and then a hundred,
One more thousands, again a hundred,
Many thousands of kisses give and hundreds,
Kisses numberless like to sands on sea-shores,
Burning Libya’s sands in far Cyrene.
Clos confound the thousands and mix the hundreds
Lest some envious Fate or eye discover
The long reckoning of our love and kisses.

(Sri Aurobindo’s translation)