The Poetry of Gaius Valerius Catullus/14

Meter - Hendecasyllables

Line Latin Text English Translation
1 Ni te plus oculis meis amarem, If I did not love you more than my eyes,
2 iucundissime Calve, munere isto dearest Calvus, because of that gift
3 odissem te odio Vatiniano: I would hate you more than Vatinius
4 nam quid feci ego quidve sum locutus, for what have I done or what did I say
5 cur me tot male perderes poetis? that you should burden me with so many bad poets
6 Isti di mala multa dent clienti, May the Gods send much evil on that client,
7 qui tantum tibi misit impiorum. who sends you such wicked people.
8 Quod si, ut suspicor, hoc novum ac repertum But if, as I suspect, this new and sought after
9 munus dat tibi Sulla litterator, gift was given to you by Sulla that teacher of literature,
10 non est mi male, sed bene ac beate, then I am not angry, but joyful and pleased,
11 quod non dispereunt tui labores. for your labours have not gone to waste.
12 Di magni, horribilem et sacrum libellum! Good Heavens, what a horrible and cursed little book!
13 Quem tu scilicet ad tuum Catullum Which you surely sent to your Catullus
14 misti, continuo ut die periret, so that he might die the very next day,
15 Saturnalibus, optimo dierum! the Saturnalia, the best of days!
16 Non non hoc tibi, salse, sic abibit. No no, It will not be like this for you, clever fiend.
17 Nam si luxerit ad librariorum For when it is light, I will run
18 curram scrinia, Caesios, Aquinos, to the booksellers' shelves, and Caesius, Aquinus
19 Suffenum, omnia colligam venena. Suffenus; I will collect all such poison
20 Ac te his suppliciis remunerabor. and repay you these punishments.
21 Vos hinc interea valete abite Meanwhile, Goodbye and go away you
22 illuc, unde malum pedem attulistis, to where you got your terrible rhymes
23 saecli incommoda, pessimi poetae. curses of our time, the worst poets.

Connotations of the TextEdit

Line 1Edit

  • ni

read "nisi", which means 'unless'.

  • oculis

"if I did not love you more than my eyes" is unnatural in English. This may be better translated as "If I did not love you more than myself" or "If you weren't the apple of my eye".

However, the meaning "eyes" would still make sense, as the eyes are a precious organ of any human being - and a thing to be cared for.

  • amarem

even though this is imperfect it is translated as present in English.

Line 2Edit

  • Calve

Licinius Calvus was a friend of Catullus's.

Line 3Edit

  • Vatiniano

Vatinius was a man whom Calvus had prosecuted in court. (see Poem 53)

Line 6Edit

  • clienti

The Romans had a system of patrons and clients. The patrons protected their clients in court and gave them financial help, and in return the clients may have given the patrons political support and occasionally little presents of gratitude such as this book of poetry.

Line 9Edit

  • Sulla

Here, Sulla refers to a man Calvus defended in court.

Line 10Edit

  • mi

read "mihi"

This line literally translates to "it is not badly for me, but well and happily".

Line 12Edit

  • di magni

Literally "Great Gods" but in a contemporary context something like "Good Heavens" is probably more appropriate.

  • libellum

diminutive of "liber" - book. Catullus was very fond of diminutives and used them to express smallness, affection, pity, or scorn depending on the context. Here it is probably used to express scorn.

Line 14Edit

  • misti

Read "misisti", yet another common way of shortening words in Latin.

Line 15Edit

  • Saturnalibus

The Saturnalia was a festival for Saturn that began on the 17th of December. It was the biggest festival of the year; the Roman equivalent of Christmas.

Line 16Edit

  • salse - smartarse, clever

Meaning "clever" or "witty", the original meaning of the word is "salt". This is because the Romans used the salt to enhance the flavour of their meat and other food, and so, the poet uses metaphorical salt, or "wit" to enhance his work.

Lines 18 - 19Edit

  • Caesios, Aquinos, Suffenum

Nothing is now known about Caesius and Aquinus, although we can deduce from this poem that they were bad poets. Catullus attacks Suffenus as a writer of endless bad verses in Poem 22

Line 21Edit

  • vos

refers to the poets Catullus has gathered.

  • malum pedem

literally "bad foot". In Latin as well as English "foot" was used to mean a section of a line of poetry.

Line 23Edit

  • pessimi poetae - worst poets

Here the alliteration of p shows Catullus' disgust for the aforementioned poets. This technique, whilst placed at the end of the line leaves a lasting impression on the reader, and Catullus' opinion on low-quality work stays with us. It could also be a subtle hint of Catullus, asserting how his work is superior.


Line 2Edit

Line 5Edit

  • perderes - pester, burden, annoy, destroy

Line 7Edit

  • impiorum - Roman piety was defined as dedication to gods, country, and family and was the greatest virtue. So impiety or "impiorum" was considered the greatest vice.

Line 8Edit

  • repertum - sought after

Line 10Edit

Line 11Edit

  • dispereunt - this word contains "pereunt" (they perished) which is made up of per + eunt (through + gone). This prefix "dis-" is emphatic.

Line 13Edit

  • scilicet - scire + licet = it is possible to know = obviously

Line 16Edit

  • salse - smartarse, clever fiend, clever one

Line 18Edit

  • scrinia - shelves

Line 23Edit

  • saecli - curses

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