Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catullus 101

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.
Quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum.
Heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi,
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

- Catullus

Crossing many nations and many seas
I arrive bereft, brother, at your grave's edge
To formally repay the last of death's duties
And question, in vain, the mute dust.
Now that fortune has torn you away from me -
Oh pitiful brother snatched too soon from me -
What else now but to perform these ancient customs
Handed down from dead to living, rites of distress,
Offerings you must accept, soaked in a brother's tears
And so forever, brother, hail and farewell.

[The translation is mine, though it draws heavily on the notes in Anne Carson's Nox (I don't read Latin) and is probably best thought of as a variation on the original rather than an accurate rendition. You can find a more accurate translation here.]

1 comment:

Aditi said...

Have you read Zukofsky's crazy translations of Catullus?