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Catullus 5: Lugete, o Veneres Cupidenesque

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae,
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:
tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.

Mourn, you Venuses and Cupids
and all men of good heart
It’s dead, my girlfriend’s little bird
delight of my darling, her little bird
she loved more than her own eyes
her honey who knew her
better than a girl her mother.
It never left her lap
from fold to fold it hopped
singing only for her.
Now it goes on that shadowy road
from which they say no one returns.
Black wicked death, your are the worst
devouring all beautiful things
even little birds
Look what you’ve done
making my lady cry
swelling red those lovely eyes!

Venus & Cupids Venus & Cupids


  1. Lindsay Hall

    Very prettily done. Just one thought: isn’t “singing” just a little lame for the splendidly onomatopoeic ‘pipiabat’? I don’t think “twittering” is quite right (especially nowadays), but how about “chirruping”?
    All best,

    • I hear where you’re coming from; but putting a word there with more than two syllables, say chirruping or twittering, for me, gets in the way of the rhythm of the whole poem, which I tried to make “pipiabat,” and who knows? things change: I’d try to keep it two syllables though: chirping, but that seems like too little a word somehow: it’s never over is it?

  2. Lindsay Hall

    “It’s never over…”. Indeed. And it is not for me to tell you how to compose your own verses. I do hope there are more where this came from, best wishes, L

    • I am so happy you are reading the poem and thinking enough of it to reply. That makes my day. & makes me think too. My translation still does bother me a little, but it is mostly in the last two, three lines.

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