ETSI ME ASSIDUO CONFECTUM CURA DOLORE ... A LETTER TO HORTALUS
Catullus (Gaius Valerius Catullus) tr. Josephine Balmer
Etsi me assiduo confectum cura dolore
sevocat a doctis, Ortale, virginibus,
nec potis est dulcis Musarum expromerefetus
mens animi, tantis fluctuat ipsa malis -
namque mei nuper Lethaeo in gurgite fratris
pallidulum manans alluit unda pedem,
Troia Rhoeteo quem subter litore tellus
ereptum nostris obterit ex oculis ...

numquam ego te, vita frater amabilior,
aspiciam posthac? at certe semper amabo,
semper maesta tua carmina morte canam,
qualia sub densis ramorum concinit umbris
Daulias, absumpti fata gemens Ityli -
sed tamen in tantis maeroribus, Ortale, mitto
haec expressa tibi carmina Battiadae,
ne tua dicta vagis nequiquam credita ventis
effluxisse meo forte putes animo,
ut missum sponsi furtivo munere malum
procurrit casto virginis e gremio,
quod miserae oblitae molli sub veste locatum,
dum adventu matris prosilit, excutitur,
atque illud prono praeceps agitur decursu,
huic manat tristi conscius ore rubor.
Though worn down, Hortalus, by this unrelenting grief,
torn away by cares from the Muses' strict pursuits,
unable, even in mind's eye, to bear their sweet fruit,
tossing, turned, on a wave of pain without relief
(for recently the rising tide of Lethe's waters
has washed the ghost-pale soles of my passing brother -
oh my brother, snatched from my eyes by death's robber stealth
weighted down by Trojan soil, on Hellespont shore,
will I ever hear your voice or speak to you once more,
see you, brother, dearer to me than life itself? -
it's true, as I love you now, I'll love you tomorrow,
always compose these songs soaked in your death's sorrow,
songs the nightingale sings in shadowed thicket branches,
Procne lamenting the death of her son Itys),
and yet, Hortalus, in the midst of such great sadness,
I send you this translation of Callimachus
lest you think your request in vain, swept off by the wind,
flowing out then in, slipping through my shifting mind,
like an apple sliding off a pure young virgin's lap,
a token sent in secret from her own betrothed,
hidden, forgotten, poor girl, beneath her flowing clothes
but at her mother's step, she leaps up, lets it drop,
sends it tumbling, sets it bumping, out across the ground,
blush stealing across her grave face at being found.

Click here 1 for another translation of this poem.

Transl. Copyright © Josephine Balmer 2004 - publ. Bloodaxe Books


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