"Catullus at Lesbia's" by Sir Laurence Alma TademaA Translation of Catullus’s ‘Ad Sirmium Insulam’ by Douglas Thornton The Society July 25, 2017 Beauty, Culture, Poetry, Translation 7 Comments The important events in the life of Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 B.C.) are recounted through the poems he has left. The particular poem below was written on his return from Asia Minor, where he had attempted at a public career by following Memmius, the patron of the poet Lucretius, into the province of Bithynia. But his hopes being dashed, he took refuge after the long journey at his home in the present-day village of Sirmione, in northern Italy, on Lake Garda. Ad Sirmium Insulam (Translation by Douglas Thornton) Of the islands which in stagnant Waters and vast seas Neptune holds, Sirmio—the pearl of islands!— Now my heart with you rejoices Safe and sound, still scarce believing Thynia and Bithynian Fields have gone. What more fortunate Care, after so many struggles, When the mind shrugs off its burden, Drained by foreign toil, than come Unto our hearth and find comfort In our longed-for bed! Thus hello, Charming Sirmio, whom I enjoy Enjoying; and you, rippling lake Of Lydian wave surrounding My home, drown out all other noise. Ad Sirmium Insulam (Original) Paene insularum, Sirmio, insularumque Ocelle, quascumque in liquentibus stagnis Marique vasto fert uterque Neptunus, Quam te libenter quamque laetus inviso, Vix mi ipse credens Thuniam atque Bithunos Liquisse campos et videre te in tuto. O quid solutis est beatius curis, Cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino Labore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum, Desideratoque acquiescimus lecto? Hoc est quod unum est pro laboribus tantis. Salve, O venusta Sirmio, atque ero gaude Gaudente, vosque, O Lydiae lacus undae, Ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum.[/column] Douglas Thornton is a poet and English teacher living in France. Please visit his blog at www.douglasthornton.blogspot.com Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 7 Responses J. Simon Harris July 25, 2017 This is a really nice poem. I have never read Catullus, but your translation makes me want to read more. The poem somehow reminds me of old Japanese poetry–maybe the sentiment, or the second-person address to his hometown… it’s hard to pin down. There’s nothing quite like coming home after a long journey, is there? Reply Douglas Thornton July 25, 2017 Thank you, sir! Catullus has some very profound and heartfelt poems, which indeed make him very modern, but he can as well be on the vulgar side, so you have to pick and choose. I think in his best poems, especially this one, he has a way of bringing distant sentiment and thought into word, and the rhythm is nonetheless delicate for it–this, as well, is what seems to bring him closer to the old Japanese poetry. Reply Aedile Cwerbus July 25, 2017 To the Grotto of Catullus by Aedile Cwerbus for Douglas Thornton In northern Italy, an hour from Verona is Lake Garda, Italy’s large lake and famed peninsula, Catullus called his dearest home, the pearl Sermio, and Pound thought worth the journey, o, a century ago. Free from Bithynia, Catullus could unwind his mind, and leave, in limping iambs, all his burdens far behind; and Tennyson as well could pause and see the ruins left, eroding walls, gray stoneway falls, and archways time bereft. In Sermio the tourists swarm the waterfront cafes, beside the trinket shops and vibrant flowery displays; but at Catullus’ grotto where the grass and olives grow, though all things fade, there are some, ah, that we do not let go. Reply Douglas Thornton July 26, 2017 That we all may seek out our own grottos and live with the deep joy that we are always going home! Thank you for this very kind poem. Reply David Watt July 26, 2017 Where else but through The Society of Classical Poets do we find a mix of history, education, and fine translations of poetry? The response poem serves to ‘ice the cake.’ Reply Aedile Cwerbus July 27, 2017 One of the remarkable aspects of Catullus’ poetry is his metrical range. To naturally fall into any meter is a difficult matter, but to utilize the range he did, and all by the time he was thirty, was meteoric. Catullus, like Calvus, was one of the Neoterici, the Roman “Modernists,” and I would say that his vulgarity is part of what made him modern to the Romans, like Cicero. Although a more common meter of his was the Phalaecian hendecasyllable, in sonnet-length “Ad Sermium,” he used Scazon (Choliambics), also hendecasyllabic. In his choliambics there is usually a caesura after the fifth syllable. In line 8, however, coinciding with the meaning of the line—the onus—he breaks that pattern. The whole poem is a tour de force, from the opening play of insularum, to the laughter of the final line. I particularly like the brilliant coup of line 10. Although many writers have translated this particular poem into English, including Victorians, like Richard Francis Burton and Thomas Hardy in rhyme, it shows the strength of a culture when it attempts translations of the best classical writers in order to bring them to its present. This is why work like that of Mr. Harris and Mr. Thornton is valuable, particularly here @ SCP. Reply Douglas Thornton July 28, 2017 This may just be a side-note, but I believe it were Virgil who saw in the longer poetry of Catullus, notably poem LXIV, the matter for which he based his poetry on. Apparently, Catullus was dissuased from this longer sort of poetry because it did not suit the public’s taste. It was nonetheless an intriguing time for Latin poetry and is certainly interesting for us to look in to and dwell upon. Thank you, Mr. Wise for your information on the subject. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.