Sunday, 20 March 2016

Catullus 46: home, sweet home!

It is now the equinox of lent and by chance I saw this poem, written almost exactly 2072 years ago by Catullus. During 57-56 Catullus stayed at the province of Bithynia (at the north-west coastal area of modern Turkey) and was about to go home at the beginning of spring. Climate is though there, with during wintertime cold winds from Russia and a scorching sun during summer. Not the place to be for a poet used to the more temperate climate of Northern Italy and as we know from this and some of his other poems (4 and 31), Catullus hated it to be there. Not only he will go back, but some of his friends (comites) with whom he departed together will too, be it along various routes (diversae variae viae).

Catullus XLVI (Meter: hendecasyllabics)

Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit auris.
linquantur Phrygii, Catulle, campi
Nicaeaeque ager uber aestuosae:
ad claras Asiae volemus urbes.
iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari,
iam laeti studio pedes vigescunt.
o dulces comitum valete coetus,
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diversae variae viae reportant.

iam: the repeated iam expresses excitement
egilidos tepores: lukewarm, not cold (ex + gelidus) tepidity  
furor aequinoctialis: the belief was that around the equinox there were more storms than usual
silesco: to fall silent
Phrygia is south of Bithynia
Nicea: city in Bithynia (later famous for the synod where the Creed was formulated (325), though one can call it infamous as well, as from then dissenting groups like the Arians were suppressed)
uber uberis:  abundant, fruitful
aestuosus: burning hot
Asia: the west-coast of modern Turkey, from where ships went to Italy
volo (volare!): to fly, sail
praetrepidans: excited beforehand
aveo: to crave
vagor vagatus sum: to wander
studium: zeal (the original meaning of this word escapes many modern students)
vigesco: to become vigorous
coetus coetus (m.): company, gathering
longe quos simul a domo profectos diversae variae viae reportant = diversae variae viae reportant (eos), quos simul a domo longe profectos.
reporto: to carry back
simul: at the same time
proficio profeci profectum: to go forward, depart

Translation by Leonard C. Smithers (1894):

Now spring brings back mild breezes without cold, now heaven's equinoctial fury falls silent at Zephyr's pleasant breezes. Let the Phrygian meadows be left behind, Catullus, and the teeming fields of sun-scorched Nicaea: let us fly to the glorious cities of Asia. Now my palpitating soul longs to wander, now happy in their zeal my feet grow strong. O sweet band of comrades, fare you well, whom various roads in different directions carry back all at once setting out far from home.

And by A.S. Kline (2001):

46. Spring Parting

Now Spring returns mild and temperate,
now the wild equinoctial skies
are calmed by Zephyr’s happier breezes.
The fields of Phrygia will be forsaken,
Catullus, rich farms of hot Nicaea:
we’ll flee to Asia’s bright cities.
Now restless minds long for travel,
now the glad feet stir with pleasure.
O sweet crowd of friends farewell,
who came together from far places,
whom divergent roads must carry.

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