“Drawn across many nations and seas
I come to your pitiful resting place, brother
To present you with a final gift at death
And to try to comfort mute ash pointlessly,
Since chance has stolen you away from me.
My sad brother, unfairly taken from me.
For now, this, the ancient custom of our ancestors
Handed down as the sad gift for the grave,
Accept with a flowing flood of fraternal tears
And forever, my brother, hail and farewell.”
Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam adloquerer 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.
In school, I had to memorize the following poem. I took it very seriously. Then I went to grad school and learned about genre, persona, and play. Now I can’t read the poem as a record of actual human emotion. Graduate school ruined Catullus for me. (And many other human things). This translation started as an attempt to regain it. But, the poem does seem maudlin and exquisitely built. Shit. Is he for real? What’s real? Thursdays!
(So, now, this translation is an allegory for graduate school.)