Friday, May 11, 2007

On His Brother's Death


This poem by Gaius Valerius Catullus (BC 84 - BC54) has always touched me deeply. Anyways, I bought the Oxford World Classics edition of "Catullus: The Complete Poems" and I have to say I'm appalled by the poor quality of the translation. Check out the first version, which I really like and then compare it to the second version, which is nowhere near as moving and elegant:

[GOOD VERSION]
By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta'en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell;
Take them, all drenched with a brother's tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

[BAD VERSION]
Travelling through many nations and through many seas
I have come, brother, for these poor funeral rites,
That I might render you the last dues of the dead
And vainly comfort your dumb ashes,
Because Fortune has robbed me of yourself, alas,
Poor brother, unfairly taken from me.
But now, meanwhile, accept these gifts which by old custom
Of the ancestors are offered in sad duty
At funeral rites, gifts drenched in a brother's tears,
And forever, brother, greetings and farewell.

2 Comments:

Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

his private life left so much to be desired that i can't enjoy.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Basil Fawlty said...

He lived a full life all before the age of 30. The rest of us should be so lucky.

2:10 PM  

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