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Translation of Catullus 51 and Sappho 31

  • Author(s): Hunter, Lauren
  • et al.
Abstract

Catullus 51, “Ille mi par,” is Catullus’ translation and adaptation of Sappho’s poem “φαίνεταί μοι” (Sappho 31 by the Lobel and Voigt numbering). After translating Catullus 51 in a Latin Lyric class, I became very interested in comparing the two poems and investigating how Catullus used Sappho’s framework to express his own desire and longing for Lesbia. Here I submit a translation of Catullus 51 and one of Sappho 31, specifically intended to be read side by side. I have attempted to render a translation of each poem that will demonstrate both the areas in which Catullus nearly literally translates the Sappho, and the lines which are Catullus’ own invention. Of particular interest are the last four lines of Catullus’ poem, which end the poem on a restrained, dispassionate note that contrasts sharply with the strong emotion of the first three stanzas. The Sappho poem, by contrast, ends with a culmination of Sappho’s passion and a resolve for action. I present both poems for comparison, so that a reader may appreciate the depth of emotion in both poems, and the differing conclusion of each poem.

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