Venit Ver (Spring Arrives)

Fresco, The Roman Goddess Flora

The Latin poet Catullus had a passionate yet turbulent love affair with a prominent married woman named Clodia. When Clodia finally releases him for good, Catullus accepts a position on the staff of the Roman governor of Bithynia to get out of town for a while and away from any painful reminders of his love affair. He chooses this long and tedious journey to get as far away as possible from Rome in order to nurse his sore wounds. But as we learn from poem 10, the governor of Bithynia was a crook and Catullus did not make any profit there. After a year in this outpost in Asia Minor, Catullus writes a poem in 56 B.C. as he is about to embark on his journey home. It is springtime and Catullus has that renewed sense of hope which comes with the warmer air and the fresh breezes. The meter is hendecasyllabic:

Catullus, Carmen 46:

Iam ver egelidos refert tepores,
iam caeli furor aequinoctialis
iucundis Zephyri silescit aureis.
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 varie viae reportant.

My Translation of Carmen 46:

Now spring returns the mild warmth
now the fury of the equinoctial sky is silenced
by the pleasant breezes of the west-wind.
Let the Phrygian plains, Catullus,
and the fertile fields of Nicaea be left behind:
Let us fly through the well-known cities of Asia.
Now my mind, trembling with anticipation, strongly desires to roam,
now my happy feet become lively with eagerness.
Take care, oh cherished group of friends
who, having traveled together far from our homes,
are now being carried back on different roads.

I find this time of the year, May in particular, to be the most difficult to get through as far as teaching my classes are concerned. The springtime causes the students to become increasingly impatient because they are trapped in a classroom as the weather is becoming warmer.  Who could blame them! The spring has mixed blessings for me: I enjoy the warmth of the sun and the budding flowers but I don’t look forward to fidgety students who are increasingly eager to carry their laeti pedes (happy feet) away from these halls of learning for summer.

Fresco from the Villa di Livia

9 Comments

Filed under Classics, Opinion Posts

9 responses to “Venit Ver (Spring Arrives)

  1. May is the month where students here get fidgety too but for a different reason – it’s exam season…..

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  2. This sounds very interesting. Do you know if there is an english translation of this somewhere?

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  3. I do particularly enjoy it when you post a poem and then your translation; it reminds me of how much I actually enjoyed wrestling with Latin syntax at school (which I left 45 years ago) and I am happy to realise that I can still remember some of the skills… mind you, Catullus was strictly off-limits in those days.

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    • Thanks so much! It means a lot to me that you are enjoying them. I only translated the Rated G poems with my students, of course. But they look up the naughty ones on their own!

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  4. It sounds like Catullus enjoyed the Phrygian plains and Asian cities slightly more than Ovid did in Dacia and on the shores of Pontus Euxinus. I wonder how painful it was for Roman citizens to move to the outskirts of the Empire, where civilisation felt ‘approximate’ at the best of times.

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    • I think that urbane men like Ovid and Catullus had a difficult time being so far away from Rome. Catullus only stays in Bithynia for a year and from what we know from Poem 10 he didn’t like it at all. I suspect if he had to stay there any longer then he too would have written a Tristia Ex Ponto!

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  5. Pingback: Blogbummel April/Mai 2017 – buchpost

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