Julia Bohm translating Catullus

XLVI.

Now spring brings back
not cold warms.
Now the rage of the spring sky
grows silent with the gold west wind
of Zephyr. 
O Catullus,
let the Phrygian plains be 
left behind 
& fertile (heated) fields of Nicaea;
let’s fly to the great cities of Asia.
Now my anxious mind 
wants to go,
now my happy feet 
become anxious.
Goodbye
sweet meetings of friends
whom different roads 
in different directions
take back 
having set out 
far from home
at the same time.

OR:

Now spring brings back
not cold warms.
Now the rage of the spring sky
grows silent with the gold west wind
of Zephyr. 
O Catullus,
let the Phrygian plains
be 
left behind 
& fertile (heated) fields of Nicaea;
let’s fly to the great cities of Asia.
Now my anxious mind 
wants to go,

now my happy feet 
become anxious.
Goodbye
sweet meetings of friends
whom
different roads 
in different directions
take back 
having
set out 
far from home
at the same time.

OR:

Now spring brings back 
warm 
Now the rage of the
sky grows silent


west wind
O
be 
left behind




now 


different roads set out
far from home

Translator’s Note:

I first came across this poem my junior year of high school. My school required we take three years of a language, which was how I ended up in Latin IV with Mr. Allen, an old man with a ponytail and a beard—exactly who you’d expect to be teaching a Latin class. We translated Catullus and Ovid, two ancient Roman poets. Both covered controversial subjects in their poetry; Ovid even got himself exiled from Rome because of it. Catullus, a great influencer of Ovid, wrote mainly about love and hate—as made apparent by one of his more famous couplets, Catullus 85. 

The poem I have translated is Catullus 46. It is not about love or hate. The lack of such content is anomalous for Catullus, whose work tends to focus more on the gritty, the dirty, and on Lesbia, his lover. I’ve often felt that Latin poetry translation has become convoluted over time. Whether through its syntax, word choice, or the ancient contexts most readers are not aware of, Catullus’ work seems to have lost its beauty. There are three parts to this translation because I didn’t want content to cloud meaning. I hoped to get at the heart of this poem by leaving only its bare bones.

Julia Bohm is a writer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her work can be found in Winter Tangerine, Public Pool, and Drunk in a Midnight Choir.




Catullus is a well known Roman poet. He lived from 84-54 BC. His work influenced many other famous Latin writers such as Ovid and Virgil.