Catullus, How many Kisses?

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A translation of How many kisses, followed by notes on style. Enjoy :)

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  • Created by: Jessie
  • Created on: 03-10-10 18:20
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Catullus- How many kisses?
You ask how many of your kisses are enough and more than enough for me, Lesbia. As great as the
quaeris quot tuae basationes sint satis superque mihi Lesbia quam magnus
number of Libyan sands which lie on the silphium-bearing Cyrene, between the oracle of sultry Jupiter
numerus harenae iacet lasarpiciferis inter oraclum aestuosi Iovis
and the sacred tomb of old Battus; or as many as the stars, when the night is silent, which observe the
et sacrum sepulcrum veteris Batti aut quam multa sidera nox tacet vident
secret love affairs of humans: to kiss you this many kisses is more than enough for crazy Catullus, which
furtivos amores hominum basiare te tam multa basia satis et super vesano quae
the inquisitive cannot count up, nor the evil tongue bewitch.
curiosi nec possint pernumerare nec mala lingua fascinare
Notes (numbers refer to lines in the original Latin text)
1. basiationes `kissing sessions' ­ a light-hearted word later repeated in line 9 which sets the tone
of the poem- it is not to be taken too seriously
2. sint satis superque ­ the alliteration of the `s' (sibilance) draws our attention to the phrase. The
phrase itself (`are enough and more than enough') again highlights the silly and frivolous nature
of the poem's content
3-6. references to places around the Empire show how learned Catullus is
3. harenae `sands' ­ emphatically placed at the end of the line. This detail is important as Catullus
begins his simile. This simile is grand in scope yet merely illustrates the frivolous act of kissing
4. lasarpiciferis `silphium-bearing' ­ an unusual word in emphatic position which adds more
grandeur (pomposity?) to the simile
5. aestuosi `sultry' ­ a reference to the hot weather, but we might read it as a reference to the
kissing activities which form the main subject matter of the poem

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Catullus' main subject (kissing)
8. furtivos...amores ­ the transition from simile back to kissing; the stars see the love affairs of
peopeople. furtivos is emphatically placed to remind us of the illicit nature of Catullus and Clodia's
re relationship
9. basia...basiare ­ the repetition highlights Catullus' enthusiasm for kissing Clodia (Lesbia) and
reaechoes basiationes in line 1
10. vesano `crazy' ­ in emphatic position; an ambiguous word, does he mean insane, crazy in love or
red doing something he knows is foolish?
11.…read more


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