Catullus 62 Translation

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Catullus 62 is a wedding poem. In it, he moves the song back and forth from young men and young women. In nearly every switch, he ends the section with the line: “Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!” Hymen is the god of marriage. The wedding song, the Hymenaeus, is sung to the couple as they walk to the groom’s home. The Ancient Greeks believed that Hymen had to attend every marriage, otherwise the marriage was doomed. 

In the nine sections, Catullus discusses the relationships between men and women and how Hesperus (the Evening Star) is involved. In lines one through four, evening has come and it is time to leave the wedding and sing the Hymen song. In the next section, maidens are told to meet the young men and out-perform them in their singing. 

The young men, in lines 11 through 19, notice the women have arisen to practice what they have learned. In the next section, lines 20 through 25, young women speak to Hesperus and accuse the Evening Star of taking daughter from their mothers. During the night, young maidens are given to burning youth, which is compared to what happens with cities fall during war. Then, the young men do the opposite and praise the Evening Star for supporting the contract of marriage. The young men ask: “What is given by the gods more desirable than the fortunate hour?” to show how much they honor Hesperus. 

Then, in one line, the young women comment on how one of their friends was taken. In lines 33 through 38, the young men comment on this accusation, but they say Hesperus returns what he takes. The young men also comment on how women chide Hesperus, but they secretly desire what he offers. 

The young women, in lines 39 through 48, compare what happens to them to what happens to a flower. When the flower grows, young men and women both desire it. But, once it is “nipped by a sharp nail,” no one desires it anymore. This is all about how virginal girls are desirable, but those who have had sex are not desirable by anyone. 

At the end of the poem, the young men tell young women that their virginity is not entirely theirs. It partially belongs to their parents, and it becomes the dowry given to their husbands. 


Carmen 62

LineLatin textEnglish translation

VESPER adest, iuuenes, consurgite: Vesper Olympo

The evening is come, rise up, ye Vesper from Olympus


exspectata diu uix tandem lumina tollit.

now at last is just raising his long-looked-for light.


surgere iam tempus, iam pinguis linquere mensas,

Now is it time to rise, now to leave the rich tables;


iam ueniet uirgo, iam dicetur hymenaeus.

now will come the bride, now will the Hymen-song be sung.


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Cernitis, innuptae, iuuenes? consurgite contra;

See ye, maidens, the youths? Rise up to meet them.


nimirum Oetaeos ostendit Noctifer ignes.

For sure the night-star shows his Oetaean fires.


sic certest; uiden ut perniciter exsiluere?

So it is indeed; see you how nimbly they have sprung up?


non temere exsiluere, canent quod uincere par est.

it is not for nothing that they have sprung up: they will sing something which it is worth while to look at.


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


non facilis nobis, aequales, palma parata est:

No easy palm is set out for us, comrades;


aspicite, innuptae secum ut meditata requirunt.

look how the maidens are conning what they have learnt.


non frustra meditantur: habent memorabile quod sit;

Not in vain do they learn, they have there something worthy of memory;


nec mirum, penitus quae tota mente laborant.

no wonder, since they labour deeply with their whole mind.


nos alio mentes, alio diuisimus aures;

We have diverted elsewhere our thoughts, elsewhere our ears;


iure igitur uincemur: amat uictoria curam.

fairly then shall we be beaten; victory loveth care.


quare nunc animos saltem conuertite uestros;

Wherefore now at least match your minds with theirs.


dicere iam incipient, iam respondere decebit.

Anon they will begin to speak, anon it will be fitting for us to answer.


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Hespere, quis caelo fertur crudelior ignis?

Hesperus, what more cruel fire than thine moves in the sky?


qui natam possis complexu auellere matris,

for thou canst endure to tear the daughter from her mother’s embrace,


complexu matris retinentem auellere natam,

from her mother’s embrace to tear the close-clinging daughter,


et iuueni ardenti castam donare puellam.

and give the chaste maiden to the burning youth.


quid faciunt hostes capta crudelius urbe?

What more cruel than this do enemies when a city falls?


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Hespere, quis caelo lucet iucundior ignis?

Hesperus, what more welcome fire than thine shines in the sky?


qui desponsa tua firmes conubia flamma,

for thou with thy flame confirmest the contracted espousals,


quae pepigere uiri, pepigerunt ante parentes,

which husbands and parents have promised beforehand,


nec iunxere prius quam se tuus extulit ardor.

but unite not till thy flame has arisen.


quid datur a diuis felici optatius hora?

What is given by the gods more desirable than the fortunate hour?


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Hesperus e nobis, aequales, abstulit unam.

Hesperus, friends, has taken away one of us.


namque tuo aduentu uigilat custodia semper,

For at thy coming the guard is always awake.


nocte latent fures, quos idem saepe reuertens,

By night thieves hide themselves, whom thou, Hesperus, often overtakest as thou returnest,


Hespere, mutato comprendis nomine Eous

Hesperus the same but with changed name Eous.


at lubet innuptis ficto te carpere questu.

But girls love to chide thee with feigned complaint.


quid tum, si carpunt, tacita quem mente requirunt?

What then, if they chide him whom they desire in their secret heart?


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Vt flos in saeptis secretus nascitur hortis,

As a flower springs up secretly in a fenced garden,


ignotus pecori, nullo conuolsus aratro,

unknown to the cattle, torn up by no plough,


quem mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber;

which the winds caress, the sun strengthens, the shower draws forth,


multi illum pueri, multae optauere puellae:

many boys, many girls, desire it;


idem cum tenui carptus defloruit ungui,

when the same flower fades, nipped by a sharp nail,


nulli illum pueri, nullae optauere puellae:

no boys, no girls desire it:


sic uirgo, dum intacta manet, dum cara suis est;

so a maiden, whilst she remains untouched, so long is she dear to her own;


cum castum amisit polluto corpore florem,

when she has lost her chaste flower with sullied body,


nec pueris iucunda manet, nec cara puellis.

she remains neither lovely to boys nor dear to girls.


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!


Vt uidua in nudo uitis quae nascitur aruo,

As an unwedded vine which grows up in a bare field


numquam se extollit, numquam mitem educat uuam,

never raises itself aloft, never brings forth a mellow grape,


sed tenerum prono deflectens pondere corpus

but bending its tender form with downward weight,


iam iam contingit summum radice flagellum;

even now touches the root with topmost shoot;


hanc nulli agricolae, nulli coluere iuuenci:

no farmers, no oxen tend it:


at si forte eadem est ulmo coniuncta marito,

but if it chance to be joined in marriage to the elm,


multi illam agricolae, multi coluere iuuenci:

many farmers, many oxen tend it:


sic uirgo dum intacta manet, dum inculta senescit;

so a maiden, whilst she remains untouched, so long is she aging untended;


cum par conubium maturo tempore adepta est,

but when in ripe season she is matched in equal wedlock,


cara uiro magis et minus est inuisa parenti.

she is more dear to her husband and less distasteful to her father.


Et tu ne pugna cum tali coniuge uirgo.

And you, maiden, strive not with such a husband;


non aequom est pugnare, pater cui tradidit ipse,

it is not right to strive with him to whom your father himself gave you,


ipse pater cum matre, quibus parere necesse est.

your father himself with your mother, whom you must obey.


uirginitas non tota tua est, ex parte parentum est,

Your maidenhead is not all your own; partly it belongs to your parents,


tertia pars patrest, pars est data tertia matri,

a third part is given to your father, a third part to your mother,


tertia sola tua est: noli pugnare duobus,

only a third is yours; do not contend with two,


qui genero suo iura simul cum dote dederunt.

who have given their rights to their son-in-law together with the dowry.


Hymen o Hymenaee, Hymen ades o Hymenaee!

Hymen, O Hymenaeus, Hymen, hither, O Hymenaeus!

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