Catullus 5 is a passionate ode to Lesbia and one of the most famous poems by Catullus. The poem encourages lovers to scorn the snide comments of others, and to live only for each other, since life is too brief and death brings on a night of perpetual sleep. Over the centuries, this poem has been translated and imitated many times; its sentiments seem timeless.
A free-verse translation of the following Latin text:
Let us live, my Lesbia, and love.
As for all the rumors of those stern old men,
Let us value them at a mere penny.
Suns may set and yet rise again, but
Us, with our brief light, can set but once.
One never-ending night must be slept.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred.
Then, another thousand, and a second hundred.
Then, yet another thousand, and a hundred.
Then, when we have counted up many thousands,
Let us shake the abacus, so that no one may know the number,
And become jealous when they see
How many kisses we have shared.
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt;
nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum;
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
This is a reference to the gossip going around the Roman Senate, as it was believed that Catullus was having an affair with a senator's wife, known as Clodia Pulchra Tercia. This is also thought to be the woman Lesbia in his poetry. Catullus is urging Clodia to disregard what people are saying about them, so she can spend more time with him. There is also a chiasmus in these lines:
The position of lux - light, and nox - night right next to each other serve to emphasise his two comparisons. Symbolically, the "perpetual night" represents death and the "brief light" represents life. Furthermore, there is also a second chiasmus in these lines: