Gillian Spraggs
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[Gaius Valerius Catullus, c. BC 84–c. 54]

Lament for a Sparrow

Mourn, you divinities of Venus’ train,
and all of mortal race who’ve felt love’s blessing:
a sparrow is dead, that was my girl’s,
a sparrow, my girl’s darling,
whom she loved more than her eyes:
for he was sweet as honey, and he knew her
as well as a girl knows her own mother;
nor would he leave her lap,
but hopping about, now here, now there,
he’d chirrup just for his mistress:
yet now he goes along a darkened road
towards that place from which, they tell us, none return.
Curses on you, Death’s accursed darkness,
devouring all that’s lovely:
you have stolen away my lovely sparrow!
A cruel act! Poor little bird! for now, because of you,
my girl’s dear eyes are swollen red with crying.
translated by Gillian Spraggs

Lugete, o Veneres Cupidinesque,
et quantum est hominum venustiorum:
passer mortuus est meae puellae,
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quem plus illa oculis suis amabat.
nam mellitus erat suamque norat
ipsam tam bene quam puella matrem,
nec sese a gremio illius movebat,
sed circumsiliens modo huc modo illuc
ad solam dominam usque pipiabat.
qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
illuc, unde negant redire quemquam.
at vobis male sit, malae tenebrae
Orci, quae omnia bella devoratis:
tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis
o factum male! o miselle passer!
tua nunc opera meae puellae
flendo turgiduli rubent ocelli.
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© Gillian Spraggs, 2006
page added to site on 1 October, 2006 | last modified 24 November, 2006