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Burning With Passion: Selected Poems from Catullus

Stephen Mitchell, who is known for bringing ancient texts to vibrant new life, has now translated Catullus’s poems for a new generation of readers in Catullus: Selected Poems.

Join us as we reflect on the role poetry plays in our lives and appreciate the contributions of the poets who have enriched us with a selection of excerpts for National Poetry Month.

Stephen Mitchell—


Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit;
haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
sana esset; nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
irata est. hoc est, uritur et coquitur.

Lesbia likes to insult me when her husband is at her side;
he gets the keenest pleasure from her invective.
That mule simply can’t fathom that if she shut up about me
her heart would be whole, that her snarling words are the proof
that she can’t get me out of her mind and (what is more to the point)
she is angry—which has to mean she’s burning with passion.


Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fi eri sentio et excrucior.

I hate and I love. Perhaps you are wondering how this can be.
I don’t know, but I feel it and am in torment.


Quintia formosa est multis. mihi candida, longa,
recta est: haec ego sic singula confi teor.
totum illud “formosa” nego: nam nulla venustas,
nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcerrima tota est,
tum omnibus una omnis surripuit veneres.

They say Quintia’s beautiful. Yes, she is fair skinned, tall,
and well built; I concede each one of those points.
But I deny her the word beautiful; in her whole body
there’s not one grace or hint of sexual joy.
Lesbia’s beautiful wholly, not just in her perfect form;
she has stolen every charm from all other women.

From Catullus: Selected Poems by Gaius Valerius Catullus. Published by Yale University Press in 2024. Reproduced with permission.

Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 BCE) was one of the most influential lyric poets of ancient Rome. Stephen Mitchell’s many books include the best-selling Tao Te ChingGilgameshThe Book of JobThe Selected Poems of Rainer Maria RilkeThe Gospel According to JesusThe IliadThe Odyssey, and Beowulf.

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