From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Catullus 101 is an elegiac poem written by the Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus. It is addressed to Catullus' dead brother or, strictly speaking, to the "mute ashes" which are the only remaining evidence of his brother's body.
The tone is grief-stricken and tender, with Catullus trying to give the best gift he had to bestow (a poem) on his brother, who was taken untimely. The last words, "Hail and Farewell" (in Latin, ave atque vale), are among Catullus' most famous; an alternative modern translation might be "I salute you...and goodbye".
The meter is elegiac couplet, which was usually employed in love poetry, such as Catullus' addresses to Lesbia. However, the elegy couplet was originally used by ancient Greek poets to express grief and lamentation, making it an entirely suitable form to express Catullus' mourning.
|Line||Latin text||English translation|
|1||Multās per gentēs et multa per aequora vectus||Carried through many nations and over many seas,|
|2||adveniō hās miserās, frāter, ad īnferiās,||I arrive, brother, for these miserable funeral rites,|
|3||ut tē postrēmō dōnārem mūnere mortis||so that I might grant the final service for the dead|
|4||et mūtam nēquīquam alloquerer cinerem,||and speak in vain to your silent ashes,|
|5||quandoquidem fortūna mihī tētē abstulit ipsum.||since Fortune has deprived me of you in the flesh.|
|6||heu miser indignē frāter adēmpte mihi,||Ah, poor brother, undeservedly lost to me,|
|7||nunc tamen intereā haec, prīscō quae mōre parentum|| now at least for the meantime, these things|
which in the time-honored way of our ancestors
|8||trādita sunt trīstī mūnere ad īnferiās,||are handed down in a mournful service for the rites|
|9||accipe frāternō multum mānantia flētū,||receive, utterly sodden by a brother's tears|
|10||atque in perpetuum, frāter, avē atque valē.||and for eternity, brother, a tribute and farewell.|
This is one of three poems in which Catullus tries to cope with the loss of his brother. The other poems are Catullus 65 and 68B. The cause of his brother's death is unknown; he apparently died before 57 BC in Bithynia, a northwest region of modern-day Turkey, near the ancient city of Troy.
In addition to its inclusion among the many translations of Catullus's collected poems, Carmen 101 is featured in Nox (2010), a book by Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson that comes in an accordion format within a box. Nox concerns the death of Carson's own brother, to which the poem of Catullus offers a parallel. Carson provides the Latin text of 101, word-by-word annotations, and "a close and almost awkward translation." Although Nox shares some features with an artist's book in its unconventional format and incorporation of multimedia art, it is mass-produced rather than unique.
This poem, as translated by Aubrey Beardsley, was set by the composer Ned Rorem under the title "Catullus: On the Burial of his Brother". The Austrian music group Dargaard have also performed this poem in song on their album Rise and Fall, naming it "Ave Atque Vale".