Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
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T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
 
Epithalamium on the Marriage of Manlius and Julia
By Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 B.C.)
 
(Translated by George Lamb)

O THOU, Urania’s heaven-born son,
Whose loved abode is Helicon;
Whose power bestows the virgin’s charms
To bless the youthful bridegroom’s arms;
O Hymen! friend to faithful pairs;        5
O Hymen! hear our fervent prayers!
 
Around thy brow the chaplet bind,
Of fragrant marjoram entwined;
And bring the veil with crimson dyed,
The refuge of the blushing bride.        10
Come, joyous, while thy feet of snow
With yellow sandals brightly glow!
 
Arouse thee on this happy day;
Carol the hymeneal lay;
Raise in the strain thy silver voice,        15
And in the festal dance rejoice;
And brandish high the blissful sign,
The guiding torch of flaming pine.
 
When Venus claim’d the golden prize,
And bless’d the Phrygian shepherd’s eyes;        20
No brighter charms his judgment sway’d
Than those that grace this mortal maid;
And every sigh and omen fair
The nuptials hail, and greet the pair.
 
The myrtle’s sweet on Asia’s ground,        25
Its branches fair with blossoms crown’d;
Which oft the Hamadryad crew
In frolic nourish with the dew:
But not less fair, but not less sweet,
Her Manlius now does Julia meet.        30
 
Then hither speed they course to take:
Awhile the Thespian hill forsake;
Nor waste awhile the lingering hours
Reclining in Aonian bowers,
Where Aganippe’s springing fount        35
Refreshes all the sacred mount.
 
Propitiate here the maiden’s vows,
And lead her fondly to her spouse;
And firm as ivy clinging holds
The tree it grasps in mazy folds,        40
Let virtuous love as firmly bind
The tender passions of her mind.
 
Ye virgins, whom a day like this
Awaits to greet with equal bliss,
Oh! join the song, your voices raise        45
To hail the god ye love to praise.
O Hymen! god of faithful pairs;
O Hymen! hear our earnest prayers!
 
The god, who loves the pure, will hear
A virgin’s prayer with willing ear,        50
Will swiftly to his office haste
To bless the fond, reward the chaste;
The god, who ever feels delight
When virtuous hearts in love unite.
 
O ye! who warmly, truly love;        55
Invoke no other god above:
To none beside address your sighs
Of all enthroned amid the skies.
O Hymen! god of faithful pairs;
O Hymen! hear our earnest prayers!        60
 
Invoked by sires, with anxious fear,
Their children’s days with bliss to cheer;
By maidens, who to thee alone
Unloose the chaste, the virgin zone;
By fervid bridegrooms, whose delight        65
Is staid till thou hast blest the rite.
 
Thy influence tears, thy fond behest,
The damsel from her mother’s breast;
And yields her blooming, blushing charms
To fiery man’s resistless arms.        70
O Hymen! god of faithful pairs;
O Hymen! hear our earnest prayers!
 
Though wanton Venus feed the flame;
Nor grateful praise, nor virtuous fame
Can wait on those, who loose and free        75
Indulge a love unblest by thee.
What other god can mortals dare
With genial Hymen to compare?
 
No house can boast a lengthen’d race;
No heir can parents’ honours grace;        80
They serve to deck their tombs alone,
If parents’ lives thy sway disown.
What other god can mortals dare
With genial Hymen to compare?
 
In vain the son, if scorn’d thy band,        85
Seeks power or greatness in the land;
If blest by thee his natal day,
The proudest realm may own his sway.
What other god can mortals dare
With genial Hymen to compare?        90
 
Unbar the door, the gates unfold!
The bashful virgin comes.—Behold,
How red the nuptial torches glare;
How bright they shake their splendid hair!
Come, gentle bride!—The waning day        95
Rebukes thy lingering, cold delay.
 
We will not blame thy bashful fears,
Reluctant step, and gushing tears,
That chide the swift approach of night
To give thy bridegroom all his right.        100
Yet come, sweet bride!—The waning day
Rebukes thy lingering, cold delay.
 
Daughter of Cotta, cease to weep,
For love shall watch, and falsehood sleep.
The sun, at dawn that lifts his blaze        105
From ocean, and the world surveys,
Shall never look, shall never shine
On beauties that shall rival thine.
 
Thus blooms, amid the gay parterre,
Some wealthy owner’s pride and care,        110
Thy hyacinth with colours proud,
The loveliest of the varied crowd.
Come, gentle bride!—The waning day
Rebukes thy lingering, cold delay.
 
Then come, sweet bride, and bless thy spouse,        115
And sanction love by nuptial vows.
At length our friendly numbers hear:
The torches high their brilliance rear,
And richly shake with glowing pride
Their golden hair.—Then come, sweet bride!        120
 
No profligate, no faithless swain,
No follower of the wanton train,
No rake, who joys in wild excess,
Now woos thee to his warm caress.
He ne’er will taste of welcome rest,        125
But pillow’d on thy tender breast.
 
As round the husband elm entwine
The tendrils of the clinging vine,
Thus will he woo thee still to place
Round him a fondling close embrace.        130
Come, gentle bride!—The waning day
Rebukes thy lingering, cold delay.
 
O festal couch! with garlands sweet,
What joys thy happy lord will greet!
What joys in many a sleepless night!        135
What joys in day’s inspiring light!
Come, gentle bride!—The waning day
Rebukes thy lingering, cold delay.
 
Raise, boys, the beaming torches high!
She comes—but veil’d from every eye;        140
The deeper dyes her blushes hide:
With songs, with pæans greet the bride!
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Now pour the warm Fescennine lays,        145
And all the bridegroom’s passion raise:
Now let his pure, his plighted hand
Throw nuts to all the youthful band,
Base emblems of the looser joys
He henceforth leaves to wanton boys.        150
 
Throw, bridegroom, throw thy nuts away!
Enough in joy’s voluptuous day
Hast thou beguiled thy youthful time;
But now thy manhood’s riper prime
Let pure, let bless’d Thalassus sway:        155
Then throw thy mystic nuts away.
 
’Tis whisper’d, that the wanton’s charms
Will yet allure thee to her arms;
Oh! let no shameless rival’s pride
Degrade and pain thy gentle bride.        160
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Unloved, unwedded youths and boys
May freely sport in wanton joys:
Let him, that’s blest by wedlock’s rite,        165
In wedlock seek his sole delight.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
And let no coldness damp his fire,
Fair bride, nor coyness check desire.        170
Oh! make his heart less sweet confess
All lawless love, than thy caress.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Riches, and power, and rank, and state,        175
With Manlius’ love thy days await:
These all thy youth shall proudly cheer,
And these shall nurse thy latest year.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!        180
 
Till dotage, with enfeebling sway,
Shall tremble in thy temples grey;
And shake the brow, as if it meant
To nod perpetual assent.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!        185
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Let not the threshold, omen blest!
Be with thy golden slipper prest;
But swiftly spring with lightness o’er,
And swiftly pass the polish’d door.        190
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
See, on the Tyrian couch reclining,
The bridegroom for thy summons pining:
By thee are all his senses fired;        195
By thee is all his frame inspired.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
As warm as thine, his passion’s heat,
As strong his rapturous pulses beat;        200
Nay, fiercer flames must still pervade
The bridegroom than the timid maid.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Purple-robed boy, whose pleasing care        205
Has been to lead the lingering fair,
Release her arm:—By others led
She now ascends the bridal bed.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!        210
 
Ye chaster matrons, who have known
One honour’d husband’s love alone,
Of truth in years long virtuous tried,
’Tis yours to place the lovely bride.
Hail, Hymen! god of faithful pairs!        215
Hail, Hymen! who hast heard our prayers!
 
Now haste, young bridegroom, swiftly haste;
The bride is in the chamber placed:
Inspiring blushes warmly streak
The fairness of her snowy cheek.        220
So mix’d with poppies’ crimson glow
The white parthenium’s flow’rets blow.
 
Nor is thy form, by heaven above!
Unworthy such a fair one’s love.
Venus in rival charms array’d        225
The manly youth and tender maid.
Haste, bridegroom, haste!—One western ray,
Still faintly lingering, chides delay.
 
Needs not to chide; thou swift hast sped.
Propitious Venus bless thy bed!        230
For sanction’d passion, solemn rites,
On thee bestow thy wish’d delights:
Not lust perverted, shame supprest,
The pure desires that warm thy breast.
 
Whoe’er the number would define        235
Of sports and joys that shall be thine,
He first must count the grains of sand
That spread the Erythræan strand,
And every star and twinkling light
That stud the glistening arch of night.        240
 
Oh! boundless be your love’s excess,
And soon our hopes let children bless!
Let not this ancient honour’d name
Want heirs to guard its future fame;
Nor any length of years assign        245
A limit to the glorious line.
 
Soon may we see a baby rest
Upon its lovely mother’s breast;
Which, feebly playful, stretching out
Its little arms to those about,        250
With lips apart a tiny space,
Is laughing in its father’s face.
 
Let young Torquatus’ look avow
All Manlius’ features in his brow;
That those, who know him not, may trace        255
The knowledge of his noble race;
And by his lineal brow declare
His lovely mother chaste as fair.
 
Then shall maternal virtue claim
As splendid praise, as pure a name        260
To deck her child, as erst was known
To young Telemachus alone,
Whom, then of all most fair and chaste,
Penelope with honour graced.
 
Now close the doors, ye maiden friends;        265
Our sports, our rite, our service ends.
With you let virtue still reside,
O bridegroom grave, and gentle bride!
And youth its lusty hours employ
In constant love and ardent joy.        270
 
 
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