Odi et Amo

One of my favorite Latin poems is known “offically” as Catullus 85, but is more frequently called Odi et Amo.

It's a short little poem:

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam fortasse requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

or in English (according to Wikipedia):

I hate and I love. Why I do this, perhaps you ask. I know not, but I feel it happening and I am tortured.

But I don't love that translation. It's correct but not emotional.

I discovered this poem not in Latin class, but in choir. (yes, I was in Latin and Choir. Not only was I in both, I got a high school letter in both.)

I took the text to my Latin teacher—sorry, Magister—and asked her what it meant. Being good at what she does, she asked me to translate it. I came up with something similar to what you see above. Accurate, but emotionless. She talked about what Catullus was feeling in this moment. His lover, Lesbia, had been unfaithful to him, to the surprise of nobody but Catullus himself.

My Magister asked how we could translate this short poem more poetically, more emotionally, more like what Catullus might have actually been feeling. I have always been grateful to her for helping me see that translation is not only about what the words say, but what they mean.

Here's what we came up with, and in my mind this has always been the “real” translation:

I hate and I love. You ask how this can be. I don't know. But I feel it. And it's excruciating.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

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