Catullus on Attis

One of our earlier sources for Attis is Catullus, poem 63. It’s here in Latin and English (done rather nicely). Edition and translation are not specified, but I think may be an old Loeb edition.

Here’s the English:

Borne in his swift bark over deep seas,
Attis, when eagerly with speedy foot he reached the Phrygian woodland,
and entered the goddess’ abodes, shadowy, forest-crowned;
there, goaded by raging madness, bewildered in mind,
he cast down from him with sharp flint-stone the burden of his member.
So when she felt her limbs to have lost their manbood,
still with fresh blood dabbling the face of the ground,
swiftly with snowy bands she seized the light timbrel,
your timbrel, Cybele, thy mysteries, Mother,
and shaking with soft fingers the hollow oxhide
thus began she to sing to her companions tremulously:
“Come away, ye Gallae, go to the mountain forests of Cybele together,
together go, wandering herd of the lady of Dindymus,
who swiftly seeking alien homes as exiles,
followed my rule as I led you in my train,
endured the fast-flowing brine and the savage seas,
and unmanned your bodies from utter abhorrence of love,
cheer ye your Lady’s heart with swift wanderings.
Let dull delay depart from your mind; go together, follow
to the Phrygian house of Cybele, to the Phrygian forests of the goddess,
where the noise of cymbals sounds, where timbrels re-echo,
where the Phrygian flute-player blows a deep note on his curved reed,
where the Maenads ivy-crowned toss their heads violently,
where with shrill yells they shake the holy emblems,
where that wandering company of the goddess is wont to rove,
whither for us ’tis meet to hasten with rapid dances.”
So soon as Attis, woman yet no true one, chanted thus to her companions,
the revellers suddenly with quivering tongues yell aloud,
the light timbrel rings again, clash again the hollow cymbals,
swiftly to green Ida goes the rout with hurrying foot.
Then too frenzied, panting, uncertain, wanders, gasping for breath,
attended by the timbrel, Attis, through the dark forests their leader,
as a heifer unbroken starting aside from the burden of the yoke.
Fast follow the Gallae their swift-footed leader.
So when they gained the house of Cybele, faint and weary,
after much toil they take their rest without bread;
heavy sleep covers their eyes with drooping weariness,
the delirious madness of their mind departs in soft slumber.
But when the sun with the flashing eyes of his golden face
lightened the clear heaven, the firm lands, the wild sea,
and chased away the shades of night with eager tramping steeds refreshed,
then Sleep fled from wakened Attis and quickly was gone;
him the goddess Pasithea received in her fluttering bosom.
So after soft slumber, freed from violent madness,
as soon as Attis himself in his heart reviewed his own deed,
and saw with clear mind what lie had lost and where he was,
with surging mind again he sped back to the waves.
There, looking out upon the waste seas with streaming eyes,
thus did she piteously address her country with tearful voice:
” O my country that gavest me life! O my country that barest me!
leaving whom, all wretch! as runaway servants leave their masters,
I have borne my foot to the forests of Ida,
to live among snows and frozen lairs of wild beasts,
and visit in my frenzy all their lurking-dens,
— where then or in what region do I think thy place to be, O my country?
Mine eyeballs unbidden long to turn their gaze to thee
while for a short space my mind is free from wild frenzy.
I, shall I from my own home be borne far away into these forests?
from my country, my possessions, my friends, my parents, shall I be?
absent from the market, the wrestling-place, the racecourse, the playground?
unhappy, all unhappy heart, again, again must thou complain.
For what form of human figure is there which I had not?
I, to be a woman–who was a stripling, I a youth, I a boy,
I was the flower of the playground, I was once the glory of the palaestra:
mine were the crowded doorways, mine the warm thresholds,
mine the flowery garlands to deck my house
when I was to leave my chamber at sunrise.
I, shall I now be called–what? a handmaid of the gods, a ministress of Cybele?
I a Maenad, I part of myself, a barren man shall I be?
I, shall I dwell in icy snow-clad regions of verdant Ida,
I pass my life under the high summits of Phrygia,
with the hind that haunts the woodland, with the boar that ranges the forest?
now, now I rue my deed, now, now I would it were undone.”
From his rosy lips as these words issued forth,
bringing a new message to both ears of the gods,
then Cybele, loosening the fastened yoke from her lions,
and goading that foe of the herd who drew on the left, thus speaks:
“Come now,” she says, “come, go fiercely, let madness hunt him hence
bid him hence by stroke of madness hie him to the forests again,
him who would be too free, and run away from my sovereignty.
Come, lash back with tail, endure thy own scourging,
make all around resound with bellowing roar,
shake fiercely on brawny neck thy ruddy mane.”
Thus says wrathful Cybele, and with her hand unbinds the yoke.
The monster stirs his courage and rouses him to fury of heart;
he speeds away, he roars, with ranging foot he breaks the brushwood.
But when he came to the watery stretches of the white-gleaming shore,
and saw tender Attis by the smooth spaces of the sea,
he rushes at him–madly flies Attis to the wild woodland.
There always for all his lifetime was he a handmaid.
Goddess, great goddess, Cybele, goddess, lady of Dindymus
far from my house be all thy fury, O my queen
others drive thou in frenzy, others drive thou to madness.