'Ave atque vale' - an elegaic, written on the occasion of Catullus' visit to his brother's grave in Troy. A moving poem which acheives its effect largely by its simplicity, which puts to shame the more complex elegies of later Roman poets. It is particularly moving in that it offers no hope of reunion in the afterlife. There is an air of finality in the last line which is hard to match anywhere in classical, or any, literature. The text:
Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.
quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum,
heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi,
nunc tamen interea haec prisco quae more parentum
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.
My own verse
Brought through many nations and seas
I come, brother, to these sad rites,
to give to you at last my death gift
and speak in vain to you, changed to ash.
Since fate has stolen you from me,
undeserving brother alas snatched away,
For the moment, accept these rites, which by our parents'
old custom are handed over as sorrow's tribute,
wet with many fraternal tears,
and eternally, brother, hail and farewell.
By way of comparison
, here is F L Lucas
Through many seas, my brother, and many a nation
To this thy bitter burial I come,
Bringing thy debt of lamentation,
My last vain call to thee whose dust is dumb.
Now, since a callous fortune has bereft us
Each of the other, dear, unhappy head,
By that old custom that our fathers left us
For the last mournful duties to the dead,
Wet with my weeping take these gifts of me:
Hail, brother, and Farewell - eternally!