If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be,
No drum nor trumpet peaceful sleeps should move,
Unless alarm came from the camp of love.
But fools do live, and waste their little light,
And seek with pain their ever-during night.
When timely death my life and fortune ends,
Let not my hearse be vext with mourning friends,
But let all lovers, rich in triumph, come
And with sweet pastimes grace my happy tomb;
And, Lesbia, close up thou my little light,
And crown with love my ever-during night.
mea Lesbia, atque amenus,
rumoresque senum severiorum,
omnes unius aestimemus assis.
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut nequis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
The question students usually ask about this poem is why a man was writing to a woman named Lesbia. To get the answer, we must go back a bit.
Campion's poem starts with a translation from Catullus 5. Catullus (84-54 b.c.) was a poet writing in Rome during the time of Julius Caesar in the 1st century b.c. "Lesbia," who was in many of his poems, was Catullus' nickname for Clodia, wife of Q. Metellus Celer. Catullus had grown up in Verona & moved to Rome when he was 21 years old in 61 b.c. Clodia spotted him about a year later. Powerful and beautiful, she had affairs with several young men, but Catullus was surprised when she dumped him and moved on to her next boy toy. Catullus 5 reflects the time when they were happy together.
So then, why would CATULLUS pick "Lesbia" as the nickname for Claudia?
After line 6, Campion parts company with Catullus, whose poem
me of the one Roger Rabbit wrote to Jessica:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, 4-1000...
Instead of following Catullus and Roger Rabbit, Campion in stanza 2 says people should be like him - a lover, not a fighter. Make love, not war. But people seek to die painfully and prematurely in vain battle.
Campion concludes by looking ahead to his own death, which will be
if he has known Lesbia's love during his life.