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A note on translation
ByDiane J. Rayor

Translations reflect both contemporary language usage and contemporary expectations of what translations are and are supposed to do, which also vary by individual translator. In translating a poem by Sappho into Latin, for example, Catullus transforms Sappho's Greek into a poem of his own. The new poem reflects Roman sensibilities and Catullus' own concerns, which did not demand an accurate rendering of Sappho. While the beloved addressee in Sappho's poem is nameless, Catullus addresses his beloved "Lesbia" in the second stanza and himself in the last stanza. By inserting Lesbia and himself, Catullus literally inscribes his signature on the poem. A practical matter for the translator of Catullus is the balance between ad sensum translation and translation that also preserves the surprises and delights of Catullus' love for word play, word order, and allusions or repeated phrases.