Funeral Poems, Readings, Music, Quotations & Thoughts

Hail and Farewell!

There is something very comforting about traditional language and using historical readings. It reminds us that some things remain the same as they always have been. Here the Roman poet Catullus writes a short poem about the death of his brother and his journey to pay his respects at the graveside.  We feel his strong sense of the inadequacy and futility of the rituals of death and indeed of his own tears also. The final 'so Hail and Farewell' is not quite 'Hello and Goodbye then' but that meaning is certainly there.

Ave atque vale

Through foreign seas and over foreign lands,
Brother, to your sad graveside I have come
To lay the gifts of death with my own hands
And speak, too late, some last words to your dumb,
unanswering dust. Poor brother who was torn
Brutally from me by ill fortune, take
All I can give you now - these few forlorn
Offerings made for ancient custom's sake
And wet with a brother's tears. There'll be no other
Meeting; and so hail and farewell, my brother.

That is a fairly literal modern translation, but Aubrey Beardsley wrote his own florid paraphrase of this poem and this is his illustration for his his text. 'Ave Atque Vale' being the original Latin of 'Hail and Farewell'


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