"Hail And Farewell"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Latin words "Ave atque vale," "Hail and farewell," were, of course, a set phrase; but they were made immortal in poetry by their use in Catullus' lament for his brother. The latter had died in what is now Asia Minor, with no member of his family present to offer the last funeral rites at the burial place of his ashes. These rites, so important to a Roman, were finally rendered by the poet who had made the long and difficult journey from Rome to the outskirts of the Empire for this purpose. The final phrase of the hauntingly beautiful elegy was used by Tennyson as the title of a short poem describing Catullus' island of Sirmio (1882); by Swinburne for his elegy on the death of Charles Baudelaire (1878); and by George Moore as the title of his three-volume autobiography (1911-1914). The poem has been many times translated, but perhaps most successfully by the artist and minor writer, Aubrey Beardsley:

By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta'en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell,
Take them, all drenchèd with a brother's tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!