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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Poems of Catullus translated by Peter Green

This Roman Neoteric poet lived from 84-54 BCE and he knew everyone there was to know in his time.  He died before Caesar was threatened by Pompey and in response crossed the Rubicon River and embroiled the Roman Republic in a Civil War, so he did not have to ultimately choose sides there, but he had a lot to say about politicians, statemen, his friends, his lovers, and life in general.  He reminds me of a blogger of today--if someone caught his fancy or pissed him off, he wrote a poem naming names.  Thank goodness the one surviving copy of his work remained so that we can enjoy this remarkable man's work today.

Let's start off by noting that the poem that is on the cover, Poem 38 of the 116 that survive, begins with "Life is really a bitch".  This is clean language for Cattulus.  He talks explicitly about everything in his life.  He describes his sexual feats (both heterosexual and homosexual) in detail, his loves and his losses, his anger and his plans for revenge.  These are succinctly written and clear as glass. This is not Virgil. Nor is it read aloud poetry suitable for children.  With the exception of some absoultely gorgeous descriptive poems he wrote about his hearth and home, that is, and an absolutely beautiful poem eulogizing his brother who died before him.  His poetry is eloquent and vulgar and fun and complicated.  And they are all available on line--so read a couple and see what I am talking about.

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