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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mourning a Brother

Catullus wrote this poem (known as Poem 101--he was not a man who wasted a lot of time on titles for the poems he wrote in his all too short life) after his beloved brother died.  He was a bon vivant in Rome at the end of the Roman Republic.  He belonged to a group of poets known as the Neoterics, who made fun of those who could not say in 200 words what they could say in 20.  He was talented, antagonistic and brilliant.

His poetry was often bitingly sarcastic or erotic, but when he wrote about places and people he loved, he was elegant and concise.  I chose this one to mark what would have been my brother's 54th birthday had he not died when he was eight.

Through many peoples and many seas have I traveled
to thee, brother, and these wretched rites of death
I bring a last gift but can speak only to ashes
Since Fortune has taken you from me
Poor brother! stolen you away from me
leaving me only ancient custom to honor you
as it has been from generation to generation
Take from my hands these sad gifts covered in tears
Now and forever, brother, Hail and farewell.

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