by Gaius Valerius Catullus

Paper Book, 1962






Cambridge, Mass. : London : Harvard University Press ; W. Heinemann, 1988, c1962.


Catullus (Gaius Valerius, 84-54 BCE), of Verona, went early to Rome, where he associated not only with other literary men from Cisalpine Gaul but also with Cicero and Hortensius. His surviving poems consist of nearly sixty short lyrics, eight longer poems in various metres, and almost fifty epigrams. All exemplify a strict technique of studied composition inherited from early Greek lyric and the poets of Alexandria. In his work we can trace his unhappy love for a woman he calls Lesbia; the death of his brother; his visits to Bithynia; and his emotional friendships and enmities at Rome. For consummate poetic artistry coupled with intensity of feeling Catullus's poems have no rival in Latin literature. Tibullus (Albius, ca. 54-19 BCE), of equestrian rank and a friend of Horace, enjoyed the patronage of Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, whom he several times apostrophizes. Three books of elegies have come down to us under his name, of which only the first two are authentic. Book 1 mostly proclaims his love for 'Delia', Book 2 his passion for 'Nemesis'. The third book consists of a miscellany of poems from the archives of Messalla; it is very doubtful whether any come from the pen of Tibullus himself. But a special interest attaches to a group of them which concern a girl called Sulpicia: some of the poems are written by her lover Cerinthus, while others purport to be her own composition. The Pervigilium Veneris, a poem of not quite a hundred lines celebrating a spring festival in honour of the goddess of love, is remarkable both for its beauty and as the first clear note of romanticism which transformed classical into medieval literature. The manuscripts give no clue to its author, but recent scholarship has made a strong case for attributing it to the early fourth-century poet Tiberianus.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Salmondaze
Probably not for everybody (but what poetry is?), Catullus writes brilliantly of the everyday, the minor quibbles, the less profound proverbs, and sometimes even ancient (for his time even!) myth. His hit rate is extremely high, which leaves one wanting more, and in the hands of translator Frank O. Copley his poetry gets reset and re-punctuated into 20th century standards and norms. This is a great help because Catullus was immediate, of his time, and highly dialect-oriented in approach. All of this demands that he be right next to you as the reading or reciting goes.

Stand-outs in the collection include what often goes first "One" which perhaps states a poet's wish better than any other poem, and "Sixty Four" which tells the story of Theseus and Ariadne along with the prophecy of Achilles, son of Peleus. The voice and concerns of Catullus actually echo the voice of the main character in Satyricon at times and the propensities for humor that both exhibit do not escape this particular reviewer. Both books may not be the height of what literature has to offer (especially Greek) but they are indeed a lot of fun and perhaps damning portraits of a corrupt and/or corruptible society.
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LibraryThing member Unreachableshelf
Some of the most entertaining poems in the history of Rome. For the most part the translations get across the spirit of the original, although there were one or two occasions on which they were softened a little. The parallel texts are easy to follow.
LibraryThing member deliriumslibrarian
Catullus is my GBF. Even in a mediocre translation (as here), he's immediate, gossipy, irreverently alive. Anne Carson's versions in _Men in the Off Hours_ are brilliant, but this is good for getting to the language of the original. Naughty boys are fun to relax with.
LibraryThing member incunabulum really want to be careful reading through this book. As you read selected works, you begin to realize just how messed up (or freely artistic?) Roman culture was. But perhaps I'm skimming way too high? Not sure where I read it, but I think that Vladimir Nabokhov credits (or is credited) with having such writers as Catullus as the spiritual underpinning for Lolita. Time to do more learning! ;-)… (more)
LibraryThing member carlym
Many of the poems in this book are short poems about who is doing whom, who has VD, etc. While some of them are funny, it was bit like reading a gossip column about people I don't know. It was interesting to see a completely different style and tone of poetry from this time period. There are also a couple of short epic poems thrown in, which seemed to come out of nowhere and be in a completely different style. A small sampling of these poems would have been enough for me… (more)
LibraryThing member imyril
Fab old side-by-side translations of Catullus' poetry. Needless to say, the English facing pages of the really rude ones are all blank! Schoolboys - translate your own smut!
LibraryThing member shanaqui
Another library book. I remembered my old Classics teacher mentioning him, and thinking I should read his poetry, so I was pleased to grab a copy in the (new) local library. The translation seems pretty good to me, although I wish there was more by way of footnotes to explain contextual information -- when there is any.


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