by Gaius Valerius Catullus

Paper Book, 1962






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


Catullus, who lived during some of the most interesting and tumultuous years of the late Roman Republic, spent his short but intense life (?84-54 B.C.E.) in high Roman society, rubbing shoulders with various cultural and political luminaries, including Caesar, Cicero, and Pompey. Catullus's poetry is by turns ribald, lyric, romantic, satirical; sometimes obscene and always intelligent, it offers us vivid pictures of the poet's friends, enemies, and lovers. The verses to his friends are bitchy, funny, and affectionate; those to his enemies are often wonderfully nasty. Many poems brilliantly evoke his passionate affair with Lesbia, often identified as Clodia Metelli, a femme fatale ten years his senior and the smart, adulterous wife of an arrogant aristocrat. Cicero later claimed she poisoned her husband. This new bilingual translation of Catullus's surviving poems by Peter Green is fresh, bawdy, and utterly engaging. Unlike its predecessors, it adheres to the principle that the rhythm of a poem, whether familiar or not, is among the most crucial elements for its full appreciation. Green provides an essay on the poet's life and literary background, a historical sketch of the politically fraught late Roman Republic in which Catullus lived, copious notes on the poems, a wide-ranging bibliography for further reading, and a full glossary.… (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 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 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 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!


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