Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Poem of the Month

Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit:
haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.
mule, nihil sentis? si nostri oblita taceret,
sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,
non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,
irata est. hoc est, uritur et loquitur

Gaius Valerius Catullus Carmen LXXXIII

Lesbia says many bad things about me in front of her man:
These are the source of greatest joy to that fatuous one.
Ass, do you perceive nothing? If she could forget me she'd shut up,
She'd be sane: now because she growls and slanders me,
Not only does she remember me, but, what is so much worse,
She is angry. That's just it, she burns and speaks.

Catullus Poem 83

Proving that human nature has not changed much in 2000 years at least, Catullus accurately analyzes his, by then, former lover, Lesbia. I've dated divorced women who cannot say anything good about their ex-husbands but cannot stop talking about them either. Not a good sign. And I've done it too, talking about the double ex-fiance to the detriment of nascent relationships. Key line (that I've fudged a little in the translation) "If she could forget me she'd shut up" is literally "if oblivious of us she is silent." I like Catullus more for knowing that it was the memory of them together, the 'us', which remained in his lost love's memory. It is the memory of a good 'us' that haunts you. Hate is not the opposite of love, apathy is. Love and hate is divided by a thin line, as the more recent song tell us, and Catullus could hold love and hate for Lesbia in his mind at the same time, as an earlier poem told us.

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