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laid the foundations of that deep familiarity with the
Alexandrian poets, which, in common with his brother
elegiast, Propertius, but perhaps with special manipu-
lation all his own, characterises his other than erotic
poetry. It is possible that the imitations of Alexan-

* " To my domains he set an ampler bound,
And unto me a home and mistress gave."



THE LIFE OF VALERIUS CATULLUS. 7

drine poetry may have been his earliest poetic efforts,
but the more natural supposition is that his earliest
verses are inspired rather by the taverns and lounges of
Eoman or Veronese resort than by the schools; and if
so, an early date would be assigned to " Colonia, its
Old Bridge, and the Stupid Husband" (C. xvii.), the
poem about a "Babbling Door," the "Mortgage," and
other like squibs and jeux (S esprit. The lack of what,
to the accomplished Eoman of the highest rank, was
tantamount to a college education at Athens, Catullus
made up later on by what is also a modern equivalent
— foreign travel. After his bootless winter in Bithynia,
he chartered a yacht and started on a tour amidst the
isles of the Archipelago, after having first done the
cities of Asia, And so np the Ionian and Adriatic
he sailed home to the Lago di Garda and Sirmio,
furnished, doubtless, with poetic material and fancy
suggested by his voyage, and fitted more than ever for
the intercourse of those literary men at Eome whose
friendship he enjoyed in his mature life, — if we may
use such an expression of one who died at thirty-four.
Among these were Pollio, Calvus, Cicero, Cornelius
Nepos, with whom to have been on terms of intimacy
is a distinct set-off against an acquaintance with some
scores of lighter and looser associates. It is only im-
perfect acquaintance with the poems of Catullus that
sets up his image as that of a mere Anacreontic poet,
a light jester and voluptuary, Avho could not be earnest
but when his jealousy was roused by his beauteous
bane — his Lesbia. The finished grace of his poetic
compliments to such historic Eomaiis as those we have



8 CATC LLCS.

just named may be set beside the touching and pathetic
poem to his brother as proofs of liis exquisite com-
mand of very different veins, although in his hours of
youthful gaiety he could throw off light lays on pass-
ing tittle-tattle, or chronicle adventures more or less
scandalous and licentious. His claim to permanent
honour as a poet rests upon the depths of intense
feeling which, whether in light love (if his love for
Lesbia can ever be so called) or in brotherly affection,
as shown in his lament for his brother's death in the
Troad, well up to the sound of the plaintive lyre. It
is pretty fully settled that this brother's death did not
synchronise with the poet's voyage to Bithynia. Had
it been so, would he not surely, as Mr Theodore
Martin has observed, have linked a fond memory of
their joint boyhood with his ode on return to Sirmio?
The times and seasons were distinct, but Catullus
made a set pilgrimage to his brother's grave on the
Ehjetean headland ; and to this landmark, as it were,
of his life, this heartbreaking journey, and the deso-
lation of the home to which he returned, must be
referred his sad lines to Hortalus, Manlius, and Cor-
nificius. If to this we add the late realisation of
Lesbia's utter wantonry (a chapter in the poet's his-
tory which, as influencing it beyond all others, deserves
to be treated separately and at length), it is made clear
that his youthful spirits may by this time have been
deserting the sensitive and saddened Catullus ; and
though there is no distinct record of his death, the
inference is justifiable that accumulated bereavements
and the rupture of tenderest ties, rather than the



THE LIFE OF VALERIUS CATULLUS. 9

effects of habitual profligacy, brought to a premature
death the richly-gifted and learned Veronese songster,
whom Ovid in his " Amores " bids meet another early-
taken bard — Tibullus — his youthful temples vrj-
crowned, in the Elysian valley. It is surely -with his
riper years (perhaps about 61 or 60 B.C.), and not with
those when he was more fickle and in the heyday of
young blood, that we should connect his passion for
Lesbia. Tired, perhaps, of light loves, which left only
their bitterness behind, he had dreamed — though it was
an empty and ill-founded dream — of a more enduring
connection with this most beautiful and gi'aceless of
Eoman matrons. This idol shattered, its worshipper
undeceived, and the brother whom he loved with a
pure affection torn from him by an untimely death,
Catullus has little more in the way of a landmark for
the biographer. Between these events and his death-
date, whether we take that as 57 or 54 B.C., there was
time for tender regrets, occasional alternations between
palinodes and professions of forgiveness, presentiments
of coming fate, and more direct facing of premature
death. Time also, as to our good fortune he discov-
ered, for collecting the volume of his poems, which he
fitly dedicated to Cornelius Xepos, and forwarded to
him in a highly-finished dainty copy, "purfled," as
one translator expresses it, " glossily, fresh with ashy
pumice," It is a happy sample of his ideal of poetic
compliment, and apologetically excuses the boldness
of offering so slender an equivalent for the historian's
three volumes (which have not survived) of Italian
history. The first verse illustrates the binding and



10 CATULLUS.

preparing of a Eoman presentation copy. The last
points the contrast of a sort of Diomede and Glaucus
exchange with a lurking esteem for his own professedly
inadequate gift : —

" Great Jove, what lore, what labour there !
Then take this little book, whate'er

Of good or bad it store ;
And grant, oh guardian Muse, that it
Llay keep the flavour of its wit

A century or more !" — M.

Before proceeding to examine the extant poetry of
Catullus upon the principle of division into groups,
it is fair to him to say a few words in deprecation
of the character for licentiousness of life and poetry
under which it has been his misfortune to suffer
amongst moderns. It ought to be taken into account
that the standard of morals in his day was extremely
low; vice and profligacy walking abroad barefaced, and
some fresh scandal in high places — amidst the con-
sul's suite and the victorious general's retinue — being
bruited abroad as day succeeded day. A poet who moved
in the world and had gained the repute of a smart
hitter at the foibles and escapades of his neighbours,
whilst himself hot-blooded, impetuous, fearless, and
impatient of the restraints of society, was not unlikely
to become the object of some such general charges as
we find from C. xvi., that Aurelius and Furius circu-
lated against Catullus. And to our apprehension the
defence of the poet —

" True poets should be chaste, I know.
But wherefore should theu' lines be so ? " —



THE LIFE OF VALERIUS CATULLUS. 11

seems like Legging the question, and scarcely a high
tone of self-justification. Indeed, his retort is not
simply turning the tables, as he might have done, on
his maligners, but somewhat unnecessarily defending
his life at the expense of his writings. This, it is
probable, has acted in his disfavour. Excepting a few
extremely personal and scurrilous epigrams and skits,
it is not easy to pick out in the poetry of Catullus
a greater looseness of language than in that of his
Augustan successors ; whilst as compared with his
contemporaries in high places and public life, his
moral conduct might have passed for fairly decent.
"What most concerns the modern reader is that after
abatements and omissions of what is more or less
unpresentable, there remains so much of a more re-
fined standard of poetry and manners, so much ten-
derness in pure affection and friendship, so much, we
might almost say, chivalry and forgivingness in the
treatment of more questionable objects of his passion,
that we are won to condonation of the evil which is
that of the time and society for the charm and ideal
refinement of the genius which is specially his own.
The standard of purity and morals has, we know,
risen and fallen in modern times and nations ; and a
severe " index expurgatorius " should ban our Herricks,
INIoores, and Byrons — nay, even Burns ; but unless a
sponge is to wipe out for the sake of a few blots a
body of true poetiy, rare in form and singularly rich
in talent and grace, and a hard and fast ride is to
condemn bitter and sweet alike, it is to be hoped that
a fairer insight into the poetry of Catullus, attainable



12 CATULLUS.

through the bhxmeless medium of at least one excel-
lent translation, will enable English readers to judge
how much of the prejudice attaching to the name of
Catullus is without foundation, and how rich and
original is the freshness and vivacity of his muse.
It is no little gain to feel that in this genius we have
" not only one of the very few writers who on one or
two occasions speaks directly from the heart," but
one entitled to the much more comprehensive praise,
as has been shown by Professor Sellar, of " a wonder-
ful sincerity in all the poems, by means of which the
whole nature of the poet, in its better and worse
features, is revealed to us as if he were our contem-
porary." *

* Roman Poets of the Republic, p. 342.



CHAPTEE 11.



CATULLUS AND LESBIA.



Although chronology would plead for the postiDone-
ment till much later of the record of Catullus's love-
fever, and it might seem more in order to set first the
floating epigrams and occasional pieces which treat of
town or country jokes, witticisms, petits soupers, and
the like, and to make the reader acquainted with
the everyday life of the poet at home or abroad ;
yet the passion for Lesbia was so absorbing when it
was lighted, and possessed its victim so thoroughly,
that we must needs treat it first in our sketch of
his writings. A poet's love has mostly been insepar-
able from his after-fame ; and in a higher degree than
the Cynthia of Propertius, the Corinna of Ovid, or
the Delia, probably, of Tibullus, does the Lesbia of
Catullus fasten her spell around him, to the exclusion
of other and fresh loves, of which he was apparently
cautious and forbearing both before and after the
crisis of his master-passion. His erotic verses, save
those to Lesbia, are but few. Ipsithilla, Aufilena,
and Ametina are mere passing and casual amours,
soon forgotten; he is oftener found supping with a



14 CATULLUS.

friend and his chere amie than flirting on his own
account ; and there is nothing in Catullus that hetrays
the almost certainty that his mistress has justification
in his infidehty for any number of her own laches and
transgressions, such as is always peeping out in the
elegies of Propertius. On the contrary, it is fair to be-
lieve that in his case " the heart that once truly loved
ne'er could forget," however unfortunate and direful its
choice and the issue of it. He was true to the ideal
and stanch to the championship of Lesbia's resplendent
beauty, long after he had proved that it was not for
him ; and however disastrous to his peace of mind,
health, and even life, the results of her coldness and
fickleness, the spell clung to his heart, even after his
mind was cured ; and so Lesbia asserts foremost men-
tion when we call up the surroundings of CatuUus.

Who, then, was this potent enchantress % The elder
sister, it is pretty well agreed, of that notorious P.
Clodius who was slain by Milo, and a member of the
great Claudian house at Eome. Like brother, like
sister ! The former had added a grave sacrilege to
unheard-of profligacy,' and outraged even the lax
standard of Eoman society in his day by the versa-
tility of his shamelessness. To the character of an
unbridled libertine he added that of an unscrupulous
political incendiary, with whom poison and assassina-
tion were wonted modes of removing a rival from his
path. The Clodia whom we identify by almost common
consent with the Lesbia of Catullus was the second of
his three sisters, and unequally yoked with Metellus
Celer, who was consul in 60 B.C., and on frequent occa-



CATULLUS AND LESBIA. 15

sions a correspondent of Cicero. But, like her sisters,
she was notorious for her infidelities ; and, like her
brother, was not nice as to methods of getting rid of
such as slighted her advances or tired of her fickle-
ness. Even Cicero was credited with having stirred
her passion unwittingly. A gay friend of Catidlus,
Caelius Eufus, had incurred her persecutions and
false accusations of an attempt to poison her, by
freeing himself from his liaison with her ; and Cicero
had defended him in a speech which furnishes the
details of her abandoned life of intrigue and profli-
gacy. With her husband she was at constant war ;
and his death by poison in 59 B.C. was freely laid
at his wife's door. So, at least, we gather from
Cicero's defence of Cfelius, delivered in the follow-
ing year, which saddles her with epithets betoken-
ing the depths to which she had descended in her
career of vice and licence. After her husband's death,
and her release from a yoke which she had never
seriously respected, she appears to have given herself
over to the licentious pleasures of Baise, kept open
house with the young roues of the capital at her
mansion on the Palatine, and consorted with them
without shame or delicacy by the Tiber's bank, or on
the Appian Eoad. In such company Catullus, as an
intimate of Cselius, Gellius, and others whose names
were at one time or another in her visitors' book, most
probably first met her ; and the woman had precisely
the fascinations to entangle one so full of the tender
and voluptuous, and withal so cultivated and accom-
plished as Catullus must have been. It has been epi-



16 CATULLUS.

grammatically said of the women of that epoch at
Eome that "the harp and books of Simonides and
Anacreon had replaced the spindle and distaff; and
that with a dearth of Lucretias," or chaste matrons,
" there was no lack, unfortunately, of Sempronias " *
— i.e., unchaste blue-stockings. But had Clodia's or
Lesbia's culture and cleverness been the head and
front of her offending, the poet might less have rued
his introduction to a sorceress who, "insatiable of
love, and almost incapable of loving," had ambition,
vanity, and woman's pride sufficient to covet a name
in connection Avith the foremost lyric poet of the day.
On his part there seems to have been no resistance to
the toils; and no wonder if, with the ends of her
vanity to achieve, she bent her literary talents, as
well as her coquetry and natural graces of mien and
person, to his captivation. Cicero has recorded that
she was talked of, like Juno, as /Sowttis, in compli-
ment to her grand and flashing eyes ; and there is no
lack of evidence that her beauty, grace, figure, and
wit were rare. It might be asked on what certitude
this description of Clodia is transferred so confidently
to Lesbia. In the first place, let it be admitted
that, after the fashion of the Alexandrian poets, the
custom prevailed with such Roman writers as Varro,
Atacinus, Gallus, TibuUus, Propertius, Ovid, to cel-
ebrate their mistresses under the feigned names of
Leucadia, Lycoris, Delia, Cynthia, Corinna ; and it

* Sempronia, wife of D. Junius Brutus, was a woman of
personal attractions and literary acquirements, but of profligate
character.



CATULLUS AXD LESBIA. 17

will not seem unlikely that Catullus sliould choose for
the nom- de j^hnne of his enslaver a name recalling
Sappho the Lesbian, especially as it was probably
by a sympathetic translation into Latin sapphics of
her famous ode to Phaon that he first announced
his suit and evinced his passion. After this is grant-
ed, it will remain to decide from internal evidence
Avhether there are grounds of identification between
the Lesbia of Catullus's poetry and tlie famous or
infamous sister of Publius Clodius. They need only
be summarised to establish a verdict in the affirma-
tive, and confirm the statement of Apuleius that
she whom Ovid tells us Catullus loved under the
feigned name of Lesbia, was the Clodia whose character
Cicero painted in such undisguised force of colours.
First, both lay under the stigma of guilty relations Avith
a brother. Secondly, both appear to have at one time
indulged an amour with Cfelius Rufus, and both were
immistakably married women. Thirdly, the characters
of both coincide in point of wit, learning, and culti-
vation, their persons in exceptional beauty, and their
tempers in caprice and occasional violence. Fourthly,
the rank of Clodia was distinctly high and patrician ;
and though an evil name attached to her on Cicero's
shoAving, there is no reason to suppose that she utterly
disregarded appearances. Lesbia's rank, indeed, is
not indicated in plain terms by her poet, but it comes
out in a probable interpretation of some expressions
in an elegiac poem to Allius, that she was certainly
no vulgar intriguante, but met lier lover at the house
of that noble, and so far paid the outward respect to
A.O.S.S., vol. iii. B



18 CATULLUS.

decency, which is wont to be retained later than most
other characteristics by the weU-born.

The remains of Catullus would be deprived of three
parts of their interest, had the Lesbian odes and
ditties been unfortunately lost. Kot only, however,
is this not the case, inasmuch as, of many extant, she
is the distinct burden : but many poems, not pro-
fessedly addressed to her, are really referable to her
inspiration. Accordingly, it is a part of the role of
every critic of Catullus to arrange, according to his
skill in divination or conjecture, the sequence of the
poems of the Lesbian series ; and that which it has
been thought most convenient to foUoAV in these pages
is the plausible and clear arrangement of Theodore
Martin, the most congenial and appreciative of
the poet's English translators. It is a happy and
shrewd instinct wliich places first in the series
that model translation from Sappho's Greek frag-
ment, which seems at once a naming-day ode and
a declaration of passion, fenced and shielded under the
guise of being an imitative song. The poet, in the
fervour of his new-kindled devotion, in the flutter of
hope and yearning, and not yet in the happiness of even
short-lived assurance, pours forth a wonderful repre-
sentation of one of the most passionate of Greek love-
songs ; and therein (if we strike out an alien stanza,
which reads quite out of place, and must have been
inserted, in dark days, by some blundering botcher or
wrong-headed moralist) transfers from the isles of
Greece burning words which have suffered nothing in



CATULLUS AXD LESBIA. 19

the process, and which perhaps served the poet for a
confession of his flame : —

" Peer for the gods he seems to me,
And mightier far, if that may be,
Who, sitting face to face with thee.

Can there serenely gaze ;
Can hear thee sweetly speak the while,
Can see thee, Lesbia, sweetly smile ;
Joys that from me my senses wile
And leave me in a maze.

For ever, when thy face I view,

]\ry voice is to its task untrue.

My tongue is paralysed, and through

Each limb a subtle flame
Runs swiftly ; murmurs dim arise
Within my ears, across my eyes
A sudden darkness spreads, and sighs

And tremors shake my frame." *

Nothing that we could add by way of comment could
enhance the truth to nature of the sensations, which
the poet renders more vivid as he endorses them, and
which Tennyson and Slielley have, consciously or
unconsciously, enumerated ia kindred sequence in
"Eleonore" and the "Lines to Constantia sins^incr."
There is something in their reality and earnest truth
from the heart, for which we look in vain for imitation
in the Elizabethan lyrists. Probably to the same
season of hope and wooing must be referred the two

* C. li., Eossbach and Laolimann ; Th. JIartin, p. 3.



20 CATULLUS.

pretty ditties on Lesbia's sparrow, in life and in death,
wliich. the most casual of readers connects with Cat-
ullus, and which have given the key-note to any num-
ber of imitations, parodies, and kindred conceits,
though, it may be confidently averred, at a marked
abatement of ease and grace. In the first, he pictures
with vivid touches the coy and witching charmer,
inflaming her jealous and impatient lover, and haply
disguising her own passion, by playful toying with her
pet birdie, to which she surrenders her finger-tip in
mock provocation. He has plainly no sympathy vs^ith
misplaced favours, as he regards the 2>rivileges vouch-
safed the favourite, whilst he hungers in the very
reach of enjoyment. And his moral from what he
witnesses is the simple suggestion of a less trifling and
more worthy object — himself — though there is a little
obscurity in the connection with Atalanta and the
apples. AVe give it, in this instance, from a stray
version by the author of ' Lorna Doone ' —

" Oh that I could play with thee
Like herself, and we could find
For sad harassings of mind
Something gay to set them free !

This would charm me, as they tell
That the nimble demoiselle.
Charmed by golden fruit, betrayed

All her vows to die a maid." — E. D. B.

Perchance the poet did not take into account that the
fruit, once grasped, was scarce worth the efi"ort to
sprnrp it ; that all was not gold that glittered ; that



CATULLUS AND LESBIA. Ul

Lesbia -was incapable of deeper feeling than wantoning
with a bird-pet. But the birdie's elegy is a yet more
memorable poem,- — one, too, that elicits the poet's
element of pathos. Written to ingratiate himself with
Lesbia, its burden is a loyal commemoration of his
quondam rival ; but a line or two, even if suggested
by an Alexandrian idyllist, on the greed of Orcus
and the brief life of all that is lovely and lovable,
touch a chord which was never far from the vein of
Catullus, though he is soon recalled to the sensible
detriment which his lady's eyes are likely to suffer
from her tears : —

" Loves and Graces mourn with me —

Mourn, fan- youths, where'er ye be !

Dead my Lesbia's sparrow is — ■

Sparrow that was alj. her bliss ;

Than her very eyes more dear ;

For lie made her dainty cheer,

Knew her well, as any maid

Knows her mother ; never strayed

From her bosom, but would go

Hopping round her, to and fro ;

And to her, and her alone.

Chirruped with such pretty tone.

Now he treads that gloomy track

Whence none ever may come back.

Out upon you, and your power,

Which all fairest things devour,

Orcus' gloomy shades, that e'er

Ye took my bird that was so fair !

Ah, the pity of it ! Thou

Poor bird, thy doing 'tis, that now

My loved one's eyes are swollen and red

With weeping for her darling dead."



22 CATULLUS.

It only needs to compare this delicate and musical
piece, and the subtle infusion of its (in the original)
tender diminutives, with Ovid's '' On the Death of a
Parrot," in which the parrot iS very secondary to its
mistress, and we shall discern the elements of popu-
larity which made it a household word up to the time
of Juvenal, and still preserve it as a trial-ground for
neatness and finish in translators.

But soon we find a song that gives a note of pro-
gress in Lesbia's good graces. A sense of enjoyment
and abandon animates the strain in which Catullus
pleads for licence to love his fill, on the ground that
to-morrow death may terminate the brief reign of
fruition. In sharp contrast with the heyday of
present joy he sets the drear prospect which had
made itself felt in the poem last quoted ; but now it
is as an incentive to " living while we may : " —

" Suns go down, but 'tis to rise
Brighter in the morning skies ;
But when sets our little light,
We must sleej) in endless night."

The moral, or conclusion, is not that which commends
itself to faith or hope; but the pagan mind of the
erotic poets delighted, as we may see in Ovid, Tibul-
lus, and Propertius, also in the contrast of now and
then — the gay brightness of the passing hour with the
dark shadow looming in the background — and drew
from it no profounder suggestion than — love and
kisses ! In the rationale or arithmetic of these, Catul-
lus shows himself an adept. In the piece just quoted



CATULLUS AND LESBIA. 23

he piles up an addition sum that takes away the
breath, and eventually gives a reason for

" Kiss after kiss without cessation,
Until we lose all calculation ;
So envy shall not mar our blisses
By numbering tqj our tale ofJcisses."

The ancients had a motive for letting their kisses pass


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