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That she is nearest, dearest to thee still."

— (C. xcvi.) D.



58 CATULLUS.

Besides these distinguished names, others almost as
well known might be enumerated among the more
worthy associates of Catullus ; for instance, Asinius
Pollio, the friend of Virgil and Horace, the scholar,
poet, and public man, to whose refinement and taste
he testifies in Poem xii. (" To Marrucinus Asinius") ;
Varus, whose other name was more probably Quin-
tilius than Alphenus, and who will then be the ac-
complished scholar and soldier from Catullus's own
neighbourhood, Cremona, to whose memory Horace
pays such a touching tribute ; * and Helvidius Cinna,
the poet who at Caesar's funeral was killed by the
rabble in mistake for his namesake Cornelius Cinua,
and of whom we get a notice in Shakespeare's
" Julius Cfusar," and in Plutarch. His famous
work was a probably epic poem named " Smyrna,"
of which only a couple of verses are extant ; but
if we may accept Catidlus's friendly judgment, the
example of Cinna in taking nine years to elaborate
his epic, was one that other poets might with advan-
tage follow ; and a favourable tradition of him has
clung to the grammarian. He is mentioned above
in the poem about a visit to Varus's mistress, apropos
of the sedan from Bithynia ; and in Poem xcv. there
is some light afforded to the elaborate character
of his great work. It is given in Mr Eobinson
Ellis's elegiacs, more for their exactness than their
elegance : —

* Ode I. xxiv., Ad Virgilium.



CATULLUS AMONG MEN OF LITERATURE. 59

" Nine times winter had end, nine times flushed summer

in harvest,
Ere to the world gave forth Cinna the labour of years —
* Smyrna ; ' but in one month Hortensius hundred on

hundred
Verses, an nnripe birth feeble, of hurry begot."

Our poet goes on, in verses somewhat defective and
corrupt, to say that Cinna's masterpiece will be
studied by ages yet unborn, whereas the annals of
Volusius — the scribbler of whom the 36th poem
written for Lesbia records CatuUus's opinion — may
expect one inevitable destiny — to be used as wrappers
for mackerel and other cheap fish. It is but fair to
add that Virgil passingly alludes to the poetry of
Cinna as meritorious.*

There remain one or two other contemporaries of
kindred vein of whom we know only the names, and
what Catullus has written on them. Such are CcTcilius
and Cornificius, to whom are addressed his 35th and
38th poems. The former, as is gathered from the
first of these, dwelt, or had a villa, near the town and
lake of Como —

" Whose fair pellucid waters break
In many a dimpling smile " —

and this Catullus exhorted him to quit upon a visit
to himself at Verona, not, however, without slirewd
misgivings that there was a charming cause for his

* Virgil, Eel. ix. 35.



60 CATULLUS.

rustication and retirement. Csecilius is engaged on
a poem " To the Mighty Mother, Cybele," and has
excited his mistress's curiosity and interest by re-
cital of the completed half of it. She will not let
him go till she has heard the rest. Catullus's
opinion of her good taste is expressed in the conclud-
ing stanza : —

" Thy passion I can well excuse,
Fair maid, in whom the Sapphic Muse

Speaks with a richer tongue ;
For no iinworthy strains are his,
And nobly by Ctecilius is

The Mighty Mother sung."

Of Cornificius as little is known as of Crecilius. He
would seem to have been one of the fair-weather
friends who hang aloof when sickness and failing
health yearn for the kindly attention and affectionate
souvenir. The little poem addressed to him bears
evidence of the poet's decline. He is succumbing to
the loss of his brother supervening on the laceration
of his heart by the unfeeling Lesbia. This may well
have been the last of his many strains — certainly one
of the most touching and plaintive ; and of the trans-
lations, we know none that does it justice but Theo-
dore Martin's : —

" Ah, Cornificius ! ill at ease
Is thy Catullus' breast ;
Each day, each hour that passes, sees
Him more and more depressed.



CATULLUS AMONG MEN OF LITERATURE. 61

And yet no word of comfort, no

Kind thought, however slight.
Comes from thy hand. Ah ! is it so

That you my love requite ?

One little lay to lull my fears,

To give my spirit ease —
Ay, though 'twere sadder than the tears

Of sad Simonides."



CHAPTER V.

HYMEN, O HYMENiEE !

Catullus has been presented up to this point rather
as the writer of passionate love-verses to Lesbia, or
vers de societe to his friends, literary or light, as the
case might be. There are yet two other and distinct
aspects of his Muse. That which he borrowed from
the Alexandrian school of poetry will demand the
full consideration of another chapter ; but in the
present it will suffice to give some account of his
famous epithalamia, the models of like composition
for all time, and the loci classici of the ceremonial of
Roman marriages, as Avell as exquisite pictures of the
realisation of mutual affection. It has been seen how
fully, notwithstanding his own blighted hopes, Catul-
lus was able to conceive the life-bond between his
friend Calvus and his helpmeet Quinctilia. A longer
and more lively picture presents the ecstasy of Acme
and Septimius in lines and words that seem to burn.
The two doting lovers plight vows, and compare
omens, and interchange embraces and kisses that in-
spire Avith passion the poet's hendecasyllables. The
conclusion of the piece is all we can quote, and is



HYMEN, HTMENJSEt 63

given from a translation by the author of ' Loma
Doone,' but it may serve to show that Catullus was
capable of picturing and conceiving the amount of
devotion Avhich his nuptial songs connect with happy
and like-minded unions : —

" Starting from such omen's cheer,
Hand in hand on love's career,
Heart to heart is true and dear,
Dotingly Septimius fond
Prizes Acme far beyond

All the realms of east and west —
Acme to Septimius true,
Keeps for him his only due.

Pet delights and loving jest.
Who hath kuo'mi a happier pair,
Or a honeymoon so fah ] "

One image from the rest of the poem cannot pass un-
noticed — that of Acme bending back her head in
Septimius's embrace, to kiss with rosy mouth what
Mr Blackmore translates "eyes with passion's wine
opprest ; " but the whole piece deserves to the full
the unstinted praise it has met with from critics and
copyists.

The Epithalamium of Julia and Manlius, however,
is a poem of more considerable proportions ; and at
the same time that it teems with poetic beauties,
handles its subject with such skill and ritual know-
ledge as to supply a correct programme of the marriage
ceremonial among the Eomans. Strictly speaking, it
is not so much a nuptial ode or hymn in the sense
in which the playmates of Helen serenade her in



64 CATULLUS.

Theocritus, as a series of pictures of the bridal pro-
cession and rites, from end to end. The subjects of
this poem were a scion of the ancient patrician house
of the Torquati, Lucius Manlius Torquatus, a great
friend and patron of our poet, and Vinia, or Julia
Aurunculeia, one of whose two names seems to have
been adoptive, and as to whom the poet's silence seems
to imply that her bridegroom's rank was enough to
dignify both. It was not so long afterwards that
Manlius sought our poet's assistance or solace in the
shape of an elegy (see Poem Ixviii.) on her untimely
death; but in the present instance his services are taxed
to do honour to her wedding : and it may be interesting
to accompany him through the dioramic description
which his stanzas illustrate. The poem opens with an
invocation to Hymen, child of Urania, dwelling in his
mother's Helicon, bidding him wreathe his brows with
sweet marjoram or amaracus, fling round him a flame-
coloured scarf, and bind safi'ron sandals to his feet, in
token of going forth upon his proper function and
errand. Other accompaniments of his progress are
to be song, and dance, and pine-torch, — each of them
ajDpropriate in the evening fetching-home of the bride
from her father's house ; and his interest is bespoken
in one who is fair, favoured, and fascinating as Ida's
queen, when she condescended to the judgment of
Paris : —

" As the fragrant myrtle, found
Flourishing on Asian ground,
Thick witli blossoms overspread,
By the Hamadryads fed.



HYMEN, IIYMEN^E! 65

For their sport, ■\\dtli honey-dew —
All so sweet is she to view."

It is this paragon, proceeds the ode, for whose sweet
sake the god is besought to leave awhile his native
grottos and pools, and lend his aid in binding soul
to soul to her husband — yea, closer than clasping ivy
twines meshy tendrils round its naked elm. To wel-
come her too, as well as to invite Hymena3us to his
wonted office with the readier alacrity, are bidden the
blameless maidens of the bride's train, with a series of
inducements adapted to bespeak their sympathy — his
interest in happy nuptials, his blessing so essential to
the transfer of the maiden from one home and name
to another, his influence on the prospects of an
honoured progeny ; and strong language is used, in vv.
71-75, of such nations as ignore the rites and ordinances
of marriage.

And now the bride is bidden to come forth. The
day is waning ; the torch-flakes flicker bright in the
gloaming ; there is no time for tears of maidenly
reluctance ; the hour is at hand : —

" Dry up thy tears ! For well I trow,
No woman lovelier than thou,
Aurunculeia, shall behold
The day all panoplied in gold,
And rosy light uplift liis head
Above the shimmering ocean's bed !

As in some rich man's garden-plot,
With flowers of every hue inwrought,
Stands peerless forth, with drooping brow,
The hyacinth, so standest thou !
A.C.S.S., voL iii. E



66 CATULLUS.

Come, bride, come forth ! No more delay !
The day is hunying fast away ! "

Then follow encouragements to the bride to take
the decisive step over the threshold, in the shape
of substantial guarantees of her bridegroom's loyalty ;
and of course the elm and the ivy are pressed, for
not the first time, into such service. More novel,
save that the text of CatuUus is here so corrupt
tbat commentators have been left to patch, it as they
best may for coherence, is the stanza to the bridal
eouch. All that Catullus has been allowed by the
manuscripts to tell us is that its feet were of ivory,
which is very appropriate ; but if the reader's mind
is enlisted in the question of upholstery, it may be
interested to know that collateral information enables
one critic to surmise that the hangings were of sil-
ver-purple, and the timbers of the bedstead from
Indian forests. But anon come the boys with the
torches. Here is the veil or scarf of flame-colour,
or deep brilliant yellow, capacious enough, as we
learn, to shroud the bride from head to foot, worn
over the head during the ceremony, and retained so
till she was unveiled by her husband. Coincidently
the link-bearers are chanting the hymenseal song, and
at intervals, especially near the bridegroom's door, the
rude Fescennine banter is repeated ; whilst the bride-
groom, according to custom, flings nuts to the lads in
attendance, much as at a Greek marriage it was custo-
mary to fling showers of sweetmeats. The so-called
Fescennine jests were doubtless as broad as the occa-
sion would suggest to a lively and joke-loving nation ;



HYMEN, HYMENJiEl 67

and another part of the ceremonial at this point, as it
would seem from Catullus, though some have argued
that it belonged rather to the marriage-feast, was the
f)opular song "Talassius" or " Talassio," said to have
had its origin in an incident of the " Eape of the
Sabine "Women." Catullus represents the choruses at
this point as instilling into the bride by the way all
manner of good advice as to wifely duty and obedience,
and auguring for her, if she takes their advice, a sure
rule in the home which she goes to share. If she has
tact, it will own her sway —

" Till hoary age shall steal on thee,
With loitering step and trembling knee,
And palsied head, that, ever bent,
To all, in all things, nods assent."

In other words, a hint is given her that, though the
bridegroom be the head of the house, she will be her-
self to blame if she be not the necl:

As the poem proceeds, another interesting cere-
monial, which is attested by collateral information, is
set graphically before the reader. Traditionally con-
nected with the same legend of the carrying off of
the Sabine women, but most probably arising out of
a cautious avoidance of evil omens through a chance
stumble on the threshold, was a custom that on reach-
ing the bridegroom's door, the posts of which were
wreathed in flowers and anointed with oil for her
reception, the bride should be carried over the step by
iYiQ pronuhi — attendants or friends of the groom, who
must be " husbands of one wife." This is expressed as



68 CATULLUS.

follows in Theodore jNIartin's liappy transcript of the
passage of Catullus : —

" Thy golden-sandalled feet do thou
Lift lightly o'er the threshold now !
Fair omen this ! And pass between
The lintel-post of polished sheen !
Hail, Hymen ! Hymenseus, hail !
Hail, Hymen, Hymenteus !

See where, within, tliy lord is set
On Tyrian-tinctured coverlet —
His eyes upon the threshold bent.
And all his soul on thee intent !
Hail, Hymen ! Hymenteus, hail !
Hail, Hymen, Hymenseus ! "

By-and-by, one of the three prtetexta-clad boys,
who had escorted the bride from her father's home to
her husband's, is bidden to let go the round arm he
has been supporting ; the blameless matrons {2')ro-
nuhce), of like qualification as their male counterparts,
conduct the bride to the nuptial-couch in the atrium,
and now there is no let or hindrance to the bride-
groom's coming. Catullus has so wrought his bridal
ode, that it culminates in stanzas of singular beauty
and spirit. The bride, in her nuptial-chamber, is re-
presented with a countenance like white parthenice
(which one critic * suggests may be the camomile
blossom) or yellow poppy for beauty. And the bride-
groom, of course, is worthy of her ; and both worthy

* It may interest some to know that this was 'an MS. sug-
gestion of poor Mortimer Collins, a dear lover of Catullus.



HYMEN, HYMENjEE! 69

of his noble race, as well as meet to hand it on. The
natural wishes follow : —

" 'Tis not meet so old a stem
Should be left ungraced by them,
To transmit its fame unshorn
DoAvn through ages yet unborn."

The next lines of the original are so prettily turned
by Mr Cranstoun, that we forbear for the nonce to tax
the charming version of Martin : —

" May a young Torquatus soon
From his mother's bosom slip
Forth his tender hands, and smile
Sweetly on his sire the while
With tiny half-oped lip.

May each one a Manlius

In his infant features see,
And may every stranger trace,
Clearly graven on his face,

His mother's chastity."

Of parallels and imitations of this happy thought
and aspiration, there is abundant choice. Theodore
Martin's taste selects a graceful and expanded fancy of
Herrick from his " Hesperides ;" while Dunlop, in his
' History of Eoman Literature,' quotes the following
almost literal reproduction out of an epithalamium on
the marriage of Lord Spencer by Sir William Jones,
who pronounced Catullus's picture worthy the pencil
of Domenichino : —

" And soon to be completely blest.
Soon may a young Torquatus rise,



70 CATULLUS.

Who, hanging on his mother's breast,
To his known sire shall turn his eyes.

Outstretch liis infant arms awhile.
Half-ope his little lips and smile." *

The poem concludes with a prayer that mother and
child may realise the fame and virtues of Penelope
and Telemachus, and well deserves the credit it has
ever enjoyed as a model in its kind.

Of the second of Catullus's K'uptial Songs — an
hexameter poem in amoebsean or responsive strophes
and antistrophes, supposed to be sung by the choirs
of youths and maidens who attended the nuptials,
and whom, in the former hymn, the poet had been ex-
horting to their duties, whereas here they come in turn
to their proper function — no really trustworthy his-
tory is to be given, though, one or two commentators
propound that it was a sort of brief for the choruses,
written to order on the same occasion for which the
poet had written, on his own account, the former nup-
tial hymn. But the totally different style and struc-
ture forbid the probability of this, although both are
remarkable poems of their kind. This one, certainly,
has a ringing freshness about it, and seems to cleave
the shades of nightfall with a reveille singularly re-
memberable. The youths of the bridegroom's company
have left him at the rise of the evening star, and gone
forth for the hymenseal chant from the tables at
which they have been feasting. They recognise the
bride's approach as a signal to strike up the hymen-
aial. Hereupon the maidens who have accompanied

* Dunlop's Roman Literature, i. 497.



IIYMEX, HYMEN.'EE! 71

the bride, espying the male chorus, enter on a rivalry
in argument and song as to the merits of Hesperus,
whom they note as he shows his evening fires over
CEta — a sight which seems to have a connection with
some myth as to the love of Hesper for a youth
named Hymenseus localised at CEta, as the story of
Diana and Endymion was at Latmos, to which Virgil
alludes in his eighth eclogue. Both bevies gird them-
selves for a lively encounter of words, from their
diverse points of view. First sing the virgins : —

" Hesper, hath heaven more ruthless star than thine.
That canst from mother's arms her child untwine ?
From mother's arms a clinging daughter part,
To dower a headstrong bridegroom's eager heart ?
Wrong like to this do captured cities know ?
Ho ! Hymen, Hymen ! Hymenaius, ho ! " — D.

The band of youths reply in an antistrophe which
negatives the averment of the maidens : —

" Hesper, hath heaven more jocund star than thee,
Whose flame still crowns true lovers' unity ;
The troth that parents first, then lovers plight.
Nor deem complete till thou ilhmi'st the night ?
What hour more blissful do the gods bestow ?
Hail ! Hymen, Hymen ! Hymenajus, ho ! " — D.

To judge of the next plea of the chorus of maidens by
the fragmentary lines which remain of the original, it
took the grave form of a charge of abduction against
the incriminated evening star. If he were not a prin-
cipal in the felonious act, at least he winked at it,
when it was the express vocation of his rising to pre-



72 CATULLUS.

vent, by publicity, all such irregular proceedings.
But now the youths wax bold in their retort, and
wickedly insinuate that the fair combatants are not
really so very wroth with Hesper for his slackness.
After a couplet which seems to imply, though its
sense is obscure and ambiguous, that the sort of
thieves whom these maidens revile, and whose ill
name is not confined to Eoman literature (for in the
Eussian songs, as we learn from Mr Ealston's enter-
taining volumes, the bridegroom is familiarly regarded
as the "enemy," "that evil-thief," and "the Tartar"),
speedily find their offences condoned, and are received
into favour, they add a pretty plain charge against
the complainants that —

" Chide as they list in song's pretended ire,
Yet what they chide they in their souls desire."

This is such a home-thrust that the virgins change
their tactics, and adduce an argument ad miseri-
cordiam, which is one of the most admired j^assages
of Catullus, on the score of a simile often imitated
from it. The following version will be found toler-
ably literal : —

" As grows hid floweret in some garden closed,
Crushed by no ploughshare, to no beast exposed,
By zephyrs fondled, nursed up by the rain.
With kindly sun to strengthen and sustain :
To win its sweetness lads and lasses vie :
But let that floweret wither by-and-by,
Nipped by too light a hand, it dies alone ;
Its lover lads and lasses all are flown !



HYMEN, HYMEN^El 73

E'en as that flower is lovely maiden's pride,
In lier pure -sirgin home content to bide ;
A husband wins her, — and her bloom is sere,
No more to lads a charm, or lasses dear ! " — D.

The last line is undoubtedly borrowed from a frag-
ment of the Greek erotic poet, Mimmermus ; and the
whole passage, as Theodore Martin shows, has had its
influence upon an admired canto of Spenser's ' Faery
Queen' (B. ii. c. xii.)

Will the boys melt and give in, or will they show
cause why they should not accept this sad showing of
the mischief, for which Hymen and Hesper have the
credit 1 Let us hear their antistrophe : —

" As a lone vine on barren, naked field
Lifts ne'er a shoot, nor mellow grape can yield.
But bends top-heavy with its slender frame,
Till root and branch in level are the same :
Such vine, such field, in their forlorn estate
No peasants till, nor oxen cultivate.
Yet if the same vine with tall elm-tree wed,
Peasants will tend, and oxen till its bed.
So with the maid no lovers' arts engage.
She sinks unprized, unnoticed, into age ;
But once let hour and man be duly found.
Her father's pride, her husband's love redound."*
— D.

* Compare the sentiment of "Waller's "Go, Lovely Rose,"
particularly in the third stanza : —

" Small is the -worth

Of beauty from the light reth-ed ;
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired. "



74 CATULLUS.

The epithalamium ends with an arithmetical calcula-
tion of tlie same special pleaders, which the maidens
apparently find unanswerable, and which, is of this
nature — namely, that they are not their own property,
except as regards a third share. As the other two shares
belong to their parents respectively, and these have
coalesced in transferring their votes to a son-in-law, it
is obviously as futile as it is unmannerly to demur to
the nuptial rites. And so the poem ends with the
refrain of " Hymen, Hymensee ! " It has Avith
much plausibility been conjectured by Professor Sellar
to be an adaptation of Sappho or some other Greek
poet to an occasion within Catullus's own experience.
Certainly it does not exhibit like originality with the
poem preceding it. It might be satisfactory, Avere it
possible, to give, by way of sequel to the epithalamium
of Julia and Manlius, trustworthy data of the young
wife's speedy removal ; but this is based upon sheer
conjecture, and so much as we know has been already
stated. If we might transfer to the elegiacs addressed
to Maidius before noticed a portion of the story of
Laodamia, which has sometimes been printed with,
them, but is now arranged with the verses to Manius
Acilius Glabrio, we should be glad to conceive of
Julia's wedded life as matching that of Laodamia, and
offering a model for its portrayal.

" Nor e'er was dove more loyal to her mate.

That bird which, more than all, with clinging beak.
Kiss after kiss will pluck insatiate —
Though prone thy sex its joys in change to seek,



HYMEX, HYMEN^E!

Than thou, Laoclamia ! Tame and cold

Was all their passion, all their love to thine :

When thou to thy enamoured breast didst fold
Thy blooming lord in ecstasy divine.

As fond, as fair, as thou, so came the maid,
Who is my life, and to my bosom clung ;

While Cupid round her flattering, arrayed
In saffron vest, a radiance o'er her flung."

— (C. Ixviii.) M.



CHAPTEE VI.

THE ROMAN-ALEXANDRINE AND LONGER POEMS
OF CATULLUS.

That portion of the poetry of Catullus which has been
considered hitherto is doubtless the most genuine and
original ; but, with the exception of the two epitha-
lamia, the poems now to be examined, as moulded on
the Alexandrine form and subjects, are perhaps the
more curious in a literary point of view. Contrasting
with the rest of his poetry in their lack of " naturalism
essentially Eoman and republican," they savour undis-
guisedly of that Eoman - Alexandrinism in poetry
which first sprang up in earnest among the contem-
poraries of Cicero and CiBsar, and grew with all the
more rapidity OAving to the frequent visits of the
Eomans to the Greek provinces, and the increasing
influx of the Greek literati into Eome. Of the Alex-
andrine literature at its fountain-head it must be remem-
bered that it was the substitute and successor — on the
ruin of the Hellenic nation, and the decline of its
nationality, language, literature, and art — of the for-
mer national and popular literature of Greece. But it
was confined to a limited range, " It was," says Pro-



THE LONGER POEMS. 77

fessor Mommsen, " only in a comparatively narrow


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