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circle, not of men of culture — for such, strictly speak-
ing, did not exist — but of men of erudition, that the
Greek literature was cherished even when dead ; that
the rich inheritance which it had left was inventoried
with melancholy pleasure or arid refinement of re-
search ; and that the living sense of sympathy or the
dead erudition was elevated into a semblance of pro-
ductiveness. This posthumous productiveness consti-
tutes the so-called Alexandrinism." Originality found
a substitute in learned research. Multifarious learning,
the result of deep draughts at the wells of criticism,
grammar, mythology, and antiquities, gave an often
cumbrous and pedantic character to laboured and vol-
uminous epics, elegies, and hymnology (a point and
smartness in epigram being the one exception in favour
of this school), whilst the full genial spirit of Greek
thought, coeval with Greek freedom, was exchanged for
courtly compliment, more consistent with elaboration
than freshness. Among the best of the Alexandrian
poets proper — indeed, the best of all, if we except the
original and genial Idyllist, Theocritus — was the learned
Callimachus; and it is upon Callimachus especially
that Catullus has drawn for his Eoman-Alexandrine
poems, one of them being in fact a translation of that
poet's elegy " On the Hair of Queen Berenice;" whilst
another, his " Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis," has been
supposed by more than one critic to be a translation
of Callimachus also. This is, indeed, problematical ;
but there is no doubt that for his mythologic details,
scholarship, and other features savouring of ultra erudi-



78 CATULLUS.

tion, he owes to Callimaclms characteristics which his
intrinsic poetic gifts enabled him to dress out accept-
ably for the critics of liis day. The singular and
powerful poem of " Atys " belongs to the same class,
by reason of its mythological subject. A recent
French critic of Catullus, in a learned chapter on
Alexandrinism, defines it as the absence of sincerity
in poetry, and the exclusive preoccupation of form.
*' He," writes M. Couat, " who, instead of looking
around him, or, better, Avithin himself, parades over
all countries and languages his adventurous curiosity,
and prefers Vesprit to Vdme» — the new, the pretty, the
fine, to the natural and simple — such an one, to
whatever literature he belongs, is an Alexandrinist.
Alexandrinism in excess is what in this writer's view
is objectionable ; and whilst we are disposed to think
that few will demur to this moderate dogma, it is
equally certain that none of the Roman cultivators of
the Alexandrine school have handled it with more
taste and less detriment to their natural gifts than
Catullus. With 'him the elaborateness which, in
its home, Alexandrinism exhibits as to metre and
prosody, is exchanged for a natural and unforced
powerj, quite consistent with simplicity. As is
well observed by Professor Sellar, " His adaptation
of the music of language to embody the feeling or
passion by which he is possessed, is most vividly felt in
the skylark ring of his great nuptial ode, in the wild
hurrying agitation of the Atys, in the stately calm of
the Epithalamium of Peleus and Thetis." Herein, as
indeed in the tact and art evinced generally in these



THE LONGER POEMS. 79

larger jDoems, we seem to find ground for dissent from
the opinion of several otherwise weighty critics of
Catullus, that they were the earlier exercises of his
poetic career — a subject upon which, as there is the
scantiest inkling in either direction, it is admissible to
take the negative view. As a work of art, no doubt
the " Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis " are damaged by
the introduction of the episode of Ariadne's desertion
within the main poem — an offence obviously against
strict epic unity. But it is not by any means sure
that this is so much a sign of youthful work as of an
independence consistent with poetic fancy, and cer-
tainly not amenable to the stigma of Alexandrinism,
which must be en regie, if anything. It is with this
largest, and in many respects finest, sample of CatuUus's
epic capacity, that we propose to deal at greatest length,
reserving space for a glance or two at the " Atys " and
the " Hair of Berenice." " The whole poem " (Peleus
and Thetis), to quote Mr Sellar once more, " is per-
vaded with that calm light of strange loveliness which
spreads over the unawakened world in the early sunrise
of a summer day." If here and there a suspicion of
over -wrought imagery and description carries back
the mind to a remembrance of the poet's model, it
must be allowed that, for the most part, this poem
excels in variety, in pictorial effects, in force of fancy,
and clever sustentation of the interest. It begins
with the day on which, in the hoar distance of mythic
ages, the Pelion-born Argo was first launched and
manned, and the first sailor of all ever burst on the
realm of Amphitrite — a statement which Ave must not



80 CATULLUS.

criticise too closely, as the poet elsewhere in the poem
tells of a fleet of Theseus prior to the Argonautic
expedition : —

" Soon as its jirow tlie wind-vexed surface clave,
Soon as to oarsmen's harrow frothed the wave,
Forth from the eddying whiteness Nereids shone.
With faces set — strange sight to look upon.
Then, only then, might mortal vision rest
On naked sea-nymph, lifting rosy breast
High o'er the billows' foam. 'Twas then the flame
Of love for Thetis Peleus first o'ercame :
Then Thetis deigned a mortal spouse to wed !
Then Jove approved, and their high union sped."

— D.

Tlie poet having thus introduced the betrothal, as
it were, of the goddess and the hero, pauses, ere he
plunges into his subject, to apostrophise heroes and
heroines in general, and more especially the twain
immediately concerned : Peleus, for whom the very
susceptible father of the gods had waived his own
penchant for Thetis ; Peleus, the stay and champion
of Thessaly ; and Thetis, most beautiful of ocean's
daughters, and grandchild of earth-girding Tethys and
her lord Oceanus — a fitting proem to the action of
the poem, which commences with no further delay.
We see all Thessaly come forth to do honour and
guest-service to the nuptials, gifts in their hands, and
joy and gladness in their countenances. Scyros and
Phthia's Tempo, Cranon, and Larissa's towers are all
deserted on that day, for the Pharsalian home where
high festival and a goodly solemnity is kept. A lively



THE LONGER POEMS. 81

description follows of the country and its occupations
given over to complete rest and keeping holiday ; and
this is seemingly introduced by way of contrast to the
stir and splendour and gorgeous preparations within
the halls of Peleus. But the poet without delay
presses on to one of his grand effects of description —
the rich bridal couch, with frame of ivory and cover-
let of sea -purples, on which was wrought the tale of
Ariadne's desertion by Theseus. She has just awak-
ened to her loss, and the picture is one of passionate
fancy and force. To give a transcript of this is
impossible ; and though Mr Martin's handling of the
whole passage is admirably finished, yet where the
best comes far short of the original, it seems justifi-
able to introduce a distillation of its spirit, without
attempting metrical likeness. The following version
is by the Rev. A. C. Auchmuty * (see Catull. Ixiv.
vv. -52-75) :—

" There, upon Dia's ever-eclioing shore,
Sweet Ariadne stood, in fond dismay,
"With wild eyes watching tlie swift fleet, that bore

Her loved one far away.
And still she gazed incredidoua ; and still,
Like one awaking from beguiling sleep.
Found herself standing on the beachy hiU,

Left there alone to weep.
But the quick oars upon the waters flashed.
And Theseus fled, and not a thought behind



* Verses, Original and Translated, by A. C. Auchmutj'.
Exeter, 1869.

A.C.S.S., vol. iii. F



82 CATULLUS.

He left ; but all his proinisos were dashed

Into the ■svandering Avind.
Far off she strains her melancholy eyes ;

And like a Mcenad sculptu7'ed there in stone
Stands as in act to shout, for she espies

Him she once called her own.
Dark waves of care swayed o'er her tender soul ;

The fine-wove turban from her golden hair
Had fallen ; the light robe no longer stole

Over her bosom bare.
Loose dropped the well-WTOught girdle from her breast,

That wildly struggled to be free : they lay
About her feet, and many a briny crest

Kissed them in careless play.
But nought she recked of turban then, and nought

Of silken garments flowing gracefully.
Theseus ! far away in. heart and thought

And soul, she hung on thee !
Ay me ! that hour did cruel love prepare

A never-ending thread of wildering woe ;
And twining round that heart rude briars of care,

Bade them take root and grow ;
Wliat time, from old Pirseus' curved strand

A ship put forth towards the south, to bring
Chivalrous-hearted Theseus to the land
Of the unrighteous king."

A comparison of the above with the Latin text will
show that, as in the italicised j^assages, the translator
has been careful to preserve, as much as might be, the
expressions, metaphors, and similes of the author.
That author proceeds from this point to explain the
causes of Theseus's visit to the home of Minos, and to
unfold tlie legend of the monster, the labyrinth, the
clue to it supplied by Ariadne, and the treacherj'- of



TEE LONGER POEMS. 83

Theseus, who, when he had vanquished the monster,
and led the princess to give up all for him, forsook
her as she lay asleep in Dia's sea-girt isle. The lament
of Ariadne on discovering her desolation is a triumph
of true poetic art in its accommodation of the measure
to the matter in hand ; the change from calm descrip-
tion to rapid movement and utterance, as, climbing
mountain-top, or rushing forth to face the surges up-
plashing over the beach to meet her, she utters out-
bursts of agony and passion intended to form a con-
summate contrast to the ideal happiness of them on
whose coverlet this j)athetic story was broidered. Two
stanzas from Martin's beautiful and ballad-like version
must represent the touching character of this lament,
in which, by the way, are several turns of thought
and expression which A'irgil seems to have had in
mind for the 4th Book of the ' ^neis : ' —

" Lost, lost ! where shall I turn me 1 Oh, ye pleasant hills

of home,
How shall I fly to thee across this gulf of angry foam ?
How meet my father's gaze, a thing so doiibly steeped in

guilt.
The leman of a lover, who a brother's blood had spilt 1

A lover ! gods ! a lover ! And alone he cleaves the deep.
And leaves me here to perish on this savage ocean steep.
No hope, no succour, no escape ! None, none to hear my



prayer



All dark, and drear, and desolate ; and death, death every-
where !" — (C. Ixiv. vv. 177-187.)

The lines in which she declares that, had -^Tlgeus ob-
jected to her for a daughter-in-law, she would have



84 CATULLUS.

been liis liaiidmaid, to sjiread his couch and lave his
feet, have more than one echo ixi English poetry ; and
the climax of the lament, in a deep and sweeping
curse on her betrayer, is a passage of terribly realistic
earnestness : —

" Yet ere these sad and streaming eyes on earth have

looked their last.
Or ere this heart has ceased to heat, I to the gods will cast
One burning prayer for vengeance on the man who foully

broke
The vows which, pledged in their dread names, in my fond

ear he spoke.

Come, ye that wreak on man his guilt with retribution dire,
Ye maids, whose snake - wreathed brows bespeak yoiu-

bosom's vengefid ire !
Come ye, and hearken to the curse which I, of sense forlorn,
Hurl from the ruins of a heart with mighty anguish torn !

Though there be fury in my words, and madness in my
brain,

Let not my cry of woe and wrong assail your ears in vain !

Urge the false heart that left me here still on with head-
long chase,

From ill to worse, till Theseus curse himself and all his
race ! " — M.

It is not to be denied that it would have been
more artistic had the poet here dismissed the legend
of Theseus and his misdemeanours, or, if not this,
had he at least omitted the lesson of divine retribution
conveyed in liis sire's death as he crossed the home-
threshold, and contented himself with the spirited pre-
sentment of Bacchus and his attendant SatjTS and



THE LONGER POEMS. 85

Sileni in quest of Ariadne, on another compartment
of the coverlet. So far, the reader of the poem has
represented one of the crowd gazing at the triumphs
of needlework and tapestry in the bridal chambers,
^ow, place must be made for the divine and heroic
guests, and their wedding-presents : Chiron, with the
choicest meadow, alpine, and aquatic flowers of his land
of meadows, rocks, and rivers ; Peneius, with beech,
bay, plane, and cypress to plant for shade and verdure
in front of the palace ; Prometheus, still scarred with
the jutting crags of his rocky prison ; and all the gods
and goddesses, save only Phoebus and his twin-sister,
absent from some cause of grudge which we know not,
but which the researches of Alexandrine mythologists
no doubt supplied to the poet. Anon, Avhen the
divine guests are seated at the groaning tables, the
weird and age-withered Parcse, as they spin the threads
of destiny, in shrill strong voices pour forth an alter-
nating song with apt and mystic refrain, prophetic of
the bliss that shall follow this union, and the glory
to be achieved in its offspring. Here are two quatrains
for a sample, relating to Achilles the offspring of the
union : —

" His peerless valour and his glorious deeds

Shall mothers o'er their stricken sons confess,
As smit with feeble hand each bosom bleeds,
And dust distains each grey dishevelled tress.

Run, spmdles, run, and trail the fateful threads.

For as the reaper mows the thickset ears.
In golden corn-lands 'neath a burning sun,



86 CATULLUS.

E'en so, behold, Pelides' falchion shears
The life of Troy, and swift its course is run.

Kun, spindles, run, and trail the fateful threads."

— D.

At the close of this chant of the fatal sisters, Catullus
draws a happy picture, such as Hesiod had drawn
before him, of the blissful and innocent age when the
gods walked on earth, and mixed with men as friend
with friend, before the advent of the iron age, when
sin and death broke up family ties, and so disgusted
the minds of the just Immortals that thenceforth there
was no longer any " open vision " —

" Hence from earth's daylight gods their forms refrain,
Nor longer men's abodes to visit deign."

It is by no means so easy to give any adequate idea of
the " Atys," which is incomparably the most remark-
able poem of Catullus in point of metrical effects, of
flow and ebb of passion, and of intensely real and
heart-studied pathos. The subject, however, is one
which, despite the praises Gibbon and others have
bestowed qu CatuUus's handling of it, is unmeet for
presentment in extenso before English readers. The
sensible and correctly-judging Dunlop did not err in
his remark that a fable, unexampled except in the
various poems on the fate of Abelard, was somewhat
unpromising and peculiar as a subject for poetry. In
a metre named, from the priests of Cybele, Galliam-
bic, Catullus represents — it may be from his experi-
ence and research in Asia Minor — the contrasts of
enthusiasm and repentant dejection of one who, for



THE LOSGER POEMS. 87

the great goddess's sake, has become a victim of his
own frenzy. A Greek youth, leaving home and
parents for Phrygia, vows himself to the service and
grove of Cybele, and, after terrible initiation, snatches
up the musical instruments of the guild, and incites
his fellow-votaries to the fanatical orgies. Wildly
traversing woodlands and mountains, he falls asleep
with exhaustion at the temple of his mistress, and
awakes, after a night's repose, to a sense of his rash
deed and marred life. The complaint which ensues
is unique in originality and pathos. " K"o other
writer" — thus remarks Professor Sellar — "has pre-
sented so real an image of the frantic exultation and
fierce self-sacrificing spirit of an inhuman fanaticism ;
and again, of the horror and sense of desolation which
a natural man, and more especially a Greek or Eoman,
would feel in the midst of the wild and strange scenes
described in the poem, and when restored to the con-
sciousness of his voluntary bondage, and of the for-
feiture of his country and parents and the free social
life of former days." The same writer acutely notes
the contrast betwixt " the false excitement and noisy
tumult of the evening and the terrible reality and
blank despair of the morning," which, with " the pic-
torial environments," are the characteristic efiects of
this poem. In the original, no doubt these eflTects are
enhanced by the singular impetuosity of the metre,
which, it is well known, Mr Tennyson, amongst others,
has attempted to reproduce in his experiments upon
classical metres. Such attempts can achieve only a
fitful and limited success. Encjlish Galliambics can



88 CATULLUS.

never, in the nature of things or measures, be popular.
And even supposing the metre were more promising,
it is undeniably against the dictates of good taste to
make the revolting legend of Atys a familiar story to
English readers of the ancient classics.

Curiosity, however, would dictate more acquaint-
ance with " Berenice's Lock of Hair," a poem sent, as
has been already stated, by Catullus to Hortalus, and
purporting to be the poet's translation of a court poem
of his favourite model, the Alexandrian poet Calli-
machus. The metre of both is elegiac ; but of the
original only two brief fragments remain — so brief,
indeed, that they fail to test the faithfulness of the
translator. The subject, it should seem, was the fate
of a tress which Berenice, according to Egyptian tables
of affinity the lawful wife and queen of Ptolemy Euer-
getes, king of Egypt, although she was his sister,
dedicated to Venus Zephyritis as an offering for the
safety of her liege lord upon an expedition to which
he was summoned against the Assyrians, and which
sadly interfered with his honeymoon. On his return
the vow was paid in due course : the lock, however,
shortly disappeared from the temple ; and thereujDon
Conon, the court astronomer (of whom Virgil speaks
in his third eclogue as one of the two most famous
mathematicians of his time), invented the flattering
account that it had been changed into a constellation.
So extravagant a compliment would naturally kindle
the rivalry of the courtly and erudite Alexandrian
poet ; and the result was soon forthcoming in an
elegiac poem, supposed to be addressed to her mis-



THE LONGER POEMS. 89

tress by the new constellation itself, in explanation of
her abduction. To judge by the fragments which are
extant, CatuUus appears to have paraphrased rather
than closely translated the original of CaUimachus,
though how far he has improved upon or embellished
his model it is of course impossible to say. In some
degree this detracts from the interest of the poem — at
any rate, when viewed in connection with the genius
of Catullus. Still, it deserves a passing notice for its
art and ingenuity, as employed after Catullus's man-
ner, in blending beauty and passion with truth and
constancy. It is curious, too, for its suggestive hints
for Pope's " Eape of the Lock." The strain of compli-
ment is obviously more Alexandrian than Eoman ;
and readers of Theocritus will be prepared for a good
deal in the shape of excessive compliment to the
Ptolemys. But even in the compliment and its ex-
travagance there is a considerable charm ; and it is
by no means uninteresting to possess, tlrrough the
medium of an accomplished Latin poet, our only
traces of a court poem much admired in its day. If,
after all, the reception of Berenice's hair among the
constellations forming the group of seven stars in
Leo's tail, by the Alexandrian astronomers, is a
matter of some doubt, it is at least clear that CaUi-
machus did his best to back up Conon's averment of
it, and that it suited Catullus to second his assertion
so effectually, that it has befallen his muse to trans-
mit the poetic tradition. The argument of the poem
may be summarised. The Lock tells how, after its
dedication by Berenice, if she received her lord from



go CATULLUS.

the wars safe and sound, Conon discovered it a con-
stellation in the firmament. He had returned vic-
torious ; the lock had been reft from its mistress's
head with that resistless steel to which ere then far
sturdier powers had succumbed —

" But what can stand against the might of steel?
'Twas that which made the proudest mountain reel,
Of all by Tina's radiant son surveyed.
What time the Mede a new ^gean made,
And hosts barbaric steered their galleys taU
Through rifted Athos' adamantine wall.
When things like these the power of steel confess,
What help or refuge for a woman's tress 1" — (42-47.) M.

Need we suggest the parallel from Pope % —

" What time could spare from steel receives its date,
And monuments, like men, submit to fate.
Steel could the labours of the gods destroy,
And strike to dust the imperial towers of Troy ;
Steel covdd the works of mortal pride confound,
And hew triumphal arches to the ground.
What wonder then, fair nymph, thine hairs should feel
The conquering force of unresisted steel?"

The tress proceeds to describe her passage through
the air, and her eventual accession to the breast of
Venus, thence to be transferred to an assigned posi-
tion among the stars. A high destination, as the
poem makes Berenice's hair admit, yet one (and here
adulation takes its finest flight) which it would cheer-
fully forego to be once more lying on its mistress's
head : —



THE LONGER POEMS. 91

" My state so glads me not, but I deplore
I ne'er may grace my mistress' forehead more,
With whom consorting in her virgin bloom,
I bathed in sweets, and quaffed the rich perfume."

In conclusion, the personified and constellated lock,
Avith a happy thought, claims a toll on all maids and
matrons happy in their love and nuptials, of an onyx
box of perfume on the attainment of each heart's de-
sire ; and this claim it extends, foremost and first, to
its mistress. Yet even this is a poor compensation
for the loss of its once far prouder position, to recover
which, and play again on Berenice's queenly brow, it
would be well content if aU the stars in the firmament
should clash in a blind and chaotic collision : —

" Grant this, and then Aquarius may
Next to Orion blaze, and all the world
Of starry orbs be into chaos whirled." — M.



After a survey of the larger poems in the foregoing
chapter, and that next before it, it would be especially
out of place to attempt the barest notice of all that
remains — a few very scurrilous and indelicate epi-
grams, having for their object the violent attacking of
Ctesar, Mamurra, Gellius, and other less notable names
obnoxious to our poet. By far the most part of these
are so coarse, that, from their very nature, they are best
left in their native language ; and in this opinion we
suspect we are supported by the best translators of
Catullus, who deal with them sparingly and gingerly.
Here and there, as in Epigram or Poem 84-, Catullus



92 CATULLUS.

quits this uninviting vein for one of purer satire in
every sense, the sting of it being of philological in-
terest. Arrius, its subject, like some of our own
countrymen, seems to have sought to atone for clip-
ping his h's by an equally ill-judged princij^le of com-
pensation. He used the aspirate where it was wrong
as Avell as Avhere it was right. The authors of a recent
volume already alluded to — ' Lays from Latin Lyres '
— have so expressed the spirit and flavour of Catul-
lus's six couplets on this Arrius, that their version
may well stand for a sample of one of the most amus-
ing and least offensive of his skits of this nature. It
is, of course, something in the nature of a parody : —

" Whenever 'Arry tried to sound
An H, his care was unavailing ;
He always spoke of 'orse and 'ound,
And all his kinsfolk had that failing.

Peace to our ears. He went from home ;

But tidings came that grieved us bitterly —
That Arry, while he stayed at Rome,

Enjoyed his 'oliday in Hitaly."

And so Ave bid adieu to a poet who, with all his faults,
has the highest claims upon us as a bard of nature
and passion, and Avho was beyond question the first


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