Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Catullus' man-crush

Yesterday my year 12 class did an exam, in which they had to translate a poem from Catullus to a fellow poet, Licinius. Here's part of the poem and it's translation:

Hesterno, Licini, die otiosi
multum lusimus in meis tabellis,
ut convenerat esse delicatos:
scribens versiculos uterque nostrum
ludebat numero modo hoc modo illoc,
reddens mutua per iocum atque vinum.
atque illinc abii tuo lepore
incensus, Licini, facetiisque,
ut nec me miserum cibus iuvaret
nec somnus tegeret quiete ocellos,
sed toto indomitus furore lecto
versarer, cupiens videre lucem,
ut tecum loquerer, simulque ut essem.
at defessa labore membra postquam
semimortua lectulo iacebant,
hoc, iucunde, tibi poema feci,
ex quo perspiceres meum dolorem.

Yesterday, Licinius, we had a lot of fun
relaxing with my little writing tablets,
since we'd agreed to be frivolous.
Writing light verses, we played together,
now with this meter, now with that,
toasting each other with jokes and wine.
I left your place so inflamed, Licinius,
by your wit and your jokes,
that food didn't help me in my misery,
nor did sleep bury my poor eyes in rest,
but wild with madness I tossed and
turned all over my bed, wanting to see the light
so that I could talk with you, so that I could be with you.
But when my weary limbs, exhausted from their suffering,
lay limp on my little couch,
I wrote you this poem, dear friend,
so that you could fully appreciate my pain.

I think it's clear from this poem that Catullus is suffering a major man-crush. He can't stop thinking about his time with Licinius; he can't eat, he can't sleep, he tosses and turns all night mad with excitement, all he can think of is seeing and talking to Licinius again.

Some of the words and phrases he uses here are usually used by poets to describe passionate love. 'me miserum' (me in my misery) for example is used by Catullus himself in poem 51 when he first spies his girlfriend Lesbia across a crowded room. Poem 64 describes both Peleus and Bacchus as 'incensus amore' (inflamed with love). Catullus also often writes about the pain ('dolorem') and suffering ('labore') of being in love (poem 85 is an obvious example). In fact, reading Catullus often makes me think of this exchange from the movie Love Actually:

Daniel: Aren't you a bit young to be in love?
Sam: No.
Daniel: Oh, OK, right. Well, I'm a little relieved.
Sam: Why?
Daniel: Well, you know - I thought it might be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?
Daniel: Oh. No, you're right. Yeah, total agony.


Anonymous said...

Well, there goes 10 marks.

Anonymous said...

that poem was betting than i thought it would be! at least you stuck to your word on that account! :-)

Catullus (a.k.a. Misanthropy inc.) said...

To whom it may concern (namely, Mr. Morrison).

We, your morbidly disheartened year 12 class, would like to kindly request the removal of (at least) the translation of this poem.

No really. It's quite depressing to know you've just blown at least 13 marks. Unless writing the vocab in (somewhat) the correct order suddenly counts for 12 marks.

(and don't say many of us haven't. You may not have read our unseen translations yet, but some of us are well aware that if it were in an HSC situation, our papers would be passed around the marker's circles for a "HEY LOOK AT THIS STUPID CANDIDATE!" moment.)

So please, please, please, for the wellbeing of your... erm... wonderful... year 12 class, take down the translation?

teenage dirtbag said...

ah. now you've really made me wonder what i actually wrote down as my translation sir! i think i wrote down something along those lines...but i remember being unsure where Catullus was getting to.

lol @ misanthropy inc.

To misanthropy inc.:
sorry to say, but as far as i know, the translation is still up there. i don't think you included enough language devices to create a sense of pathos like Livy sometimes does ;)

Mike Salter said...

And now, on the subject of man-crushes, on to Catullus's Juventius poems... ;-)

misanthropy inc. said...

to teenage dirtbag:

I didn't include any indirect statements, longwinded sentences or "it is generally enough agreed" either. Why? Because I think I'd have to shoot myself if I started emulating Livy...

...any more than I already do.