|Good Morning, Examiners of Life! Today we will be analyzing poetry that is over 2000 years old. The author of the poetry is Catullus, a man who lived a short life during the later part of the Roman Republic. He was born in 87 BCE and died in 54 BCE. He lived his life like a true wandering poet; never living in one place for long. Although he was largely scorned by the upper-classes, he met many famous Romans (and was better acquainted with their wives…). He knew Julius Caesar, Sulla (the Dictator at the time), Pompey the Great (Rome’s richest man and famous general), and many others.|
|Catullus’ poetry is famous for its intertwining of formal verse and the use of slang; this was staggeringly different from the poetry the upper-class was used to.|
Catullus’ main love interest in his poetry is a woman named Lesbia. This is likely a pseudonym used by the poet to preserve the woman’s anonymity as she was married to a Senator, and for a woman to have an affair in ancient Rome was no frivolous thing. Scholars speculate that Lesbia was actually Cloilia in reality; a woman married to one of the most powerful men in Rome!
The name Lesbia references the ancient Greek poet Sappho (even to the Romans she was ancient) who hailed from the island of Lesbos. Sappho was known for her lyric poetry. Catullus likely did this because Sappho was a huge inspiration for him.
His poetry is brief, concise, sharp and full of power. Here is the original Latin, followed by a translation which is humbly submitted to you by your Scribe:
|Huc est mens deducta tua, mea Lesbia, culpa,|
atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,
ut iam nec bene velle queat tibi, si optuma fias,
nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.
Reason is blinded by sin, my Lesbia
my mind is destroyed by devotion
I cannot think tenderly of you,
even if you should become perfect
But no matter what you do
I can never stop loving you
|The poem is the essence of the heart in conflict.|
Catullus is so vehemently in love with Lesbia that he feels he has gone mad. His affection has consumed him to the point of obsession. He is envious, he is pained, he is full of desire and ruined by it. He is so obsessed with his lover that he cannot be happy for her, for her success may mean losing what they have. On the contrary, his love consumes him to the point that even if Lesbia committed the most horrible thing, he could never leave her even if it meant preserving himself.
The words of those who lived millennia before us still echo through the corridors of humanity to this day. How those words are interpreted will remain secondary to their original intent. You, O Examiner, should carefully scrutinize yourself. Are you chasing the unattainable? Are you infatuated with that which will never return your love? Are you pouring into a vessel which has no bottom? If so, then now is the time for you to examine yourself; to stop and think, and proceed with the clarity of Socrates.
Go forth, Examine yourself and let not your reason be blinded by sin, dear reader.
|Yours Truly, |
The Golden Scribe
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates