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Catullus is a companion of lovers and of those whom love has disappointed. He is also a satirical and epigrammatic writer who savagely consoles with laughter. Carmina captures in English both the mordant, scathing wit and also the concise tenderness, the famous love for reluctant Lesbia who is made present in these new versions. A range of English metres and rhymes evoke Catullus is a companion of lovers and of those whom love has disappointed. He is also a satirical and epigrammatic writer who savagely consoles with laughter. Carmina captures in English both the mordant, scathing wit and also the concise tenderness, the famous love for reluctant Lesbia who is made present in these new versions. A range of English metres and rhymes evoke the epigrammatic power of the many modes and moods of this most engaging, erotic and influential of the Latin poets. He left a mark on Horace, Virgil, Ovid and on the lyric and epigrammatic traditions of all the languages of Europe. Of Len Krisak's Horace translations, Frederic Raphael said, ‘[He] enables us both to enjoy a fresh voice and to hear (and see), very distinctly, what lies behind and within his unintimidated rescripts’. Again in Carmina he works his precise magic.


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Catullus is a companion of lovers and of those whom love has disappointed. He is also a satirical and epigrammatic writer who savagely consoles with laughter. Carmina captures in English both the mordant, scathing wit and also the concise tenderness, the famous love for reluctant Lesbia who is made present in these new versions. A range of English metres and rhymes evoke Catullus is a companion of lovers and of those whom love has disappointed. He is also a satirical and epigrammatic writer who savagely consoles with laughter. Carmina captures in English both the mordant, scathing wit and also the concise tenderness, the famous love for reluctant Lesbia who is made present in these new versions. A range of English metres and rhymes evoke the epigrammatic power of the many modes and moods of this most engaging, erotic and influential of the Latin poets. He left a mark on Horace, Virgil, Ovid and on the lyric and epigrammatic traditions of all the languages of Europe. Of Len Krisak's Horace translations, Frederic Raphael said, ‘[He] enables us both to enjoy a fresh voice and to hear (and see), very distinctly, what lies behind and within his unintimidated rescripts’. Again in Carmina he works his precise magic.

30 review for The Complete Poems

  1. 4 out of 5

    c, (½ of readsrainbow)

    i relate to catullus bc i too am petty, bitter, overdramatic & bisexual.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jibran

    Catullus Your Saturnalian bonne-bouche I read this Penguin edition of Catullus's poems side by side Peter Green's translation. I have no hesitation in saying I prefer the latter, not because I am in any way able to compare it with the original Latin, but seeing the parallel text I can see that Green has endeavoured to remain faithful to metre, length and the rhythm of the original. This stands in contrast to Whigham's translation with its arbitrary enjambments and unruly line-breaks, where some Catullus Your Saturnalian bonne-bouche I read this Penguin edition of Catullus's poems side by side Peter Green's translation. I have no hesitation in saying I prefer the latter, not because I am in any way able to compare it with the original Latin, but seeing the parallel text I can see that Green has endeavoured to remain faithful to metre, length and the rhythm of the original. This stands in contrast to Whigham's translation with its arbitrary enjambments and unruly line-breaks, where some poems are summarily translated, others are bloated (over-translated?), perhaps to give clarity to the vagueness of the original. However, Whigham's love epigrams are more spontaneous, direct and urgent compared to Green's. I do not object to artistic recreation in translation when its purpose is to convey the tone and spirit of the original, and to give a sense of the language even if it means bending the rules of idiomatic English, especially when it requires an intelligent rendering of satire. But I think if you take too much liberty with the original you end up turning it more your own creation and less that of the writer you're translating. FitzGerald's and Omar Khayyam come to mind. I have since long refused to call it a translation. Rubaiyat is FitzGerald's reworking of Khayyam, a work that should be seen as Rubaiyat of Edward FitzGerald. Entry #8 serves as a good example of Catullus' angry love poem. It's aimed at his lover, the wife of another man, whom he refers to as Lesbia in his poems. Catullus hates her for abandoning him and also hates being in love with her, but can't bring himself to concede. I'm quoting both translations to highlight the difference between Whigham and Green. (All italics belong to the translators) Peter Whigham translation Break off fallen Catullus time to cut losses, bright days shone once, you followed a girl here & there loved as no other perhaps shall be loved, then was the time of love's insouciance, your lust as her will matching. Bright days shone on both of you. Now, a woman in unwilling. Follow suit weak as you are no chasing of mirages no fallen love, a clean break hard against the past. Not again, Lesbia. No more. Catullus is clear. He won't miss you. He won't crave it. It is cold. But you will whine. Peter Green translation Wretched Catullus, stop this tomfool stuff and what you see has perished treat as lost for good. Time was, every day for you the sun shone bright, when you scurried off wherever she led you- that girl you loved as no one shall again be loved. There, when so many charming pleasures all went on, things that you wanted, things she didn't quite turn down, then for you truly every day the sun shone bright. Now she's said No, so you too, feeble wretch, say No. Don't chase reluctance, don't embrace a sad-sack life- make up your mind, be stubborn, obdurate, hang tough! So goodbye, sweetheart, Now Catullus will hang tough, won't ask, "Where is she," won't, since you've said No, beg, plead. You'll soon be sorry, when you get these pleas no more- bitch, wicked bitch, poor wretch, what life awaits you now? Who'll now pursue you, still admire you for your looks? Whom will you love now? Who will ever call you theirs? Who'll get your kisses? Whose lips will you bite in play? You, though, Catullus, keep your mind made up, hang tough! For the sake of brevity, I'm not commenting on Catullus' longish (and excellent) poems mixing elements of tragedy and epic, so I'll round off the note on translation by saying that I have been unhorsed along with my hoary perceptions about ancient Roman poets. "Beautiful" is not a word that comes to mind when you read Catullus, no; he is witty, sardonic, playful, deeply personal, highly offensive, almost autobiographical. He does not mince words when he is up to denouncing whom he does not like: his Lesbia whom he repeatedly accuses of turning into a whore with a multitude of lovers, all for having spurned his love(!), the poets of habit, time-wasting rhymesters, and his foes whom he abuses without a blush: his preferred revenge is to drive his equine male organ through the foully malodorous bog land of other people's backsides. Not a man you would want to know in real life! Suffice it to say that Catullus startled me, amused me, shocked me, and gave me plenty to laugh through the sweet (& sour) time I took in reading both translations. For Vibennius he has this to say. Poem #33 "Oh you cream of the con men in the bathhouse, Pop Vibennius, and your son the bum-boy - Dad may have a dirtier right hand, but Juniorʻs got a more voracious backside - why not just sod off to exile in some hellhole, since Dadʻs larcenies are public knowledge, while you, son, cannot hawk your bristly asshole, no, not even for a penny!" (Green) Thanks to Penguin Little Black Classics series I have discovered quite a few world greats which otherwise it would have taken me a long time to discover, independently. I was introduced to Catullus with this collection: I Hate and I Love, enjoyed it thoroughly and immediately sought out the full collection. Here are a couple of samplers to get a better (bitter?) taste of Catullus on your poetic palate! Poem #16: Catullus rebukes his critics and detractors who most probably had objected to the content of his poems, as many still would! (I have no idea what the first and last lines mean) "Pedicabo et irrumabo Furius & Aurelius twin sodomites, you have dared deduce me from my poems which are lascivious which lack pudicity... The devoted poet remains in his own fashion chaste his poems not necessarily so: they may well be lascivious lacking in pudicity stimulants (indeed) to prurience and not solely in boys but those whose hirsute genitalia are not easily moved. You read of those thousand kisses. You deduced an effiminancy there. You were wrong. Sodomites. Furius & Aurelius. Pedicabo et irrumabo vos." (Whigham) Poem #78B "...but what irks me now is that your filthy saliva has soiled the pure kisses of a pure girl. You won't get away scot-free, though. All future ages shall know that, and ancient Fame tell what you see." (Green) September '15

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    1st century BCE portrait from Pompeii Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.() In the mid-1st century BCE the Roman Republic was stumbling to a close, torn by the struggles between factions of the Roman aristocracy trying to hold onto its wealth and influence, the rising merchants and bankers - some of whom were obscenely wealthy and holding the financial lifeline of many aristocrats - and the uncountable plebians driven off their farms by the 1st century BCE portrait from Pompeii Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.() In the mid-1st century BCE the Roman Republic was stumbling to a close, torn by the struggles between factions of the Roman aristocracy trying to hold onto its wealth and influence, the rising merchants and bankers - some of whom were obscenely wealthy and holding the financial lifeline of many aristocrats - and the uncountable plebians driven off their farms by the aristocracy's acquisition of huge tracts of agricultural land worked by armies of slaves and forced to live in misery in the stinking tenements of the Subura. One civil war had recently come to an end with Sulla's dictatorship, but after a reign of terror motivated at least as much by greed as by reasons of state security he returned the power to the Republican hierarchy and Rome back to its old problems; a second civil war was imminent. This one would be the end of the Republic. In such times of social and political turmoil one has observed again and again how some artists withdraw from a larger social engagement and focus on the private, not seldom emphasizing technical aspects of the craft that the more socially engaged writers left aside in order to reach a larger audience. These are both characteristics of the so-called neoteric poets, of whom Gaius Helvius Cinna, Licinius Calvus and Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 - ca. 54 BCE) were the most famous. The overwhelmingly dominant literary tradition in Rome until that time was dedicated to edifying the reader in the Roman Republican virtues through history and epic poetry recounting the heroic acts of Rome's great men. Certainly there was also theater - tragedy and comedy based on Greek models, and lesser fare as well - but that was written and performed by slaves, freedmen and a few others until quite late in the Republic. The neoteric poets, whom Cicero, with a sniff, called the poetae novi, deliberately turned away from the tradition to write of more private matters - particularly (erotic) love - in a highly literary idiom that, often enough, could well be termed artificial and was based on Alexandrian models. Like the late 19th century poètes maudits and aesthetes such as Stéphane Mallarmé, the core group of neoteric poets conjoined aesthetics and ethics whereof the principles forming their code were lepos (grace), venustas (charm) and urbanitas (urbanity). Born in fairly well-to-do families (but not aristocrats), they had the means to withdraw without concern for a wide audience (which they, in any case, spurned - another analogous trait with the poètes maudits). Unfortunately, little of the work of Cinna and Calvus has come down to us, but we do have 113 of Catullus' poems in our possession, and The Poems of Catullus: A Bilingual Edition (2005) contains them all, along with striking translations by Peter Green. The high school Latin I learned before the dawn of time suffices to let me enjoy the exceedingly complex rhythmic schemes Catullus employs (though little else), to which, remarkably, Peter Green extends his primary efforts and reproduces as successfully as one is likely to do in English.(*) Because of the deliberate air of spontaneity Catullus gives his poems and because almost all of us are not reading the original Latin, it is easy to get the impression that his poems are artless trivialities expressing standard feelings of joy, betrayal, suffering, hope and disillusionment in the relationships between lovers or that the poems addressed to men are just catty complaints or obsequious compliments tossed off on a whim. In light of the context suggested above, just the opposite is true. These poems are painstakingly worked and structured to provide texts based upon various complex and rigid metric schemes with a convincing appearance of spontaneity. That is not at all easy. So imagine, for a moment, the irony of a strict hendecasyllabic metric form being used for a scurrilous insult: 33 Oh you cream of the con men in the bathhouse, Pop Vibennius, and your son the bum-boy - Dad may have a dirtier right hand, but Juniorʻs got a more voracious backside - why not just sod off to exile in some hellhole, since Dadʻs larcenies are public knowledge, while you, son, cannot hawk your bristly asshole, no, not even for a penny! Clearly, one would not like to be on Catullus' bad side! But I come back to the craft and hence time involved in fashioning a strictly maintained, complex metric form (explained at length by Green) in such a manner that it appears to be an off-the-cuff slur and think of those two gifted bad boys - Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine - writing a strict and classical sonnet to the trou de cul. Were they sniggering like adolescents (after all, one of them was an adolescent) while forming those lines (was Catullus?), or was something else altogether going on in their minds? Insults aplenty are to be found in these poems, as well as what I interpret as quite insincere fawning. These and the many poems addressed to multiple lovers have raised the question of to which degree the poems are autobiographical. But they are so lively, and so convincingly spontaneous (despite the fact that they definitely were not) that I incline to share Green's view that we are getting a glimpse into the social and sexual life of real people removed from us by two millennia. As Green writes, "what need to make up stories when there was so much splendid material to hand." Can one doubt that this actually happened?: 53 Nice joke lately in court from some bystander: when my Calvus had finished his quite brilliant list of all Vatinius' misdemeanors, this man cries, hands raised in admiration, "Oh my god, an articulate cock-robin." (Licinius Calvus, Catullus' close friend and fellow poet, was a lawyer.) And so why should we disbelieve the many ups and downs of his relations with Lesbia and his many other paramours? These, at least as reported by the author, were carnal and cynical, which makes for entertaining reading, but one has to wonder if the poor man ever experienced some real love before he died so young (probably due to tuberculosis contracted in his teens). Even the very idea of such a love receives the full weight of his sophisticated irony in poem 45, too long to reproduce here. So, instead, I'll close with a poem in which he turns his irony against himself and his role as poet. 16 Up yours both, and sucks to the pair of you, Queen Aurelius, Furius the faggot, who dared judge me on the basis of my verses— they mayn’t be manly: does that make me indecent? Squeaky-clean, that’s what every proper poet’s person should be, but not his bloody squiblets, which, in the last resort, lack salt and flavor if not “unmanly” and rather less than decent, just the ticket to work a furious itch up, I won’t say in boys, but in those hirsute clods incapable of wiggling their hard haunches. Just because you’ve read about my countless thousand kisses, you think I’m less than virile? Up yours both, and sucks to the pair of you! It is clear to me that Catullus was more than intelligent enough to know that this farrago of invective and self-righteous outrage - thou dost protest too much, Gaius! - could only induce the opposite impression in the sophisticated reader. But then I stop and wonder again. The man's poetry is entertaining, cynical, ironic and sophisticated to the point of self-negation. And all this 2,000 years ago. Green emphasizes how "alien" Catullus is to us at such a remove. Granted, but then why does he seem to be so familiar? () I hate and I love. You wonder, perhaps, why I'd do that? I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified. (*) Green's introduction, in which he details the many difficulties of bringing the poetry of Latin into English and his solutions (building upon the work of Richmond Lattimore and Cecil Day Lewis), is very illuminating.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    He is essential reading, of course, though I had only read bits and bobs in the past before this - and this version in particular is fantastic. A lovely hardback bilingual edition. Peter Green does extraordinary translation work (as he did with Ovid) and all the lewd crude rude and often beautiful work of this great poet is in one gorgeous package. Highly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Peter Green's exuberantly bitchy translation of the complete poems of the Roman poet Catallus never fails to amuse, amaze, and indeed shock, which was certainly the poet's original intent. With far too many earlier translations of these viscerally human poems, translators have tried to protect us from the full onslaught of both Catallus' subject and language. Not here. For once, we feel an uncensored direct connection to a person who lived more than 2000 years ago. We see how he's just like us, Peter Green's exuberantly bitchy translation of the complete poems of the Roman poet Catallus never fails to amuse, amaze, and indeed shock, which was certainly the poet's original intent. With far too many earlier translations of these viscerally human poems, translators have tried to protect us from the full onslaught of both Catallus' subject and language. Not here. For once, we feel an uncensored direct connection to a person who lived more than 2000 years ago. We see how he's just like us, with the same angry emotions, sexual desires, fetishes, and imperfections. Like all translators, Green does not present a literal translation. He adds more verbiage than is present in the Latin text to add additional clarifying meaning, while staying within the metric and artistic structure of the poem. There are more literal and deliberately obscure translations available, but given the concision of Latin, what Green has done is far better. There are also extensive explanatory notes reflecting his vast Latin scholarship, and a glossary which add considerably to understanding the poems, and the relevant Roman life and history. Speaking of the poems themselves, those nevertheless justly famous ones covering Catallus' stormy relationship with Lesbia are at times tediously repetitive. I mean, so Lesbia was unfaithfully screwing lots of other guys—even the whole Roman army so Catullus says. Then she dumped him, or was it the other way around? Get over it man! How many poems are really necessary to express your love, then hate, toward her? On the other hand—by the way, hands, mouths, other parts and holes play a very prominent role in these poems—Catullus enjoyed relations with both sexes. For me, the raw and erotic same-sex squibs about his young teenage boyfriend Juventius (other boyfriends too: Catallus was typically promiscuous) are a pure delight. Also funny are the many obscene insults toward poorer poets, enemies, and those who betrayed him, or Rome, sexually or otherwise. For some examples, check out Poem 48: "Mellitos oculos tuos, Iuuenti" (Oh those honey-sweet eyes of yours, Juventius!); Poem 80: "clamant Victoris rupta miselli ilia, et emulso labra notata sero." (translate that one for yourself!); and Poem 99 for some Roman S&M, reminiscent of Boise and Oscar, and even more so of Rimbaud and Verlaine. I'll close by including in its entirety Poem 85, one of the better known of all Latin poems: Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucitor. (I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I'd do that? I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.) Just as Catallus hated and loved, so do we two thousand years later, for exactly the same sexual reasons, and with the same intensity. Don't let any translator, rewriter of history, politician, or priest tell you otherwise. And just as Catallus couldn't understand why he had these painful emotions, nor do we still.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    I wish I'd read this book in high school, I would have liked the Romans more. Yes, Catullus wrote poems to and about his friends, erotic poems, invectives and condolences but I personally believe that he lives up to his fame as the inventor of the "angry love poem". His spiteful humor is great and the petty is strong, resounding as clear today as two millennia ago.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    ”In bed I read Catullus. It passes my comprehension why Tennyson could have called him ‘tender.’ He is vindictive, venomous, and full of obscene malice. He is only tender about his brother and Lesbia, and in the end she gets it hot as well.” - Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters 1945-1962. Catullus was a Roman poet that lived through some of the most tumultuous days of the Roman Republic, from about 84-54 b.c. He spent his short life socializing in the best of circles, and his poetry contains ”In bed I read Catullus. It passes my comprehension why Tennyson could have called him ‘tender.’ He is vindictive, venomous, and full of obscene malice. He is only tender about his brother and Lesbia, and in the end she gets it hot as well.” - Harold Nicolson, Diaries and Letters 1945-1962. Catullus was a Roman poet that lived through some of the most tumultuous days of the Roman Republic, from about 84-54 b.c. He spent his short life socializing in the best of circles, and his poetry contains jabs at Julius Caesar and Cicero, among other notables. He left behind 116 poems, most of which are either memorializing his ill-starred affair with a woman named Lesbia (or Clodia), who was probably married to another man, or viciously attacking his contemporaries. On the list of major writers of the Roman Republic/Early Empire, Catullus is firmly entrenched on the second tier (behind Virgil, Ovid, Horace, and maybe Cicero). But there is much to enjoy here. Catullus’ bawdy style and racy lyrics are a nice change of pace from the formalism (and occasional imperial brownnosing) on display in Horace and Virgil’s poetry. The quote from Nicolson above sums up the experience of reading Catullus nicely; he really does spend an awful lot of time slinging mud at his adversaries, and nothing about this book is tender. Catullus’ poems are certainly not stuffy (they can be quite funny at times), and all in all this book was an easy breezy read. I did not think Catullus’ poetry was quite as good as Virgil/Ovid/Horace when that trio was on their game, and I wouldn’t recommend this book to a reader looking to just hit the highlights of this period.* However, for readers looking to dive more deeply into the literature of the late Republic Catullus’ poems should not be missed. I would rate the poetry on its own a 3.5 star read, but the excellent translation, introduction, and notes by Peter Green (one of my all-time favorites) were so enjoyable that they were worth an additional half star. 4 stars. *For readers interested in tackling the literature of the Republic/early Empire (from Rome’s founding to the death of Augustus in 14 AD), I would say the essentials are Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things and Horace’s Odes, in that order.

  8. 5 out of 5

    G.

    I hate and I love. And if you ask me how, I do not know: I only feel it, and I’m torn in two. Oh, Catullus, you were a mess. I guess that's why I loved his poetry so much. He could write beautifully and be tender, but he could also be incredibly bitter, petty, lewd and crude. There's an actual poem about him being pissed off about some other guy stealing his napkin, ffs. A keeper, right here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Niklas

    Vulgar, obscene, offensive, yet often hilarious, sometimes beautiful and incredibly moving. Catullus poems are powerful and always packed with emotion. Many modern readers will probably find him very relatable as well. He rages against his ex-lover Lesbia and calls her a whore in several poems (and not in a roundabout way either) yet is still obviously madly in love with her. He both praises and insults his friends and fellow poets, and often accuses them of questionable sexual practices. My Vulgar, obscene, offensive, yet often hilarious, sometimes beautiful and incredibly moving. Catullus poems are powerful and always packed with emotion. Many modern readers will probably find him very relatable as well. He rages against his ex-lover Lesbia and calls her a whore in several poems (and not in a roundabout way either) yet is still obviously madly in love with her. He both praises and insults his friends and fellow poets, and often accuses them of questionable sexual practices. My favourite poems were however the ones where he mourns his brother who died in battle. Very touching stuff.

  10. 4 out of 5

    AB

    Amazing book of poetry by a truly great Latin poet.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    Poems of Catullus Translation by Guy Lee Guy Lee (1918-2005), British poet and Latinist noted for his translations of Ovid and other ancient Latin poets, has rendered a lively, almost contemporary version of Catullus’ poetry. Catullus ( c. 84-c, 54 BCE) must have been fun to translate, affording Mr. Lee the pleasure of using the most vulgar Latin epithets, sobriquets, swear words and insults in Latin,) Catullus was contemptuous of Julius Caesar and a devoted lover of “Lesbia", the wife of a Poems of Catullus Translation by Guy Lee Guy Lee (1918-2005), British poet and Latinist noted for his translations of Ovid and other ancient Latin poets, has rendered a lively, almost contemporary version of Catullus’ poetry. Catullus ( c. 84-c, 54 BCE) must have been fun to translate, affording Mr. Lee the pleasure of using the most vulgar Latin epithets, sobriquets, swear words and insults in Latin,) Catullus was contemptuous of Julius Caesar and a devoted lover of “Lesbia", the wife of a fellow patrician and about whom he wrote romantic poems and scathingly lewd criticisms. According to my research his “carmina" breaks down into 60 short poems, 8 long poems, and 48 epigrams. In them he includes poems about friends of his, his homosexual interests, also about women he admires, invectives against those who have somehow slighted him, like Caesar and Cicero, and condolences such as the one for his brother who died in the Troad. While I have never made it to the area of ancient Troy (the Troad) I have traveled through some of the places such as Verona where Catullus was born, Rome of course and Bithynia along the southeast shore of the Black Sea, which is also where the Nicene Creed was developed and some of the finest silk is produced due to its extensive mulberry trees . You can gather from Catullus’ poems what he looked like as depicted in the painting by Sir Thomas Alma-Tadema . When I read the poems I did visualize this image of him (see below). He only lived to be 30 years old. Quite a wise guy, unflinchingly bold and impolite, and a Casanova of several varieties. I found the poems interesting from the aspect of his use of various linguistic registers, from formal to the violently vulgar. You as an ancient Roman would not have wanted Catullus out and about blackening your name with his verses. He sent an apology to Julius Caesar for insulting him whereupon immediately J.C. invited Catullus to supper. (A supper I would have not declined myself but would have instead sent a double if I could find one, since poisoning was a favorite weapon in those days.) He is also known to classic scholars of ancient poetry for employing various meters in lines of his poetry, something which in English I admire. A reason that a youth today might be interested in reading Catullus is to practice his Latin, since this book is a bilateral translation and rather easy to follow. I had contemplated studying Latin in my Texas high school, which was attended by three close friends who were my team mates in football, but the more practical Spanish won out. Latin is a good language to study to improve your English vocabulary (about 70% of our vocab is based on Latin) and begin the study of not only Spanish, but also French or Portuguese and several other important European languages. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&r...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Guus van der Peet

    I am finally making some progress in my bachelor’s thesis for Ancient History after having ignored for two years that I should really finish that studies someday. And in doing so, I have gained a new appreciation for Classical literature. In the last few weeks, I have read Sophocles and Sappho, both of which I loved, and now decided to read some Roman literature, starting with the poems of Catullus, a couple of which I translated in high school once. So about Catullus: about three quarters of I am finally making some progress in my bachelor’s thesis for Ancient History after having ignored for two years that I should really finish that studies someday. And in doing so, I have gained a new appreciation for Classical literature. In the last few weeks, I have read Sophocles and Sappho, both of which I loved, and now decided to read some Roman literature, starting with the poems of Catullus, a couple of which I translated in high school once. So about Catullus: about three quarters of the poems are obscene personal attacks against all the people he hates, which is pretty much everyone – ranging from close friends to fellow poets to former lovers (both male and female) to Julius Caesar. The majority of the remaining 25 percent are a metaphor for his penis. Most of it is super juvenile, but I have to admit that I laughed quite a lot, and the translations and commentary by Peter Green were extremely well done.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wendell

    Catullus is a great Latin poet whose verse is astonishingly contemporary in the treatment of his themes of love and betrayal. Most of his poems are brief, less than 20 lines, and about a third of these are about his love affair with Lesbia, who is probably Clodia, a married woman from one of Rome's leading families. Other poems deal with his friendships and betrayals, including some delightful insults. In addition, there are eight longer poems, including two marriage songs, a poem about Attis Catullus is a great Latin poet whose verse is astonishingly contemporary in the treatment of his themes of love and betrayal. Most of his poems are brief, less than 20 lines, and about a third of these are about his love affair with Lesbia, who is probably Clodia, a married woman from one of Rome's leading families. Other poems deal with his friendships and betrayals, including some delightful insults. In addition, there are eight longer poems, including two marriage songs, a poem about Attis who castrated himself for the goddess Cybele, a complex and gorgeous poem about the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, and No. 68, perhaps his most complex and personal poem. His shorter poems are often quite obscene, and older translations generally gloss over or omit his blunt expressions, so it is important to read a contemporary translation. I have read three of them that I can recommend: by G.P. Gould, Charles Martin, and this one, by Peter Green. When it comes to reading poets in translation, I try to read more than one translation, because no translation is perfect, and comparing them can give you a better idea of the possibilities of the original. If you know anything of the original language, it is also helpful to have a bilingual version in order to get some sense of the sound and rhythm of the original. This translation, by Peter Green, is one of two best of those I read, and it also contains a comprehensive commentary, more extensive than either of the other two translations I used. A word of caution: None of the comments attached to this translation and to the Martin translation on Powell's site are about either of those versions.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    no one has differentiated translators yet, this one picked at random. copley was my favorite before garrick turned me onto carl sesar's, first one to do justice to the extraordinary level of obscenity of the original

  15. 5 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    He's not the most "poetic" of the the Classical Latin poets I've read - but he wrote with such a passion and intensity that his poems are wonderfully engaging regardless

  16. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    If nothing else, Catullus knew how to want things. And where is all of it now?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linton Newton

    Many of the poems by Catullus are now my favourite poems generally. These poems are usually very personal, relating to either Catullus' romantic life or about friends and acquaintances that he had. The level of expression within these can allow them to appeal to many, of course the comedic element to many of these also helps in that regard. I would certainly recommend a lot of his earlier poems to everyone. In these the poems are very comic and romantic. This was the high point in Catullus' life Many of the poems by Catullus are now my favourite poems generally. These poems are usually very personal, relating to either Catullus' romantic life or about friends and acquaintances that he had. The level of expression within these can allow them to appeal to many, of course the comedic element to many of these also helps in that regard. I would certainly recommend a lot of his earlier poems to everyone. In these the poems are very comic and romantic. This was the high point in Catullus' life and it shows clearly through his artistic expression. Though all that was previously mentioned is only one element to these poems. One of the most profound features of this work is seeing Catullus develop as a character and seeing the progression of many of his relationships throughout this collection. It is clear that later in his life Catullus' life falls apart. In poem 69 this is most clear. He loses his comic element largely from this point onwards and he claims that he has lost his expression due to the suffering in his life, through losing his brother who must have been very important to him. Furthermore, his relationship with Lesbia, one of the most well-noted of his relationships, crumbles apart in poem 8. Prior to this point he almost exclusively wrote about Lesbia, and more than likely had her be the main inspiration for his poetry. The end to this relationship sees the beginning of his progression towards the suffering he feels later on. Though towards the end of this collection it can be seen that Catullus, who has lost everything, still yearns for Lesbia. Despite the heartache, despite the whoring (for and from either of them), there is still is a love which Catullus cannot live without and requires more desperately now that he is suffering in such a profound way. While it may seem as though Catullus' story will end in a tragic tale of loneliness and suffering, Lesbia returns to him. From this point onward, a significant change can be seen in the tone of the poems. Catullus comes back to life because he has something to live for. Lesbia, who starts off just as another of Catullus' girls is a constant obsession of the poet and one which brings him back from the brink of despair. While most of Catullus is beautifully expressed and interesting what must be exaggerated is that his fictional poems are significantly weaker than those which are personal. Truly Catullus can strongly express himself when it comes to pure emotion. The flaw with these works is that there is a lack of this expression in favour of a narrative, as though the life of Catullus and his friends was not interesting enough! This collection contains all of the poems by one of the best poets known to history, a true predecessor to the romantic poets.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Arnold

    Catulli carmina est aurum. et aureum poeta est. This Oxford Edition cover would make you assume the Latin included is a nice extra they have added in because they are nice, but really the end notes in this book are FAR more focused around textual scholarship of the Latin, rather than notes on aesthetics and annotations on the poems - things that would help someone new to Catullus's poetry. Really, here, the translation is secondary, and Catullus-virgins should be made aware of this.

  19. 5 out of 5

    max

    Catullus is one of the greatest Roman poets. Had a single manuscript of his collection not been discovered in Verona c. 1300, he would have been lost to us forever. It would be hard to point to a collection of poems that is more passionately intense, thematically wide ranging and skilfully executed than that of Catullus. It is all here: erotic love, friendship, travel, principles of poetic composition, political operators, poetasters, prostitutes, dinner invitations, socially inept wannabes, Catullus is one of the greatest Roman poets. Had a single manuscript of his collection not been discovered in Verona c. 1300, he would have been lost to us forever. It would be hard to point to a collection of poems that is more passionately intense, thematically wide ranging and skilfully executed than that of Catullus. It is all here: erotic love, friendship, travel, principles of poetic composition, political operators, poetasters, prostitutes, dinner invitations, socially inept wannabes, poseurs, mourning, and mythology (see, e.g., his magnum opus, No. 64, the Marriage of Peleus and Thetis). There are about two dozen "Lesbia poems" which appear in various places throughout the collection. These poems, about a woman believed to have been named Clodia, are of central importance to the collection as a whole. No poet in Western literature has captured more brilliantly the agonizing torture of what it feels like to have been in a relationship with and then tossed aside by a sexy, cultivated, and well-connected woman. Dear reader, if you have not read Catullus, you simply must. If you need only one single reason to learn the Latin language, let it be this poet. Lee's bilingual edition is excellent. The translations are very faithful to the original Latin poems, all of which are included.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    One does not find humorous poems about rape to be beautiful as well everyday, but such is the magic of this exquisite poet from the time of Caesar and Cicero. Catullus' subject is, invariably, the feelings of rapture or disgust associated with love and hatred; his style is at once polished and crude, surrounding the words testicle or cock with adjectives of wonder and grace. Surprisingly, the National Review occasionally prints Catullus but, then again, the right-wing is well known for sexual One does not find humorous poems about rape to be beautiful as well everyday, but such is the magic of this exquisite poet from the time of Caesar and Cicero. Catullus' subject is, invariably, the feelings of rapture or disgust associated with love and hatred; his style is at once polished and crude, surrounding the words testicle or cock with adjectives of wonder and grace. Surprisingly, the National Review occasionally prints Catullus but, then again, the right-wing is well known for sexual repression, and it seems these poems would be quite the release for an emotionally abused power-worshipper. Catullus was a worshipper of romance, and I would conjecture romance to be the non-religious form of a latent hatred for humanity and existence; indeed, modern cynicism darkens the edges of Catullus' glowing and talented verse. Nevertheless, there is much joy here, albeit a semi-nihilistic kind, and, for those interested in the great poet Sappho, it is generally surmised that the uncharacteristic long poems mentioning the gods are translations of Sappho into Latin - thank you Catullus, for she was the greater poet; Io Hymen Hymenaeus!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Catullus poem #101 is probably the greatest poem in Latin and one of the greatest poems ever. Here it is in Latin: Multas per gentes et multa per æquora uectus aduenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias, ut te postremo donarem munere mortis et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem, quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum, heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi. nunc tamen interea hæc prisco quæ more parentum tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias, accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu, atque in Catullus poem #101 is probably the greatest poem in Latin and one of the greatest poems ever. Here it is in Latin: Multas per gentes et multa per æquora uectus aduenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias, ut te postremo donarem munere mortis et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem, quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum, heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi. nunc tamen interea hæc prisco quæ more parentum tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias, accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu, atque in perpetuum, frater, aue atque uale. The last line is often quoted in this fashion: Frater, ave atque vale (Brother, hail and farewell). I did not care for the translations on the whole. So I am including one by Grace Andreacchi: Through many peoples and many seas have I travelled to thee, brother, and these wretched rites of death I bring a last gift but can speak only to ashes Since Fortune has taken you from me Poor brother! stolen you away from me leaving me only ancient custom to honour you as it has been from generation to generation Take from my hands these sad gifts covered in tears Now and forever, brother, Hail and farewell.

  22. 4 out of 5

    K.

    Catullus 97 Really, I shouldn't have thought that it made any difference whether Aemilius opened his mouth or his asshole: one wouldn't expect to find elegance wafting from either. However, his asshole does show greater refinement, since it has no teeth.Gaius Valerius Catullus, a man himself of great refinement and taste. Catullus 97 Really, I shouldn't have thought that it made any difference    whether Aemilius opened his mouth or his    asshole: one wouldn't expect to find elegance wafting from either.    However, his asshole does show greater    refinement, since it has no teeth.Gaius Valerius Catullus, a man himself of great refinement and taste.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    What a sensual, torrid, and beautifully composed set of work is this? I am speechless. Catullus your words are like silk. Your stories and musings on human behavior are debauchery at its best. And Ha! The poem regarding your defense of flowery rhetoric. For you are fed wine and grapes in abound and surrounded by ladies night and day. In truth who could fault you for such as this! Oh a man who knows women, and knows his way around the written word is a rare and delicious treat.

  24. 5 out of 5

    D.A.

    A beautifully contemporary rendering of Catullus that captures the fire and chutzpah, the tenderness, the sheer cleverness of this quintessential lyric poet.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisbeth

    The history of literature, starts, like so many other things, with the Greeks and the Romans. The Poems of Catullus has been on my shelves for several years, and finally, I read it. It is not entirely easy to interpret the poems, even with the very good introduction by the translator, Peter Whigham. Here a few lines from the introduction. "We know very little about Catullus's life: even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. The likeliest figures are: born 84, died 54 B.C. His full name The history of literature, starts, like so many other things, with the Greeks and the Romans. The Poems of Catullus has been on my shelves for several years, and finally, I read it. It is not entirely easy to interpret the poems, even with the very good introduction by the translator, Peter Whigham. Here a few lines from the introduction. "We know very little about Catullus's life: even the dates of his birth and death are uncertain. The likeliest figures are: born 84, died 54 B.C. His full name was Giaus Valerius Catullus. … He appears as one of the lovers of the notorious Clodia Metelli, and a leading figure - perhaps the leading figure - in the new movement in poetry. … In short, the tradition that he died of what our grandmothers called 'a broken heart' finds no support in the poems. It is based solely on the assumption that his love for Clodia was of the conventional type of romantic - i.e. 'fatal' - passion. But I believe that many of the poems point to an altogether different and more complicated state of mind. All we can say for certain about his death is, that like his birth, it happened." In the poems Catullus calls Clodia for Lesbia. Here are three of my favourite poems. In the first one I recognise some lines from "The Outlander" TV-series (Season 2, episode 13). It is slightly different in the TV-series, it seems that version is based on a translation by Richard Crashaw, from the 17th century (suitable of course). I found it beautiful when I heard it and so it is when you read it. This version probably more strictly translated. Poem no. 5 Lesbia Live with me & love me so we'll laugh at all the sour-faced strict- ures of the wise. This sun once set will rise again when our sun sets follows night & an and endless sleep. Kiss me now a thousand times & now a hundred more & then a thousand more again till with so many hundred thousand kisses you & I shall both lose count nor any can from envy of so much of kissing put his finger on the number of sweet kisses you of me & I of you, darling, have had. Poem no. 49 Silver-tongued among the sons of Rome the dead, the living & the yet unborn, Catullus, least of poets, sends Marcus Tullius his warmest thanks: - as much the least of poets as he a prince of lawyers. Poem no. 87 No woman loved, in truth, Lesbia as you by me; no love-faith found so true as mine in you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lasse Carlsson

    Miser Catulle.... introduced to me through my senior year Latin class (and the most harrowing exam of my life so far) this 1st century BC Roman poet is definetely not your typical Ancient poet. He rarely dabbles in Virgil's heroic deeds or teaches us carpe diem like Horace, instead he is something far more refreshing to read: a human being. In his works, I definetely see two identities clashing with each other: the macho-type poet determined to be the best and cursing his haters with illness and Miser Catulle.... introduced to me through my senior year Latin class (and the most harrowing exam of my life so far) this 1st century BC Roman poet is definetely not your typical Ancient poet. He rarely dabbles in Virgil's heroic deeds or teaches us carpe diem like Horace, instead he is something far more refreshing to read: a human being. In his works, I definetely see two identities clashing with each other: the macho-type poet determined to be the best and cursing his haters with illness and threats of oral rape (yikes) and a sensitive much less masculine guy, willing to submit to every form of mockery to be his one true love, the noblewoman Lesbia. It is interesting to see these two sides clash, when his love poems undermines his cool masculine facade and his ill-fated romance hijacks his recounts of epic Greek myths. This is definetely helped by Peter Green's translation, where the oh-so-academic filter is stripped away and words like "shit", "cunt" and "fuckface" flow freely. One could argue that such a choice tries to unnaturally modernise Catullus but at the same time it conveys the tone of the poems very well, so that we feel schocked and awed in all the right places. It also serves as inspiration for rereading the Latin originals at some point just to spot the differences. Green also delivers a nice (if a bit drawn out) prologue teaching us about the historical context, the author's life, the preservation of the poems and even all 10 of Catullus' metres. Through this and the poems we get a glimpse of Catullus' life in the end of the Republic, where figures like Cicero and Caesar are common targets, and where the leaders are all to willing turn the blind eye to corruption in the name of expanding the Roman Peace. Not all that Catullus has touched is gold, some of it is a bit too crass and vulgar for my taste, and I think that his long poems are a bit too heavy, but I really recommend these poems because of their unique perspective. We see that life in Rome was more than gladiators and glory and that the Romans were people too: hypocritical, witty, complex and lovesick, and that those final days of the Roman Republic perhaps are not as different from today as one could imagine. Spice all that with unrequited love of highest quality and you understand why of all those ancient poets, this mere mortal gets to join the legends.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sam Olson

    Best thing I’ve read in months. Catullus is beyond incredible. Poems include but are not limited to: - Love poem to private yacht - Passive aggressive poem regarding the theme of “you smell bad and that’s why women don’t like you. ‘Reach for the deodorant.’” - “Your grandpa is a creep lol” - Yelling at a prostitute who stole your pocketbook. Relatable content - A hint of casual gay - Making dick jokes for literally no reason other than “the hell of it” 5/5

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pontus Presents

    (Translator: Peter Whigham). I really want to read at least one other translation of Catullus poems before giving a rating. I did enjoy the poems but I felt that the translation was a bit... off(?), compared to other translations I read online. So I'll read either Peter Green's or Guy Lee's translation sometime in the future!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Francine Maessen

    Catullus is just great. He is so immensely innovative and sharp. His longer works drag out a bit more, altough even there he keep focused on the image he wants to show, like with Ariadne on the beach. But I personally prefer his shorter poems. I like how to the point he is.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    These poems are hysterical, and at times almost sweet, but overall they're sexist and violent-though to be fair, that's more telling about the time period in which they were written than the poet himself.

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