by Arden Ivens-Anderson
It was an interesting choice by Catullus to model his poem after one of Sappho’s. I wonder if this would be considered plagiarism, and if Lesbia recognized the similarity to Sappho’s poem. Catullus 51 is a very powerful, emotional poem considering at the time it was written he had only seen Lesbia from afar. It is easy to see that he feels strongly for her; although the poem might just seem a superficial response to her beauty, the depth of the language points to the contrary. Consider the line: “tenuis sub artus flamma demanat.” The light delicate flame that pervaded every limb is a magnificent statement of his feeling, as if all touch is no longer possible after seeing her. The overall loss of all his senses-speech, movement, sound, sight- as a result of seeing her contributes to the realness of his feelings. It is amazing that he would profess such awestruck to his new love because he is approaching her with a delicate side of his personality.
I question the subject matter of Catullus 3. His criticism of the sparrow in the final lines: “tuā nunc operā meae puellae flendō turgidulī rubent ocellī” is a negative remark on the death of Lesbia’s beloved sparrow. I think that his words would greatly upset her. I also find the part of the poem where he is yelling at death for killing everything beautiful seems dramatic. I imagine him yelling at the top of his lungs in the pouring rain, like a corny scene right out of a bad movie. Finally, this poem is a great transition from Catullus 2 because we are able to see the evolution of the sparrow.
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