Cameron's Response

by Cameron Hunter

I found that Catullus 51 was indicative of Catullus’ genius and his soul. He was able to take an ancient Greek poetess’ work and transform it into his own Latin translation – while using the same form as Sappho. And he did all of this because Lesbia (or his love Clodia) took over all of his senses and made him fall head over heels with her at his first glance of her: “nam simul te, Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi/…/ lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus/ flamma demanat, sonitu suopte/ tintinant aures, gemina teguntur /lumina nocte.” Here, Catullus is describing how Clodia overwhelms all of his senses – his eyes are covered with dark, his tongue is struck silent, his ears have ringing inside them.

In his next poems, you can tell that Catullus feels the same way about Clodia when he first saw her as when he is having an affair with her because in Catullus 5, you see that his passion for her is still unrelenting. He asks her to give him thousands of kisses (3300, to be precise) and tells her that she is his love forever. (It is interesting to note Catullus’ invention of the word “basium” in this poem, because he was the first to use this word for “kiss” in Latin literature.) Although we know that Catullus’ love for Clodia eventually turns sour, in the beginning of their relationship, we are able to see Catullus’ deep passion for her in Catullus 51 and Catullus 5.

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