Catullus 51 and Catullus 5 -Ben's Analysis

by Ben Sarnoff
(Pound Ridge, NY)

I think that “Catullus 51” has an interesting complexity as it is an adaptation of Sappho’s fragmentary lyrical poems. Even though Catullus and Sappho are different genders, they both write similarly about love. Catullus writes the beginning of the poem in third person, describing how any man watching Lesbia will be in awe. He does not start his poem talking about how he feels about her, but instead he describes another man with whom she is sitting. “Ille mi par esse deo videtur, ille, si fas est, superare divos, qui sedens adversus identidem te spectat et audit.” Catullus is saying that the man with Lesbia is extremely lucky and Catullus wishes he was in that man’s position. Catullus indirectly addresses his love to Lesbia since he is of a lower class; he is waiting for the right time to introduce himself.

In his later poem, “Catullus 5,” Catullus’ relationship with Lesbia has progressed. He directly addresses Lesbia, claiming that he wants to love her forever and forget about what others say about them. Catullus glorifies his expressing of love for Lesbia by telling her the number of kisses he desires from her. “Da mi basia mille, deinde centum, deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.” Catullus wants them to enjoy their life together now; life is short, and death is eternal. “Soles occidere et redire possunt; nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux, nox est perpetua una dormienda.” Catullus is able to express his feeling for Lesbia by using these metaphors and hendecasyllabic meter.

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