Catullus 51 and Catullus 5- Caitlin Pietrobono
by Caitlin Pietrobono
In poem 51, Catullus is expressing that he is jealous of the man who is able to sit across from the woman he loves and is able to freely listen to her sweet laughter. Catullus is deeply in love with Lesbia and finds that when he sees her, he is rendered speechless and generally useless because of the emotions her presence elicits (Lesbia, adspexi, nihil est super mi, Line 9). In the last stanza of the poem, Catullus is addressing himself and saying that leisure may be his undoing because it has ruined cities before (Otium et reges prius et beatas/Perdidit urbes. Lines 15, 16).
In poem 5, Catullus has boldly asked Lesbia to begin an affair with him. He tells her to value the rumors of severe old men as a penny (rumoresque senum severiorum omnes unius aestimemus assis! Lines 2-3). Catullus wants to throw caution into the wind because when the sun sets for them, they enter the perpetual night of death.
In both of these poems, Catullus wants to begin an affair with Lesbia who he has come to love. Although, contrary to poem 51, Catullus is saying that life is short and they should not care what others think and to begin their affair. In poem 51, he says that leisure may be his undoing.