by Oliver Friedman
(Bedford, New York)
Catullus 51, in which the famous Roman poet first addresses his beloved Lesbia, is written in beautifully evocative language. Catullus vividly describes how the mere sight of Lesbia causes him to lose control of all of his senses; he is so struck by her beauty that he is at a loss for words, unable to move his limbs as his ears fill with a resonating ring. Indeed, Catullus does not even address the poem to Lesbia, directing it instead to ille – that man – who is fortunate enough to spend time in her presence. In these lines, we see the beginnings of an unlikely relationship that would eventually develop into a passionate affair. Over time, Catullus works up the courage to directly speak to Lesbia in his poems. As their complicated romance grows, he happily writes of his intense and undying love. In Catullus 5, the emotional author attempts to persuade Lesbia to disregard the hostile rumors surrounding their affair. “Vīvāmus, mea Lesbia, atque amēmus,” he says, promising that with enough kisses they will be able to confuse any people attempting to derail their romance and be allowed to freely love each other. In Catullus’ elegantly written poems, we can trace the development of his relationship with Lesbia, seeing how it grew from one of bashful flirtation into one of passionate love.
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