16. But whenever these poems were written, they spring from experiences that did not touch deeply the soul of the writer. A passing fancy, a moment's passion, an evanescent humor brought them forth. But at Rome, and not long after he arrived at Rome, Catullus met the mastering passion of his his life, and beside the verses to which it gave birth the melodious chamber ditties of Horace and the elaborated passions of the elegiasts are but as tinkling cymbals. To the woman who exercised this wonderful power over him he gives the name of Lesbia. But more often he is not content with a name, and the familiar terms of endearment flow from his lips with a newer and deeper meaning; for he delights to feel that though his experience is on the outside like that of other men, his mistress is peerless in virtues and his love for her a love passing that of women. On his side the passion was sudden and intense. He adopts the words of Sappho, and tells Lesbia (c. 51) of the deadly faintness that seizes upon him even while he feels himself a' god, and more than a god, in sharing her smile and her voice. And with the swift passion comes the mad desire to win her love. Lesbia is a married woman (c. 83.1), but that consideration demands only additional care and diplomacy on his part, and is no bar to his efforts. He lays siege to her heart. His importunate persistence, youth as he is, commands her attention even amid a throng of lovers, but apparently only irritates her. What does this youngster, lately come to Rome, hope for amid so many of his betters? He sees that victory must be won over this brilliant woman of the world by proving himself no mere moon-calf. Therefore he curbs his sentiment, and matches wit with wit. Even her own display of petulance is turned against her in neat retort (cc. 83, 92). And meanwhile Catullus was winning his way in the Roman world. The unknown young man was becoming well known, and the haughty beauty finally surrendered, doubtless influenced by vanity rather than by passion.
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Friends and foes.
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