A modest dedication to Cornelius. The poem probably served originally as an introduction to a part only of the extant liber Catulli. The entire collection is too large, and too varied in contents, to be described by the word libellus used in v. 1 (cf. Birt, Antike Buchwesen, pp.22, 291, 401 ff.) The original libellus may have included, as Bentley and others after him have thought, cc. 1-60, but more likely was of undeterminable content, being incorporated in the entire liber published shortly after the poet's death (cf. Intr. 48, Intr. 51).—Meter, Phalaecean.

[1-3] With the rhetorical question and answer, cf. Catul. 100.5cui faveam potius? Caeli, tibi; nam, etc.

cui: see Crit. App.

dono: the indicative present with future meaning is sometimes used to express the imminence of decision in questions implying great anxiety or eagerness; cf. Catul. 63.55; Pl. Cas. 384compressan palma an porrecta ferio?Cic. Att. 13.40advolone an maneo?Verg. A. 4.534en quid ago? rursusne procos experiar?Sen. Contr. 2.3. 11.19carnifex dicat, ‘agon?’

lepidum novum: of the external rather than of the internal character of the book; cf. Catul. 22.6novi libri” ; Catul. 78. lepidissima coniunx; Pl. Ps. 27lepidis litteris, lepidis tabellis, lepida conscripta manu” ; Stat. Silv. 49.7noster [libellus] purpureus novusque charta” ; Mart. 4.10.1dum novus est, rasa nec adhuc mihi fronte libellus” . The tone is as if the young author held in his hands his first completed volume, and were charmed by its aspect; of its intrinsic merits he speaks modestly in vv. 8-10. In Catul. 6.17lepidus” refers to the dainty character of the verse itself (cf. Mart. 8.3.19; Mart. 11.20.9lepidos libellos” ), and Ausonius evidently understood it in that sense here; Aus. 23.1-4cuilibellumVeronensis ait poeta quondamat nos inlepidum, rudem libellum.

libellum: especially used of a book of poetry, shorter than a prose liber; cf. Birt, l.c.

[2] arido: a formal epithet of pumex; cf. Pl. Aul. 297pumex non aequest aridus quam hic est senex” ; Mart. 8.72.2morsu pumicis aridi politus.” In Catul. 23.12 ff. horn is mentioned as a typical dry substance.

[2] pumice: the ends of the papyrus-roll were rubbed smooth with pumice-stone; cf. 22.8 n.

[3] Corneli: i.e. Cornelius Nepos; cf. Intr. 12, Intr. 64.

[3] solebas: probably in the way of private friendship.

[4] aliquid, of some value. cf. Cic. Tusc. 5.36.104eos esse aliquid putare” ; Ov. Fast. 6.27est aliquid nupsisse Ioui” ; Prop. 4.7.1sunt aliquid Manes” ; Juv. 3.230est aliquid unius sese dominum fecisse lacertae” ; Vulg. Gal. 2.2qui videbantur aliquid esse.

[4] nugas: short, slight, sportive poems: cf. Hor. S. 1.9.2nescio quid meditans nugarum” ; Mart. 1.113.6per quem perire non licet meis nugis” ; Aus. 26.1.1latebat inter nugas meas libellus ignobilis.

[5] iam tum cum: etc., i.e. even then, at the beginning of my career, when you were already well known and engaged on your great work. The reference is probably not to a direct mention of Catullus in the projected book.

[5] unus Italorum: other Romans had written only annalistic histories of their own country, or general histories covering limited periods.

[6] omne aevum: i.e. the work was a history of the world from the earliest period to his own time, probably the (lost) Chronica mentioned by Ausonius in Ep. 16.1Nepotis Chronica, quasi alios apologos (nam et ipsa instar sunt fabularum) ad nobilitatem tuam misi.” The Chronica was doubtless a chronological work like the Annalium Libri III of Varro, mentioned by Jerome, and the Annalis of Atticus (cf. Nep. Att. 18.1).

[6] chartis: single pieces of papyrus prepared for writing: cf. Catul. 22.6; Hor. Ep. 2.1.113calamum et chartas et scrinia posco;” then of the writings themselves: cf. Catul. 36.1, Catul. 36.20, Catul. 68.46; Hor. Carm. 4.8.21Si chartae sileant quod bene feceris” ; Mart. 5.26.2aliqua cum iocarer in charta;” then of divisions of the writings, books, as here: cf. Q. Ser. Sammi 721tertia namque Titi simul et centesima Livi charta docet.

[7] Iuppiter: with this use as an expletive, like edepol, ecastor, mehercule, medius fidius, etc., cf. Catul. 66.30; Pl. Merc. 865Iuppiter, estne illic Charinus?Pl. Aul. 241sed pro Juppiter, num ego disperii!Ter. Ad. 757o Iuppiter, hancine vitam !

[8] habe tibi: an expression of the conveyance of rights in property, to the formal effect of which the preceding quare contributes: cf. the formula of divorce quoted from the Twelve Tables in Pl. Trin. 266tuas res tibi habeto” ; Mart. 10.51.16quae tua sunt, tibi habe; quae mea, redde mihi” ; Pl. Bacch. 1142Si quam debes, te condono; tibi habe” ; Ter. Phor. 435te oblectet; tibi habe.” The familiarity of the traditional order of the words in these formulae may have given rise to the unmetrical tibi habe of V.

[8] quidquidqualecumque: said with modest self-depreciation.

[8] quare habe tibi: ‘so take it.’

[8] quidquid hoc libelli: ‘It's all yours.’

[8] qualecumque: ‘such as it is.’ With quidquid hoc libelli as a quantitative expression, cf. Catul. 31.14; Catul. 37.4 (like quantum with a genitive in Catul. 3.2; Catul. 9.10); Liv. 23.9 iurantes per quidquid deorum est; Hor. Epod. 5.1at o deorum quidquid in caelo regit” ; Hor. S. 1.6.1Lydorum quidquid Etruscos incoluit fines, nemo generosior est te” ; Verg. A. 1.78tu mihi quodcumque hoc regni concilias” ; Tib. 2.2.15gemmarum quidquid felicibus Indis nascitur.

[8] hoc: Supply est (cf. Verg. A. 1.78), and then the quidquid clause is modified by qualecumque directly, in a politely deprecatory tone: cf. Hor. S. 1.10.88quibus haec, sunt qualiacumque, adridere velim.

[9] patrona virgo: the muse of lyric poetry, to whom, as one of the guardians of song, the poet prays for the long life of his book: cf. Suet. Gram. 6scriptores ac poetae sub clientela sunt Musarum” ; Sulpicia Caleni IIprecibus descende clientis et audi.” With virgo, of the Muse, cf. Catul. 65.2; Prop. 3.30.33nec tu virginibus reverentia moveris ora.” But some critics, with Guarinus, understand the reference of Pallas.

[10] plus uno saeclo: a modest statement of an indefinite extent of time: cf. Hor. Carm. 1.32.2quod et hunc in annum vivat et plures.” With the modest prayer of Catullus for abiding fame, cf. the proud reliance of Horace upon the judgment of his patron (Hor. Carm. 1.1ff.), and, later, his assurance of immortality (Hor. Carm. 3.30).

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  • Commentary references from this page (36):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.40
    • New Testament, Galatians, 2.2
    • Catullus, Poems, 100
    • Catullus, Poems, 22
    • Catullus, Poems, 23
    • Catullus, Poems, 3
    • Catullus, Poems, 31
    • Catullus, Poems, 36
    • Catullus, Poems, 37
    • Catullus, Poems, 6
    • Catullus, Poems, 63
    • Catullus, Poems, 65
    • Catullus, Poems, 66
    • Catullus, Poems, 68
    • Catullus, Poems, 78
    • Catullus, Poems, 9
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 2.1
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.78
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.534
    • Horace, Satires, 1.10.88
    • Horace, Satires, 1.6.1
    • Horace, Satires, 1.9.2
    • Sulpicia, Poems, 2
    • Terence, Phormio, 2.3
    • Plautus, Aulularia, 2.2
    • Plautus, Aulularia, 2.4
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 5.2
    • Plautus, Casina, 2.6
    • Plautus, Mercator, 5.2
    • Terence, The Brothers, 4.7
    • Cornelius Nepos, Atticus, 18.1
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5.36
    • Ovid, Fasti, 6
    • Seneca the Elder, Controversiae, 2.3.11
    • Ausonius, Epistulae, 12
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