previous next

The poet mourns the death of Lesbia's sparrow.—This daintiest of poems, a charming combination of gentle grace and half-smiling sympathy for the sorrow of the mistress, expressed under the outer form of pity for the fate of the sparrow, is a fit companion-piece to Catul. 2.1ff., and must be referred to the same period in the author's life. For imitations of this lament over the death of a pet, see the poems from Ovid, Statius, and Martial cited in note on 2.1, and add the curious titulus sepulcralis of a pet dog in Wilmann's Exempla Inscr. Lat. 584. —Metre, Phalaecean.

Veneres: the plural is to be explained partly, perhaps, as an instance of a sort of attraction to the number of Cupidines, as Ellis and Schulze think (cf. Catul. 13.12 with Catul. 36.3), but more as resulting from the conception of the character of Venus and of Lesbia. In the type of Venus were summed up all graces and charms of mind and body. Lesbia was attractive for mental as well as for physical endowments (cf. Catul. 36.1ff. and Catul. 86.1ff.); she therefore possessed omnes Veneres (Catul. 86.6); and Catullus calls upon all to share her sorrow who by the possession of similar characteristics (quantum est hom. ven.) can sympathize with her loss. Cf. Mart. 9.11.9; Mart. 11.13.6Veneres Cupidinesque.

Cupidines: the conception already familiar to the Greeks of more than Ἔρος is here extended to the Latin tongue; cf. Hor. Carm. 1.19.1; Hor. 4.1.5mater saeva Cupidinum” ; Ov. Am. 3.15.1tenerorum mater Amorum” ; Ov. Fast. 4.1geminorum mater Amorum.

[2] quantum: etc., cf. Catul. 1.8 n. quidquid hoc libelli.

[2] venustiorum: on the meaning see note on v. 1 Veneres, and cf. Catul. 13.6; Catul. 22.2. So far as there is any comparative idea in the word, it is that of comparison, not with other homines venusti, but with other homines, ‘and all ye men of any degree of grace.’

[3] meae puellae: undoubtedly the Lesbia of the other poems: (1) so Martial thought (cf. Mart. 7.14.3ploravit amica Catulli Lesbia, nequitiis passeris orba sui” ; Mart. 14.77qualem dilecta Catullo Lesbia plorabat” ), though Juvenal follows Catullus in mentioning no name ( Juv. 6.7nec tibi, cuius turbavit nitidos exstinctus passer ocellos” ); (2) in the few other places where Catullus speaks of his ‘puella,’ no other than Lesbia is indicated (cf. Catul. 11.15; Catul. 13.11; Catul. 36.2; Catul. 37.11); (3) stronger than all other proof is the internal evidence from the poems themselves, for Catullus surely loved but one woman, and spoke of no other in words of such pure, tender, and all-absorbing passion as in Catul. 2.1ff. and Catul. 3.1ff.

[4] The initial epanalepsis gives the mournfully iterative tone of a dirge, while the identity of v. 4 with Catul. 2.1 connects the two poems skillfully, and heightens the effect of each by contrast with the other.

[5] plus oculis suis amabat: cf. Catul. 14.1plus oculis meis amarem;” and similar expressions, Catul. 82.2 Catul. 82.4 carius oculis; Catul. 104. 2carior oculis ” : Shakspeare, Lear 1.1 ““I love you … dearer than eyesight.”” Although the figure in plus oculis amare is not common in Latin, Terence uses twice the same expression ( Ter. Ad. 701magis te quam oculos nunc ego amo meos” ; Ter. Ad. 903qui te amat plus quam hosce oculos” ), and so it is not altogether due to Menandrian influence.

[6] mellitus: Catullus uses this word in but two other places (Catul. 48.1; Catul. 99.1), once of the kissable eyes of Juventius and once of the boy himself, so that it is seen to be with him exclusively a term of endearment; Plautus uses it but once, and in that sense ( Pl. Ps. 180quibus vitae estis, quibusmammillae mellitae” ); Cicero uses it but once, and in that sense (Cic. Att. 1.18.1 cummellito Cicerone) while in Varro it appears first in the literal sense ( Varr. RR 3.16.22melliti favi” ), as it does later in Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.10.11 pane egeo iam mellitis potiore placentis) Plautus also twice uses the diminutive mellitulus.

[6] suam: puellam is to be supplied from the genitives of the preceding verses, as shown by the puella of v. 7; cf. Tib. 1.4.75pareat ille suae” (where coniunx has preceded); Tib. 2.5.103nam ferus ille suae plorabat sobrius idem” (when puellae has preceded).

[7] ipsa: modifying puella, with reference back to suam

[7] puella: i.e. Lesbia

[8] illĭus: with short penult, as always in Catullus in the case of this and similar genitives, with the exception of Catul. 67.23illius” .

[9] modo huc modo illuc: cf. Catul. 15.7, Catul. 50.5modo hoc modo illoc,Catul. 68.133hinc illinc,Sen. Apoc 9modo huc modo illuc cursabat,Cic. Att. 13.25.3o Academiam volaticammodo huc modo illuc!

[11] tenebricosum: an unusual, though Ciceronian word for the poetical tenebrosum. On the conception of the shadowy journey to Orcus cf. v. 13 tenebrae Orci Hor. Carm. 4.2.22nigro Orco ” , Verg. G. 3.551 Stygiis emissa tenebris; Prop. 4.9.41Stygias tenebras” ; Ov. Met. 5.359tenebrosa sede tyrannus exierat” ; Ov. Met. 1.113tenebrosa in Tartara” ; Calp. Buc. 1.52omnia Tartareo subigentur carcere bella immergentque caput tenebris.

[12] unde: etc., quoted by Sen. Apoc. 11ff. and imitated in Anth. Lat. 1704.11 Mey.[domus Averni] unde fata negant redire quemquam.” The conception is thoroughly Greek, but from this time becomes common in Latin literature; cf. Verg. A. 6.425ripam irremeabilis undae” ; Hor. Carm. 2.3.27in aeternum exsilium” ; Prop. 4.11.2panditur ad nullas ianua nigra preces.Shakespeare Ham. 3.1 ““the undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveler returns.””

[13] at: very rarely used in imprecations in prose; but cf. Catul. 27.5; Catul. 28.14; Catul. 36.18; Pl. Most. 38at te Iuppiter dique omnes perdant!Ter. Eun. 431at te di perdant” ; Hor. S. 2.6.54at omnes di exagitent me” ; Verg. A. 2.535at tibi pro sceleredipraemia reddant debita.

[13] male sit: cf. Cic. Att 15.15.1L. Antonio male sit! Phaedr. App. 1.21.11at male tibi sit !” For indicatives with “male” and a dative see Catul. 14.10; Catul. 38.1.

[13] malae: observe the effect of the repetition of malae after male, and below of bellum after bella.

[14] Orci: here not the god of the underworld, as in Hor. Carm. 2.18.34satelles Orci;” but the under-world itself, as in Hor. Carm. 4.2.22mores aureosnigro invidet Orco.tenebrae Orci is, then, equivalent to tenebrosus Orear; cf. v.11 n.

[14] devoratis: Orcus is ravenous; cf. Hor. Carm. 2.18.30rapacis Orci.

[15] mihi: another graceful touch of tender sympathy; the grief suffered by Lesbia is Catullus' own grief.

[15] abstulistis: of removal by violence; cf. Catul. 62.32; Catul. 101.5.

[16] o factum male: cf. Ter. Phor. 751male factum!Cic. Att 15.1a.1o factum male de Alexione !” (in both instances of death); and the inscription cited in the introductory note to this poem, Wilmann Ex. Inscr. Lat. 584.4o factum male, Myia, quod peristi !

[16] io: an interjection expressing deeper emotion than o, whether of joy (cf. Catul. 61.1ff. passim), or of sorrow (as here).

[16] miselle: a colloquial word from Plautus down, used by Cicero only in his letters; especially used of the dead; cf. Tertull. Test. An. 4cum alicuius defuncti recordaris, misellum vocas eum.

[17] The poem ends with the graceful turning of sympathy back from the dead sparrow to the sorrowing mistress, who is the chief object of the poet's thought.

[17] tua opera: with gentle reproach, as if the sparrow were responsible for causing his tender mistress so much pain; cf. Ter. Andr. 689sicin me atque illam opera tua nunc miseros sollicitari !

[18] In spite of his fondness for diminutives, only twice elsewhere does Catullus use the diminutive form of both noun and adjective; Catul. 25.2imula auricilla” ; Catul. 64.316aridulis labellis” . The complaint about disfigurement of the eyes is especially fitting, since one of Clodia's chief charms was her brilliant eyes; cf. Cic. Att 2.14.1de conloquioβοώπιδος; Cic. Cael. 20.49flagrantia oculorum” ; Cic. Har. Resp. 18.38hos flagrantis [oculos];” all references to Clodia.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (48 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (48):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.25.3
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 15.1a.1
    • Catullus, Poems, 101
    • Catullus, Poems, 104
    • Catullus, Poems, 11
    • Catullus, Poems, 13
    • Catullus, Poems, 14
    • Catullus, Poems, 15
    • Catullus, Poems, 2
    • Catullus, Poems, 22
    • Catullus, Poems, 25
    • Catullus, Poems, 27
    • Catullus, Poems, 28
    • Catullus, Poems, 3
    • Catullus, Poems, 36
    • Catullus, Poems, 37
    • Catullus, Poems, 38
    • Catullus, Poems, 48
    • Catullus, Poems, 50
    • Catullus, Poems, 61
    • Catullus, Poems, 62
    • Catullus, Poems, 64
    • Catullus, Poems, 67
    • Catullus, Poems, 68
    • Catullus, Poems, 82
    • Catullus, Poems, 86
    • Catullus, Poems, 99
    • Cicero, For Marcus Caelius, 20.49
    • Cicero, On the Responses of the Haruspices, 18.38
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.113
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.359
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 1.1
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 1.2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 2.535
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.425
    • Horace, Satires, 2.6.54
    • Terence, Phormio, 5.1
    • Terence, The Brothers, 4.5
    • Terence, The Brothers, 5.7
    • Terence, Andria, 4.2
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 3.1
    • Phaedrus, Fables, appendix.21
    • William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1.1
    • William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 3.1
    • Seneca, Apocolocyntosis, 11
    • Seneca, Apocolocyntosis, 9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.77
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: