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To Lesbia; an exhortation to enjoy love and despise censure. —This utterance of the intoxication of passion must date, like Catul. 2.1ff. and Catul. 3.1ff., from the early days of the entire confidence of Catullus in Lesbia. With its companion piece, Catul. 7.1ff., it is cited by Ovid (Ov. Am. 1.8.58), and by Martial (Mart. 6.34.7; Mart. 11.6.14; Mart. 12.59.3).—Metre, Phalaecean.

vivamus: the key-note of the whole poem is struck in the first word; with vivere in this pregnant sense, ‘to enjoy life,’ cf. Verg. Copa 38mors aurem vellensviviteaitvenio” ; Mart. 1.15.12sera nimis vita est crastina; vive hodie;” and the proverbial dum vivimus, vivamus.

mea Lesbia: so she is called again in Catul. 75.1, but with a different feeling (cf. also Catul. 58.1).

[2] rumores: here not of unauthenticated report, but of direct observation and remark; cf. Ter. Phor. 911nam qui erit rumor, id si feceris!

[2] senum severiorum: old men are proverbially censors of the young (cf. Hor. A. P. 174[senex] castigator censorque minorum” ), and this is one type of old man in Plautus and Terence; but cf. Cic. De Sen. 65severitatem in senectute probo, sed eam (ut alia) modicam; acerbitatem nullo modo.” With the comparative, cf. Catul. 3.2venustiorum” .

[3] unius aestimemus assis: i.e. count as naught; cf. Catul. 42.13 (assis facere); Catul. 10.13; Catul. 17.17 (pili facere); and, in the same sense, Catul. 23.25 (parvi putare). Catullus is the first to use in such phrases assis and pili, where Plautus and Terence have focci, nauci, pensi, nihili (cf. however Pl. Capt. 477neque ridiculos iam terrunci faciunt” ).

[4-6] On the general conception see Catul. 3.11, 12, n.; Prop. 3.15.24nox tibi longa venit, nec reditura dies” ; Hor. Carm. 4.7.13 ff.damna tamen celeres reparant caelestia lunae; nospulvis et umbra sumus;” and most beautifully in the Lament for Bion (Mosch. 3.109 ff.), “‘Ah me, when the mallows wither in the garden, and the green parsley, and the curled tendrils of the anise, on a later day they live again, and spring in another year; but we men, we the great and mighty, or wise, when once we have died, in hollow earth we sleep, gone down into silence; a right long, and endless, and unawakening sleep. And thou too, in the earth wilt be lapped in silence’” (Lang): R. Browning, Toccata of Galluppi, “Death stepped tacitly and took them where they never see the sun.”

[5] brevis lux: a very unusual rhythm with which to end the verse; cf. however Catul. 7.7tacet nox” , and note the antithesis between lux at the end of v.5 and nox at the beginning of v.6.

[7] basia: the word appears first here, but seems in later days to have supplanted entirely in the colloquial dialect both savia and the more formal oscula, whence it made its way into the Romance languages. The lack of apparent congeners in Latin and Greek, and the occurrence of “buss” in early English, and of the nouns buss, busserl and the verb bussen in early days in the conservative mountain dialects of South Germany and Austria, make it probable that this word was of Germanic origin, and made its way to Rome from the region of the Po.

[7] deinde: the later, while dein is the earlier form of the word; in both ei is regularly contracted into a single syllable.

[9] usque, straight on.

[10] fecerīmus: with the original quantity of the penult, as occasionally in the poets.

[11] conturbabimus: the confusion of the count is already effected in the poem by the hurrying succession of mille and centum.

[11] ne sciamus: for if not even we ourselves know the number, surely the eye of envy cannot determine it.

[12] invidere: i.e. to cast an evil eye, and so bring misfortune, upon a person or thing; cf. Accius ap. Cic. Tusc. 3.9.20quisnam florem liberum invidit meum?” The belief in ‘the evil eye’ is still wide-spread among eastern nations, and curious traces still survive among more highly civilized communities.

[13] tantum: just so many; cf. also Catul. 14.7tantum impiorum” . From ancient times down it has been believed that a spell could be surely based only on some mathematically exact enumeration of particulars (cf. Hor. Carm. 1.11.2Babylonios numeros” ), and so it has been held unsafe to tell, or even to know, such details about one's precious things.

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hide References (16 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (16):
    • Catullus, Poems, 10
    • Catullus, Poems, 14
    • Catullus, Poems, 17
    • Catullus, Poems, 2
    • Catullus, Poems, 23
    • Catullus, Poems, 3
    • Catullus, Poems, 42
    • Catullus, Poems, 58
    • Catullus, Poems, 7
    • Catullus, Poems, 75
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 174
    • Terence, Phormio, 5.7
    • Plautus, Captivi, 3.1
    • Ovid, Amores, 1.8
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 65
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 3.9
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