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To Calvus, on a Saturnalian joke played by him upon Catullus. —It was not uncommon for poets to dedicate and send new writings of their own to some friend as a gift on the Saturnalia, or on a birthday; cf. Mart. 10.17; Stat. Silv. 4.9 and pref.; 2.3.62. Calvus had sent a book to Catullus, who, supposing it to be a choice bit of new poetry of his friend's composition, sat down eagerly to read it, but found, to his whimsical disgust, that it was made up of wretched specimens of some poetasters. On the personality of Calvus cf. Intr. 60. The allusion in Catul. 14.3 suggests that the poem was not written till after the great speech of Calvus against Vatinius, recorded in 53. It cannot, therefore, be assigned to an earlier date than the year 58 B.C., and probably was written on the Saturnalia of 56 B.C. (cf. introductory note to Catul. 53.1). On the Saturnalia of the year 57, Catullus was apparently in Bithynia, and on that of 55, quite possibly in Verona, while this poem appears to have been written in or near Rome.—Meter, Phalaecean.

ni te: cf. the opening verses of the address of Maecenas to, Horace quoted by Suet. Vit. Hor.: ni te visceribus meis, Horati, plus iam diligo, etc.

plus oculis: cf. Catul. 3.5n.

[2] iucundissime: in about the same sense as carissime; Calvus is addressed as iucunde in Catul. 50.16, cf. also Catul. 62.47 Catul. 64.215

[3] odissem: I would hate you as roundly as does Vatinius. Calvus had on more than one occasion acted as the prosecutor of Vatinius; cf. introductory note to Catul. 53.1. With the collocation odissem odio, cf. Psalms 139.22 “I hate them with perfect hatred.”

[5] male perderes: cf. Catul. 10.33n., and the converse in Hor. S. 2.1.6peream male” .

[6] di mala multa dent: a familiar formula of imprecation; cf. Catul. 28.14; Pl. Most. 643; Ter. Phor. 976malum, quod isti di deaeque omnes duint” , and the prayer for blessing in Pl. Poen. 208multa tibi di dent bona” .

[6] clienti: under the earlier Roman feudal system, one duty of the patronus was to act as the legal representative of the cliens; the same terms were now used to denote the legal counsel and the man for whom he incidentally appeared; cf. Hor. Ep. 2.1.104clienti promere iura” .

[7] tantum impiorum: so many scoundrels; such abominable poets must be men of depraved character (but of himself in Catul. 16.5pium poetam” ); with the partitive expression cf. Catul. 5.13.

[8] novum ac repertum: newly discovered, for surely no one but a schoolmaster (litterator) would ever think of paying the honorarium of his legal coonsel with books; but Sulla evidently thought he had found a kindred spirit in the poet-lawyer Calvus.

[9] munus: the relation between lawyer and client was still construed to be that between the patronus and cliens of the earlier social system. Hence, as the patronus was bound to defend the cliens before the courts without the exaction of a special contribution of money from him, so the lawyer was still forbidden to accept a fee from his client. But the prohibition was usually evaded under the guise of gifts and legacies.

[9] Sulla litterator: of this schoolmaster nothing further is known.

[10] est mi male: cf. Catul. 38.1; Catul. 3.13n.

[10] bene ac beate: with the alliterative coupling of Catul. 23.15bene ac beate” ; Catul. 37.14boni beatique” ; so Cicero often, especially with an ethical meaning (=καλῶς κἀγαθῶς).

[11] non dispereunt: schoolmasters were proverbially poverty-stricken (cf. of a later date Juv. 7.203 ff.), and Calvus was lucky to get from Sulla even so much in return for his legal services.

[12] di magni: the same words are used as an exclamation in Catul. 53.5 also, but as a true invocation in Catul. 109.1

[12] sacrum: accursed, as in Catul. 71.1.

[14] misti: for misisti; cf. Catul. 66.21luxti” ; Catul. 66.30tristi” ; Catul. 77.3subrepsti” ; Catul. 91.9duxti” ; Catul. 99.8abstersti” ; Catul. 110.3promisti” .

[14] continuo die: on the very next day; cf. 0v. Fast. 5.733auferet ex oculis veniens Aurora Booten, continuaque die sidus Hyantis erit” ; Ov. Fast. 6.719tollet humo validos proles Hyrica lacertos, continua Delphin nocte videndus erit.continuo cannot be, as some suggest, an adverb, - if for no other reason, because die Saturnalibus alone is not Latin. The passage from Pl. Poen. 497die bono Aphrodisiis” , is not in point, for die is there modified by an adjective. But the arrangement here makes improbable the direct modification of die by optimo and dierum. Calvus had evidently despatched the book the evening before, so that it might reach Catullus the first thing next morning.

[15] Saturnalibus: a very ancient Latin festival, in commemoration of the golden age when Saturn dwelt among men. The especial day of the festival was Dec. 17 of each year, but the celebration was by popular usage extended over the week following. Presents were exchanged between friends, slaves were temporarily treated as if equals of their masters (cf. Hor. S. 2.7), and the utmost freedom and joviality prevailed.

[16] non, non: with this emphatic repetition, cf. Ter. Phor. 303non, non sic futurum est, non potest!Prop. 2.3.27non, non humani partus sunt talia bona.

[16] non tibi sic abibit: you shall not get off so easily; cf. Ter. And. 175mirabar hoc si sic abiret” ; Cic. Att. 14.1.1non posse istaec sic abire.

[16] false: keeping up the tone of humorously simulated indignation; the emendation to salse misses the point.

[17] si luxerit, as soon as the morrow dawns; the conditional form points the restless impatience that can almost believe the morrow will never come. The day is spoiled for Catullus; but he must drag along a wretched existence through the tedious hours till next morning, when the shops of the booksellers will be opened once more, and he can take revenge in kind.

[17] librariorum: generally used throughout this and the Augustan period of a mere copyist (scriba; cf. Hor. A.P. 354scriptor si peccat idem librarius usque” ), but here of a copyist who is also a bookseller; in later Latin it is used of a true bookseller (bibliopola), who, however, usually employed a staff of copyists; cf. Sen. Ben. 7.6.1libros dicimus esse Ciceronis; eosdem librarius suos vocat.

[18] scrinia: cylindrical boxes provided with a cover and used to hold each a number of MS. rolls standing on end.

[18] Caesios, Aquinos: the plural denotes such poets as those mentioned. The change to the singular in Suffenum (v.19) is but for variety, or perhaps because Suffenus personally was an object of greater attention to Catullus (see Catul. 22.1). Caesius is otherwise unknown; Aquinus onlv through Cic. Tusc. 5.63adhuc neminem cognovi poetam (et mihi fuit cum Aquino amicitia) qui sibi non optimus videretur.

[19] omnia venena: i.e. everything that exists in the line of poisons.

[21] vos interea: while as for you, i.e. not to make you wait too long for my commands while I am busying myself with other matters; cf. Catul. 36.18; Catul. 101.7n.

[21] valete abite: asyndetic, as in Hor. Ep. 1.6.67 vive vale. With this dismissal of worthless literature cf. Verg. Catal. 7.1ite hinc, inanes, ite, rhetorum ampullae, inflata rore non Achaico verba.

[22] illuc: i.e. in malam rem, as is made clear bv the common form of objurgation in the comedians.

[22] malum pedem: with a play upon the meaning of pedem cf. Ov. Trist. 1.1.16vade liber, verbisque meis loca grata saluta contingam certe quo licet illa pede.

[22] attulistis: cf. Catul. 63.52n. tetuli pedem

[23] saecli incommoda: preminent types of boredom.

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hide References (39 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (39):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 14.1.1
    • Old Testament, Psalm, 139.22
    • Catullus, Poems, 109
    • Catullus, Poems, 110
    • Catullus, Poems, 14
    • Catullus, Poems, 16
    • Catullus, Poems, 22
    • Catullus, Poems, 23
    • Catullus, Poems, 28
    • Catullus, Poems, 36
    • Catullus, Poems, 37
    • Catullus, Poems, 38
    • Catullus, Poems, 5
    • Catullus, Poems, 50
    • Catullus, Poems, 53
    • Catullus, Poems, 62
    • Catullus, Poems, 64
    • Catullus, Poems, 66
    • Catullus, Poems, 71
    • Catullus, Poems, 77
    • Catullus, Poems, 91
    • Catullus, Poems, 99
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 3.1
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 2.1
    • Horace, Satires, 2.1.6
    • Horace, Satires, 2.7
    • Horace, Ars Poetica, 354
    • Terence, Phormio, 2.1
    • Terence, Phormio, 5.7
    • Terence, Andria, 1.2
    • Seneca, de Beneficiis, 7.6.1
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5.63
    • Ovid, Tristia, 1.1
    • Statius, Silvae, 2.3
    • Statius, Silvae, 4.9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 10.17
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
    • Ovid, Fasti, 6
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