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This pasquinade, in the form of a conversation between the poet and the door of a certain house, abounds in difficulties of interpretation for us, though its directness of personal reference must have made it clear enough to the Veronese. Its tone of familiarity with, and personal interest in, the tittle-tattle of the city seems to indicate that it was composed before Catullus left Verona to live at Rome, and not during one of his brief visits to his old home. The motive is apparently as follows (see also later notes): The Door is that of a house in Verona (v. 34), formerly owned by an aged (v. 4) bachelor or widower (v. 6) named Balbus, after whose death (v. 6) it came into the possession of his son (v. 1) Caecilius, who thereupon married (v. 6) and brought home a young and lively widow (v. 20) from Brixia (v. 32), who claimed to be also a maid (v. 19). Strange rumors about her life soon began to spread through Verona, and the poet inquires of the Door why it has betrayed its master's confidence (presumably by letting in lovers to corrupt the young wife). The Door defends itself by saying that it has not betrayed its trust, but the woman was a bad lot before she came to Verona, and the current gossip is true of the period of her former marriage; for though her husband was notoriously impotent, his father stepped in to fill the son's place in the household, and the woman moreover was too intimate with certain other people named and hinted at. The proof of this culpability is found not only in rumors that have followed her from Brixia, but in her own familiar talk with her maids in the presence of the Door, which she treated as if it could neither hear nor speak.—The conception of the door as a bar in the way of would-be lovers is familiar enough in ancient poetry (cf. Catul. 63.65 and Plautus, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, etc. passim); Propertius (Prop. 1.16ff.) also represents the door as speaking of its experiences.

[1-8] The poet speaks: You have been the trusted servant of the newly-made husband (Caecilius), as you were of his father (Balbus); the latter you served faithfully (vv. 3, 4); now that he is dead (v. 6) you know well what he would wish you to do (v. 5 voto), but you have wilfully disregarded it (servisse maligne), and have entirely changed (v. 7 mutata) your character; why have you thus abandoned your former habit of fidelity to your master's interests (v. 8)?

dulci viro: cf. Catul. 66.33dulci coniuge” .

[2] teque: etc. cf. the formal expression in the invocation of Scipio, Liv. 29.27ea vos omnia bene iuvetis, bonis auctibus auxitis” .

[2] bona ope: cf. Catul. 34.23bona ope” .

[2] auctet: the word apparently occurs only here and in Pl. Amph. 6bono atque amplo auctare lucro” , and Lucr. 1.56unde omnis natura creet res, auctet, alatque” .

[4] ipse senex: the aged master, in contrast to his son and heir.

[5] rursus: on the contrary; cf. Catul. 22.11

[5] voto servisse maligne: observe the emphatic contrast to v. 3 Balbo servisse benigne.

[6] porrecto: sc. in death; cf. Prop. 2.8.33viderat informem multa Patroclon harena porrectum” .

[6] marita: i.e. you have come into the possession of a married couple (Balbus having been, therefore, a bachelor or a widower); cf. Liv. 27.31.5vagabatur per maritas domos;” and on the other hand such phrases as Catul. 68.6in lecto caelibe” .

[7] agedum: cf. Catul. 63.78.

[9] ita Caecilio placeam: the Door is sincere in its desire to be faithful to the husband, Caecilius, and to be acquitted in his sight, for it evidently views him as sinned against by a designing and criminal wife; cf. 20 ff n.

[11] pote: see Catul. 17.24n.

[12] See Crit. App.

[13] qui … omnes: apparently referring to v. 12 populi.

[13] quacumque: sc. ratione, modifying factum.

[15] non satis: etc., the poet suggests that a categorical denial is not enough, but convincing proof of innocence should be offered.

[18] nosnobis: referring to the speaker only, as in v.7.

[19] virgo: etc., i. e. to be sure, though a widow, she passed herself off as a maid, and every one knew that she might well be so as far as her husband was concerned.

[19] nobis: the Door unites interests with the injured husband against the guilty wife.

[20] vir prior: carefully to distinguish her weakling husband from Caecilius.

[20] attigerit: subjunctive of concession.

[21] tenera beta: so Augustus is said (Suet. Oct. 87) to have used betissare for languere.

[21] sicula: ἅπαξ λεγόμενον

[23] illius: elsewhere in Catullus this and similar genitives have the penult short.

[24] conscelerasse domum: cf. Catul. 64.404divos scelerare parentes” , also of unnatural crime.

[26] iners sterili semine: on the repetition of idea in the adjectives cf. Catul. 64.64, Catul. 64.103, Catul. 64.221; Catul. 90.5; and (with Ellis) v. 48.

[28] zonam: etc. cf. Catul. 2.13n.

[32] Brixia: the modern Brescia, the capital of the (Gallic) Cenomani (Liv. 32.30). It is about as far to the westward of Sirmio as Verona is to the eastward (one half-hour by rail). —The remainder of the verse is involved in great difficulty; it might naturally be taken to refer to the situation of Brixia at the base of a hill, but suppositum is apparently not used elsewhere in the sense of ‘lying at the foot of,’ and no hill in the neighborhood of Brixia is called by a name resembling chinea till about A.D. 1500, when this passage from Catullus might have influenced local nomenclature (cf. the case of the Grampian Hills).

[33] praecurrit Mella: the Mella (cf. Verg. G. 4.278curva prope flumina Mellae” ) flows about a mile to the westward of Brixia.

[34] mater: Brixia is nowhere else called the mother-city of Verona, though some writers speak of Verona as a Gallic town; cf. Ptol. 3.1.27; Just. 20.5.8; not so, perhaps, Livy (Liv. 5.35.1), nor, certainly, Pliny (Plin. NH 3.130).

[35] The two men, evidently inhabitants of Brixia, are otherwise unknown.

[37-40] 37-40. A remark of the Door itself, which, having been fairly started on its story by v. 18, continues it to the end, preferring to anticipate rather than to await criticism.

[37-40] dixerit aliquis: see Roby (Lat. Gram. vol. 2. Pref.), who thinks the verb in this construction probably indicative.

[39] tigillo: the lintel, not the jamb, as suffixa sufficiently indicates. The ancient door, like some heavier specimens of modern make, swung on two vertical pivots fitting into sockets near the extremity of lintel and sill respectively.

[46] tollat supercilia: sc. in anger; cf. Schol. on Ar. Vesp. 655τὰς ὀφρῦς αἴρειν ἔθος τοῖς ὀργιζομένοις” .

[46] rubra: perhaps not of the color of the brows, as a mark of identification, but of the flush of anger on the forehead: the hints toward identification follow later.

[47] longus: tall; as in Catul. 86.1longa” .

[47] magnas cui: etc. i. e. he had been sued on a charge of bastardy (though the expected birth finally did not take place), and the case had been a noteworthy (magnas) one.

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hide References (19 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (19):
    • Catullus, Poems, 22
    • Catullus, Poems, 34
    • Catullus, Poems, 63
    • Catullus, Poems, 64
    • Catullus, Poems, 66
    • Catullus, Poems, 68
    • Catullus, Poems, 86
    • Catullus, Poems, 90
    • Vergil, Georgics, 4.278
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 87
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 1.prol
    • Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 1.56
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 35.1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 31.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 30
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 1.16
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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