Catullus 2

Catullus 2 is a poem by Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 – c. 54 BCE) that describes the affectionate relationship between an unnamed "puella" (possibly Catullus' lover, Lesbia), and her pet sparrow. As scholar and poet John Swinnerton Phillimore has noted, "The charm of this poem, blurred as it is by a corrupt manuscript tradition, has made it one of the most famous in Catullus' book."[1] The meter of this poem is hendecasyllabic, a common form in Catullus' poetry.[2]

This poem, together with Catullus' other poems, survived from antiquity in a single manuscript discovered c. 1300 CE in Verona, from which three copies survive. Fourteen centuries of copying from copies — the "corrupt manuscript tradition" mentioned above — left scholars in doubt as to the poem's original wording in a few places, although centuries of scholarship have led to a consensus critical version.[3] Research on Catullus was the first application of the genealogical method of textual criticism.

Lines 1-10 represent the preserved core of the poem. Lines 11-13 are denoted as "Catullus 2b" and differ significantly in tone and subject from the first 10 lines. Hence, these latter three lines may belong to a different poem. In the original manuscripts, these thirteen lines were combined with Catullus 3, which describes the death of Lesbia's sparrow, but the two poems were separated by scholars in the 16th century.

Latin textEdit

The following Latin text is taken from the 2003 critical edition of D. F. S. Thomson,[4] with macrons added by Wikipedia.

Poem 2
Line Latin Text
1 Passer,[5] dēliciae meae puellae,[6]
2 quīcum lūdere, quem in sinū tenēre,[7]
3 cui prīmum digitum dare appetentī
4 et ācrīs solet incitāre morsūs,
5 cum dēsīderiō meō nitentī[8]
6 cārum nesciō̆ quid lubet iocārī,
7 et sōlāciolum suī dolōris,[9]
8 crēdō, ut tum gravis acquiēscat ardor:[10]
9 tēcum[11] lūdere sīcut ipsa possem
10 et trīstīs animī levāre cūrās!

The following lines 11-13 (Catullus 2b) refer to the Greek myth of Atalanta, a young princess who was remarkably swift of foot. To avoid marriage, she stipulated that she would marry only a man who could beat her in a footrace; suitors who failed to defeat her would be put to death. The hero Melanion (also known as Hippomenes) wooed Atalanta, who fell in love with him. During the race, Melanion threw a golden apple to distract her; stooping to pick it up, Atalanta lost the race, possibly deliberately so that she could marry him. The final line refers to undressing on the wedding night.[citation needed]

Poem 2b
Line Latin Text
11 tam grātum est mihi quam ferunt puellae,
12 pernīci aureolum fuisse mālum,
13 quod zōnam soluit diū ligātam.

Poetic featuresEdit

Catullus was renowned for his meticulous care in crafting poems, even those with seemingly trifling content. Various artful devices are woven into the text of this poem, composed in hendecasyllabic verse. Lines 2-4 represent a tricolon crescens, in which the three relative clauses become gradually longer in length: quem ludere, quem in sinu tenere, and cui primum digitum dare appetenti et acris solet incitare morsus. The repeated "eee" sounds (corresponding to the letter "i" in Latin) evoke the songbird's peeping (pipiabat in Catullus 3), e.g., (quicum ... in sinu ... cui primum ... appetenti ... acris ... nitenti ... iocari).[12] The "a" sounds may also convey images: the poet's sighs of longing; an "ouch!" at being bitten sharply (appetenti, "pecking" and acris, "sharp"); and a comforting sound (solaciolum, "small comfort", and acquiescat, "calms").[12]

Influence on later poetryEdit

This poem and the following Catullus 3 (a lament for Lesbia's sparrow) inspired a genre of poems about lovers' pets. One classical example include Ovid's elegy on the death of his mistress Corinna's parrot (Amores 2.6.).[13] Another is Martial's epigram (Book I number CIX) on a lap dog, which refers to Catullus 2 specifically ("Issa est passere nequior Catulli", "Issa [the dog] is naughtier than Catullus's sparrow").

Following the printing of Catullus's works in 1472, Poems 2 and 3 gained new influence.[14] From the earliest days after the re-discovery of Catullus' poems, some scholars have suggested that the bird was a phallic symbol, particularly if sinu in line 2 is translated as "lap" rather than "bosom".[15][16][17] Other scholars, however, have rejected this suggestion.[18]

Birds were common love-gifts in the Classical world, and several scholars have speculated that the narrator gave it to the woman; this might explain the poet's identification with the sparrow and his fond lament for the bird in Catullus 3.[14] The biting it does in line 4 ties in with Catullus 8, line 18 (cui labella mordebis).

Manuscript traditionEdit

A key question concerns the unity of this poem. In the copies derived from the original V manuscript, poems 2 (lines 1-10 below), 2b (lines 11-13 below), and Catullus 3 appear as one poem under the title "Fletus passeris Lesbie" (Lament for Lesbia's Sparrow). Shortly before 1500, Catullus 3 (the lament) was separated from Catullus 2/2b by Marcantonio Sabellico, which has been supported by scholars ever since.[14]

Scholars have argued over whether the last three lines (2b) belong to a different poem, and whether words are missing between poems 2 and 2b. Scholars suggest that missing words (a lacuna), or a variant reading/rearrangement of the received text, would smooth the presently abrupt transition between lines 10 and 11.[14] As noted above, there is some manuscript evidence for missing words after line 10. However, scholar S.J. Harrison, who believes the 13 lines are unified, has argued that "there seems to be no vital gap in content which short lacuna would supply" and if the missing words are many, then it is impossible to guess what they were and the poem must be accepted as simply broken into fragments.[14]

Catullus 2 and 2b differ significantly in their tone and subject. Catullus 2 is addressed directly to the bird ("with you") and describes its loving, playful relationship with the poet's girlfriend. By contrast, Catullus 2b mentions neither bird nor girlfriend, introducing a simile to the story of Atalanta, and seems to be written in the third person ("it is as welcome to me"), although some scholars have suggested that the text was corrupted from the second person ("you are as welcome to me"). The disjunction between Catullus 2 and 2b was first noted by Aquiles Estaço (Achilles Statius) in 1566; however, the first printed edition to show a lacuna between poems 2 and 2b (by the editor Karl Lachmann) appeared quite late, in 1829. Lachmann's separation of 2 and 2b has been followed by most subsequent editors.[14]


ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ [1] JSTOR Web site presentation of the first page of: Phillimore, J.S., "Passer: Catull. Carm. ii" in Classical Philology, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Apr., 1910), pp. 217-219 (as cited at JSTOR Web site), accessed February 10, 2007
  2. ^ Catullus: the Poems ed. with commentary by Kenneth Quinn (St. Martin's Press, 2nd ed., 1973) p.91.
  3. ^ [2] Archived May 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine HTML page version of "Notes on the text, interpretation, and translation problems of Catullus", by S.J. Harrison and S.J. Heyworth, from an Oxford University Web site, accessed February 10, 2007
  4. ^ Thomson DFS (2003). Catullus: Edited with a Textual and Interpretative Commentary (revised ed.). University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8592-4.
  5. ^ The word passer is usually translated as "sparrow", but can refer to other species of small songbirds. This is the origin of the English word "passerine", meaning "songbird". It is definitely a songbird from Catullus 3, which describes its chirping (pipiabat).
  6. ^ Although grammatically plural, the word deliciae is customarily singular in meaning. It is usually translated as "delight", "pleasure", "sweetheart", "pet", or "toy".
  7. ^ The word sinu may be translated as "bosom" or "lap".
  8. ^ This phrase desiderio...nitenti may be translated either as "the radiant girl of my desire" (if all three words are taken as dative with lubet) or as "radiating desire for me" (if desiderio meo is taken as ablative of cause).
  9. ^ Originally et, many scholars have proposed alternatives: Ramler: ad (indicating purpose); B. Guarinus, also Zicàri (and as printed in Thompson's version): ut (also indicating purpose); Jonathan Powell: te (with other changes in line 8)
  10. ^ Originally cum ... acquiescat, B. Guarinus suggested replacing these words with tum ... acquiescet, and most modern editors have agreed.
  11. ^ The word tecum ("with you") clarifies for the first time that the poet is addressing the bird.
  12. ^ a b [3] Web page titled "Program II by Raymond M. Koehler" at Able Media Web site, accessed February 11, 2007
  13. ^ Catullus: the Poems ed. with commentary by Kenneth Quinn, St. Martin's Press (2nd ed., 1973) p.96.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2007-02-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) S.J. Harrison Web page at Oxford University, has a link to WordPad document of "Sparrows and Apples: The Unity of Catullus 2", by S.J. Harrison; according to this Web page, the article appeared in Scripta Classica Israelica, accessed February 10, 2007
  15. ^ Genovese, EN. (1974). "Symbolism in the Passer Poems". Maia. 26: 121–125.
  16. ^ Giangrande, G. (1975). "Catullus' Lyrics on the Passer". Museum Philologum Londiniense. 1: 137–146.
  17. ^ Hooper, RW. (1985). "In Defence of Catullus' Dirty Sparrow". Greece and Rome. 32 (2): 162–178. doi:10.1017/S0017383500030485. JSTOR 642440.
  18. ^ Jocelyn, HD. (1980). "On Some Unnecessarily Indecent Interpretations of Catullus 2 and 3". American Journal of Philology. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 101, No. 4. 101 (4): 421–441. doi:10.2307/293667. JSTOR 293667.

BibliographyEdit

  • Johnson M (2003). "Catullus 2b: The Development of a Relationship in the Passer Trilogy". The Classical Journal. 99 (1): 11–34. JSTOR 3298079.
  • Jennifer Ingleheart (2003). "Catullus 2 and 3: A Programmatic Pair of Sapphic Epigrams?". Mnemosyne. 56 (5): 551–565. doi:10.1163/156852503770735952.
  • Pomeroy AJ. (2003). "Heavy Petting in Catullus". Arethusa. 36: 49–60. doi:10.1353/are.2003.0006.
  • Jones, JW, Jr. (1998). "Catullus' Passer as Passer". Greece and Rome. 45 (2): 188–194. doi:10.1093/gr/45.2.188. JSTOR 642982.
  • Thomas, RF. (1993). "Sparrows, Hares, and Doves: a Catullan Metaphor". Helios. 20: 131–142.
  • Vinson M (1989). "And Baby Makes Three? Parental Imagery in the Lesbia Poems of Catullus". The Classical Journal. 85 (1): 47–53. JSTOR 3297486.
  • Boyd BW (1987). "The Death of Corinna's Parrot Reconsidered: Poetry and Ovid's "Amores"". The Classical Journal. 82 (3): 199–207. JSTOR 3297900.
  • Hooper, RW. (1985). "In Defence of Catullus' Dirty Sparrow". Greece and Rome. 32 (2): 162–178. doi:10.1017/S0017383500030485. JSTOR 642440.
  • Nadeau, Y. (1984). "Catullus' Sparrow, Martial, Juvenal and Ovid". Latomus. 43: 861–868.
  • Jocelyn, HD. (1980). "On Some Unnecessarily Indecent Interpretations of Catullus 2 and 3". American Journal of Philology. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 101, No. 4. 101 (4): 421–441. doi:10.2307/293667. JSTOR 293667.
  • Giangrande, G. (1975). "Catullus' Lyrics on the Passer". Museum Philologum Londiniense. 1: 137–146.
  • Hough JN (1974). "Bird Imagery in Roman Poetry". The Classical Journal. 70 (1): 1–13. JSTOR 3296348.
  • Genovese, EN. (1974). "Symbolism in the Passer Poems". Maia. 26: 121–125.
  • Bishop JD. (1966). "Catullus 2 and Its Hellenistic Antecedents". Classical Philology. 61 (3): 158–167. doi:10.1086/365126. JSTOR 268677.
  • Lazenby FD (1949). "Greek and Roman Household Pets". The Classical Journal. 44 (5): 299–307. JSTOR 3292469.
  • Frank T (1927). "On Some Fragments of Catullus". Classical Philology. 22 (4): 413–414. doi:10.1086/360954. JSTOR 262983.
  • Brotherton, B. (1926). "Catullus' Carmen II". Classical Philology. 21 (4): 361–363. doi:10.1086/360832. JSTOR 263684.
  • Braunlich AF (1923). "Against Curtailing Catullus' "Passer"". The American Journal of Philology. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 44, No. 4. 44 (4): 349–352. doi:10.2307/289256. JSTOR 289256.
  • Kent RG (1923). "Addendum on Catullus' Passer". The American Journal of Philology. The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 44, No. 4. 44 (4): 323–324. doi:10.2307/289257. JSTOR 289257.
  • Fay EW (1913). "Catullus Carmen 2". Classical Philology. 8 (3): 301–309. doi:10.1086/359800. JSTOR 261688.
Argues in favor of desiderio meo nitenti meaning "radiant lady of my longing", despite dative case. Also argues that ardor could mean ira, credo might have been quaero or quaeso, and there is likely no lacuna between lines 10 and 11.
Calls lines 11-13 the carmen vexatissimum. Suggests subit in line 7: Et solaciolum subit doloris.
Makes lines 11-13 into a speech by Lesbia to her bird; "you are as welcome to me..." Argues against desiderio meo nitenti meaning "radiant lady of my longing", but rather "when she is shining with longing for me".
Excellent review of solutions proposed in the 19th century. Supports a three-poem model, in which gratum refers to meeting his lover, Lesbia.

External linksEdit

TranslationsEdit

OtherEdit

  • "Notes on the text, interpretation, and translation problems of Catullus", by S.J. Harrison and S.J. Heyworth, from an Oxford University Web site:
    • [4] As HTML page
    • [users.ox.ac.uk/~sjh/documents/catconj.doc] As WordPad file
  • [5] Page explaining the relationship of the sounds of the poem to its meaning and a link to a recording of the poem sung in Latin
  • [6] Text with translation notes
  • [7] Page with a link to WordPad document of "Sparrows and Apples: The Unity of Catullus 2", by S.J. Harrison, an article in Scripta Classica Israelica (scroll down to "Articles in Journals" No. 60)
  • Interview with Jeffrey Eugenides on his book of bittersweet love-stories, My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead