Friday, October 7, 2011

Phrase by phrase analysis of Catullus 45

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Catullus had a very traumatic love life. In poem number 45 Catullus paints the picture of his idea of the perfect love � an unconditional love, free of the restraints of social class. I think every single phrase contributes to the painting of this picture.

Catullus uses many possessive words in this poem to show Septimius’ possessiveness of Acme. When I say Acmen Septimius suos amores tenens in gremio (Septimius, holding his lover Acme in his lap) I stress the words suos (his) and tenens (holding). I do this because I want to stress Septimius’ acquisitiveness for Acme. Catullus then tries to prove just how much love Septimius has for Acme in the next phrases. When I read Mea…Acme, ni te perditamatquamare porro omnes sum assidue paratus annos, quantum qui pote plurimum perire, solus in Libya Indiaque tosta (My Acme, if I do not love you desperately, and forever, continually through many years, as much as he who loves the most, alone in Libya or arid India) I not only stress the possessive words like mea (my) and amo (I love), but also the words that show just how much Septimius loves Acme, such as perdite (desperately) and assidue (continually). But these words of possession are contrasted when Catullus uses the word solus (alone), and so I draw out the long ‘o’ and ‘u’ to make it sound as if Septimius is in utter agony when not by Acme’s side. The next phrase also contrasts the tenderness of the beginning phrases of the poem. I say caesio veniam obvius leoni (if I may cross a gray-eyed lion) I do not say it with the gentleness that I said the former phrases with. In the next phrase, Catullus introduces Cupid, who sneezes his approval of their love, into the story. I read hoc ut dixit, Amore sinistrut ante dextra sternuit approbationem (as he said this, Cupid sneezed his approval upon the left and right) with the same softness that I read the first lines with, counteracting the harsher previous phrase. But Acme, not to be outdone, also affirms her love. I read at Acme leviter caput reflecens et dulcis puerebrios ocellos illo purpureore suaviata (And Acme, tenderly bending her head back, having kissed the intoxicated little eyes of the boy with rosy lips) lustfully, because this phrase has a much more sexual innuendo then the previous phrases. Acme exposes even more words with sexual connotations in the next phrase. She says, ‘sic…mea vita septimille, huc uni dominusque serviamus, ut multo mihi maior acriorque ignis mollibus ardet in medullis’ (So, Septimius, my life, let us serve this one master that more deeply and more fiercely the fire will burn in my marrow) while she is totally consumed in her passion for Septimius, so I try to say the phrase with equal passion. The next phrase is a repeat of hoc ut dixit, Amor sinistra ut ante dextra sternuit approbationem (as she said this, Cupid sneezed his approval upon the left and right), and I say it identically to how I said it the first time because Catullus put this phrase in his poem twice to show how mutual the love between Acme and Septimius is.

Although Catullus never experienced a flawless love like the love between Acme and Septimius, he was able to express what he sought after through his poems. Poem 45 is an excellent example of Catullus’ ideal love.

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