Page images

"Satst unappalled."

But what verses are the following!

We will now give the reason for the fall- Below we find ing sickness with which several of his verses are stricken. He was too fond of showing what he had read: and the things he has tak en from others are always much worse than" his own. Habituated to Italian poetry, he knew that the verses are rarely composed of pure iambics, or of iambics mixed with spondees, but contain a great variety of feet, or rather of subdivisions. When he wrote such a line as

[ocr errors]

In the bosom of bliss and light of light,"
he thought he had sufficient authority in
Dante, Petrarca, Ariosto, and Tasso, who wrote

"Questă selvă selvaggia."-DANTE.
"Tra le vaně speranze."-PETrarca.
"Con lă gente di Francia."-ARIOSTO.
"Canto l'armi pietose."-TASSO.

And there is no verse whatsoever in any of
his poems for the metre of which he has not
an Italian prototype.

The critic who knows anything of poetry, and is resolved to select a passage from the Paradise Regained, will prefer this other far above the rest; and may compare it, without fear of ridicule or reprehension, to the noblest in the nobler poem.

"And either tropic now
'Gan thunder, and both ends of heaven: the

From many a horrid rift, abortive poured
Fierce rain with lightning mixt, water with fire,
In ruin reconciled: nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves, but rushed abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vext wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks,
Bowed their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient son of God! yet only stoodst
Unshaken! Nor yet stayed the terrour there:
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round
Environed thee: some howled, some yelled,
some shrieked,

Some bent at thee their fiery darts; while thou
Satst unappall'd in calm and sinless peace."

No such poetry as this has been written since, and little at any time before. But Homer would not have attributed to the pine what belongs to the oak. The tallest pines have superficial roots; they certainly are never "deep as high:" oaks are said to be; and if the saying is not phytologically true, it is poetically; although the oak itself does not quite send

"radicem ad Tartara." There is another small oversight. "Yet only stoodst


And made him bow to the gods of his wives." "Cast wanton eyes on the daughters of men." "After forty days' fasting had remained." " And with these words his temptations pur


"Not difficult if thou hearken to me."

It is pleasanter to quote such a description as no poet, not even Milton himself, ever gave before, of Morning,

[ocr errors]

Who with her radiant finger stilled the roar of thunder, chased the clouds and laid the winds And grisly spectres, which the Fiend had raised To tempt the son of God with terrors dire.”

In Catullus we see Morning in another aspect; not personified: and a more beautiful description, a sentence on the whole more harmonious, or one in which every verse is better adapted to its peculiar office, is neither to be found nor conceived.

"Heic qualis flatu placidum mare matutino
Horrificans zephyrus proclivas incitat undas,
Aurorâ exoriente vagi sub lumina solis,
Procedunt, leni resonant plangore cachinni,
Quæ tarde primum clementi flamine pulsæ
Post, vento crescente, magis magis increbescunt,
Purpureâque procul nantes a luce refulgent."

Our translation is very inadequate :
As, by the Zephyr wakened, underneath
The sun's expansive gaze the waves move on
Slowly and placidly, with gentle plash
Against each other, and light laugh; but soon,
The breezes freshening, rough and huge they

Afar refulgent in the crimson east.

What a fall is there from these lofty cliffs, dashing back the waves against the winds that sent them-what a fall is there to the "wracks and flaws" which Milton tells us

"Are to the main as inconsiderable
And harmless, if not wholesome, as a sneeze."
In the lines below, from the same poem,

• But Milton's most extraordinary oversight is in L'Allegro. "Hence loathed Melancholy !

Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born."

Unquestionably he meant to have written Erebus instead of Cerberus, whom no imagination could represent as the sire of a goddess. Midnight is scarcely to be converted into one, or indeed into any allegofrom aiding it. Milton is singularly unfortunate in rical personage: and the word "blackest" is far

allegory; but nowhere more so than here. The daughter of Cerberus takes the veil, takes the

"Sable stole of Cyprus lawn," and becomes, now her father is out of the way, "A nun devout and pure."

the good and bad are strangely mingled: the
poet keeping in his verse, however, the firm-
ness and majesty of his march.

"So saying, he caught him up, and, without wing
Of hippogrif, bore through the air sublime,
Over the wilderness-and o'er the plain :
Till underneath them fair Jerusalem,
The holy city, lifted high her towers,
And higher yet the glorious temple-rear'd
Her pile, far off appearing like a mount
Of alabaster, topt with golden spires."


Splendid as this description is, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Temple of Jerusalem. It is like one of those fancies in which the earlier painters of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, were fond of indulging; not for similitude, but for effect. The poets of Greece and Rome allowed themselves no such latitude. The Palace of the Sun, depicted so gorgeously by Ovid, where imagination might wander unrestricted, contains nowhere an inappropriate decoration.

or in the playful Ovid, or in any of the least
correct of the ancients. The faults we do
find in the poet we have undertaken to re-
view we shall at the same time freely show.
CARMEN I. Ad Cornelium Nepotem.
In verse 4, we read

"Jam tum cum ausus es."

We believe the poet, and all the writers of his age, wrote quum. Quoi for cui grew obsolete much earlier, but was always thus spelt by Catullus. The best authors at all times wrote the adverb quum.

CARMEN II. Ad Passerem Lesbiæ. In verse 8 we read "acquiescat ;" the poet wrote " adquiescat," which sounds fuller.

CARMEN III. Luctus in Morte Passeris.

This poem, and the preceding, seem to have been admired, both by the ancients and the moderns, above all the rest. Beautiful indeed they are. Grammarians may find fault with the hiatus in

"O factum male! O miselle passer!" poets will not.

"Meas esse aliquid putare nugas."
Tuâ nunc operâ meæ puellæ." &c.

No two poets are more dissimilar in thought and feeling than Milton and Catullus; yet we have chosen to place them in juxtaposition, because the Latin language in the time of Catullus was nearly in the same state as the English in the time of Milton. Each the metre. Regularly the phaleucian verse We shall now, before we go farther, notice had attained its full perfection, and yet the is composed of four trochees and one dactyl: vestiges of antiquity were preserved in each. Virgil and Propertius were, in regard to the so is the sapphic, but in another order. The one poet, what Dryden and Waller were in phaleucian employs the dactyl in the second one poet, what Dryden and Waller were in place; the sapphic employs it in the third. regard to the other. They removed the ar- But the Latin poets are fonder of a spondee chæisms; but the herbage grew up rarer and in the first. Catullus frequently admits an slenderer after those extirpations. If so con- iambic; as in summate a master of versification as Milton is convicted of faults so numerous and so grave in it, pardon will the more easily be granted to Catullus. Another defect is likewise common to both; namely, the disposition or ordinance of parts. It would be difficult to find in any other two poets, however low their station in that capacity, two such signal examples of disproportion as are exhibited in The Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis and in The Masque of Comus. The better part of the former is the description of a tapestry; the better part of the latter are three undraIn other respects, the matic soliloquies. oversights of Catullus are fewer and in Comus there is occasional extravagance of expression such as we never find in Catullus,

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

CARMEN IV. Dedicatio Phaseli.

This is a senarian, and composed of pure iambics. Nothing can surpass its elegance. The following bears a near resemblance to it in the beginning, and may be offered as a kind of paraphrase.

The vessel which lies here at last
Had once stout ribs and topping mast,
And, whate'er wind there might prevail,
Was ready for a row or sail.

We come presently to

"The sounds and seas."

Sounds are parts of seas.

Comus, on the borders of North Wales, talks of

"A green mantling vine,

That crawls along the side of yon small hill;" and of

"Plucking ripe clusters."

Anon we hear of “stabled wolves." What wolves can those be?

It now lies idle on its side,
Forgetful o'er the waves to glide.
And yet there have been days of yore
When pretty maids their posies bore
To crown its prow, its deck to trim,
And freight it with a world of whim.
A thousand stories it could tell,
But it loves secrecy too well.
Come closer, my sweet girl! pray do!
There may be still one left for you.

CARMEN V. Ad Lesbiam.

It is difficult to vary our expression of delight at reading the three first poems which Lesbia and her sparrow have occasioned. This is the last of them that is fervid and tender. There is love in many of the others, but impure and turbid, and the object of it! soon presents to us an aspect far less at


CARMEN VI. Ad Flavium. Whoever thinks it worth his while to peruse this poem, must enclose in a parenthesis the words "Nequicquam tacitum." Tacitum is here a participle: and the words mean, "It is in vain that you try to keep it a secret."

CARMEN VII. Again to Lesbia. Here, as in all his hendecasyllabics, not only are the single verses full of harmony, a merit to which other writers of them not unfrequently have attained, but the sentences leave the ear no "aching void," as theirs do.

CARMEN VIII. Ad seipsum. This is the first of the scazons. The metre in a long poem would perhaps be more tedious than any. Catullus, with admirable judgment, has never exceeded the quantity of twenty-one verses in it. No poet, uttering

his own sentiments on his own condition in a soliloquy, has evinced such power in the expression of passion, in its sudden throbs and changes, as Catullus has done here.

In Doering's edition we read, verse 14, "At tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nullâ, Scelesta! nocte."

Now certainly there were many words obliterated in the only copy of our author. It was found in a cellar, and under a wine-barrel. Thus the second word in the second line appears to have left no traces behind it ; otherwise, words so different as nocte and rere could never have been mistaken. Since the place is open to conjecture, therefore, and since every expression round about it is energetic, we might suggest another reading :

"At tu dolebis quum rogaberis nullo,
Scelesta! nullo. Qua tibi manet vita?
Quis nunc te adibit? quoi videberis bella?
Quem nunc amabis? quojus esse diceris?
Quem basiabis? quoi labella mordebis?
At tu, Catulle! destinatus obdura."
Which we will venture to translate :

But you shall grieve while none complains,
None, Lesbia! None. Think what remains
For one so fickle, so untrue!

Henceforth, O wretched Lesbia! who
Shall call you dear? shall call you his?
Whom shall you love? or who shall kiss
Those lips again?-Catullus! thou
Be firm, be ever firm, as now.

The angry taunt very naturally precedes the impatient expostulation. The repetition of nullo is surely not unexpected. Nullus was often used absolutely in the best times of Latinity. "Ab nullo repetere," and " nullo aut paucissimis præsentibus," by Sallust. "Qui scire possum nullus plus," by Plautus. "Vivis his incolumibusque, liber esse nullus potest," by Cicero.

It may as well be noticed here that basiare, basium, basiatio, are words unused by Virgil, Propertius, Horace, Ovid, or Tibullus. They belonged to Cisalpine Gaul more especially, although the root has now extended through all Italy, and has quite supplanted osculum and its descendants. Bellus has done the same in regard to formosus, which has lost its footing in Italy, although it retains it in Spain, slightly shaken, in hermoso. The saviari and savium of Plautus, Terence, Cicero, and Catullus, are never found in the poets of the Augustan age, to the best of our recol

No such pause is anywhere else in the poet.lection, excepting once in Propertius.
In Scaliger the verses are,

"At tu dolebis, quum rogaberis nulla.
Seclesta rere, quæ tibi manet vita."
The punctuation in most foreign books, how-
ever, and in all English, is too frequent: so
that we have snatches and broken bars of
tune, but seldom tune entire. Scaliger's read-
ing is probably the true one, by removing the

comma after rere:

"Scelesta rere quæ tibi manet vita!" (Consider what must be the remainder of your life!)

CARMEN IX. Ad Verannium.

Nothing was ever livelier or more cordial than the welcome here given to Verannius on his return from Spain. It is comprised in eleven verses. Our poets, on such an occasion, would have spread out a larger tablecloth with a less exquisite dessert it. upon

CARMEN X. De Varri Scorto. Instead of expatiating on this, which con

tains, in truth, some rather coarse expressions, but is witty and characteristical, we will subjoin a paraphrase, with a few defalcations.

Varrus would take me t'other day

To see a little girl he knew, Pretty and witty in her way,

With impudence enough for two. Scarce are we seated, ere she chatters (As pretty girls are wont to do) About all persons, places, matters"And pray what has been done for "Bithynia, lady!" I replied,

"Is a fine province for a pretor, For none (I promise you) beside, And least of all am I her debtor."

"Sorry for that!" said she.



You have brought with you, I dare say, Some litter-bearers: none so clever

In any other part as they.

"Bithynia is the very place

For all that's steady, tall, and straight; It is the nature of the race.

Could not you lend me six or eight?"

"Why six or eight of them or so,"

[ocr errors]

Said I, determined to be grand,

My fortune is not quite so low

CARMEN XI. Ad Furium et Aurelium. Furius and Aurelius were probably the comrades of Catullus in Bithynia. He appears to have retained his friendship for them not extremely long. Here he entrusts them. with a message for Lesbia, which they were fools if they delivered, although there is abundant reason for believing that their modesty would never have restrained them. He may well call these

"Non bona dicta."

But there are worse in reserve for themselves,
on turning over the very next page. The
last verses in the third strophe are printed
"Gallicum Rhenum horribilesque ulti-
Mosque Britannos."

The enclitic que should be changed to ad,
since it could not support itself without the
intervention of an aspirate,

"Gallicum Rhenum horribiles ad ulti-
Mosque Britannos."

and the verse "Cæsaris visens, &c.," placed in a parenthesis. When the poet wrote these sapphics, his dislike of Cæsar had not begun. Perhaps it was occasioned long afterwards, by some inattention of the great commander Willingly!" I told to the Valerian family on his last return from Transalpine Gaul. Here he writes,

But these are still at my command." "You'll send them?" "6

her, Although I had not here or there One who could carry on his shoulder The leg of an old broken chair. "Catullus! what a charming hap is Our meeting in this sort of way! I would be carried to Serapis To-morrow." "Stay, fair lady, stay! "You overvalue my intention.

Yes, there are eight-there may be nineI merely had forgot to mention

That they are Cinna's, and not mine."

Catullus has added two verses which we have not translated, because they injure the


[ocr errors]

"Cæsaris visens monimenta magni." Very different from the contemptuous and scurril language with which he addressed him latterly.

CARMEN XII. Ad Asinium Pollionem.

Asinius Pollio and his brother were striplings when this poem was written. The worst, but most admired of Virgil's Eclogues, was composed to celebrate the birth of Pollio's son, in his consulate. In this Eclogue, and in this alone, his versification fails him utterly. The lines afford one another no support. For instance, this sequence,

"Ultima Cumæi venit jam carminis ætas.

Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo, Jam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna.' Toss them in a bag and throw them out, and

"Sed tu insulsa male et molesta vivis Per quam non licet esse negligentem." This, if said at all, ought not to be said to the lady. The reflection might be, (but without any benefit to the poetry) made in the poet's own person. Among the ancients, they will fall as rightly in one place as anhowever, when we find the events of com- other. Any one of them may come first; any mon life and ordinary people turned into one of them may come last; any one of them verse, as here for instance, and in the Praxi- may come intermediately. Throughout the nöe of Theocritus, and in another of his remainder of the Eclogue, the ampulla of where a young person has part of her attire Virgil is puffier than the worst of Statius or torn, we never are bored with prolixity and platitude, in which a dull moral is our best relief at the close of a dull story.


In the poem before us it seems that Asinius, for whose infant the universe was to change its aspect, for whom grapes were to hang upon thorns, for whom the hardest oaks were

But you are stupid and troublesome, who will to exude honey, for whom the rams in the not let one be negligent."

meadows were to dye their own fleeces with

CARMEN XVII. Ad Coloniam. Here are a few beautiful verses in a very indifferent piece of poetry. We shall transscribe them, partly for their beauty, and partly

murex and saffron-this Asinius picked one, we can benefit him, or ourselves, or Catullus's pocket of his handkerchief. Ca- society, it is desirable not to know it at all. tullus tells him he is a blockhead if he is ig norant that there is no wit in such a trick, which he says is a very dirty one, and appeals to the brother, calling him a smart and clever lad. He declares he does not mind so much the value of the handkerchief, as to remove an obscurity. because it was a present sent to him out of Spain by his friends Fabullus and Verannius,Quoi quum sit viridissimo nupta flore puella, who united (it seems) their fiscal forces in the Et puella tenellulo delicatior hædo, investment. This is among the lighter effu- Asservanda nigerrimis diligentiùs uvis; sions of the volume, and worth as little as Nec se sublevat ex suâ parte; sed velut alnus Ludere hanc sinit ut lubet, nec pili facit uni, Virgil's Eclogue, though exempt from such In fossa Liguri jacet suppernata securi, grave faults. Tantundem omnia sentiens quam si nulla sit usquam,

CARMEN XIII. Ad Fabullum.

A pleasant invitation to dinner.

Verse 8. "Plenus sacculus est aranearum." It is curious that Doering, so sedulous in collecting scraps of similitudes, never thought of this in Plautus, where the idea and expression too are so alike.

"Ita inaniis sunt oppletæ atque araneis.” We may offer a paraphrase:

With me, Fabullus, you shall dine

And gaudily, I promise you, If you will only bring the wine,

The dinner, and some beauty too.

With all your frolic, all your fun,

I have some little of my own;
And nothing else: the spiders run
Throughout my purse, now theirs alone.

goes on rather too far, and promises his
invited guest so sweet a perfume, that he shall
pray the gods to become all nose; that is,
we may presume, if no one should intervene
to correct or divert in part a wish so en-

CARMEN XIV. Ad Calvum Licinium.

Talis iste meus stupor nil videt, nihil audit,
Ipse qui sit, utrum sit, an non sit, id quoque

This is in the spirit of Aristophanes, and we may fancy we hear his voice in the cantilena. Asservanda should be printed adservanda; and suppernata, subpernata. Liguri is doubtful. Liguris is the genitive case of Ligur. The Ligurians may in ancient times, as in modern, have exercised their industry out of their own country, and the poorer of them may have been hewers of wood. Then securis Liguris would be the right interpretation. But there are few countries in which there are fewer ditches, or fewer alders, than in Liguria: we, who have travelled through the country in all directions, do not remember to have seen a single one of either. It would be going farther, if we went to the Liger, and read “In fossâ but going where both might be found readily, Ligeris."


The first of these three is a Dedication to the God of Gardens. In the two following the poet speaks in his own person. The first contains only four lines. The second is descriptive, and terminates with pleasantry.


The poet seems, in general, to have been
very inconstant in his friendships: but there
is no evidence that he ever was estranged
from Calvus. This is the more remarkable
as Calvus was a poet, the only poet among
his friends, and wrote in the same style. At
the close of the poem here addressed to him,
properly ending at the twenty-third verse, we
find four others appended. They have noth-
ing at all to do with it: they are a worthless
fragment and it is a pity that the wine cask,
which rotted off and dislocated so many pieces,
did not leak on and obliterate this, and many
similar, particularly the two next. We should
then, it may be argued, have known less of
the author's character. So much the better.
Unless, by knowing the evil that is in any We will attempt to translate them.

Vicinus prope dives est, negligensque Priapus;
"O pueri! malas abstinete rapinas!
Inde sumite; semita hæc deinde vos feret ipsa.",
In the third are these exquisite verses:



"Mihi corolla picta vere ponitur,
Mihi rubens arista sole fervido,
Mihi virente dulcis uva pampino,
Mihique glauca duro oliva frigore.
Meis capella delicata pascuis
In urbem adulta lacte portat ubera,
Meisque pinguis agnus ex ovilibus
Gravem domum remittit ære dexteram,
Teneraque madre mugiente vaccula
Deûm profundit ante templa sanguinem."

« PreviousContinue »