Catullus: A poet in the Rome of Julius Caesar: With a selection of poems translated by Humphrey Clucasby Aubrey Burd, Humphrey Clucas (Translator)
Catullus was a genius of the lyric and the epigram, a master of both love poems and lampoons. His talent was to depict life and society in the golden days of the Roman Republic, to awaken with his elegiac wit a sense of love, loss and time passing -- 'But ours is one brief day of light/Before the long last, everlasting night.' Born in around 84 BC near Verona in Cisalpine Gaul, Catullus belonged to a wealthy and influential family. He was a fashionable youth and his early writing was often about love ('I used to write a lot of poems about girls'), but already showed his trademark style of brevity and wit so successful in later works of sharp social commentary.
Catullus moved to Rome, where he entertained in the style of fashionable and wealthy young men, holding dinner parties and having love affairs. His famous poems to 'Lesbia', Burl maintains, refer to Clodia, a married woman with whom he conducted a long but unsatisfactory affair, and are widely held to be his greatest work. Following the ultimate failure of this love, Catullus wrote little more and died in obscure circumstances around the time of Caesar's invasion of Britain. His entire body of work would have been lost to us, most destroyed with the libraries of Alexandria, had not a single book containing one hundred poems, just over two thousand lines, been rediscovered in the fourteenth century. Catullus' brilliantly pungent, spare sketches of a great civilization beset by civil war and social unrest help us to gain some insight into the turbulent and magnificent last years of the Roman Republic. Burl gives a fascinating and coherent picture of the poet's life, together with an illuminating selection of his work.
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