BMCR 2006.04.16

The Poems of Catullus. A bilingual edition

, , The poems of Catullus. The Joan Palevsky imprint in classical literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. xx, 339 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 0520242645 $24.95.

It has certainly not been an otiose task to present a new bilingual edition of Catullus to an audience unfamiliar or unacquainted with the Latin original. Nor has it been an act of daring recklessness to tackle a by no means easy challenge at the age of almost eighty. Professor Peter Green has provided us with a most digestible Catullus, and one which will, I think, be welcomed by all. His aim was not, I believe, to vie with the editions of Mynors (2nd edition, 1960), Goold (1988) and Thomson (2nd edition, 1998) or with the commentaries of Baehrens (I 1876; II 1885), Ellis (2nd edition, 1889, repr. 1988), Kroll (1923, 7th edition, 1989), Fordyce (1976) and Quinn (2nd edition, 1973, repr. 2001), but rather (which is worthy of the highest praise) to strive to provide both Latinists and a wider audience for Catullus with a splendid appetizer, enough to whet the appetite for more. And Green has produced an edition unblemished by empty speculation or vain show of erudition. He has got straight down to the point, in the introduction and text as well as in the explanatory notes (which do not constitute a commentary as the book’s title page claims).

In the introduction Green deals with the biography of Catullus, the identification of Lesbia with Clodia Metelli (whom Cicero berated so virulently in Pro Caelio), the literary ambience of the time, the text itself, the reception of the work, the translation and the problems involved, and the metres used by Catullus. In 41 pages he says what needs to be said in a much clearer and more convincing manner than many theoretical tomes on the life and works of the poet. This can only be achieved by a sensitive scholar who has the breadth of vision afforded him by having digested sensibly and unhurriedly the vast bibliography on the poet. And when he encounters others with a more satisfactory interpretation of some facet of Catullus’ work, he does not hesitate to cite them in full, as is the case of the passage from Tom Stoppard on p. 15, quoted to explain to the reader the vicissitudinous progress of the Catullan text from the moment it was first set down by the poet until it took the shape in which it appears in the first manuscript that has come down to us.

Green follows the edition by Mynors for his basic text, indicating by means of a brief critical apparatus the points where he diverges from it. Those of us who have edited Catullus (C. Valerii Catulli Carmina/Catulo: Poemas, Ana Pérez Vega-A. Ramírez de Verger, eds., Huelva, El Monte, 2005, 676 pp.) know full well the tremendous difficulties presented by the text, the first complete manuscript of which (the now-lost Veronensis) did not appear until thirteen centuries after the poet’s death. Green’s proposals are worth examining, although I would have liked to see greater ‘akribeia’ in the attribution of the various options he adopts, since I believe that a critical apparatus, however short it might be, should indicate which editors opted for this or that reading. We have a duty of ‘pietas’ towards all who have contributed to improving the text of the poet from Verona. After all, the Latin text is the foundation underlying each and every translation, commentary and study to see the light of day.

The options chosen by Green fall, in my view, into two categories: convincing and not so convincing. Among the former I would point to the following (the first lemma is, in my opinion, the correct option chosen by Green, and the second that of Mynors and other editors). Here are a few examples: 11.11 horribiles uitro McKie ( PCPhS 30, 1984, 74-8), Lee : horribile aequor Haupt ( Observationes criticae, Leipzig 1841, 24-32); 14A.16 salse G, Buchheit ( Hermes 104, 1976, 331-47)/false; 17.3 recidiuis (not reciuiuis) Nisbet ( Collected Papers, Oxford 1995, 81) : rediuiuis V; 36.10 iocose ac lepide Goold, cf. 42.8 : iocose lepide V; 45.6 Indiaue Green : Indiaque V; 48.4 mi umquam Statius (1566, cf. G. B. Pighi, Achillis Statii lectiones atque emendationes Catullianae, Humanitas 3, 1950, 37-160), Ellis, Thomson : numquam V, Löfstedt ( Syntactica, Lund 1933, II, 213), Mynors (sed ‘mi umquam’ dubitanter in notis criticis), cf. 76.3; 55.3 te in Sillig (ed. 1823) : te V; 57.9 socii et V, ed. Veneta (1472), Quinn : socii Avantius (ed. Trincavelliana ca. a. 1535); 58b.10 mi amice Scaliger (1577, cf. A. T. Grafton, ‘Joseph Scaliger’s edition of Catullus [1577] and the traditions of textual criticism in the Renaissance’, JWI 38, 1975, 155-81), Lee : mihi amice V; 62.54 marita T, Courtney ( BICS 32, 1985, 87) : marito V; 63.85 rabidum Schwabe (ed. 1886, 2nd edition), Nisbet ( Collected Papers, 99) : rapidum V; 64.14 feri V, Quinn, Puelma ( MH 34, 1977, 156-72), Lee : freti Schrader (1776); 64.89 progignunt Itali, Quinn, Lee : pergignunt V : praecingunt Baehrens; 64.119 lamentata est Conington, Ellis, (cf. Reeve, Phoenix 34, 1980, 183) : leta V : laetabatur Lachmann; 64.254 cui Thyades O. Skutsch ( Philologus 106, 1962, 281-2), Quinn, Goold, Thomson : quae tum alacres Bergk (ap. Rossbach, ed. 1863, 2nd edition) : qui tum alacre V; 64.351 putriaque Heinsius, Pighi coll. Hor., epod. 8.7, Nisbet ( Collected Papers, 384, n. 1) : putridaque V; 64.387 residens Baehrens : reuisens V; 66.30 tersti Avantius, Reeve (art. cit., 183), Goold, Lee, cf. 99.8 : tristi V; 68b.139 contudit iram Hertzberg ( Ausgewählte Gedichte der römischer Elegiker, Stuttgart 1862, 2nd edition, 145), Ellis, Goold, cf. Prop. 1.1.10, Ov. art. 1.12, Lygd. 3.6.13-4 : concoquit iram Lachmann : cotidiana V; 71.4 apte codex Dresdensis (cf. R. Kaster, Philologus 121, 1977, 311, n. 16), coni. Schoell ( NJPP 121, 1880, 486, cf. Nisbet [ Collected Papers, 97]) : a te V, edd.; 95.5 sacras Morgan ( CQ 41, 1991, 252-3) et Heyworth ( PCPhS 44, 1998, 109) : canas V : cauas Itali : suas Nisbet ( Collected Papers, 99); 112.1 Scaliger (1577), edd. plerique : Schwabe (ed. 1886, 2nd edition); 115.1 iuxta Scaliger (1577), Goold : instar V.

Among the less convincing proposals I would point to the following (the first lemma is Green’s option, the second indicates my own preference): 4.8 Thracia Thomson : Thraciam R 2, edd. plerique; 28.5 uappam Green : uappa V; 31.13 gaudete V, Bardon : gaudente Bergk (Philologus 16, 1860, 618, cf. Goold, Phoenix 12, 1958, 94); 39.11 parcus V, Pascal (ed. 1916), Quinn : pinguis Lindsay coll. Pers. 3.74 ( CR 33, 1919, 105-6); 42.13 facit Halbertsma ( Mnemosyne 5, 1887, 333-5), Schmidt (ed. 1887), Oksala ( Adnotationes criticae ad Catulli carmina, Helsinki 1965, 53-4), alii : facis V; 44.13 hinc Green : hic V; 44.17 ultu’ Muretus (ed. 1558, 2nd edition), Quinn : ulta V; 54 the reconstruction of the poem is possible, but I fail to find it very convincing; Heri (v. 2) by Muretus (ed. 1558, 2nd edition) might be another good option based on the et eri of V; 55.9 adferte Green : reddatis Foster ( CQ 21, 1971, 186-7]) : a, cette huc Camps ( AJPh 94, 1973, 131-2), Lee, Godwin : +auelte+ V; 55.11 sinum reducens Avantius : nudum reducta pectus Ellis, Goold : nudum reduc… V; 64.148 meminere Czwalina (ap. Baehrens), Goold, dub. M. von Albrecht (ed. 2001, 2nd edition) : metuere V, Hieremias de Montagnone (1300, cf. B.L. Ullman CPh 5, 1910, 66-82); 64.237 fors ed. Trincauelliana ca. 1535 (Avantius) : aetas V, edd. plerique : sors A. Guarinus; 66.15 mariti Green : parentum V, edd., sed recte amantum Owen (ed. 1893), cf. v. 31 (lege Exemplaria Classica 8, 2004, 40-1); 66.21 at X : et V; 66.42 quis Green : qui V, edd.; 66.59 a fletu Parthenius (1485), Palladius (1496), Lee : a fluctu V : afflatu Oksala (op. cit., 79-80, cf. Luck, Latomus 25, 1966, 285-6); 67.12 (locus desperatus) uerum istuc populi ianua quicque facit Green ex edd. : uere, etsi populi uana loquela facit Lee; 68b.156 in qua olim Itali : [ipsa] in qua D, ed. Veneta (1472), Baehrens, Mynors; uobis Wiseman : nobis V, edd.; me tradidit (Scaliger, 1577), Alli (Green) : terram dat et aufert Lenchantin (ed. 1928), Dolc, (ed. 1963, cf. Exemplaria Classica 8, 2004, 40-1) : +terram dedit aufert+ V, Mynors; primo mi omnia Haupt (hiatus uitandi causa, ed. 1912, 7th edition) : primo omnia V, edd. plerique; 76.3 foedere in ullo Itali, Goold : foedere nullo V, cf. 48.4, Loefsted ( Syntactica II 213); 107.7-8 hace (Ribbeck)/optandam (Ribbeck) uita dicere quis poterit? Cf. D’Angour ( CQ 50, 2000, 615-8; the solution to this locus valde dubius remains concealed from us; until such time as it surfaces, I prefer the proposal by Butrica ( CQ 52, 2002, 608-9): magi’ nostra/ uitam esse optandam dicere quis poterit?; 113.2 Mucillam Pleitner ( Des Q. Valerius Catullus Epigramme an und über C. Jul. Caesar und Mamurra, Speyer 1849, 22-3), Schwabe (ed. 1886, 2nd edition) : mecilia V; 114.6 modio Richmond ( CQ 13, 1919, 134-40) : modo V (de hiato duro lege Kroll ad loc.); 115.5 altasque paludes Itali, Fordyce, Quinn, Lee, Thomson : udasque paludes Ramírez de Verger ( Exemplaria Classica 8, 2004, 44-8) : saltusque paludesque V, Mynors : alii alia; 116.7 ictu Green : acta Baehrens, Quinn, Goold : amictu Itali : +amitha O, Mynors.

Other readings seem more plausible to me than those proposed by Green. I cite a few examples (first the option preferred by G. and secondly my own preference): 1.2 arida] arido V, Goold ( LCM 6.9, 1981, 233-5), von Albrecht (ed. 2001, 2nd edition), cf. Mart. 8.72.1-3; 2.11-13 Green separau. : prioribus uersibus coniungendum; 3.12 illud V : illuc O 2, edd. plerique, cf. 14.22 (cf. Skutsch, BICS 16, 1969, 39); 10.8-10 et quonam mihi profuisse aere./ respondi id quod erat, nihil neque ipsis/nec praetoribus esse nec cohorti] ecquonam mihi profuisse aere./respondi, id quod erat, nihil mihi ipsi/nec quaestoribus esse nec cohorti, cf. Oksala (Adnotationes criticae, 20-1), Luck (art. cit., 281); 14a.14 ut die periret] ut periret ipsis Heyworth ( PCPhS 44, 1998, 89); 17.21 meus] merus Passerat, cf. 13.9 (1608); 22.6 noui libri] nouae bibli Nisbet ( Collected Papers, 81-2 and 342); 22.13 scitius] tritius Pontanus (cf. J. H. Gaisser, Catullus and his Renaissance Readers, Oxford 1993, 129, 346 n. 91); 29.19 quam scit] quam auxit Harrison ( PCPhS 44, 1998, 89-90); 29.20 nunc Galliae timetur et Britanniae] eine (Baehrens) Gallia estur et Britanniae? Heyworth (art. cit., 90-1), although Courtney ( CJ 93, 1998, 328) defends, perhaps correctly, the proposal by Owen (ed. 1893): eumne Gallia et timet Britannia?; 31.13 o Lydiae] limpidae Avantius, Goold (ed. 1983), cf. 4.24 and Ramírez de Verger ( Emerita 71, 2003, 223-6); 37.5 putare] putere Bury (PCPhS 82, 1909, 8), Lee; 38.6 meos] tuos Baehrens, Goold; 44.21 legi] fecit Baehrens, Reeve ( Phoenix 34, 1980, 183), Goold, cf. 50.16; 61.170-1 pectore uritur intimo/flamma, sed penite magis] pectus uritur intima/flamma, sed penitus magis Heyworth ( PCPhS 44, 1998, 103); 62.22 retinentem] lacrimantem Heyworth (art. cit., 104); 63.5 ili] ipse Currie ( CQ 46, 1996, 579-81); 63.63 mulier] iuuenis Schwabe (ed. 1886, 2nd edition), Heyworth (art. cit., 104-5); 63.64 ego gymnasi fui flos] ego eram gyminasii flos Heyworth (art. cit., 105); 64.11 illa rudem cursu prima] ipsa rudem currus prora Heyworth (art. cit., 105-6, prora ex Postgate [ JPh 17, 1888, 244-6]); 67.27 ut quaerendum unde ] ut quaerendum erat unde Kroll, Laguna ( Estudio literario de la poesía 67 de Catulo, Amsterdam 2002, 22, 86-7);69.3 rarae] Coae Baehrens, Ramírez de Verger ( Philologus 148, 2004, 362-4); 76.17-25 seiunxit Heyworth (art. cit., 109, cf. “Dividing Poems”, in O. Pecere-M. D. Reeve, eds., Formative stages of classical traditions, Spoleto 1995, pp. 131-6); 82.3 ei] id Trappes-Lomax ( Mnemosyne 55, 2002, 77-8); 116.7 contra nos] nos contra Trappes-Lomax (art. cit., 80-2).

In connection with the translation of Catullus’ poems, Green offers an interesting historical overview of the different approaches followed in the past and sets out his own aims (pp. 24-32, ‘Translation and its Problems’): avoiding the temptation of ‘cultural appropriation’, as he explains in the foregoing section on Reception and Reinterpretation, his desire is to ‘set out this profoundly alien poet, as far as [he] can, without modern accruals’ (p. 24). As far as translation is concerned, this means (p. 25) that the translator ‘bears an extra responsability for conveying both the sense and the form of the original … to the best of his or her ability’. As regards form, G. attempts to reproduce the Latin metres (concise and enlightening study in pp. 32-41, ‘The Catullan Metres’) in flexible, stress-based rhythmic verse and the result is extremely satisfactory. ‘The translator… must as far as possible create natural stresses in his prosody which mimic the required metrical schema, letting the reader shape the line without assistance,’ (pp 30-31) although he goes on to comment that he counts it as ‘a kind of failure’ when he needs to ‘nudge the reader, as is sometimes unavoidable, with diacritic signs: an accent to indicate unanticipated stress, a vertical divider showing a break in the rhythm, caesura or diaeresis.’ These devices are not so frequently used as to be a distraction, although at times the resulting sonic pattern does seem somewhat awkward (eg., the caesurae marked at ll. 8, 9, 13 of poem 4), while elsewhere the vertical divider seems unnecessary (e.g., at 29.16); natural word stress is on occasion clearly forced (e.g., nclosed at 68B.67 and catámaran, for the normal cátamaran or catamarán, in 63.1). Almost always, though, the versions read very elegantly and naturally, the rhythm being more obvious in some metre types than others: the Sapphic metre (11, 51) is very effective, with G. doing a good job of trying to catch ‘the line’s subtle syncopations and counter-stresses’, to quote the terms in which he praises Swinburne (p. 37); the hendecasyllables (generally with five stressed syllables out of between ten and twelve to the line) are also nicely rhythmic; while the choliambics are particularly effective, with their striking heavy line-endings, sometimes reinforced by means of the written accent (in 22, úrbáne mán, l. 9; oúr ówn bácks in the closing line); in the galliambic poem 63 G. manages to reflect the characteristic ‘rat-a-tat line ending’ with its ‘machine-gun rattle’ (p. 38) and in fact these very terms are neatly picked up in the translation itself (rat-a-tat tympanum, l. 8; rattle of kettle-drums, l. 21) . Only one of the translations, 97, uses an end-of-line rhyme scheme (there are examples of interior rhyming and assonance throughout the collection), toned down by enjambment and the subtle rhythm (James Michie’s rhyming and regularly rhythmed versions of the poems [ The Poems of Catullus, London 1969], though often ingenious in rhyme and structure, tend to come across as somewhat wearing when read alongside Green’s). G. expresses his admiration for R. Lattimore’s Iliad and C. Day Lewis’s Aeneid and their ‘loose, flexible line’ (pp. 29-30) and it would be fair to say, mutatis mutandis, that his own offering can be considered in the same league. In general, given that the subtle rhythm scheme envisaged by the translator is not always clear at first sight, it might have been helpful (and would surely not have involved excessive additional cost) to accompany the book with a recording of the translation (a reading of the complete poems would fit onto two CDs, a selection onto one), possibly supplemented with some samples of the original Latin to illustrate the different metres used.

As regards Green’s choice of lexis and expression, the translations are simply a pleasure to read. In the block of longer poems (61-69) the choice of language and register is wholly appropriate: elegant, sober and elevated, the text judiciously interspersed with the occasional more colloquial term (61.97 fly-by-night; 61.102 No way; 62.23 sex-hot; 67.29 mind-boggling — nicely combined with the more formal ‘egregious’ in the same line). The bulk of the poems are awarded the earthy, vigorous, expressive treatment they deserve: the language is rich (6.10 gimcrack; 6.17 ensky; 16.6 squiblet; 78A.6 avuncular cuckoldry), modern, idiomatic and colourful (8.19 hang tough; 16.5 squeaky-clean; 38.1 Life is really a bitch; 41.8 spot-checks her true cash value; 58B.8 knackered to the marrow; 60.3 mind-set; 61.121 boy toy; 92.1 bad-mouthing; 114.5 zero credit; 114.6 skint), and at times there is a clear and convincing American tinge to vocabulary and syntax (5.12 hex; 97.10-11 let him go grind / grain; 99.12 every which way); there is a sprinkling of forms that are Spanish in origin (27.1 vino; 55.10 pronto; 61.111 siesta; 112.2 macho; and in 54.7 super Duce adds another pleasing Mediterranean touch). The obscene/erotic language is suitably vigorous, with no holds barred (although the translation of the second verb in 16.1 seems rather tame (the most obvious connotation of ‘sucks to the pair of you’, with the tone of mild derision attached to the colloquial expression ‘yah boo sucks to you’ is not a sexual one) especially when irrumare/irrumatio is forcefully translated elsewhere (21.8 serve you a proper mouthful; 37.8 fill two hundred cocksucking squatters’ mouths). There are numerous strikingly expressive lines (5.4 Suns can rise and set ad infinitum; 55.20 Venus loves those rhetorical cadences) and G.’s use of alliteration is extremely effective: 25.10 fleecy little flanks and tender poofy paw-waws (laneum latusculum manusque mollicellas); 50.4 scribbling little squiblets; 61.34-5 twine / tendrils around the tree trunk; 81.3 some seaside snooze-pit; 81.6 A factitious fuckup (quod facinus facias); 94.2 The pot picks its own pot-herbs; 115.9 pompous portentous Prick (mentula magna minax). There are some clever examples of wordplay and word association: draught / overdraft, for example, in poem 26, while it is hard to avoid the sexual association introduced by the verb ‘toss off’ in 105.2.

The ‘Explanatory notes’ (pp. 212-270) are of great assistance for an initial approach to Catullus, since in only a few lines Green fills the reader in on how each poem can be understood, without neglecting the very well assimilated bibliography on the poet and his work. There are admirable notes, for instance, to poems 1 (pp. 212-3), 29 (pp. 221-2), 51 (pp. 228-9), 61 (especially pp. 232-3), 63 (Green’s account of the current state of the question in pp. 237-8 is masterly), 93 (p. 263).

The ‘Glossary’ (pp. 271-315) consists in fact of some extremely useful and well-organized additional explanatory notes, such as those devoted to C. Julius Caesar (p. 280), Clodia Metelli (pp. 283-4), Lesbia (pp. 294-5), Philodemus (p. 303) or P. Valerius Cato (p. 313).

The bibliography is appropriate and fairly comprehensive for the purposes of an edition of Catullus of this kind. Among other titles I note the absence of the editions by Petit-Vergès ( G. Valeri Catul, Poesies, Barcelona 1928), M. Dolç ( G. Valerio Catulo, Madrid 1963, third edition, 1990), H. Bardon ( Catullus: Carmina, Stuttgart 1973), W. Eisenhut ( Catulli Veronensis liber,, Leipzig 1983), M. von Albrecht ( C. Valerius Catullus: Sämtliche Gedichte, second edition, Stuttgart 2001) and the very valuable studies by M. Ruiz Sánchez ( Confectum carmine: En torno a la poesía de Catulo, Murcia 1996, I-II) and G. Laguna ( Estudio literario de la poesía 67 de Catulo, Amsterdam 2002). As regards articles, there is no mention of some which in my view are important enough to be included, such as: T. Birt Zu Catulls Carmina minora, Philologus 63, 1904, 425-71; Zu Catulls Carmina maiora, RhM 59, 1904, 407-50), G. P. Goold (‘A new text of Catullus’, Phoenix 12, 1958, 93-116), M. D. Reeve ( Phoenix 34, 1980, 179-84), R. Nisbet (‘Notes on the Text of Catullus’, Collected Papers on Latin Literature, Oxford 1995, pp. 76-100 = PCPhS 24, 1978, 92-115), and S. J. Harrison-S. J. Heyworth (‘Notes on the Text and Interpretation of Catullus’, PCPhS 44, 1998, 85-109). The volume closes with a useful ‘Index nominum’ (pp. 327-39).

In recent years some publishers have taken to printing their books using a very small letter size (10-point instead of at least 12-point) to punish the weary eyes of their readers. The great defect of this Catullus lies in the lack of sensitivity shown by the publisher to lovers of finely presented editions.

Errata: p. XIX Philol. wrongly indented; p. 15 manuscript, not manscript; p. 46 (24: nouissime V, nouissimo Ital.) should appear on p. 48; p. 64 recidiuis, not reciuiuis in 17.3; p. 90 (17: ultu’ Muretus, ulta V) should appear on p. 92; p. 140 (meminere Czwalina, metuere V) should appear on p. 142; p. 156 Amarynthia in the text, Amarunsia in the critical note; poems 36, 68A, 68B, 86, 107, 108 and 109: the metre is not noted in the left-hand margin of the Latin text; p. 333 hellenistic in the Index, Hellenistic elsewhere; p. 335 Alcaics in the Index, alcaic on p. 31.

Some years ago I read with admiration and learned much from Professor Green’s translation of the amatory works of Ovid ( Ovid: The Erotic Poems, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books 1982) with its concise and enlightening explanatory notes. Now, many years later, his Catullus, for all my quibbles regarding the text, is, in my opinion, alongside the version by G. Lee (Oxford, World’s Classics 1991), the best available for students, teachers and, to some extent, for scholars also.