Page images
PDF
EPUB

to the wildest Places with him ; but he says fo many disobliging things of them in other places, that it cannot be thought their Friendship was of any Continuance; he represents them as open-mouth'd Wolves, that having nothing to live upon, could never free themselves from Hunger.

Aureli, Pater Efuritionem, &c. Ep. 21.
Aurelius!
Father of Famine present and to come!

He represents them as greedy of Sodomy as of Bread, and threatens them with a horrible Treatment, if they continue to slander him, aud to debauch the Object of his Flame. He had afterwards, says Muretus, a grievous Quarrel with these two Persons, and satirized them in the bitterest Verses, because they had branded him with Effeminacy, and that Aurelius had indeed attempted a Youth whom Catullus loved, and Furius had actually debauched him. So that this Poet was stained with that unnatural Vice, and complied with that fashionable Impurity.

CATULLUS was of a gay amorous Disposition, and speaks with great Passion of two of his Mistresles, I pithilla of Verona and Clodia, to whom he gave the Name of Lesbia, in honour to Sappho, who was of the Island of Lesbas, and whole Verses pleased him wonderfully; he translated or imitated some of them : He speaks of his Lesbia, as of a very lascivious Lady, and introduces her asking him how many Kisses would faa tisfy him ; Quæris quot mihi Bafiationes, &C.

Lesbia

Lesbia my faireft, you require

How many Kisses I desire, &c. He desired, he says, as many as there are Grains of Sand in the Desarts of Lybia, and Stars in the Heavens ; but his Lesbia it seems became at last a common Prostitute : .

Cæli, Lesbia illa, &c.
Lesbia, my Friend, the beauteous She,
IV ho more than Life was dear to me,
Now plies in Alleys, and in Streets,
And lies with every Man fhe meets.

It is said, that this lewd Woman was the Sister of the infamous Clodius, the great Enemy of Cicero.

He suffered the common Fate of the Poetical Tribe, for he was poor all his Life-time; which, without doubt, was in some measure owing to the profligate Company he kept, and his extravagant Expences. He neither made his Fortune by his Verses, nor in his Travels into Bithynia with Meminius, who had obtained the Government of it after his Prætorship. He composed a very palfionate Epigram upon the Death of his Brother, for whose Loss he was inconsolable,

Tu mea, Tu moriens, &c. Epig. 46.
Thy Death, my Brother, has undone my State;
Our Family lies buried in thy Fate.

He died in the Flower of his Age, and in the Height of his Reputation, about thirty Years old : Scaliger's Opinion cannot be supported, who says, he lived above seventy-one Years ; about this time Virgil was pursuing his Studies at Cremona. The Poem upon Lesbia's Sparrow, some

pretend

Founded he decimo

C'AT U L L U S. 185 pretend he dedicated to Virgil; this Conjecture is founded upon two Verses of Martial that are certainly misunderstood,

Sic forfan tener aufus eft Catullus,
Magna mittere passerem Maroni.

As if Catullus had presumed to fend his Sparrow to Great Maro as his Friend. Martial there addresses himself to Silius Italicus, a celebrated Poet, and one of his Patrons ; he compliments him as if he had said, I presume to inscribe this little Piece to you, as Catullus might have presented his Poem on Lesbia's Sparrow to the great Virgil, had they flourished at the same time. It is evident, that Martial professed the greatest Veneration for the Excellencies of Catullus ;

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Tantum magna suo debet Verona Catullo,

Quantum parva fuo Mantua Virgilio. This Poet contracted a Friendfhip with Gicera, who is said upon some Occasion to plead as a Publick Advocate for him; and notwithstanding the Friendship between Julius Cæfar and his Father, he severely lampoon'd that Emperor, in the Person of Mamurra, one of his Fa. vourites, and a Surveyor of his Workmen in Gaul, The Verses were very satirical, they lashed the fevere Robberies of Mamurra, and the lewd Intercourse, supposed to have passed between him and Cæfar : Quis hac poteft videre, &c.

Ep. 30. Who but a Wretch as vile can bear to see Mamurra riot thus in Luxury ?

Rich with the Spoils, and plunderd Wealth he bore,
From long-hairdGaul,and distant Britain's Shore,
The Pathic Roman, who unmov'd can see
Such wanton Riot, is as base as He.

The fifty-eighth Epigram is yet more fevere;
Pulchrè convenit improbis Cinædis,
Mamurrhæ Pathicoque Cæfarique.
This fuits with impious Pathicks well,
Cæfar and vile Mamurrha-

CÆSAR, upon this Occasion, behaved with his usual Generosity and Moderation ; he was not filent indeed at the Injury he received, but obliging the Poet to make a slight Satisfaction, which he accepted; he invited him (says Suetonius) the same Day to Supper, and continued to lodge at his Father's House, as he had done before.

The Works of Catullus are inscribed to Cornelius Nepos, whom he compliments on his Writing a general History in three Books. Omne Quum tribus explicare Chartis. We have not all his Pieces: Crinitus speaks of an Ithyphallic Poem, or Verses upon the Impure Divinity of Priapus, and Pliny ascribes to him a Poem upon Inchantments used to make one's self beloved :. This Subject had been treated of before him by Theocritus, and, after him by Virgil. The Poem of the Vigil of Venus is falsely attributed to him. His early Death must be lamented by all true Lovers of Wit and Learning, since it has robbed us of many Improvements which he was likely to have made in this kind of Poetry: I mean his Hendecasyllables, where he feems to excel most: There are some finished Pieces of

his

his that are inimitable in their kind: Such is the Poem upon Lesbia's Sparrow, and that on Acme and Septimius ; the Translation of Callimachus's Elegy on Queen Berenice's Hair also is an excellent Piece. His Lyric Poems are many of them well written, particularly the Carmen Seculare. Scaliger thinks he was too critical and exact, and too strict an Observer of the Roman Elegancies He is generally esteemed the best Writer in the Epigrammatick Style. .

An Epigram, of all the Works in Verse that Antiquity has produced, is the least considerable ; it is of no Worth at all, unless it be admirable, and it is so rare to see such a one, that it is fufficient to have made one in a Man's whole Life; and yet this Manner of Writing has its Beauty. This Beauty consists either in the delicate Turn, or' in a lucky Word. The Greeks have understood this sort of Poesy otherwise than the Latins: The Greek Epigram runs upon the Turn of a Thought that is natural, but fine and subtle; the Latin Epigram by a false Taste that

a

pure Latinity, endeavours to surprize the World by some nipping Word, which is called a Point. Catullus writ after the former manner, which is of a finer Character, for he endeavours to close a natural Thought within a delicate Turn of Words, and within the Simplicity of a very soft Expref

of this other way, that is to say, to terminate an ordinary Thought by some Word that is surprising. Judges of a good Taste have always preferred the way of Catullus before that of Martial, there being more of true Delicacy in that than in this. And in these latter Ages we have

seen

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »