20 September 2016 Susannah

Catullus’ Bedspread

Catullus at Lesbia's by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I’ve been reading Italian literature in preparation for my Literary Tour of Northern Italy (you might like to think of booking for this tour in 2017? Contact ASA Cultural Tours for an itinerary) and a book I very much enjoyed was Catullus’ Bedspread by Daisy Dunn.

Lesbia and Her Sparrow, by Edward Poynter

Lesbia and Her Sparrow, by Edward Poynter

I knew virtually nothing about the great Latin poet Cattulus and I found this book most intriguing. Catullus immortalised a woman called Lesbia in his verse, wrote scandalous and erotic poems, and is considered a father of social satire. The book was an excellent mixture of biography and literary analysis – just the mix I enjoy most in the life story of any writer. The painting above, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema shows an image of Cattulus (centre) at Lesbia’s.

Have you read any studies of Cattullus’ poetry?  Share your comments below.

  Poetry in Translation: Catullus: The Poems
   Poetry in Translation: Catullus: The Poems


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Featured image credit- Catullus at Lesbia’s by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12357566
Body image credit- Lesbia and Her Sparrow, by Edward Poynter – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5194833

Comments (6)

  1. David Castle

    I also studied Catullus for the leaving certificate. Little is left but the memory of his poem of grief, mentioned above, on the death of his brother. Tennyson has done a wonderful transcription/translation (?) of that poem called “Frater Ave atque Vale”. Well worth reading.

    “Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen hundred years ago,”

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I agree that Tennyson poem is wonderful. Thanks for rcommending it.

  2. Anne Makepeace

    I studied some of Catullus’ poetry while I was doing Latin for the HSC and enjoyed it very much. Of course the emphasis was more on the process of translation rather that the content, but as young impressionable schoolgirls, we found it quite entertaining. My favourite poem was one of his more serious ones – on the death of his brother (Catullus 101). It is very moving and its final line “atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale” (and forever, brother, hail and farewell) is one of the classic quotes of Latin literature. The Catullus’ Bedspread book sounds like it’s worth a read and I’ll follow that up.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am most interested that you got Catullus at school, Anne. Yes, that quote is justly famous. I think you would enjoy the book.

  3. Judy Stove

    Great that you’ve discovered Catullus, Susannah! I first read his poems in high school, and was an instant convert. There’s nobody quite like him. Many poets, including Byron, imitated his famous poems such as the one about Lesbia’s sparrow. There’s also the one which is borrowed from Sappho’s famous one, describing how a lover feels when his/her beloved appears. Hope you like him too…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for the suggestions, Judy. Of course one good book always leads you off in so many other reading directions.

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