Friday, November 9, 2007

Quintum Pensum: Catullus 64

When did Catullus write carmen 64? This is an epyllion, a little epic. This neoteric poet has written a traditional Roman epic poem, sort of. It's about the marriage of an heroic couple whose bedspread has the scenes of Theseus and Ariadne on it. The bulk of the poem is about that scene within the scene, and that scene is about the heartbreak of love betrayed.

We have also seen the words and language that Catullus uses in 64. It often calls to mind the words and language of many of his other poems. And so the question arises: which did he write first--the short lyric poems of love and then the epyllion, or the epyllion out of which he wrote the short lyric poems? And, what difference does it make which came first?

As always, cite evidence in Latin from Catullus works, translate them, and make your case. Take time to do a thorough job here. This is a long essay assignment. I will post no essays until the time deadline is reached, and this essay will count double the usual grade.

Quartum Pensum: Lamenta Ariadnae

Discipuli, videte lamentum Ariadnae in versibus 132-197 carminis Catulli 64. Demonstrate exempla pro his quaestionibus.

1) Quid Ariadna de viris putat?
2) Quid Ariadna de se dixit?
3) Quae quaestiones Ariadna habet?

Respondete, quippe, tantum Latine.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tertium Pensum: Autumno 2007

Catullus uses the writing of others in poems 14a, 35, 36, 44, 50 and 1 to address a variety of issues. What are these poems "De Carminibus" really about? Are they about poetry? If so, make the case. If not, make a case for something else. As always, state you evidence from the Latin text, translate it (yourself--do not use someone else's English version) and then analyze the text toward your answer.

Have fun. Posts due by Monday night at 10:30.

Mr. P

Friday, September 7, 2007

Secundum Pensum, Autumno 2007

We have just read several Catullan poems grouped under the theme: Amici et Inimici. Citing your evidence in Latin, translating and then analyzing, cite three examples of images that Catullus uses to describe "the human condition" within the realm of friends and enemies. In other words, in these poems that spin off of his friendly and unfriendly relationships, what images of the human condition does Catullus paint for us. After citing your evidence and anylizing them, what conclusions can you draw about Catullus' view of the human person?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Primum Pensum, Autumno 2007: His Mind Through Your Mind?

Here we are with our first blog post of the new school year. I am starting the numbering over with Week 1--Fall 2007 so that we can more easily keep up with our weeks.

Recently on National Public Radio's "This I Believe" series, Canada's first poet laureate, George Bowering, made this comment:

"Sometimes when you are listening to a great jazz musician performing a long solo, you are experiencing his mind, moment by moment, as it shifts and decides, as it adds and reminds. This happens whether the player is a saxophone player or a bass player or a pianist. You are in there, where that other mind is. His mind is coming through your ears and inside your mind."

You can go here to read his entire "This I Believe" statement. It's not long, and I urge you to read the entire thing:

Choose your favorite Catullan poem (thus far) and respond to Bowering's observation. Do you agree that by reading aloud a poem of Catullus that Catullus' thoughts and mind itself are moving through yours? What nuances can you give to your answer? Cite directly from your chosen poem with examples, whichever position you take on this question.

Have fun with this. I think Bowering makes a fascinating set of observations about what art is and how we interact with it.

Mr. P

Friday, May 11, 2007

Week 17: Ad Finem!

We have spent the last 18 weeks reading and reflecting on the carmina of Catullus. We have viewed them under some general headings:

Catullus Lesbiam amat.
Catullusne Lesbiam amat?
Amor et Amicitia
De Vita Sua

Go back over these poems. Select a line from one poem that strikes you in a particular way. Quote the line, and then explain to us in a few poignant words what this means to you and why it captures your attention.

I will offer this one for myself:

. . . non est dea nescia nostri,
quae dulcem curis miscet amaritiem.
Sed totum hoc studium luctu fraterna mihi mors
abstulit. O misero frater adempte mihi,
tu mea tu moriens fregisti commoda, frater,
tecum una tota est nostra sepulta domus
omnia tecum una perierunt gaudia nostra
quae tuus in vita dulcis alebat amor. 68:17-24

The goddess is not unaware of me, who mixes sweet bitterness with life's cares. But, my brother's death has taken this whole work from me with sorrow. O my brother taken away from miserable me! You have broken my life's peace, you dying brother, and my whole house has been buried together with you and all my joys have perished with you--joys which your sweet love used to nourish in my life.

My quotation is long, but how it strikes me is quick and deep. Catullus captures so well how powerful our love for others can be, and how deep the wound of losing them is. Reading this poem this week, and this week in particular, as a young man in our own extended community lost his life in a tragic car accident reminds me of how much I care for those in my life (including my students!) and how much I cherish them all. The love and companionship I have with others really does nourish my life. Catullus reminds me of this as if he had written these words this week.

What you post this week does not have to be lengthy. But, do let it be your signuature to our work this semester.

With gratitude to all the members of this class for a fascinating and rewarding year,

Magister Patricius

Friday, May 4, 2007

Week 16: Modelling the Message

We've spent a good deal of time this week reading Carmen 65, which addresses the death of Catullus' brother, and the great sorrow he experiences as a result of it.

In good AP writing style address how Catullus models his message in this poem. Specifically comment on how the poem begins, the transition that takes place in the middle, and his ending. He models his message in a couple of ways. Remember to cite the Latin lines, translate them, and then make your points of discussion.

This is our next to last blog entry. Ad finem fortitudine!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Week 15: Greek and Latin Love Poetry

The BBC has put out an interesting show on classical love poetry. Because of the nature of this blog, I am extending the deadline until Wednesday at 10:30 PM because it requires listening to this internet broadcast. Go here and listen:

Then, respond with THREE connections you can make from this broadcast to Catullus' poetry.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Week 14: Reflections on Home

Carmen 31, in which Catullus addresses his home place, Sirmio, is among those that we have labelled "De Vita Sua", About His Life.

Writing about one's home-place might seem very easy to some people, but to an increasing number of people, that might seem difficult if not absurd. Fewer and fewer people in our modern age actually grow up in one place, much less on a family estate that has been in the family for multiple generations.

What can you excavate, metaphorically speaking, from Catullus' Carmen 31 about his life? And more importantly, speculate on why he might have wanted to write a poem about his home place. Finally, reflect on and answer this question: does being able to reflect on a "home place" have any appeal to you? Why, or why not?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Week 13: Ille Phasellus: When is a boat not a boat?

This week we have read Carmen 4 in which Catullus reports to his "hospites" what his little ship, his "phasellus", has said.

Immediately, we know that this is more than meets the eye. Ships don't report anything. But, when poets have ships that are talking, the poets are trying to tell us something.

In your blog post, describe at least three different things that Catullus is telling us about through the words of the ship. Cite the Latin, translate it, and then explain.

Finally, if you were to describe some object in your life that could tell us about you, what would it be, and why?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Week 12: More Than Words Contain

I heard recently a radio interview with Krista Tippet who does a weekly show in NPR called "Speaking of Faith". She was asked by the interviewer if religion came from the same place within the human being as art--and that would include poetry. She had this to say: Poetry says more than what words contain.

Examine Carmen 96 in which Catullus treats the issue of death, love, grief and joy. Do his words as he writes them in Latin express something more than the words contain? If so, what? How does he do this? Explain his art. If you think not, explain why.

As always, cite the Latin, given a translation, and then make your case. You are all really good at this. Sink into this deep, brooding poem, and awe me with your response. You always do. I really love working with you each day. No exceptions.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Week 11: Acme and Septimius

In Catullus 45, we examine the love relationship between Acme and Septimius. It's a bit ironic, perhaps, after walking through the Catullus and Lesbia poems, that we then take up this poem about what seems to be an ideal love relationship.
So, my question to you is about irony. Can you find evidence of irony in Catullus 45, or is this just a very straightforward poem about the ideal love relationship? Before settling on an answer, examine the poem carefully, and compare two things: the message of the words, and the way Catullus structures or arranges the words of the poem. Do message and word structure compliment each other or create irony?
As usual, cite Latin examples, translate, and then discuss your evidence. The BEST response will be analytical and critical. A less than best response will simply summarize.

This assignment is not due until Tuesday evening at 10:00, but preparing it before then will help you with your translation quiz on Tuesday in class over Catullus 45.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Week 10: Making sense of strange elements

In Carmen 11, Catullus takes the reader on a catalogued tour of regions around Rome. For us, they are mostly strange, unknown places, and we need the help of commentators to begin to make sense of them. And then, suddenly, two-thirds of the way through the poem, Catullus has a message for his "girl", Lesbia. It's not a pretty message. The relationship is clearly over. Latin scholars admit that this is a "problematic" poem to interpret and has been for the history of interpretation.

What does this catalogued tour of places have to do with his message for Lesbia? Come up with at least two different "theories" for how an intelligent reader might make sense of these seemingly disparate parts. Label your theories A and B, and state each in two sentences or less. Think long on this, and write short!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Weeks 8-9: Patterns of Writing

We will keep this topic open for two weeks. I ask that you each attempt to respond to my question below, AND, in the second week, that you make a response to one other student's post. You will receive two different grades, based on your own response, and on your response to another student. By doing this, we are extending our conversation with each other about Catullus' works beyond the classroom. Make your first post without reading others' posts. Then, of course, read all of the posts before making your second. Your second may focus on one person's comments, or on those of several.

We have read several of Catullus' poems now, all about his relationship with Lesbia. What have you begun to notice about Catullus' writing style that seems to be "Catullan"? In other words, are there things that Catullus seems to like to do with words and patterns of words that, if you were to see the same in an unidentified poem, would make you think: Hmmm, this could be a poem of Catullus.

Identify any such patterns you see. Give the Latin and the poem number, and then talk about the effect these patterns seem to have on the message of the poem.

Magister Patricius

Friday, February 16, 2007

Week 7: The Effects of Langauge, or, How Language Affects Us

We had very rich, thoughtful discussion today about our recent set of poems: 3, 70, 8, 87 and 60. Thanks to all of you for making that happen.

One thing we can probably not look at enough is how it is that Catullus does what he does. In other words, how does he use Latin language to create certain effects, and how do those effects affect us when we read the Latin.

Choose one of the following and reflect on it, citing evidence in Latin (with translation).

A. How does Catullus create the effect of outrage in carmen 60? What effects of language does he use? Outrage should be the affect (how it makes us feel, or how he helps us see how he feels).

B. Consider how poem 87 echoes poem 8. What language (the effects) does he use in both? How does that language affect the reader, or set the reader up to see and feel Catullus' feelings?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Week 6: Lesbia Respondet--paene

Imagine Lesbia responding to Catullus' Carmen 70. And then, write a 4 line Latin poem as Lesbia's response to him and to that particular poem. Follow these guidelines.

1) Yes, in Latin.
2) 4 lines
3) Each line has 11 syllables (aiming for Hendecasyllable, but I am not requiring that your 11 syllable line conform entirely to the meter. If you can get the first three syllables to be long, that would be a start. The bottom line, though, is 11 syllables. Don't forget to make use of elision and word choices to make the syllables work.
4) These 4 lines are Lesbia's response to Catullus 70.
5) Most important part: have fun!

Friday, February 2, 2007

Week 5: Passer

We have now read two poems (carmina 2 and 3) where the Lesbia's sparrow is the focus. Compare and contrast these two poems. Take the sparrow at face value, and explain how Catullus uses the sparrow to do what he is doing in each poem. What is he doing in these two poems? Is he doing the same thing, or something different in each? Quote from the Latin text and justify your views. This need not be a lengthy response, but a well-documented with Latin text--response.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Week 4: Specialty Words

If you read enough of an author, you begin to notice subtle or not so subtle patterns in his/her writing. Those patterns might be thing like the clear, short, straightforward sentences of a Hemingway, or lengthy, complex sentences describing scenes in great detail like Mellville. The same is true for Latin authors and Latin poets in particular. We can notice patterns in meter, and we can notice patterns in themes (like poems about how much Catullus loves Lesbia). We can notice that certain Latin authors favor or repeat certain word order in their verses. And, we can notice specialty words. I am calling specialty words those words that show up often, or which seem to be the central word or words that give a particular poem its focus.

Consider the 6 poems that we have studied in the "Catullus Lesbiam Amat" theme (51, 5, 7, 86, 43 and 2) and identify what you think are the "specialty" words. And then, comment on how these words enable Catullus to talk about his love for Lesbia. How would these very same poems change if these specialty words were deleted.

Magister Patricius

Friday, January 19, 2007

Septimana Tertia: Ad formam et venustatem discernendum

Catullus noster scripsit Quintiam esse formosam, sed nullam venustatem habere (Carmen 86). Secundum Catullum in carminibus nostris (51, 5, 7, 86) quid est forma? Quid est venustas? Explica duobus vel tribus exemplis ex carminibus differentiam inter formam et venustatem. Quomodo Lesbia exemplum venustatis est?

Magister Patricius

Friday, January 12, 2007

Week 2: What is a life?

This week we have read Carmen 51 and Carmen 5. We have listened to Catullus' description of what simply looking at his lady does to him, and we have heard him describe human life as a brief light that, when it sets, must sleep the sleep that must be slept. And then he calls for all those kisses!

Consider this poem written in English by Mary Oliver (which, magically, I just received from a friend by email while we were studying Carmen 5), and then try your hand at answering the question "what is a life?". According to the Catullus of 51, what is a life? According to the Catullus of 5, what is a life? According to Mary Oliver, what is a life? Try and keep your comments focused and concise. Do you share these views of life, or not?


Magister Patricius

The Summer Day
Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
© 1992 by Mary Oliver.
All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Week 1: What is Poetry?

Daniel Garrison states in his commentary on the meter of Catullus that "without sound, poetry ceases to exist". He says earlier that "poetry is rhythmic sound married to meaning", making it clear that poetry is this mysterious melding of words, and not just any words--but meaningful words--and rhythm.

Rhythm requires sound. So, what does this say to a culture where we largely do our reading in silence? Have we become a society without poetry? Do we live, now, in our modern age, without the beauty, power, mystery and magic of poetry? Has poetry ceased to exist in us? When do Americans hear, speak, and relish "rhythmic sound married to meaning?" And as for the Latin classroom, what are the implications for Latin students of any age, any place, where the language is never spoken or read aloud, where all that is done to it is translation into English? Has Latin poetry "ceased to exist"?

What say you?

Magister Patricius