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.