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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Characters of Theophrastus


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Criticisms and elucidations of Catullus

by Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro


Surely we thus get a much apter conclusion. A poem so short as this at all events should be consistent with itself: seruetur ad imum Qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet. My littlft book I give to you, Cornelius, who once before deigned to commend my trifles. Take it then, poor as it is, that for its patron's sake it may last some ages. The tone of self-depreciation is thus entirely in place, while it would hardly be in good taste if addressed to the Muse who would have at least to share the blame with the poet Again, when Nepos has been the sole theme of the first eight verses and has been addressed throughout in the second person, to turn so abruptly in the last two lines to the Muse, if Muse it be, or to Minerva as others would have it, strikes me as a violation of all art and good taste.

And, if I am not mistaken; I can bring forward some external testimony to support what I have said. It is natural that the introductory poem of so popular a poet as Catullus should be much quoted and imitated. For my present purpose however I confine myself chiefly to Martial, one of the most ardent aclmirers of our poet. If I should appear needlessly diffuse, let my readers understand that there is a meaning in my tediousnesa. Imitations of, or allusions to, one or other of the first four verses occur in the following passages of Martial: we find 'lepidos libellos' in xI 20 9, and in viii 3 19, where the right reading surely is 'Romano lepidos sale tinge libellos': I 113 6 Per quem perire non licet meis nugis; II 1 6 Nec tantum nugis seruiet ille meis; rv 10 1 Dum nouus est, rasa nec adhuc miki fronte ]ibellus...I, puer, et caro perfer leue munus amico Qui meruit nugas primus habere meas; 82 1 Hos quoque commenda Venuleio, Rufe, libellos... Non tetrica nugas exigat aure meas; v 80 3 Dum nostras legis exigisque nugas; vi 1 1 Sextus mittitur hie tibi lihellus; vil 26 7 Quanto mearum scis arnore nugarum Flagret: in v. 3 there is an imitation of v. 9 in Catullus: Viii 72 1 Nondum murice cultus asperoque Morsu pumicis aridi politus...libelle; xn, in prose preface, 'de nugis nostris iudices'; xra 2 4 Non potes in nugas dicere plura meas.

As vss. 5, 6 and 7 of Catullus' poem refer merely to a particular work of Nepos, we cannot look for any allusions to them. To come to the last three vss., v. 8, as Ellis has shewn, is clearly imitated by Censorinus I Quodcumque hoc libri est meis opibus comparatum natalicii titulo tibi misl Baehrens' reading appears to be confuted by this, as well as by the fact that 'qualecumque' seems never to be joined with a genitive, as 'quidquid' and 'quodcumque' are. If it be said that Censorinus wrote in the third century and that Catullus was interpolated before this time. I would appeal to Martial in 1 1 Hoc tibi quidquid id est longinquis mittit ab oris Gallia, which, coming as it does at the opening of a book, strikes me as a clear reference to this verse of Catullus.

For the last two vss. I would first of all compare Martial v GO 5 Qualiscumque legaris ut per orbem, the rhythm of which reminds me of v. 9 of Catullus as I have given it. Then look at Martial's prose dedication of van to Domitian: Omnes quidem libelli mei, domine, quibus tu famam, id est uitam dedisti, tibi supplicant, et puto propter hoc legentur. For, as our poem was so much in Martial's thoughts, the last words recall to my mind the 'patroni ut ergo cet.' Compare also the end ot Statius' dedication of Siluae n: Haec qualiacumque sunt, Melior carissime, si tibi non displicuerint, a te publicum accipiant: sin minus, ad me reuertantur. For here too I catch an allusion to the end of our poem as I have given it. Domitian and Melior take the place of Nepos. Last of all look at Martial i n 2, a short poem manifestly modelled on Catullus' poem. It thus commences: 'Cuius uis fieri, libelle, munus?' after Catullus' 'Cui dono lepidum nouum libellum?' Martial continues 'Festina tibi uindicem parare': then in v. 6 'Faustini fugis in sinum? sapisti*. The poem thus concludes 'Illo uindice nec Probum timeto', taking up v. 2 and 6 exactly as Catullus, if we are right, would take up v. 3 'Corneli tibi' with 'patroni ut ergo cet.', uindex too having much the same meaning as patronus. All these points when taken together appear to me not to be without significance.


{Reprinted from tha Journal of Philology vol. 4 p. 241 242]

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,
quoi primum digitum dare adpetenti
et acris solet incitare morsus,
5 cum desiderio nieo nitenti
carum nescio quid libet iocari,
et solaciolum sui doloria
credo ut cum grauia acquiescet ardor:
tecum ludere sicut ipsa possem
10 et tristis animi leuare curas 1

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