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Poetic Interplay

Poetic Interplay: Catullus and Horace

Michael C. J. Putnam
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Poetic Interplay
    Book Description:

    The lives of Catullus and Horace overlap by a dozen years in the first century BC. Yet, though they are the undisputed masters of the lyric voice in Roman poetry, Horace directly mentions his great predecessor, Catullus, only once, and this reference has often been taken as mocking. In fact, Horace's allusion, far from disparaging Catullus, pays him a discreet compliment by suggesting the challenge that his accomplishment presented to his successors, including Horace himself. InPoetic Interplay, the first book-length study of Catullus's influence on Horace, Michael Putnam shows that the earlier poet was probably the single most important source of inspiration for Horace'sOdes, the later author's magnum opus.

    Except in some half-dozen poems, Catullus is not, technically, writing lyric because his favored meters do not fall into that category. Nonetheless, however disparate their preferred genres and their stylistic usage, Horace found in the poetry of Catullus, whatever its mode of presentation, a constant stimulus for his imagination. And, despite the differences between the two poets, Putnam's close readings reveal that many of Horace's poems echo Catullus verbally, thematically, or both. By illustrating how Horace often found his own voice even as he acknowledged Catullus's genius, Putnam guides us to a deeper appreciation of the earlier poet as well.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2742-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael C. J. Putnam
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Horace’s only mention of Catullus occurs in the final poem of his first collection, the initial book ofSatires, published probably in 35 BCE. We come in on the narrator arguing that, for a great poet, particularly one writing in a genre like satire, whatever brings a smile (ridiculum) can often put across “mighty matters” better than what is bitter or sardonic (acri) (16–19):

    illi scripta quibus comoedia prisca viris est

    hoc stabant, hoc sunt imitandi; quos neque pulcher

    Hermogenes umquam legit neque simius iste

    nil praeter Calvum et doctus cantare Catullum.

    By this means those who wrote Old...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Time and Place
    (pp. 11-47)

    There are occasions where the repetition of one word, especially if it is a unique usage by each poet, will connect a work of Catullus with one of Horace. A case in point is the wordangiportum(-us). We find it in poem 58 of the earlier poet and inC. 1.25 of his successor. Both compositions are in large measure meditations on aspects of time and time’s passage. Discussion of them will serve to introduce a series of poems where Horace is clearly pondering, and reacting to, Catullus’s versions, and visions, of temporality as well as of topography. The...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Speech and Silence
    (pp. 48-71)

    In the preceding chapter, as part of the examination of our poets’ uses of the categories of time and place, we looked at the opening lines of Catullus’s poem 51, his reworking of Sappho 31, for their relation toC. 1.22. Its final stanza, original with the translator, also exerted a manifold influence on Horace (13–16):

    otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:

    otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:

    otium et reges prius et beatas

    perdidit urbes.¹

    Leisure, Catullus, is troublesome for you. In your leisure you run riot and act uncontrollably. Before this, leisure has destroyed both kings and wealthy cities.


    (pp. 72-92)

    In the previous chapters we surveyed notions of the temporal and the spatial as well as of utterance and its inhibition as means to adjudicate the interaction between Catullus and Horace. We now turn from abstract to concrete, as in separate chapters we watch two figures who help focus our attention on a series of interconnected poems by each writer. The first is Helen of Troy.

    Three adjacent odes in the first book ofCarmina, 15–17, however diverse their subject matter in appearance, have important elements in common.¹ The clearest unifying factor is their distinctive associations with Helen. The...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Virgil
    (pp. 93-115)

    We move now from the realm of Greek myth to contemporary Rome, from one of Homer’s most extraordinary creations to Virgil, five years Horace’s senior and another master poet of the Augustan age. It may seem at first paradoxical to devote a chapter to Virgil when dealing with the influence of Catullus on Horace, but the three odes that the latter addresses to his friend,C. 1.3, 1.24, and 4.12, all exemplify a principle we have found operative elsewhere in dealing with the patterns of Horace’s allusivity. He will often make direct, or indirect, mention of one poet—Alcaeus, say,...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Genres and a Dialogue
    (pp. 116-140)

    In the previous chapters we explored the presence of two themes—the association of time with place, and of speech with sound—and of two figures, one drawn from Greek myth (Helen), the other from contemporary Rome (Virgil), that are all central to our discussion of Horace’s reception of Catullus. Here we look at two genres, the hymn and the wedding song, or epithalamium, by means of which the Augustan poet absorbed and varied the inheritance of his predecessor. As a postlude, which will also serve in part as summary, we will turn to a set of poems where the...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 141-144)

    By way of synopsis, let us consider some patterns that emerge from tracing Horace’s acceptance of Catullus into his imaginative world. To generalize broadly, these modes of reception fit under two sets of rubrics. The first might be labeled the psychological or emotional sphere. A major area of this book’s enterprise has been to observe the response of Horace to questions of both theme and tone that he found in his predecessor. A second category might be entitled the stylistics of allusiveness. This heading looks to the means of the Augustan poet’s response to Catullus rather than to the matter...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 145-158)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-164)
  13. Index of Poems Cited
    (pp. 165-168)
  14. General Index
    (pp. 169-171)