Catullus Paper Term 1

Catullus was a complex poet which is why ambiguity

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closely and read “between the lines”. Catullus was a complex poet which is why ambiguity was an important part of his carmina. Poems 2 and 3 are perfect examples of how with deeper analysis a completely different message can be found, different from the literal reasoning. The “bird” mentioned in poems 2 and 3 can be seen as being symbolic
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of either a male or female genital. When the poem is reread with this concept in mind it completely changes the entire interpretation of the poem. It not longer seems as though Catullus is envious of some poor creature, but as though he is jealous of how his relationship with Lesbia is more physical than emotional. Catullus feels as though Lesbia only uses him to please her physical needs and not because she is deeply in love with him. Catullus illustrates Lesbia’s close attachment to the bird at the beginning of carmina 2, « Passer, deliciae meae puellae, quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere, cui primum digitum dare appetenti et acris solet incitare morsus » (“Small bird, of my darling girl, with whom she was accustomed to play, whom she was accustomed to hold in her lap, to whose eager attack she is accustomed to give her fingertip and to provoke a sharp nibble” Cat.2.1-4). When Lesbia’s desire for Catullus’ bird dies out, Catullus is pleased because he sees this as an opportunity for him to get Lesbia to fall in love with him for who he is and not because he is able to satisfy her aphrodisia. It is uncertain in both carmina 2 and 3 what Catullus intended to be the hidden meaning of the bird. It can be argued that Catullus may have intended the bird to represent a female genital. It may have been a female genital because Catullus states that
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  • Fall '10
  • RFreed
  • Latin, Ambiguity, Catullus

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