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Poet antic latin, Catullus trezeste un viu interes prin felul sau asocial de a-

si propune opera si viata, fiind un mare marginal, care-si ducea traiul ignorand
norma si idealul timpului sau, fiind acel poeta care intoarce spatele marii
civilizatii latine, propunind un spirit de fronda, o lirica narcisista, si un ascutit
spirit de critica. Opera catulliana isi dezvaluie insa nu numai obiectul,
semnificantul, dar si semnificatul, acel context al epocii, moravurile, ideile si
institutiile culturale.
S-au pastrat 116 poeme, majoritatea dedicate Lesbiei (Clodia, tinara
matroana dintr-un neam vechi, frumoasa, mondena, rafinata, dar si nestatornica,
pentru care Catul nu era decit inca un amant curtenitor). Autor pasional si
obscen, delicat si perspicace, pe care insa mereu il vom gasi firesc in felul de
poezie pe care il face.

Catul va face mai mult o lirica personala, pentru ca perceperea de om a


singularitatii sale, chiar constiinta precisa, exista fara indoiala in Antichitate. In
ceea ce priveste sinele catullian, actul lui de a scrie este o incercare de a se
repovesti, or, in aceasta scriitura s-a condensat istoria lui personala, poemele
fiind nimic altceva decit niste memorii ale vietii lui intime, sociale si culturale.
Mai ales in poemele mici eul poetic se exhiba cu multa elocventa
compozitionala.
Pentru a defini tipul acesta de scriitura, este firesc sa vorbim despre o
poezie personala, subiectiva, cu un mesaj subiectivist similar stilului
postmodern de poezie, care e o poezie a impresiilor ocazionale si a diferitelor
trairi individuale ale poetului; sunt texte-sinteza a vietii boeme din cercul
neotericilor, cu erotismul, viata de petrecaret si polemicile ei. Am putea indrazni
sa sustinem ca, uneori, citindu-i poemele, inclini a crede ca poetul evadeaza din
lumea reala prin sex si prin scriitura, care se intrepatrund ca o tesatura proiectata
mai mult mental decit real.
Pornind cuminte de la o frumoasa lirica de dragoste, el aluneca dintr-un
erotism senzual intr-o lubricitate pasionala, care sparge granitele personalului,
al intimului si se transforma intr-o polemica sexuala publica. Strigatul din
poemele dedicate unei Lesbii care l-a parasit este o provocare manifesta, care
invita prietenii, alti iubiti de-ai Lesbiei, sotul ei si, desigur, cititorul intr-un
scandal amoros..
Celebrul istoric francez R. Muchembled, in cartea sa Orgasmul si
Occidentul afirma ca noi suntem ca specie in mod biologic programata sa ne
indragostim si sa alcatuim perechi . Si tot el continua prin gindul ca dragostea si
sexualitatea sunt lucruri esentiale in societatile omenesti . In acest studiu doua
perspective se impun la sigur, cea a sagalniciei poetice si cea a eului afectiv,
suferind de dragoste. Catul intr-adevar este cintaretul unui belsug antic al
pasiunilor. Titanica dorinta este o trasatura specifica amorului antic, pe care il
putem descoperi cu usurinta in mitologia si lirica acelor timpuri.
Majoritatea poemelor au un inalt continut erotic, pentru ca iubirea
catulliana este, in primul rind, o placere, o delectare erotica, care ar fi
transpusa cu exactitate de acel kama indian ce desemneaza: dorinta,
pofta, voluptatea, simpatia, dragostea. Nici una din aceste informatii
poetice nu este inocenta, bucolica, imaginile sunt pline de semnificatii
demonstrative si elaborateSubiectul trairii erotice in scriitura lui Catul
cinta arta trairii intense a voluptatii. Mai tirziu Ovidiu, prin Ars
amandi va confirma succesul acestui gen de poezie, chiar daca cu
pretul vietii sale in exil.
Catul o iubeste pe Clodia, care recurge, se pare, nu o data la un santaj
sentimental si chiar sexual al poetului. Ea e iubita care apare in poemele lui cu
numele de Lesbia, nume ce deschide intertextual o perspectiva spre poezia
elina, dupa numele insulei unde a trait poeta Sappho. Catul traduce chiar o oda
scrisa de Sappho, care pare sa fi propovaduit o kama in arealul elin.
Eul pasional simte o placere in jocul cu interdictia sociala. El este un
cintaret al placerii erotice, pentru care acuplarea nu este un mijloc de
reproducere (poemele pastrate nu indica o astfel de preocupare), ci un mijloc de
bucurie a carnii. Acest tip de lirica este in stare sa rastoarne multe idei
preconcepute existente inca in plina postmodernitate, cu privire la sexualitatea
umana.
Victima a iubirii, Catul exclama odi et amo, urasc si iubesc; este cazul
unui eu liric discontinuu scindat intre dragoste si ura, este un tip de
autodeconstructie poetica, de existenta a unor semnificatii antinomice.Dupa ce
Lesbia il tradeaza, nu atit dragostea cit enuntarea ei ia dimensiuni pornografice,
iar actul enuntarii – limbaj agresiv, plin de tribulatie, dar si intrepiditate.Iubind
si urind, Catul stie foarte bine sa ironozeze si sa persifleze lumea ce-l
acapareaza. In lirica satirica poetul se inspira si din asa-numita satura, un tip de
reprezentatie dramatica cu unele cuvinte glumete, de haz la adresa cuiva.

Timpul si dragostea sunt cele doua coloane ce strabat marea literatura, in


jurul carora graviteaza viata umana: ca in sonetele lui Vasile Voiculescu,viata
este limitata de timp, dar dragostea poate spori numarul de ani. Una celeilalte se
opun, dragostea poate “eterniza”timpul ce este doar”circulabil,reversibil si
recuperabil”;iubirea implinita poate regenera viata apusa si se poate “inalta”
deasupra realitatii profane si poate recupera starea de imperfectiune si de
atemporalitate.Ultimele sonete inchipuite ale lui Shakespeare sunt dovada
incontestabila a stapanirii de catre Vasile Voiculescu a limbajului artistic, cu
nebanuite rafinamente

Facand parte din volumul „Ultimele sonete inchipuite ale lui Shakespeare
in traducere imaginara de Vasile Voiculescu', sonetul CLXVII(13) este o
expresie a sentimentului iubirii. Avandu-si izvorul in prietenie, iubirea „inalta
si-adanca' (epitete), „navalnica simtire' (metafora), cantata de autor in acest
sonet, devine transfigurare: „Se prefacu deodata coliba in palat, / Iar casnicele
scule, in zane ca-n magie'. Simbol al existentei trupesti si pamantesti, imagine a
fragilitatii si singu-ratatii, coliba sufletului se transforma intr-un palat, simbol al
maretiei si misterului. La nivelul trairilor, iubirea e sentimentul resimtit ca
intensificare a vitalitatii, ca inaltare, desprindere de terestru, e contaminare de
focul cosmic.. Cuprins de dragoste si dor („porni-vom // spre unicul meu dor '),
eul liric e patruns in acelasi timp de fiorul creatiei, al poeziei. Prin eros se
accede la eternitate („Sa-ti cuceresc si tie [] un tron in nemurire').

La fel ca si Mihai Eminescu,”luceafarul poeziei romanesti”,cel mai important poet


roman al poeziei de dragoste, Caius Valerius Catullus boem si noncomformist, ajunge
sa fie o expresie emblematica a timpului sau. reprezentantul principal al liricii latine
din epoca lui Cicero.

Desi ar fi putut face o cariera stralucita în forum, cum a facut-o Cicero, venind la
Roma, poezia îl tenteaza însa mult mai mult pe Catullus.la fel ca si pe Eminescu care
dezinteresat de viata publica si politica isi concentreaza toata viata asupra poeziei si
asupra creatiei ideale pe care urmarea sa o infaptuieze. Putem constata cu siguranta ca
cei doi a avut o viata scurta, dar plina, care a reusit sa ramîna în istoria literaturii
universale pana azi.

Asupra numelor celor doi exista o deosebire in formarea lor unii cercetatori înclina sa
creada ca numele poetului Catullus este un pseudonim - catulio (catullio), catulire,
catulus – cuvinte ce trimit la sensul peiorativ de „catea în calduri”, iar numele
poetului nepereche este doar schimbat din Eminovici in Eminescu fara vreo conotatie
anume. Amandoi sunt provinciali si odata ajunsi in capitala frecventeaza cercuri
literare dar si boeme dar spre deosebire de Catullus, Eminescu frecventeaza si alte
capitale fiind fascinate de suburbiile oraselor mari dar mai ales de natura pe care o
pune pe picior de egalitate cu iubirea si desi nu avea bani nu le ducea lipsa in timp ce
poetul alexandrin frecventeaza cercurile inalte din Roma, avand mai multe proprietati
in jurul Veronei.

La Eminescu, iubirea si natura nu formeaza ceea ce numim un capitol aparte, nu se


izoleaza tematic, ci se constituie ca urmare a unei atitudini, a unui tonus fundamental,
care lumineaza si tulbura deodata, cele doua sentimente, convertindu-se intr-o stare
sau o forta cosmica care urmareste, hotaraste si implineste destinul fiintei umane
folosind figurile de stil in ambundenta pentru exprimarea lor in timp ce in toate
poeziile in care Catullus isi exprima sentimentele mijloacele artei sunt foarte putine.

Pasiunea pentru tema iubirii se face simtita deopotriva in operele celor doi datorita
pasiunii pentru femeie. Femeia ocupa un loc important in viata celor doi niciunul
nefiind casatorit aveau o slabiciune pentru o anume femeie desi aceasta nu va deveni
motivul mortii premature a celor doi. In timp ce Eminescu avea o idila cu Veronica
Micle intretinuta cu poezii de dragoste din partea amandurora, Catullus avea o
pasiune pentru Lesbia, o femeie maritata si in jurul careia se contureaza un adevarat
roman de dragoste in versuri.

Contopite indisolubil in poezia lui Eminescu, iubirea si natura nu constituie pentru


poetul nostru o tema de imprumut din romantica franceza sau germana, nici nu au
semnificatia unor sentimente zadarnice de care omul trebuie sa se elibereze, nici nu
raspund acelei chemari subconstiente izvorate din obscura “vointa de a trai” a lui
Schopenhauer.Dimpotriva, iubirea si natura sunt pentru Eminescu, omul si creatorul,
formele fundamentale de manifestare a personalitatii sale de exceptie, sunt
fenomenele care il insufletesc, il entuziasmeaza si-l proiecteaza in eternitate, sunt
cadrul si mijlocul de implinire, de elevatie spirituala, sunt esentiale nevoi de viata si
categorii sufletesti primordiale. Eminescu priveste iubirea si natura ca pe o evadare
din realitatea brutala si nu ca pe o forma de capitulare in lupta impotriva raului social

„ Atit de frageda te-asameni/Cu floarea alba de cires,

Si ca un inger intre oameni/In calea vietii mele iesi”….

Atat de frageda

Spre deosebire de iubirea angelica a lui Eminescu, inima lui Catullus, exaltata de
patima unei iubiri violente,ii inocula o fericire care il desprindea din realitatea
cenusie,dorinta lui era aceea de a fi langa iubita sa si de ai arata inflacarate sa iubire
prin sarutari fara numar:

“Da-mi o mie de sarutari,apoi o suta,

Apoi iarasi o mie si inca o suta

Si,mereu,inca o mie si inca o suta”

Poezia 5

Eminescu nu se resemneaza la gandul ca va pastra mai departe imaginea ideala a


iubitei, caci vraja sub semnul careia se afla poetul,si din ale carei obsesive lanturi
incearca zadarnic sa se descatuseze, este puternica – si, el inca o mai intreaba cu
disperare:

“ Unde te duci ? Cand o sa vii ?”iar intrebarea rasuna dramatic,tulburator,in


nesfarsit….Sentimentul insingurarii poetului, al indepartarii de iubire,evolueaza
treptat catre o poezie a renuntarii, o poezie de tragica evocare a dragostei stinse , ca
„ Din valurile vremii”. El nu-si pierde credinta in rostul iubirii si nici aspiratia catre o
iubire totala , accesibila doar marilor lirici si marilor indragostiti. Vrednic de retinut
este si faptul ca, in „Nu ma intelegi „ una dintre cele mai patetice si semnificative
creatii din erotica lui Eminescu , mai apoi in „ Scrisoarea IV”, poetul consemneaza o
drama mult mai zguduitoare si mult mai esentiala pentru creator, si anume: constiinta
ca fara iubire si fara intelegerea iubitei viata si creatia lui incremenesc,devin
imposibile, fiind lipsite prin aceasta, de adevaratul lor izvor de forta afectiva si
spirituala. In afara iubirii intelese, neinteles de iubita lui, fiinta creatorului nu mai
poate vibra profund,iar arta lui devine sterila, isi pierde caldura, limpezimea,
implinirea, iar ingerul devine demon la fel si la despartirea lui Catullus de Lesbia care
era pentru poetul antic “un foc violent, care cere sarutari fara numar”dar devine
“moecha putida”, “lutum “ spunand ca “are un mers urat si rade ca o mima si
prosteste din gura ei de caine de Galia”(42). Ajunge pana la disperare crezand ca doar
el o iubea cu adevarat dintre cei trei sute de amanti pe care Lesbia ii strange in brate
dupa cum chiar el spunea:”nenorocito, vai de tine, cui ai sa mai pari tu frumoasa”
asocindui acesteia o imagine triviala.

Dupa cum se poate observa la cei doi poeti se disting doua mari etape in ceea ce
priveste poezia de dragoste, o etapa in care persoana iubita pare intruchiparea
perfectiunii si o alta cand aceasta devine demon si nenorocirea vietii lor. Iubita isi
pierde magia si devine pamanteana din angelica chiar nenorocita din icoana.

Stilul celor doi se deosebeste in mare masura din cauza viziunii din care este ptivita
dragostea, la eminescu fiind un sentiment inaltator, diafan si enigmatic, stilul fiind
unul incifrat ,folosind metafore, personificaei ale naturii, epitete, comparatii,hperbole
pentru a exprima iubirea, fara a folosi un limbaj direct si usor de descifrat datorita
faptului ca natura joaca un rol important in exprimarea sentimentelor(inger decazut,
demonic, angelic), dar si idei filozofice(Nu spera si nu ai teama). In schimb la
Catullus, in toate poeziile in care isi exprima senimentele ,fata de Lesbia sau de fratele
lui,mijloacele artei sale sunt foarte simple. El isi exprima sentimentele in cuvinte
simple, obisnuite. Rareori poetul recurge la comparatii: firele de nisip din Libia, sau
floarea livezii care cade taiata de fierul plugului, asa cum a fost ucisa dragostea lui
pentru Lesbia, sau la hperbole(“Lesbia tine in brate trei sute de amanti deodata”) iar
natura este foarte putin evocata dar poetul nu se arata indiferent la frumusetile
naturii(“stele care, cand tace noaptea, privesc iubirile tainice ale oamenilor). Sintaxa
este cea obisnuita, fraze simple,putine intrebari retorice(“cui ai sa mai pari tu
frumoasa?”), vocabular obisnuit iar prea rar se intalnesc epitete.

Sfarsitul celor doi mari poeti este tragic amandoi murind din suferinta, Eminescu
suferind de singuratate si nebunie rezultatul epuizarii geniului sau poetic, iar Catullus
din aproape aceleasi cause; singuratatea datorita mortii fratelui sau si suferintei din
dragoste dar si din prisma fapului ca era o fiinta firava si emotiva.

Cele doua genii ale literaturii umiversale,desi au trait in epoci diferite vor fi
intodeauna unite de pasiunea lor pentru dragoste, dat fiind si faptul ca poeziile lor au
rezistat trecerii timpului si ramanand sursa de inspiratie pentru urmasii lor.

Our interpretation begins with a contrast between Horace's Pyrrha ode and Catullus 8,
miser Catulle, desinas ineptire. The possibility that Catullus is Horace's model was
noticed by Commager, who wrote: "Pyrrha's alterations of fair and foul form Horace's
version of Catullus' fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles; the solemn apostrophe,
miseri, quibus intemptata nites, suggests a detached echo of the specific miser
Catulle, desinas ineptire; the amused question, quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa ...
urget? recalls Catullus' inflamed queries: quis nunc te adibit? cui videberis bella? "1
Thus Horace has taken over the themes of formerly bright weather that has changed
for the worse, the wretchedness of the lover, and the questioning of the desired
woman ("Who is, or will be, in love with you?").

But the order in which the two poets set out these themes is not the same. Catullus
begins with miser, invokes the metaphor of bright weather as he remembers the past,
and near the end, when his emotions overcome him, turns to questioning the beloved.
Horace, reversing this, begins with the questioning, then brings in the metaphor of
weather, and only after this invokes the miseri.
Along with the reversal comes evident detachment. If the ode is the statement of a
former lover (whom we shall here call Horace, without wishing to say that the poem
is autobiographical2) to the woman with whom he had once been in love, it seems
disappointing. The reader finds art, rather than intensity of feeling. Irony, rather than
agony, is the prevailing emotion. Horace declares that he has weathered the storm of
Pyrrha and now contemplates it from a distance, his passion quelled. The detachment
seems even more pronounced when we compare Horace's statement with Catullus'.
Where Catullus reveals what his own emotions are in the unbearable days (or weeks,
or months) after breaking with the beloved, Horace contemplates and predicts the
unhappiness of the other lover. As for himself, time has passed. The garments from
his emotional shipwreck have been dedicated in the sea god's temple, and the votive
tablet commemorating that event has since been hung there. By contrast to Catullus,
who experiences the sharp grief of youth, Horace's response seems that of a mature
man who has come to terms with the past.

Horace, then, is older. But if Horace is older, what is, or to ask the more immediate
question when was, the relationship between Horace and Pyrrha? If the storm
commemorated in the temple represents the affair with Pyrrha, it must be past for her
too, and she too should have aged. But she is splendidly youthful. Her lover is just a
boy, gracilis puer, not yet a man. Even her sophistication is characterized by
simplicity and evident lack of guile (she is simplex munditiis), and her beauty is
similarly so perfect that it deceives. She is like Barine in Ode 2.8, who, Horace
complains in mock lament, is punished by no sign of black teeth or blemished
fingernails, despite her falseness: if anything, it is her falseness that makes Barine,
like Pyrrha, shine (enitescis, 2.8.6: nites, 1.5.13).3 Not that Pyrrha must absolutely be
as young as the gracilis puer who is imagined embracing her. But she has none of the
repulsive qualities of an older woman in the odes.4 Pyrrha, then, is youthful enough to
appeal to a mere boy, Horace mature and his shipwrecked feelings those of long ago.
Again a qualification seems necessary. Long ago is a subjective term. The poem
projects a feeling of great distance between Horace and his emotional shipwreck, but
the elapsed time need not be years. Still, the point about distance remains. Horace
engages in no bitter denunciation of Pyrrha, nor does he seem heartbroken with
despair. So either they were in a relationship long ago, or he was never intimate with
her at all. Surprisingly, there is no positive evidence in the poem for a past
relationship between Pyrrha and Horace.

Why the poem, then? If Pyrrha did not cause Horace shipwreck, how does she
provoke him, and why does he speak to her? It would seem unlikely that he has a
firsthand and intimate knowledge of her character as a lover if they were never lovers.
Instead he has substituted for her his own preconceptions about her type. Thus Pyrrha
seems to Horace representative of the type of beautiful and deceptive woman who
was dangerous to him in his immaturity, and this poem is the result of that
recognition. The puer is also a type, but of a different sort. It would seem that Horace
has personal insight into the feelings of the puer, as if he once was that slim boy. And
yet the puer is not someone Horace knows, or even positively knows of. The puer is
merely imagined by him: Horace's question, after all, is Quis gracilis puer...? And
although Horace predicts the storms and shipwreck awaiting him, he does not truly
commiserate with the puer in his imagined plight. The puer is merely a vehicle for
Horace's own remembered emotions.
Many a reader must have wondered why Pyrrha is being admonished by Horace,
rather than the boy being warned. If the puer is only a hypothetical figure constructed
in Horace's imagination, then of course it is idle to speak to him. But that does not
really answer the fundamental question of the ode's rhetorical motive. What is it that
provokes Horace to speak to Pyrrha at all? If he has never been hurt by her, why
bother to tell her that he knows what kind of person she is? Perhaps he is
remembering his bitterness to others, and wishes to take revenge on her as a type,
even though she is not herself to blame for his past. If that is so, the persona adopted
by Horace is not a very pleasant one. Horace turns out to be a petulant, rather
irritatingly self-righteous character who wishes to vent his spleen (or what remains of
it) by embarrassing Pyrrha and showing her for what she is. And yet he does not, after
all, even seem to care so very much.

This would mean that we have a Horace not far from the Horace of the traditional
interpretation, who wishes for no particular reason to utter his old complaints to
Pyrrha, though his bitterness has long since lost its pungency. But we would like to
propose a different rhetorical motive. The fact that Horace speaks to Pyrrha at all
suggests his desire for her. It is almost as if Horace is saying to Pyrrha: "Since I know
that you are inconstant, why be anything other than true to character? Why be faithful
to that gracilis puer, since that is not in your nature?" Underlying this is the question:
"Why not, perhaps, fall in love with me?"

At this point our reader will perhaps object that we are pushing our interpretation too
far. This is not, after all, a seduction poem. Horace declares that he has withdrawn
from that dangerous sea. Yet one could argue that the withdrawal of the last stanza is
neither so complacent, nor the first three stanzas to Pyrrha so gratuitously spiteful, as
readers have been inclined to think.5

The poem is about desire, the almost simultaneous recognition of the impossibility of
that desire, and, finally, withdrawal. The very form in which Horace constructs his
mental image of Pyrrha already includes in it the potential of reversal. In the first
stanza the reader makes associations of bright red and flame with Pyrrha, whose name
suggests fire,6 and whose hair is red-gold, as she is ardently pressed on roses. At the
end of the ode, however, the reader confronts a picture of the dripping wet garments
of the shipwrecked seafarer. How is the transition made? An underlying association
with fire is darkness, the ashes left when the flame is consumed. Thus the reader is
subtly prepared for the black winds, nigris ... ventis (7), of the second stanza, even
though the connection is not totally logical. Pyrrha first seems to be like flame, then is
shown to be a storm at sea. The transition pivots on the word play between aurea (9)
and aurae (11).7 That golden Pyrrha is an aura fallax, a deceptive breeze, explains the
storm the puer must face in the second stanza, but only in retrospect, for the pun on
the words aurea and aurae only comes in the third stanza. Horace thus plays with
contrasting sensations of light and dark, dry and wet, warmth and cold, as well as
employing what first appear as two contradictory images of Pyrrha, first as flame and
then as a storm out at sea. Horace's susceptibility to Pyrrha is reinforced by the use of
complementary metaphors for his own experience (shipwreck) and Pyrrha's nature
(beautiful but treacherous weather). The reader discovers one more indication in the
imagery that the danger to Horace is inherent from the beginning. In using images of
moisture to describe both the puer, who is perfusus liquidis ... odoribus, "bedew'd
with liquid odours", in the first stanza, and the "dank and dropping weeds", uvida ...
vestimenta, of Horace's own shipwreck in the last stanza, Horace links himself with
the puer. The movement from "bedew'd" to "drenched" comprehends the cycle of
Horace's past experience. The prediction of future disaster awaiting the puer is thus
understood at the end to be equivalent to Horace's remembrance of his own past.

Miseri, quibus intemptata nites! (12-13.) As we mentioned in our opening remarks,


with these words Horace echoes Catullus. And so our discussion comes full circle
back to Catullus, since we are now in a position to consider the nature of Horace's
poetic response. Catullus' poem begins as soliloquy (miser Catulle, 1), but slightly
more than halfway through the poem Catullus directs his wretched remarks to his
beloved: Vale, puella. Iam Catullus obdurat | nec te requiret nec rogabit invitam (12-
13). The lovers have already broken with each other. She is neither present, nor
listening to him. His farewell to her and his reproaches (scelesta, vae te! 15) thus form
a kind of half-soliloquy before Catullus, after a series of increasingly unbearable
questions (quem nunc amabis? cuius esse diceris? | quem basiabis? cui labella
mordebis? 17-18) abruptly pulls himself short with the desperate: at tu, Catulle,
destinatus obdura! (19). With that verse his poem ends.

Horace, remembering Catullus, has questioning, followed by a reminder to himself, a


pulling up short. But we have already remarked on Horace's reversal of motifs before
his final withdrawal. Horace begins rather than ends with questioning, and ends rather
than begins with a recognition of the lover's wretchedness. This recognition is a
prelude to his withdrawal. Horace's miseri, quibus intemptata nites!, then,
incorporates both the very first and the very last lines of Catullus' poem: miser
Catulle, desinas ineptire ... at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura. The statement is an
acknowledgment of Horace's own susceptibility to Pyrrha, and simultaneously a
retreat from it. And so the miseri for whom Pyrrha shines include the puer (and other
unknown but easily imagined lovers), but also Horace. Horace's statement is directed
to Pyrrha, but perhaps even more to himself, in a kind of half-soliloquy reminiscent of
Catullus.

Thus the word intemptata, used of Pyrrha, turns out to be ambiguous. It seems on the
surface reading to apply to the puer's ignorance of Pyrrha's fickle character. But it
would be as appropriate to Horace's non-experience of Pyrrha. She is intemptata to
him because he has not yet had the experience of love with her. Remembered past and
imagined future come together in a moment of present consciousness, and it is
awareness of the present, of what it means in terms of past and future, that makes
Horace miser.8 Pyrrha, not tried, shines. Horace knows full well that she shines only
because she is intemptata. But he cannot help feeling her shining, and that disturbing
awareness is what prompts the poem.

We are not quite ready to leave Catullus aside, but must make some remarks on the
significance of the Catullan reminiscence in this particular ode. Santirocco (following
previous scholars) has observed that the Pyrrha ode signals the beginning of Horace's
erotic odes, while Ode 3.26 (vixi puellis nuper idoneus) announces Horace's
retirement from erotic lyric in similar terms. In that ode, Horace says that he intends
to dedicate his weapons and lyre in the temple of Venus of the sea. Ode 1.5 is the fifth
poem from the beginning of the collection, while 3.26 is the fifth poem from the end.
The programmatic intention is unmistakable.9 We may now put this together with
what we have observed about Horace's response to Catullus. Horace intends to write
erotic poetry following a program different from that of Catullus. What we will find
in the erotic poetry of the Odes is detachment and emotional elusiveness under a
surface that is conspicuously artistic and artificial. Horace, then, inverts the
relationship between emotion and art that Catullus had established in his love poems.
Art is to the fore, emotion is harder to define, and more complex and ironic when we
do find it.

What then of Horace's emotion in the Pyrrha ode? Is it merely amused, intellectual,
unconcerned? Is Horace that dull? We have already said that the persona of this ode is
neither so smug, nor so peevish, as readers are inclined to think. But neither is he so
dispassionate. Horace is prompted to speak to Pyrrha because he is disturbed by
desire. He knows full well that he has long since withdrawn from the disasters of love,
and in the end he withdraws again. But just for the moment he cannot help speaking
to Pyrrha. The ode is a beautiful and realistic recognition of the temporary uselessness
of past experience in the face of Pyrrha, and the irrational nature of desire.

Notes:

1. Steele Commager, The Odes of Horace. A Critical Study (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1962), pp. 144-6. (return to essay)

2. By contrast Commager (above, n. 1), p. 144, introduces his discussion of the ode
with the phrase "Horace's specifically autobiographical love poems...." (return to
essay)

3. Barine is, however, desirable to the youth who are growing up (adde quod pubes
tibi crescit omnis, 17), as well as to the men who are already in love with her (nec
priores ... tectum ... relinquunt, 18-19). This would imply that she is, if not old, at
least older than the boys she attracts. The comparison of Odes 1.5 and 2.8 may be
more apt than we acknowledge in this essay, and may mean that we could deconstruct
our reading of the Pyrrha ode by applying the Barine ode backwards to it. Perhaps
Pyrrha is after all only young in appearance, and perhaps then Horace does have in
mind a past affair with her. (return to essay)

4. Older women who are losing or have lost their attractiveness in the Odes: Lydia in
1.25, Chloris in 3.15, Lyce in 4.13. (return to essay)

5. See, for example, R. G. M. Nisbet and Margaret Hubbard, A Commentary on


Horace. Odes Book 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970) on mein line 13: "Emphatic
and self-satisfied; Horace is not miser but ter felix." (return to essay)

6. Nisbet and Hubbard (above, n. 5) on line 3. (return to essay)

7. The pun is remarked on by Nisbet and Hubbard (above, n. 5) on line 11 and


Commager (above, n. 1) pp. 66-67. (return to essay)

8. It is interesting to compare the remarks of Lowell Edmunds on time in Ode 1.9 in


his From a Sabine Jar. Reading Horace, Odes 1.9 (Chapel Hill and London:
University of North Carolina Press, 1992), pp. 35-9. (return to essay)
9. Matthew S. Santirocco, Unity and Design in Horace's Odes (Chapel Hill and
London: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), pp. 33-4, 145-6 (with n. 31 p. 209
for citations of previous scholarship). (return to essay)