[ Return to the SOAPBOX ]

 

"What I've Gotten from Latin IV"

This was the final paper I wrote in high school. The class was Latin IV and I was supposed to determine if I was more like Catullus or Horace, two of the more well-known poets in Rome. It would help if you knew a little about the poets, but I suppose you can infer what I'm trying to say...

Dear reader, the epiphany which follows is not meant to be arrogant or self-indulgent in any way. It is merely an attempt to address the project's prompt, which is to decide if I'm Catullan or Horacian in thinking. Furthermore, phrases like "Dr. Duke is the best teacher ever" and "there's nothing like the smell of fresh Latin in the morning" should not be construed as an attempt to sway the reader into giving me a 100 for this project.

Over the last year or so, I have undergone large intellectual growth, assisted by my year studying Horace, Catullus, and their philosophies. After completing many college applications, the equivalent of Catullus's trip to Bithynia, I have discovered much about myself and much about life. I did not end up with an "oilier head" or acceptance letters from Ivy League schools, but I did partly realize what the true importance of my life all was.

Without heightening the suspense at all, I'll just admit at this point that I'm a Catullan, as ghastly as that might be. There are many reasons for my grouping myself as a Catullan and they'll be discussed later. But don't worry, I'll leave the sick, obscene stuff out of this letter.

I must concede that there are parts of me which are Horacian, such as my appreciation of the grandiose and my sometimes grandiloquent diction. It should be expected that people possess characteristics of both Catullus and Horace; it only reinforces the Yin-Yang belief that one must find a balance between the masculine and feminine. Everyone has a bit of the other side, as shown by the opposite-colored eye in the circle.

Yes, I am most definitely a Catullan. I enjoy the subtle and disapprove of the overt. Catullus often disguised his true meanings under words of seemingly honest meaning. I seek Catullus's wit and subtlety for they make conversation much more interesting and make even the most intelligent opponent look foolish. But there were also times when Catullus liked to trash someone point-blank without any irony involved. The ambiguity of Catullus's meanings undoubtedly threw off his opponents and enemies. Horace was different, as his irony often was of a more padded kind, taking care not to offend those who might wish to have him killed. I suppose if you're Horace, you have to make sure you kiss up enough, whereas Catullus has no worries of staying in Octavian's good graces. Such a skill as subtlety would provide obvious advantages to a person like me, since I use the Internet and come in contact with many hypocrites each week.

Catullus's emotions came through in his poetry much more than Horace's did. He wrote about most of his love life with Lesbia, whether Catullus was madly in love, in doubt, or downright disgusted with himself. Catullus also showed the strength of his friendships and the bitter distaste of his opponents in his works. Such ardor is desirable by any artist, an occupation I would wish to at least have a minimal knowledge of, and it is what sets good art apart from bad art. Passion, love, hate, and other universal human moods are more tangible to artists, so they use their special knowledge to create art so that the common person may understand the emotion in its most basic form. Horace seemed to preach about epicureanism in his poetry and rarely explored love and hate. In this way, Catullus achieved a higher degree of expression than Horace did. I respect that and try to express the same emotion in my works.

Another reason I declare myself as a Catullan is because Catullus illustrates the omnipresent feelings and thoughts in the human heart almost as well as Shakespeare. Shakespeare's _Othello_, which is the most perfect example of jealousy in man ever written, shows people even now that everyone throughout time encountered the same feelings of betrayal. Catullus did the same in his poetry about Lesbia, describing his head-over-heels love, his doubts of Lesbia's love, and his disgust with not being able to get rid of Lesbia. Haven't we all felt the same way? Is there anything that tells us more thoroughly how similar we are to the Romans than this poetry? Horace's poetry sure doesn't.

Finally, Catullus was a true neoteric. He was the leader of a movement to change the conventions of poetry by moving away from Greek tradition. Catullus was no hypocrite and he was ingenious enough to come up with the neoteric movement, in which new words were invented and poetry began to take a more close-to-home feel. I am a strong believer in not following tradition when the time comes to break apart from it. Although the old conventions must be acknowledged, as Catullus often did with Greek poetry, new standards must be created to further the evolution of the mind. Horace, in my opinion, was not nearly as creative in his poetry. One could say that Catullus was to neoteric poetry as Kurt Cobain was to the alternative movement. Both defined new styles of art and both shot themselves in parts of their anatomy. Catullus didn't shoot himself in the head, but he did shoot himself in the foot on numerous occasions, such as the time he met with Varus's girlfriend. That brings up another small point about my preference towards Catullus: Catullus had enough humility to talk about scenes in which he had been embarrassed.

I can't buy into the hopelessness of epicureanism, yet, like Catullus with Greek tradition, I acknowledge the greatness of Horace's works. Hopefully I won't torture myself with the thoughts of a senator's wife, especially since most of them are more than thirty years older than me. But in most aspects, I respect Catullus and wish to possess his wit, intelligence, and frankness. Only one question remains now: will I be labelled as a sick "passer"-head now?


[ respond to this in the General Discussion forum ]

 

[ Return to the SOAPBOX ]

 

benturner.com:  click here to start at the beginning
 
RECENT NEWS (MORE):  Subscribe to my del.icio.us RSS feed! about moods | mood music
12/03/08 MOOD:  (mood:  yellow)