Part III

Men are funny.
Today we explore this statement with one of my favorite Latin poets of antiquity, Catullus.


Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us appraise all the rumors of
rather nosy old men to a penny!
Suns can fall and return:
when the brief light falls once for us,
one perpetual
night must be slept.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then anothe
r thousand, then a second hundred,
then a thousand score more, then a hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will thro
w the number to chaos, lest we know,
or rather lest anyone bad be able to cast envy
when he knows how many kisses we have shared.

That's not really my favorite translation, I even tweaked it a bit, but there you have it. Catullus' famous poem, labeled as his 5th in a series. I really like this poem because it at once fits, and doesn't fit a common theme in poetry - the carpe diem seduction poem. Usually (and another one of these might make it into Poetry Week), these poems involve men who haven't yet obtained their loves, and because of that fact, proceed to use this generic argument:
We're only young once, so let's make love.
This poem fits this type of argument when Catullus courteously reminds his lover, "when the brief night (life) falls once for us (death), one perpetual night must be slept (again, death)." However, he seems to lose control when contemplating the idea of kissing, or maybe making love with her. This poem doesn't have the calculated approach that the others do. Catullus begins to charm his love, stumbles in his excitement, and cannot be calculated.
For some reason Catullus doesn't seem as concerned with the act of sex as the others, though their language may be more ornate, their syntax more deliberate. He speaks in earnest.
Men are funny.
I've said to various male friends, "In Florence, all Italians want to do is sleep with American women." And usually they reply, "Yes, all men want that, that's not only unique to Italians." I can't argue. I enjoy these types of poems because while "times have changed," at least some things remain constant.
And we still love them for it.

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