The Homoerotic Poetry of Catullus

Catullus 

Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC) was a Roman poet of the 1st century BC.His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art. Catullus invented the “angry love poem.” He was imitated by Tibullus, Propertius, Horace and Ovid, as well as Ben Jonson and Robert Herrick in English. Most of Catullus’ poems are short. In a few concise lines he expresses love, friendship or bitterness. Most of his poems are heterosexual, but a good number of them are devoted to boys and are “particularly lusty.”

50. Yesterday: to Licinius Calvus 1

Yesterday, Calvus, idle day
we played with my writing tablets,
harmonising in being delightful:
scribbling verses, each of us
playing with metres, this and that,
reciting together, through laughter and wine.
And I left there fired with your charm,
Calvus, and with your wit,
so that, restless, I couldn’t enjoy food,
or close my eyes quietly in sleep,
but tossed the whole bed about wildly
in passion, longing to see the light,
so I might speak to you, and be with you.
But afterwards I lay there wearied
with effort, half-dead in the bed,
I made this poem for you, pleasantly,
from which you might gather my pain.
Now beware of being rash, don’t reject
my prayers I beg, my darling,
lest Nemesis demand your punishment. She’s
a powerful goddess. Beware of annoying her.

99. Stolen Kisses: to Iuventius 2

I stole a sweet kiss while you played, sweet Iuventius,
one sweeter than sweetest ambrosia.
Not taken indeed with impunity: for more than an hour
I remember, I hung at the top of the gallows,
while I was justifying myself to you, yet with my tears
I couldn’t lessen your anger a tiny morsel.
No sooner was it done, than, your lips rinsed
with plenty of water, you banished it with your fingers,
so nothing contracted from my lips might remain,
as though it were the foul spit of a tainted whore.
More, you handed me unhappily to vicious love
who’s not failed to torment me in every way,
so that sweet kiss, altered for me from ambrosia,
was more bitter than bitter hellebore then.
Since you lay down such punishments for unhappy love,
now, after this, I’ll never steal kisses again.

1 Gaius Licinius Calvus, orator, poet, friend of Catullus and colleague of Cicero. Ovid mentions him alongside Catullus and Tibullus.


2 An unidentified friend of Catullus.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

3 responses to “The Homoerotic Poetry of Catullus

  • silvereagle

    Again!!! New vistas on an old world. Details not readily availble, but waiting to be brought to light. This post continues to amaze me each day.Thanks!

  • Jay M.

    Very cool! Love the poetry.Thanks, as always, for a wonderful way to wind down the day.Peace <3Jay

  • JoeBlow

    silvereagle, I have a wide variety of interests. I have always been one of those people who would look up something in the encyclopedia and find a dozen things along the way that I found interesting as well. Also, every time I read something and there is something that I don't know, I look it up and do my best to understand it. It makes me such a nerd, LOL.Jay, I am glad that you enjoyed it. I hope that you are doing well.

Thank you for commenting. I always want to know what you have to say. However, I have a few rules: 1. Always be kind and considerate to others. 2. Do not degrade other people's way of thinking. 3. I have the right to refuse or remove any comment I deem inappropriate. 4. If you comment on a post that was published over 14 days ago, it will not post immediately. Those comments are set for moderation. If it doesn't break the above rules, it will post.

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