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The Poems of Catullus

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The Poems of Catullus

In these splendid verse translations, Charles Martin makes newly accessible the work of one of ancient Rome's most widely read and exciting poets.

It is the life and language of Roman streets that gives this poetry its force and lasting appeal. Catullus is a master of passing on the latest, most vicious gossip. No blow is too low to aim at an enemy, not even the sort scratched on walls about people like "Rufa, the Bolognese wife of Menenius," whose scandalous acts in a "cheap graveyard" live on long after her.

But the poet's range of experience is not limited to Roman streets. He knows of life inside Roman villas as well (including Julius Caesar's, where he was a dinner guest). And behind the boastful exaggerations there is often a serious purpose. Catullus sees himself as a morality, reminding others of what constitutes proper behavior. He is also a student of literature, and his love poems can pair moral pietites with pungent obscenities or set ancient Greek literary clichés alongside jarring, "modern" metaphors from the world of Roman high finance.

Charles Martin's translation skillfully conveys the tones and rhythms of the Latin verse while never straying far from its original meaning.