"Catullus" by Charles Martin

Catullus Charles Martin

Publication date:
27 May 1992
Yale University Press
192 pages: 210 x 140mm


The most popular of the Roman poets, Catullus is known for the accessibility of his witty and erotic love poems. In this book Charles Martin, himself a poet, offers a deeper reading of Catullus, revealing the art and intelligence behind the seemingly spontaneous verse.
Martin considers Catullus's life, habits of composition, and the circumstances in which he worked. He places him among the modernists of his age, who created a new ironic and subjective poetics, and he shows the affinity between Catullus and the modernists of our own age. Martin offers original interpretations of Catullus's poems, viewing the love poems to "Lesbia" as a unified, artfully arranged poetic sequence, and the short poems, often dismissed as unworthy of serious critical attention, as the irreverent products of a sophisticated poetic innovator.
Unlike Horace, Virgil, and Ovid, Catullus did not influence our literary culture until the beginning of the modern era, but he is now regarded as a poet who speaks to our age with a singular directness. Pointing to Catullus's self-awareness, playfulness, and comic invention and to the elaborate complexity of his experiments in poetic form, Martin gives both the scholar and the general reader a fresh appreciation of his poetic art.

"Martin's book, funny, moving, smart, alive to twentieth-century poetic developments, is now the best book on Catullus in English. It constitutes another fine entry in Yale's Hermes series, which, with urgent timeliness, strives to put before sophisticated general readers humane but critically focused discourse on the great Greco-Roman writers."?Donald Lyons, New Criterion

"Charles Martin's handsome book seeks to emphasize the modernity of Catullus's poetry and examines the relationships of individual poems to each other. . . . Here Martin is at his best, writing with vigour and enthusiasm. . . . He illustrates his points, as he does throughout, with his own competent and conscientious translations. . . . This is a rare achievement."?Elspeth Barker, London Review of Books

"[This book] will certainly enrich everyone's reading of the poems. . . . [It] should send the reader back to Catullus with a fresh eye, to the Latin if he can handle it, but if not, to Martin's own superb translation, which provides the English-speaking reader with an equivalent of the spontaneity and artifice of the original."?Bernard Knox, New York Review of Books

"[A] stunning introduction to Catullus. . . . His work is particularly valuable for its critically objective attention to Catullus's scatology. Readers seeking an initiation into Catullus's poetry will learn very much here; and readers familiar with the poetry will find here new ways to read it. . . . As a contribution to the literature on Catullus, [it] is indispensable."?Roy Arthur Swanson, Religious Studies Review

"This is an immensely absorbing book which must be essential reading for all who are interested in the art, life and thought of the 18th and early 19th centuries."?Clare A. P. Wilson, RSA Journal

"Faced with poems that do not allow autobiographical interpretation, Martin is capable of revealing Catullus the literary artist, often providing fresh and worthwhile insights. . . . Catullan contexts are Martin's strong suit; in his guided tour of the Catullan corpus, he rarely discusses a poem before commenting on the social, political, or artistic conditions from which it arises. If only for these reasons, Martin's book is a fine introduction to Catullus's poems."?Mark Miller, Sewanee Review