Catullus in English Poetry

Catullus in English Poetry

Catullus in English Poetry

Catullus in English Poetry

Excerpt

With the effort of the present day to humanize the humanities the fashion has developed of issuing books which may set forth and sum up for the general reader the civilization of the peoples of ancient Greece and Rome. Translations of their works are provided in the Loeb Library, expositions and explanations of their life and thought are afforded in such books as The Pageant of Greece, The Legacy of Greece, The Legacy of Rome, or in those of the English series, The Library of Greek Thought, and of the larger American series, Our Debt to Greece and Rome, which also trace the influence of individual authors on later literature. In a short while all the fields of ancient thought and literature which are likely to prove attractive and profitable to the non-classical student will have been opened to him by the careful work of the mediators between the old and the new. He will then be enabled to enjoy his Plato or Lucretius, his Sophocles or Plautus in his own tongue, while he leaves the professional scholar to wander happily among the solitudes of their ipsissima verba with all concomitant Notes, Variae Lectiones, Critical Appendices, and the like.

There is, however, another type of reader who forms a link between these two extremes. Midway between the scholar whose business it is to bring down wreaths from Helicon, and the wide circle before which they are thus conveniently displayed, stands the young disciple of the classicists, to whom the waters of Castalia are often more bitter than Marah itself. I refer to the college undergraduate. He comes from school with a suspicion lurking in his subconscious mind that the works of Caesar and Cicero, if not composed as a kind of intellectual sieve by the College Entrance Board, at least were never written for any end but that lamented by Horace himself, to serve as fodder for the classroom machine. However excellent the teacher, the fact remains that his pilgrims in school have to progress within a specified time through a specified amount of classical literature if they would pass the lions that guard the Palace of Discretion. There is therefore little opportunity for that dallying over points of interest in the calm, unhurried way which should be possible in the college-- the schola, or place of leisure, as the ancients called it. Yet only thus may the dry bones of Gerund and Gerundive be . . .

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