Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee
Catullus: The Complete Poems
Trans. Guy Lee
Oxford World's Classics
Copyright: 1990
978-0199537570

The amazon.com product description:
Of all Greek and Latin poets Catullus is perhaps the most accessible to the modern reader. Dealing candidly with the basic human emotions of love and hate, his virile, personal tone exerts a powerful appeal on all kinds of readers. The 116 poems collected in this new translation include the famous Lesbia poems and display the full range of Catullus's mastery of lyric meter, mythological themes, and epigrammatic invective and wit.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
It's taken me a few months, but I've finally completed my read through of the complete poems of Catullus. This book counts for two different challenges: first, my own Pre-Printing-Press Challenge, and second, the Mount TBR Challenge. It's certainly been on my list for a few years now. This was one of my textbooks back in university, but we only had to read selected poems from the book.

Now, on to my review:
The Oxford World's Classics series has a very good reputation - at least three of my classes used their translations and editions for textbooks while I was at both college and university. I'd say that Guy Lee's translation of the poems of Catullus is no exception.

At least a third of the book is detailed notes on the poems - translation quirks and explanations, identities of the people mentioned in the poems - at least as much as we can guess at, poetry formats and many other little details.

If you're a student of Latin, there's another feature of this edition that makes it stand out: it's a facing page translation, one of only a few that I've seen other than the Loeb series. At the same time, the translations are flowing and fit the meter of the poetry as far as I can tell. To be honest though, my Latin is nowhere near good enough for me to be able to compare the translations of the poems with the originals. Still, I had fun picking over some of the poems to see how much I remembered. Both more and less than I though.

Catullus's poetry makes for interesting reading. The subject matter ranges from myths and legends to the small and everyday, from praising the people around him to cursing them with invective. It's definitely an interesting window onto the Roman world, though I'd have to say it's quite biased.

I'd also say this is a book to keep out of the reach of children - Some of the poems get fairly crude, and the sexual language is fairly frequent; adultery - definitely a common topic, incest, sexual relationships and insults are themes in quite a few of Catullus's works.

And yet, there's a lot of emotions visible in the poems as well: sadness, scorn, pride, love, anger, the book touches on the whole spectrum of the human experience.

I would definitely recommend this for any student of Latin or of Roman history.
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