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Poem 11 is one of the two poems that Catullus writes in the Sapphic meter. Its companion, poem 51, is Catullus' version of another of Sappho's poems. In poem 11, Catullus asks his two friends, Furius and Aurelius, to, if they are willing to venture off to great distances, deliver a message to an unknown girl who is understood to be Lesbia. This message, unfortuantly, is not a happy one, and sends a sign to Lesbia that Catullus no longer wants to be with her.
Furius is also mentioned in poems 16, 23, and 26. Aurelius is also mentioned in poems 15, 16, 21.
In Catullus 11, there is a different tone in the way Catullus addresses his friends Furius and Aurelius than how they are usually mentioned in other poems. In other poems, they are usually addressed by Catullus in a condescending manner, but in this poem, he addresses them in a very serious manner. Also, in the first three stanzas, Catullus implies that he will go with Furius and Aurelius to several different places around the world, trying to express how good of friends they are, but, ironically, he asks them to just walk across the street and break up with his girlfriend without him. Another unusual thing Catullus does in this poem is that he complements Caesar in line 9. This in very uncharacteristic of Catullus as compared to his other poems, as he is usually not very complementary of Caesar. Throughout the first half of the poem, Catullus builds a very romantic atmosphere through his writing. But, in the second half, the mood of the poem turns drastically, as he starts insulting Lesbia.
Furius and Aurelius
Scholars are divided on the interpretation of how Catullus addresses Furius and Aurelius in this poem. Some think that he is being serious and truly holds Furius and Aurelius as some of his closest friends that he will have until he dies. Others believe that Catullus has more of an ironic tone. For example, Catullus’ tone switches dramatically in the second half of the poem, as he asks them to just walk across the street to Catullus after naming all these far away places to go to. This hints that Catullus’ tone might be more on the ironical side. But, in general, most people do not really know whether Catullus is being serious or not with Catullus and Aurelius. It can be argued either way, as it seems like he is serious in the first half, but this seriousness is deflated in the last 2 stanzas of the poem.
- Garrison, Daniel (1989). The Student's Catullus. University of Oklahoma Press.
- Intertextualidad en las Literaturas Griega y Latina. (Classica Salmanticensia, 2) by Vicente Bécares; Francisca Pordomingo; Rosario Cortés Tovar; José Carlos Fernández Corte, L’Antiquité Classique, T. 72, (2003), pp. 305-306
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