Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NEW EVIDENCE FOR THE UNITY OF CATULLUS 2 AND 2B



1. Introduction

One of the most enduring controversies in Catullan studies is the question of what relationship, if any, Poem 2 has to the three lines conventionally labeled 2B. The ten lines of Poem 2 address the pet sparrow of the poet's love interest:






 
 










Passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,
cui primum digitum dare appetenti
et acris solet incitare morsus,
cum desiderio meo nitenti
carum nescio quid lubet iocari
et solaciolum sui doloris,
credo ut tum gravis acquiescat ardor:
tecum ludere sicut ipsa possem
et tristis animi levare curas!


The three lines of 2B, despite being connected to 2 in the received manuscripts (with Poem 3 following), present a sudden shift in topic, tone and grammatical subject:

 
Tam gratum est mihi quam ferunt puellae
pernici aureolum fuisse malum,
quod zonam soluit diu ligatam.


In the wake of initial suspicions regarding the manuscript presentation of their unity in the 16th century, there have been successive waves of scholarship for and against the unity of these lines up to the present day. Modern scholars have presented positions along the entire spectrum of rejecting or supporting the unity of the current texts, positing a unity but assuming a lacuna between the two, or emending the text to alleviate the apparent disjointedness of the two pieces.
I will not, in this post, revisit or assess the particular strengths and weaknesses of the previous research on this topic. All sides could probably agree that reasonable and cogent arguments have been made for multiple possible opinions. Indeed, barring the unlikely discovery of a manuscript predating those which led to the current divide, no literary or philological argument will end all debate on the matter.
What I will present here is an entirely new line of reasoning in favor of the unity of 2 and 2b. An examination of alliterative patterns used by Catullus will suggest that the three lines of 2b are indeed the conclusion of the piece.

2. Alliteration in Catullus


Like other poets, Catullus used alliteration and assonance liberally.  This stylistic effect could occur throughout the line but could also include repetitions at the beginning of successive lines.  In Poem 5, Catullus produces alliteration and assonance throughout the line, as well as displaying line initial patterns:

 
Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.


Following four lines with prominent alliteration and assonance internally, Catullus closes the piece with a line initial pattern of AABBBBCDC.
This is no isolated effect. Catullus also uses alliteration and assonance to produce what appears to be intentional patterns. In Poem 40, for instance, he alternates all but one line with either a /k[w]/ or a vowel:

 
Quaenam te mala mens, miselle Ravide,
agit praecipitem in meos iambos?
Quis deus tibi non bene advocatus
vecordem parat excitare rixam?
An ut pervenias in ora vulgi?
Quid vis? Qualubet esse notus optas?
Eris, quandoquidem meos amores
cum longa voluisti amare poena.




 3. Initial Alliteration in 2 and 2B

If line initial patterns are indeed part of the inventory of literary effects Catullus employed, there emerges an intriguing proof of the unity of 2 and 2B. Note that following the first two lines, Catullus produces a consistent initial line alliterative pattern in 2.3-10:

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,
quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,

/p/  /q/

cui primum digitum dare appetenti
et acris solet incitare morsus,
cum desiderio meo nitenti

/c/ /et/ /c/

carum nescio quid lubet iocari
et solaciolum sui doloris,
credo ut tum gravis acquiescat ardor:

/c/ /et/ /c/


tecum ludere sicut ipsa possem
et tristis animi levare curas!

/t/ /et/ /.../



The predicted next letter, in a pattern produced by intentionality, is a /t/. Note now the first letters of 2B:



Tam gratum est mihi quam ferunt puellae
pernici aureolum fuisse malum,
quod zonam soluit diu ligatam.


Not only do we witness the predicted /t/, but the final two lines repeat the same /p/ and /q/ seen in lines 1 and 2.
Taken together, 2 and 2B produce a highly symmetrical alliterative pattern:

Passer, deliciae meae puellae,
Quicum ludere, quem in sinu tenere,

Cui primum digitum dare appetenti
ET acris solet incitare morsus,
Cum desiderio meo nitenti

Carum nescio quid lubet iocari
ET solaciolum sui doloris,
Credo ut tum gravis acquiescat ardor:

Tecum ludere sicut ipsa possem
ET tristis animi levare curas!
Tam gratum est mihi quam ferunt puellae

Pernici aureolum fuisse malum,
Quod zonam soluit diu ligatam.


6. Conclusion

Catullus certainly considered initial line alliteration and assonance to produce an effect at his artistic disposal. He also displays a marked tendency toward overall symmetry in the construction of his poetry. The observation that 2B completes 2 in a symmetrical alliterative pattern is at least suggestive evidence for the unity of the poems. Accepting them as a unified whole does not remove the very real difficulties in explaining the seeming semantic and syntactic disjointedness of the pieces. But, despite these problems, the alliterative patterns may suggest that more work should be spent in trying to make the marriage of the two somehow work.

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