Review: The Complete Poetry of Catullus (trans. by Frank O. Copley)

Probably not for everybody (but what poetry is?), Catullus writes brilliantly of the everyday, the minor quibbles, the less profound proverbs, and sometimes even ancient (for his time even!) myth. His hit rate is extremely high, which leaves one wanting more, and in the hands of translator Frank O. Copley his poetry gets reset and re-punctuated into 20th century standards and norms. This is a great help because Catullus was immediate, of his time, and highly dialect-oriented in approach. All of this demands that he be right next to you as the reading or reciting goes.

Stand-outs in the collection include what often goes first “One” which perhaps states a poet’s wish better than any other poem, and “Sixty Four” which tells the story of Theseus and Ariadne along with the prophecy of Achilles, son of Peleus. The voice and concerns of Catullus actually echo the voice of the main character in Satyricon at times and the propensities for humor that both exhibit do not escape this particular reviewer. Both books may not be the height of what literature has to offer (especially Greek) but they are indeed a lot of fun and perhaps damning portraits of a corrupt and/or corruptible society.

Final Grade: B+

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