Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

And this is the first of the long poems I have slightly dreaded

61 is Catullus trying to sell us a vision of perfect conventional matrimonial love that I don't think he quite believes in. It's what he feels he ought to want, rather than what he does want. And it is weirdly conventional, heteronormative and patriarchal given much of the rest of the poems. There are times when he reminds me of Scott Fitzgerald and holding two contradictory beliefs in his mind at the same time.

Still, bits of it are very pretty and one or two bits have the snarkery of the shorter poems.

Hymen, lord of weddings come,
from Helicon, your mountain home.
Urania, star-gazing muse,
taught you her son which days to choose
to bring the bridegroom his sweet bride.

Come to us. Wreathed around your head
bright flowers and a veil that's red,
scented with marjoram that's sweet
And on your delicate white feet
your orange sandals neatly tied.

Wake on this day without a care.
Toss flaming torches through the air
Shake the ground with stamping dance!
Sing falsetto wedding chants.
JuNia weds Manlius!

She comes to him, and is as fair
As Venus was. Wrapped in her hair
and little else, to face the choice
that Paris made. So now rejoice
she is the prettiest of us.

Sweet scented as the myrtle tree
when all its twigs have flowers is she,
The wood-nymphs sprinkle every one
with dew. And it is just for fun
and pleasure in each little flower

Come from the chilling mountain pools
where the nymph Aganippe cools
Aonia's caves, each drip a shock
that trickles down from rock to rock
still freezing cold after an hour.

Summon the bride to her new home
and her new man. They'll never roam
With love entwine them. Slowly bind
each heart to heart and mind to mind
as growing ivy shrouds a tree.

And you, young virgins, sing along
this cheerful little wedding song.
This is her day, your day comes soon,
so celebrate her honeymoon.
He's her friend now, yours soon he'll be.

He hears us call him when we sing
His praise. It is such praise will bring
him cheerfully, the god who'll lead
Venus behind him. Love will need
his help so lovers call his aid

What other god could they ask more
but Hymen? Or whose help implore?
We worship you because we seek
your help. Without you love is weak;
It is Hymen that makes it strong.

And frightened parents ask your aid.
Safeguard their daughters. They're afraid
as they undress for their new man.
You help each girl, show her she can
be naked and still have no shame

You hold their innocence in trust
ensure that love is not just lust.
Each girl can give herself away
just as her mother did one day
because they do it in your name.

Without you there's no good in love.
without you love will soon remove
good name. And you make it all right
to make love on a wedding night.
No other god can quite compare.

Without your help, fathers can't know
a child is theirs. It's you that show
each child is where it ought to be.
Your rites bring lands stability
that no god else can ever share.

Now Junia's at the bedroom door
And it is open. Up they soar -
the torch flames gleam like locks of hair.
Shame makes her stand and weep but there
is no more time. She has to go.

Junia, you need not cry, for none
more beautiful has seen the sun
rise from the sea, bring the new day.
You need not fear – there is no way
you'll bring disgrace upon your clan.

Fair as a many coloured flower,
a hyacinth in some small bower
a rich man's place where fountains play.
It is the time. No more delay
He's waiting for you, your sweet man.

No more delay. It is the time.
Now listen to us, to our rhyme
Each torch now turns its face away.
It's over now, your wedding day
and now begins your wedding night.

Don’t be afraid. He’ll be your friend
This night will seem without an end
The pain is short, pleasure will last
So long it seems like days have passed
When darkness leads to early light,

He's a good man and not a rake.
He'll never cheat on you, or take
some slut as mistress, be a joke
or scandal, as do many folk
At home he'll nuzzle at your breasts

As some sweet smelling clinging vine
around a tree will slow entwine
catch him up in a sweet caress
this moment. You will always bless
this time when his head on you rests.

And on this night that you are wed
the ivory-footed wedding bed
is where it all begins, the joys
that marriage sensually deploys
to bind each woman to her man.

So raise the torches high above
the flaming symbols of the love
that Hymen seals between this pair.
Now raise the torches in the air
as has been done since time began.

Now silence all the bawdy song
the smooth-faced eunuchs sing along
and give the boys their tasty treat,
shelled walnuts with the sweetest meat
as they say farewell to the groom

He never shagged a country maid -
it was his hairdresser he laid.
But husbands quit that kind of thing
the moment they put on the ring
and join their sweet bride in her room.

The nervous bride has found her place
not just in her husband's embrace
This is the house where she'll grow old
she'll be white-haired but never cold
she will be taken good care of

She'll show her elegant small feet
to him who'll find them tender sweet
to kiss in fore play. Then he'll take
his time with her and slowly make
his actions symbols of their love,

Her aunts will dress her; maidens lead
her to her bed; she will not need
their help for long. Her heart's a flame
but quietly for she has shame.
They leave her, leave the door ajar,

Now husband come – your bride is fair.
She's dressed and has undone her hair
Her lips are bright and poppy-red,
her skin is white against the bed
as daisies or as lilies are.

And, husband, just get on with it
You're gorgeous too, you'll be a hit
Venus will help – she fancies you
and if she does, your wife will too
so hot she'll set the bed on fire

Make love at once and don't delay
Venus will help you in your play.
She likes it when you really can't
try to conceal the things you want
and are just dizzy with desire

The one who wants to count the ways
you'll make sweet love in these first days
should go to Africa and count the sand
or reckon stars. You'll have in hand
the time for so much venery

Play as you like, but keep in mind
children should not be far behind.
An old house needs its new recruits
and small buds spring from ancient roots.
Weddings must lead to progeny.

Tiny Torquatus will reach out
his tiny hand. Father will shout
how like they are except in size
and that he has his mother's eyes
Neither has any guilt of shame

When babies look just like their dad
it means their mother's not been bad
and everyone can know it's true
just what is what and who is who
and who's entitled to a name.

The first-born shows the quality
of parents and their family.
Penelope gets her good name
her measure of immortal fame
from how Telemachus was born

It's time you maidens shut the door
we've seen enough, we don't need more.
You two, this is your wedding night
do what you have to, do it rightl
The night is short soon comes the dawn
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