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Calmly communed with his spirit and remembered all his deeds,
soul is free from madness, in this breathing time of peace. Ah, and must I leave thee distant, speeding to these savage groves? Shall I ne'er see house or country, never friends or parents dear, Ne'er the race-course nor gymnasia, wrestling school or market
more? Ah my soul, ah wretched spirit, thou must mourn and mourn again. What the form, and what the beauty but was mine in days gone by? Woman, youth, and boy and stripling, all their graces shone in me, I the flower of the gymnasia, glory of the wrestling school: How my doors were ever crowded, how my threshold thronged
with feet; All the house was wreathed around with flowery garlands, all for me, When I left my couch at morning, wakened by the risen sun. And shall I become a votary, I Cybelle's sexless thrall ? I a Maenad? I a fragment of myself, a barren stock? I to haunt green woods of Ida, icy with their pall of snow? I to lead a hated life beneath these Phrygian mountain crags, There with hinds that scour the forest, there with boars that roam
the grove? Now it stings that I did it, now ah now I loathe the deed.' While the trembling tones came wandering from those lips
that match the rose, Bearing tidings unto heaven, tidings strange to heavenly ears, Straightway Cybelle, unloosing from the yoke her lions twain, Twin destroyers of the cattle, roused the monster on the left, Saying, 'Hasten, hurry onward, drive with madness and with rage, Drive him with the blows of frenzy to return and seek the grove, Him who all too boldly striveth to escape from this my rule. Hasten, lashing flank with tail, and feel the fury of thy blows, Let the land around rebellow with the echoes of thy roar;
Shake in anger o'er the sinews of thy neck thy tawny mane.'
Straight the lion, as Cybelle looses swift with threats the yoke, Lashing native rage to fury, adding flame to native fire, Hastens rushing, roaring, spurning under heedless foot the shrubs: Soon he reached the watery regions, and the line of foaming shore. Seeing there the tender Atys by the deep's unruffled plain, On he rushes. Ah for Atys, frenzied flies he to the grove, There to dwell, while life endureth, all his days the goddess' thrall.
Hear, O goddess, O Cybelle, hear, great queen of Dindymus, Far, great mistress, from my household let thy maddening fury strike, None but strangers drive to madness, none but strangers fill with
A few words on the main idea and general structure of this poem may not be out of place; though indeed Professor Sellar's book might be referred to as sufficient commentary.
As the poetry of Catullus stands by itself in Roman literature, so does the Atys in a certain sense stand by itself in all literature. Catullus was the only Roman Poet who was able to any great extent to work in the Hellenic spirit; though, of course, the simple but grand ideas of that spirit, when at its best, were past reviving long before he lived. And yet Catullus is thoroughly Greek in his view of the world, and in his union of outer and inner, form and matter. He is Greek too in his mode of expression; almost too much so, we should say, had we not to allow for his bad material.
But what is singular in him is not so much his happy Hellenizing of the language as his wonderful appropriation of the feelings and general standpoint of a race and time not his own, and the absence of all the self-reflexion, rhetoricising, and conscious art become artifice of the Augustan era. His loves, his hates, his distresses, his gallantries, his friendly banter and bitter sarcasm, his deep sorrow at his brother's tomb, and his wild jests, often too filthy to excuse, yet always too natural to be angry at, he gives us them all just as they come; and above all, and running through all, that unlicensed and fatal passion that alone made life an earnest matter for him, and that mixed for him at once the extremes of pleasure and pain. (And here indeed we come upon a certain o odporns, 'excessiveness, which is not thoroughly Greek.)
The whole of this material is thrown into artistic shape without being distorted by reflexion, and in every poem the verse is one with the sense.
And in this particular Catullus with Lucretius, and in a less degree, Propertius, may be advantageously compared with Horace, Virgil, and Ovid. These last three are generally held to be models in versification, but with them form and matter have little connexion, rhetoric takes the place of true feeling, and a manufacturer's mechanism is substituted for the proportion and harmony of life. The fact is that these supposed models, after which every one is required to write Latin verse nowadays, are all inferior to their three predecessors in true artistic finish. More particularly in Catullus' minor poems do we see his superiority when we compare them with Horace's elaborate mosaics. In Catullus we find something like the movement of life and nature; what Heine meant when he said
"The song shall tremble and quiver,
Like the kiss of my darling's mouth.' To express briefly the position of Catullus we may say that he differs from all the other poets of Rome in having to some extent made the spirit as well as the form of Greek art his own; and that more particularly he is separated from the whole Augustan era by his truth and sincerity of feeling. This latter difference is nearly all he has in common with Lucretius. Beside these two, the only Roman poet who can transfuse his verse with anything like true feeling is the underrated and little-read Propertius; but in him already we find much of the poison of the Augustan age in the shape of conventionality, rhetoric, and self-reflexion.
To come at length to the poem translated above, we may notice that it is one of the very few longer and more serious pieces of Catullus. The versification is highly finished, and at the same time wonderfully elastic and powerful. Unfortunately the structure of the English language makes it impossible to reproduce even the metre. (I believe certain supposed English ‘Galliambics' have been perpetrated; but the most cursory inspection shows that they are not correct, still less so, in fact, than the ordinary English 'Sapphic,' * Alcaic,' or 'Hexameter.') The poem is by some thought to be translated from the Greek, but there is no real ground for thinking so; for though the spirit is Hellenic, the execution seems too original for a copy. The materials, however, are undoubtedly derived from a Greek source.
The figure of Atys occurs more than once in Greek mythology, but always under the same aspect. It is the symbol of natural beauty in the perfection at once of its grace and its transience; destroyed in its bloom and consummated in its destruction, after that iron law which ordains that in the natural world only the perishable shall have beauty. We find it again in the tale of Atys and Adrastos (the etymology here speaks for itself), and in the untimely death of Adonis, the connexion between whom and Atys is shown by the legend of the boar common to both.
But it is not in its more general sense that the story is treated by Catullus; the main idea of his poem is to be found in the opposition of Greek beauty, with its graceful restrainedness, to the wild abandonment of Eastern fanaticism with its hideous manifestations. The God of Nature is opposed to the God of Humanity, and is victorious over him in and through the person of his most complete worshipper; but it is in this person that the tragical interest centres.
This may seem overstrained; but it is not so really. When we consider that in the Greek world man first most decidedly separates himself from nature, to create apart from it a new world for himself, and by the conception of the Olympian Gods releases himself from the rule of the old Phrygian and Pelasgian naturepowers, we can see more fully the contrast between the Phrygian priests and the young Atys. For the last is the citizen of an Hellenic city itself a work of art) with its gymnasia and marketplace; member of a society where the human body is the recognised model of all beauty, as being no mere prison-house to the soul, nor yet as undistinguished from it, but rather related to it as the beautiful outward expression of an inward beauty. And in his person all the graces of human perfection are united in their highest form, and crowned by that half-spiritual, half-sensuous Eros which led the most cultivated and enthusiastic souls of Hellas to worship the beauty of boyhood as a something divine.
The contrast is most sharp and sudden: instead of a soul moulded to truth and beauty by Limit and Measure, we have the lawless passion of the half-natural man; instead of the symbol and outward manifestation of a complete humanity we have a mutilated body which, having no sex, has no proper personality; instead of the cheerful many-coloured life of the Hellenic city we have the eternal monotony of the sombre green of the forest and the whiteness of the weary snow; a sameness broken only to be made more hideous by the frantic dance and wild shriek of the votaries, the clash and rattle of the cymbals and timbrel, with the howling of the beasts. The whole scene is that of the triumph of nature over humanity.
But that humanity is beautiful with a new grace even in its degradation; for thereby that which it was is brought tragically into collision with its new self and present environment. The lips are rosy still, though, instead of lovers, are sexless votaries and beasts of the forest; and the hands are soft still though they hold the hard and uncouth timbrel. Not only however has the spectator
to feel the tragedy; the sufferer too must realise it in all its fulness. The description of that pitiless sun waking the youth to the knowledge of his misery gives one a good idea of Catullus' concentrated and simple vigour, so different from the word-shuffling and word-heaping dexterity of Virgil or Horace. The close too 'with its true classical repression of the horrible' hides Atys indeed from our eyes only to leave his fate more present with our minds, and to bring the more often before our fancies that tender but ruined grace standing out against its grotesque and brutal background.
That strange nature-worship, which the Hellenes destroyed to make room for their human gods and world of art, came in again, though in a different sense and with a different import, when the outward world of the Greek spirit had been broken up, and hideous oriental rites at Rome threatened the national religion. It would be fanciful to think that Catullus uttered here a protest against the invasion; it would be wrong to suppose that he had in his mind all that has been set forth above as the meaning of the poem. But works of art are not to be interpreted like lawyers' documents, for the artist does not realise consciously the fulness of all that he creates.
Paper Chasing in france.
T has been often remarked that wherever Englishmen congre
gate abroad, there, more or less, they import the habits and customs of their own country. It was my fate, during the last Christmas holidays, to spend some time at Dinau, one of the most picturesque towns of pleasant Brittany, where for many years has existed a numerous British colony. At present it appears a most favourite residence, and is in such a flourishing condition that a very handsome English church is in course of erection, at an expense of about £1500, the greater part of which sum has been contributed by residents and their friends. What has been remarked of English. men as to their customs and habits abroad, seems, as far as Dinau is concerned, doubly true in the case of English boys, for not satisfied with having an excellent cricket field (the best in France with the exception of the one in Paris), where, during the winter months football was a regular weekly game, it was proposed that a Paper