Sunday, December 13, 2015


Tenderest of Roman Poets?

Alfred Tennyson, "Frater Ave atque Vale," The Nineteenth Century, No. LXXIII (March 1883) 357:
Row us out from Desenzano, to your Sirmione row!
So they row'd, and there we landed—'O venusta Sirmio!'
There to me thro' all the groves of olive in the summer glow,
There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow,
Came that 'Ave atque Vale' of the Poet's hopeless woe,
Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen-hundred years ago,
'Frater Ave atque Vale'—as we wander'd to and fro
Gazing at the Lydian laughter of the Garda-Lake below
Sweet Catullus's all-but-island, olive-silvery Sirmio!
Harold Nicolson, diary (March 31, 1957):
In bed I read Catullus. It passes my comprehension why Tennyson could have called him 'tender'. He is vindictive, venomous, and full of obscene malice. He is only tender about his brother and Lesbia, and in the end she gets it hot as well.

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