C. J. Fordyce (ed.), Catullus: A Commentary
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus1 Malest, Cornifici, tuo Catullo,
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus Link 2 malest, me hercule, et laboriose,
- Editor’s Note3 et magis magis in dies et horas.
- Link 4 quem tu, quod minimum facillimumque est,
- Editor’s Note Link 5 qua solatus es allocutione?
- Editor’s Note Link 6 irascor tibi. sic meos amores?
- Editor’s Note7 paulum quid lubet allocutionis,
- Editor’s Note Link 8 maestius lacrimis Simonideis.
A message written in physical illness, it may be, or, more probably perhaps, in mental distress. In his depression Catullus seeks the comfort of poetry from a fellow poet, as Allius (68. 1–4) seeks it from him. That is characteristic: for him and his friends their poetry was an integral part of life, and doctrina was not mere external accomplishment but an attitude colouring all their thought. In this crisis of emotion Catullus thinks of Simonides as in another (51) he turned to Sappho.
The person addressed can be identified with reasonable certainty. Q. Cornificius was quaestor in 48 (and so probably was somewhat younger than Catullus), when he conducted a successful campaign for Caesar in Illyricum. In 46 he went to the East, probably as governor of Cilicia, and for the next three years we have a series of intimate letters from Cicero to him (Fam. xii. 17–30). After Caesar's death, when he was proconsul in Africa Vetus, he declared for the Senate and, encouraged by Cicero, held his province for the Senatorial cause. He refused to surrender it to the nominee of the triumvirs and found himself involved in fighting with his neighbour in Africa Noua; in 41 he was killed when his troops deserted him. We know where his literary sympathies lay both from Ovid, who mentions him with Catullus, Caluus, and Cinna (Tr. ii. 435–6) and from the meagre fragments that we possess of his work, hendecasyllabics and a hexameter poem on Glaucus. An able officer of Caesar's, the husband of Catiline's widow (Cic. Fam. viii. 7. 2), a brother poet of Catullus, a critic of oratory whom Cicero found congenial, he reminds us at once how small Catullus' world was and how little we know of it.
38. 1 malest Lachmann (male est iam Calph.): male est si V
cornifici Auantius: carnifici V
1. malest : for this colloquial use of the adverb cf. 14. 10. It is common in comedy and in Cicero's letters of 'feeling ill': e.g. Plaut. Amph. 1058 'animo malest: aquam uelim', Cist. 59 'excrucior: male mihist'; similarly Cic. Fam. xvi. 5. 1 'cum meliuscule tibi esset' ('you were feeling a little better'). For the similar use of male sit in imprecations, cf. 3. 13, Cic. Att. xv. 15. 1 'L. Antonio male sit si quidem Buthrotiis molestus est!'
2 malest Lachmann: male si V (male est si r); cf. 62. 8
et V: ei et Lachmann, et est Sillig
2. me hercule, et : of the corrections proposed to remove the hiatus, et est l. (Sillig) is the most attractive. Phaedrus, the only other writer to use mehercule in verse (v. 5. 22), makes it trisyllabic as Catullus does here: in comedy the normal form is mĕhercle.
laboriose : for laboriosus of illness cf. Cic. Phil. xi. 8 'dolores Trebonius pertulit magnos: multi ex morbi grauitate maiores, quos tamen non miseros sed laboriosos solemus dicere'. labor (cf. 50. 14) and laborare are regularly used of both mental and physical suffering; e.g. Cic. Fam. vii. 26. 1 'cum ex intestinis laborarem', ix. 23 'quod ex pedibus laborares'.
3. magis magis : cf. 64. 274, Virg. Georg. iv. 311: at 68. 48 Catullus uses magis atque magis.
5. allocutione : 'words of sympathy': so adloquium, Hor. Epod. 13. 18, Livy ix. 6. 8. The verb adloqui often has this implication; cf. Varro, L.L. vi. 57 'adlocutum mulieres ire aiunt cum eunt ad aliquam locutum consolandi causa', Val. Max. ii. 7. 6 'urbs incerta gratulandi prius an adloquendi officio fungeretur', Sen. Ep. 98. 9 'in ea epistula qua sororem amisso … filio adloquitur'.
6. sic meos amores : if amores is personal (as it generally is in Catullus when it is accompanied by a possessive adjective: see on 10. 1), it must refer to Cornificius and be subject of an exclamatory infinitive understood, 'that my dear friend should behave so.' To take it as object, 'that you should treat my beloved so', is clearly inappropriate here: if Cornificius had injured Catullus in relation to Lesbia (or some other person), Catullus would not be asking for his sympathy. But amores may be impersonal (for the plural cf. 13. 9) and the words a question, 'is this how you treat my affection?'
7. paulum quid lubet allocutionis : 'any scrap of sympathy you like, something sadder than Simonides' tears': again there is an ellipse of a verbal notion ('send me' or the like) and paulum quid lubet is like paulum nescioquid (Cic. Rosc. Am. 115), paulum aliquid (De Or. i. 95). For similar ellipses in conversational style cf. Cic. Att. x. 16. 6 'et litterarum aliquid interea (mitte)', Fam. xvi. 24 'de publicis omnia mihi certa (scribes)'. To take paulum quid as subject of lubet is grammatically just possible (libet with a pronoun—generally id or quod—as subject is not uncommon in Plautus and Terence and is occasionally found later), but gives a much weaker sense 'I have a fancy for some scrap of sympathy'.
8. Simonideis : the lyric dirges (θρῆνοι) of Simonides of Ceos (556–467 b.c.)—the Cea nenia of Horace, Od. ii. 1. 38—were famous and his simple pathos (τὸ οἰκτίζεσθαι μὴ μεγαλοπρεπῶς ἀλλὰ παθητικῶς, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, de Imit. ii. 2. 6) was especially admired by ancient critics: so Quintilian says of him (x. 1. 64) 'praecipua eius in commouenda miseratione uirtus ut quidam in hac eum parte omnibus eius operis [i.e. lyric poetry] auctoribus praeferant'.