Original Edition

Œuvres complètes, Club de l’Honnête Homme, 1970.
Written around 1913.


“In the distant times of my adolescence on the benches of the old high school of Marseille, I composed poems. Almost all the writers started there. (…) I borrowed from the library of the high school a collection of Latin elegiac poems composed by Mr. Arnauld, a teacher in the first year of our high school. I discovered Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Catullus. I was a fairly good Latinist, because I spoke Provençal with my grandfather and my friends in the village of La Treille, near Aubagne. This language is much closer to Latin than French. (…). It was therefore easy for me to translate the elegiac works, which I was delighted to read. I was amazed and very moved by Catullus and his love affair with Lesbie, of whom he says that she prostitutes herself for a quarter of an ace, that is to say for a few pennies. I worked at length on this work, which I repeated five or six times. The piece itself is not worth much, except that the reader may find some beautiful verses. But this failed enterprise had for me a very great importance, because it is by working on it during years that I took taste with the dramatic art, and it is by a kind of recognition for the poor young man that I was, and to whom I owe almost all, that I wanted to make him the honor to have its place in these beautiful books.


Catullus, a young Latin poet, loves Clodia, a courtesan, passionately. She falls in love with him but, light and frivolous, she deceives him. Then, when one day Catullus falls ill, she quickly tires of him. She then leaves him for one of his friends : Coelius. The poet, heartbroken, regrets the time dedicated to Clodia rather than to poetry and to his fame. Scorned and weakened, he dies.

CATULLE, he shudders.
I am afraid; I have wasted my life…
To this passion she was enslaved,
Alone, I will appear before the sovereign judge…
Calvus, may I have a calm and serene front?
Convivial of feasts, author of futile verses, What have I done of great, honorable or useful?
My genius… Ah, the gods had entrusted it to me…
Calvus, Calvus, has it really fructified?
The evening falls… I arrive at the end of the hill
And I see at my feet the slope which declines,
And I throw a glance of fear on my past…
When I will have left, what will I have left then?
Ah, what a heavy and suffocating agony!
Calvus, I die barren and I had genius!
I leave like a child, cradled by your pity,
And I was the poet, and I die whole!

It is not true… For you will live in the memories…
Your work of the past can be enough for your glory…
And your loving verses will cross the times…

Catullus looked behind him. He seized Demetrius’ arm, and, trembling, he said to him in a low voice.

She’s there… Can you hear her?

DEMETRIUS, appalled.
What is he saying?

Can you hear her?
She laughs… Can you see her? What long greedy gestures…
She knows she’s going to carry me away empty-handed,
She knows she’s going to carry me away, me, defeated,
Me who’s dying at thirty and who hasn’t lived…”

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