23 February 2023
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.
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 pretty 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 on this work for a long time and started it over five or six times. The piece itself is not worth much, except that the reader may find some beautiful verses. But this failed enterprise was of great importance to me, because it was by working on it for years that I acquired a taste for the dramatic art, and it is out of a sort of gratitude for the poor young man I was, and to whom I owe almost everything, that I wanted to do him the honor of having his place in these beautiful books.