Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Catullus 21

Well, I don't get much sense from the Zukofskys' translation. They chose against frankness in their translation, although they capture much of the music of the Latin.  I just finished reading a book called How to Read a Latin Poem - If You Can't Read Latin Yet, from which I learned that classical Latin authors tended to avoid explicit sexual language in love poems, but they used if profusely in poems of invective such as Catullus 21.

I've begun my annual Advent reading of "A". It has put me in the mood to listen to Bach. Some people, like Pound, Zukofsky, and Michael Johnson, see Bach as the greatest composer in the European tradition. Others, like Robert Anton Wilson and myself, tend to see Beethoven in that position. I thought about this driving into work this morning. I think the composers I first fell in love with prepared me to prefer Beethoven to Bach (much as I love Bach's music). A teacher in first grade played Haydn's Surprise Symphony for us, and I thought it the greatest thing I'd ever heard. I grudgingly approved of Beethoven at the time because he studied with my man Haydn. I studiously avoided the fact that Beethoven didn't like Haydn as a teacher and had few kind word for Haydn until the end of Beethoven's life.  A few years later I glanced at a collection of light classical music from my parents' collection and noticed a composer who shared my last name. Wagner and Haydn lay the groundwork, and I started listening to Beethoven around seventh grade, an eight track of Van Cliburn playing some famous sonatas.  I really fell for Beethoven at eighteen. I had a cold and stayed home from my summer job at IBM. I put on Toscanini's recording of the Seventh Symphony and entered a whole new world.

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