Odi et Amo

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.

Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

-Catullus 85, elegiac couplet.

I don’t know the exact moment that Catullus pulled me out of the year long fog brought on by the nonsensical Latin of Disce! Latinam, but every successive poem I read pulls me further out. The second line implies an entirely passive role for the lover: love and hate cruelly subject themselves to us. Lesser emotions like joy and snap anger are things we can dissolve in a stoic calm, but love and hate overpower us in beautiful and horrible moments of clarity.

This particular poem is Catullus’ most famous couplet, for good reason. I am convinced that the utter paradox of love has not been so convincingly summarized anywhere else. I won’t translate it, in part because I’m utterly inept in Latin and in part because I don’t think it should be translated.

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