Catullus Poem 63

apostoli

New Member

Hi Guys,

Line 7 of Catullus 63...
etiam recente terrae sola sanguine maculans

The translation I have renders...

still with fresh blood dabbling the face of the ground

How is it determined that sola applies to the ground and not the blood?

Thankyou
 

Cato

Consularis

  • Consularis

apostoli dixit:
Hi Guys,

Line 7 of Catullus 63...
etiam recente terrae sola sanguine maculans

The translation I have renders...

still with fresh blood dabbling the face of the ground

How is it determined that sola applies to the ground and not the blood?

Thankyou
First, sanguis, -is - "blood" is a masculine noun. If sola were modifying sanguine, it would also have to be in the masculine, i.e. solo.

Note that even if sanguine were feminine, the meter here is galliambic:

uu - u - u - - || u u - u u u u x (u = short syl., - = long syl.)

etiam recente terrae covers the first eight syllables up to the caesura (a natural break in the line), while sola sanguine maculans covers the final eight syllables. Please note that etiam uses a vocalic i, and so is a three-syllable word. Consequentially, the final a of sola is short, so it cannot be in the feminine ablative singular (that ending has a long a). So it still cannot be modifying sanguine.

So then what is sola doing in the sentence? It is the accusative plural of solum, -i - "base, bottom; soil", so terrae sola - (lit.) "the foundations of the earth"; it is the direct object of the participle maculans. I also think Catullus is using the poetic plural, which often does not translate literally into an English plural. Best rendering: "the soil of the earth".

Incidentally, note the chiasmus: terrae sola is surrounded by the grammatically linked recente...sanguine. This rhetorical construction is common enough in Latin poetry that noticing it quickly helps you put the right words together, i.e. once you recognize recente...sanguine must be linked grammatically (similar endings is a big tip-off), your best guess is that terrae sola is a separate concept. It's not 100%, but it helps.
 
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