What is the main inference drawn by the speaker in Catullus 70, "My Woman Says There's Nobody She'd Rather Marry?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a depth to Catullus's poem 70.  On one level, there is an intensity of emotion that can be inferred from the poem's opening lines:  "My woman says that she prefers to marry no one/ over me, not even if Jupiter himself should seek her."  The emotional intensity is communicated on the part of the woman who says the words.  However, it can be equally felt that the speaker of the poem feels the emotion behind these words.  Catullus brings out a depth to these emotions in the closing couplet:  "She says (these things), but what a woman says to her desirous lover/ is fitting to write on the wind and on fast-flowing water."  Catullus creates an intricate speaker who understands the nature of love in the world.  

The speaker of the poem recognizes that the words themselves are beautiful, but they are built upon a firmament of sand.  The speaker suggests that love and intense emotions are temporal, capable of changing.  In the inclusion of words that written "on the wind and on fast flowing water," there is not much in way of solidity and transcendence to such emotions and the language that communicates it.  It is in this light where the speaker infers that the emotions of love creates a duality within the individual.  There is love and a sense of disdain that exists within the subjective. The love is present, but the disdain lies in how this love is not permanent, not lasting.  The beautiful elements of consciousness are passing and temporal, creating a sense of pain within the individual because one only can mourn that joy and happiness is transient.

The main inference that is drawn by the speaker in Catullus's poem is that love exists in a temporal condition.  The love that the speaker articulates is riddled with pain because the speaker concludes that it is not going to last.  The feeling of love that is felt when one hears that they are the subject of someone's everlasting love is offset with the reality that such feelings will change.  The pain of mutability within the hope of permanence is what underscores the speaker's feelings.  It is in this regard that the inference which can be drawn from the speaker is that love creates a dualistic condition within the individual.  It causes a reveling in the present tense, but also creates a hollowness that it is not permanent and capable of changing with startling temporality.  It is Catullus's genius that he would be able to capture both the romantic and the anti- romantic conditions that exist within love, communicated within the main inference drawn from the speaker's words.

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