Poem 85 (I Hate and I Love) Summary
by Catullus

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Poem 85 (I Hate and I Love) Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Odi et amo. quare id faciam fortasse requiris./ Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.” has been translated as “I hate and love. Why I do so, perhaps you ask./ I know not, but I feel it, and I am in torment.” The final word, excrucior, has also been translated literally as “I am crucified.”

Poem 85 is popularly associated with a famous poem by the seventeenth century English satirist Tom Brown: “I do not love thee, Dr. Fell,/ The reason why I cannot tell;/ But this I know, and know full well,/ I do not love thee, Dr. Fell.” More likely, Brown’s poem was actually an imitation of an epigram by Martial.

Many scholars have observed that Poem 85 embodies a particular kind of symmetry achieved by balancing opposites. There is opposition between the negative odi (hate) and the positive amo (love); there also is opposition between sentio (feel) and excrucior (am crucified). Another set of opposites consists of the active faciam (I do) and the passive fieri (it happens). A final pair includes requiris (you ask) and nescio (I do not know). In every aspect, this brief poem is tightly balanced. Some scholars have even diagrammed what is known as chiastic form in the poem, with lines connecting the opposites, producing something akin to a cross. At any rate, a distinctive feature of Poem 85 is that it comprises a full gamut of emotions, whereas each of the poems that explicitly mentions Lesbia is emotionally exclusive, expressing passionate love, pathetic sorrow, moral condemnation, or furious hatred.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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