Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Iam mens praetrepidans avet vagari...

iam mens praetrepidans auet uagari.
iam laeti studio pedes uigescunt.
o dulces comitum ualete coetus.
longe quos simul a domo profectos
diuersae uarie uiae reportant.
Now my mind shivers with anticipation,
Wishing to wander out into the world—
Now my eager feet are quick to move.
Farewell, my gathering of dearest friends;
Various roads will always lead us back
When we have traveled far from our homes.
--Gaius Valerius Catullus, carmen xlvi

I keep forgetting that Verona is the ancestral home of my favorite poet. Well, one of my favorite poets. My favorite Roman poet, at any rate—not counting Ovid or Vergil. Catullus is perhaps my sentimental favorite, my earliest introduction to Latin poetics, my first foray into poetry translation, my favorite source of salacious witticisms. Catullus may be best known for dirty epigrams, political jabs, and an unceasingly painful love affair with a woman he called Lesbia, but he’s far more sentimental than his reputation usually allows. His poems are populated by bitter jilted lovers, whores and corrupt politicians (one can’t always tell the difference!), but also by chirping sparrows, blushing maidens and laughing, generous friends. The most tender and loving verses, though, are those that evoke a sense of place, describing a homecoming or a departure—even the voyage to his brother’s funeral is infused with sweetness. Trace a geography of the Catullan corpus and you’ll find spokes radiating outward to the Roman provinces, but always returning to Italy, both spatially and emotionally its heart.

I landed at my sentimental favorite Roman poet’s namesake airport Sunday evening, my feet eager and my mind beyond shivery. I’ll be spending the next four weeks in Verona for an intensive language study course, and I expect I’ll be getting to know the city quite well. Already I got better acquainted with it this morning than planned—missed a turn on my way to school and walked almost a kilometer further than needed before I realized I was getting myself lost. On the way back I took the more scenic route, through Piazza BrĂ  and around the Arena. Behind the Arena I spotted a grove of spears and pennants, a Sphinx head and miniature pyramid peeking up from behind makeshift walls: sets for the opera! Clearly the Egyptian bits belong to the Aida production, and I’m guessing the weaponry is from Il Trovatore. This is the last week of the summer season; I hope I’ll be able to see a show before it ends.




I’m subletting a darling apartment on Via Stella, which runs behind the Arena. It’s an old building, but recently renovated and very nice. And extremely secure—I need three keys to get in! It has an elevator and air conditioning, both blessings—but the air is only in the dining room, not the bedroom, and the elevator was barely big enough for me to squeeze into with my small carry-on suitcase and backpack. While crammed in there, I was congratulating myself on not having succumbed to the temptation of bringing a larger suitcase. On the other hand, even this morning I felt like complaining that I had nothing to wear… My apartment consists of a small kitchen/dining room, an amply sized bedroom, and a small, spotless, shiny-new bathroom, with dark wood fixtures against white tiles. The bathtub is absurdly small, though. I’m only 5’2” and yet to take a proper bath I would have to sit with my knees scrunched up to my chin! The kitchen is pretty well equipped—just enough pots and pans, cute mismatched tableware, cheerful linens, and a four-burner gas range. No oven, but I couldn’t stand to use one in this heat anyway. There’s also a TV that I will probably never turn on, and stereo speakers that I might use if I can figure out how to connect them to my iPod.


(this is not supposed to be sideways!)

Two angles of the view from my bedroom window. The first was taken at sunset, the next early the following morning.