The elegiac puella dominates this poem which Catullus (c. 82-c. 54 BCE) opens as a dirge (Lugete), occasioned by the death of her pet passer. Although her name does not appear here or in its companion piece, Carmina 2, the poet Martial (c. 40-c. 104 CE) Epigrammata 7.14.3-4, no doubt following tradition, understands her to be Lesbia. The poem portrays the grief of the poet’s beloved at the loss of her passer, perhaps a love gift; in antiquity the bird was associated with the goddess Aphrodite (see Sappho 1, where the goddess descends from Olympus in a chariot drawn by sparrows). The erotic implications, bolder in Carmina 2, are set in line 1, where the first mourners summoned are Venuses and Cupids. Catullus may be referencing Plato’s Symposium 180d-182a, where Pausanias describes two Aphrodites: Pandemos (“of all the people”, the common Aphrodite associated with sexual appetites) and Uranios (“heavenly”, the older, more revered Aphrodite), each having her own Eros (Cupid). The relationship of his puella with her passer is described in sexually suggestive language, personifying the bird as heroic lover who never moves from her “lap” (gremium) and speaks only ad solam dominam. Having already betrayed his jealousy of her affection for her pet in Carmina 2, Catullus here offers his puella sympathy for the loss of her deliciae and presents himself as a worthy substitute. The meter is hendecasyllabic (Phalaecean).
passer, deliciae meae puellae,
15tam bellum mihi passerem abstulistis.
Tua nunc opera meae puellae
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