Monday, April 20, 2009

NPM 9: Catullus 5 & Movie Kiss of Taste, 5: Dietrich in Morocco

In the middle of last night, I thought, I've only been trying to say about the nonconcsiousness of anesthesia what Catullus said a couple thousand years ago:
Look, the light's going to go out shortly, so do what feels true to you and don't let censorious opinions limit what you love.

A while ago, in rummaging around for tasty movie kisses, I'd snagged the famous cabaret scene in Morocco (1930), where the betuxed Marlene Dietrich (reminding me a bit of bink) takes a flower from a woman's hair, then bends over and kisses her on the mouth. (She then tosses the flower to her Foreign Legion love, Gary Cooper.) Ah--here it is on youTube.

I didn't post the pics because I've never seen the movie, but they're a nice fit here. Not that there's anything lesbian in Catullus's poem--the name "Lesbia" doesn't connote what it would today, it's the psuedonym he uses for his secret lover, probably the married noblewoman Clodia. But actions and words that transgress social norms help shine light on reality, and this poem and this kiss both do that.
(I'd translated this poem once, as everyone who studies Latin surely must.)

Catullus 5

Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,

and let us value the opinion

of disapproving old fogies as worth a penny.

Suns are able to set and rise again:

while our brief light can only set,

and then we must sleep an endless night.

Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,

then another thousand, and a second hundred,

then a thousand and a hundred over and over and over again,

until we've kissed so many thousands of times,

even we will not know how many,

and no one who wishes us ill can envy

kisses he cannot count.

--Gaius Valerius Catullus (Roman, 1st century BCE)

No comments: