International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

The Wisdom of Carpe Diem in Classical and Metaphysical Poetry: a Comparative Study of Catullus and Marvell’s Love Lyrics
Alec Pongweni

The Latin aphorism in the title of this paper comes from one of Horace’s poems. Rather than focusing on the need for courting couples to appreciate the fleeting nature of time, as Catullus and Marvell do in their poems to be discussed here, Horace seeks to caution humanity as a whole to always use the time they have profitably when he writes:
dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas As we speak, cruel time is fleeing
carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero: Seize the day, believing as little as possible in the morrow.
Near the end of this paper, I go the way of Horace in suggesting that indeed, the wisdom of carpe diem can be generalized from the domain of courtship and used to inform our use of opportunities and time in all spheres of our lives. Both Catullus and Marvell’s poems were inspired by what they saw as a constraining, conservative, social mores governing the behavior of women in matters of courtship. Each poet therefore constructed his text as an argument designed to persuade the object of his love to free herself from what such a society expected of her. In doing so, the poets employed comparable but different poetic tropes, such as metaphor, hyperbole, and simile. My discussion is crucially an argument for the efficacy of a combined linguistic and literary criticism paradigm in unraveling meaning from poetry and from all other texts by which we communicate both as creators and receivers of information through language.

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