“Love, bittersweet and inescapable, creeps up on me and grabs me once again”
Such heartfelt words expressing personal emotion by the Greek poet Sappho led to a mode of poetry in addition to the histrionic and impersonal epic: a focus on the self. The power of the words used by Roman poet Catullus to describe his heartfelt longing and love (and obsession?) are palpable:-
“…as many as the stars, when night is still,
gazing down on secret human desires:
as many of your kisses kissed
are enough, and more, for mad Catullus”
Together, Catullus and Sappho provide the inspiration for many of the articulations on, and metaphors for, love that have been seen time and again in prose and poetry throughout the ensuing centuries, by way of Shakespeare and Spenser et al., to the present day (e.g., Sergei Yesenin and E. E. Cummings).
In the audio file below (lasting around 28 minutes), academics discuss Greek and Roman love poetry, focusing on Sappho and her erotic descriptions of romance on Lesbos and, the love-hate poems of Catullus.
Greek & Roman Love Poetry
In Our Time, BBC (2007):
1. (of a feeling or atmosphere) so intense as to seem almost tangible. — “A palpable sense of loss.”
2. Able to be touched or felt.
Perceptible by touch. — “The atmosphere of neglect and abandonment was almost tangible.”
Something that is unable to be touched; not having physical presence. — “The rose symbolised something intangible about their relationship.”