I am irritated greatly by artists in any genre who are praised for great art when what they should be remembered for, if anything, is innovation. So often, the art has surpassed them years– even centuries– ago, and yet the works of these creative and skilled predecessors– each a genius, no argument– are still held up as “great” art when their output, to tell the truth, is mediocre at best by today’s standards. I’m not saying that to be first with a technique is not admirable and worthy of remembrance, even worthy of effusive commemoration– but please, please stop pretending that the work of these outdated artists is far superior than that produced by the top of the class in the same genre at any good college in the country.
The poems of Catullus, for instance, are no better than stuff I’ve seen written on bathroom stalls. The vulgarity of Catullus, as far as I’m concerned, degrades the species. And if humor is his claim to fame, then the Farrally brothers should be praised so long! True, Catullus wrote in Latin, but so what? Slaves of the day probably jotted down more useful and ennobling information than his orifice-obsessed tripe.
And the epigrams of Martial!– Why, they’re no better than the trash scrawled on the mis-used notebooks of some greasy adolescent between drools of his slack-mouthed saliva. To spray-paint the epigrams of Martial on the walls of an abandoned alley would give graffiti a bad name.
If Catullus or Martial outlives, in the collective memory, of humanity such versifiers as, say, Shel Silverstein or the best Hallmark card writers, then such a situation should convince the low-browed men of those future days that the Universe, whatever else it is, is certainly something slowly sliding down some sick god’s intestinal track.
P.S. Tirade aside, I did find this one diamond in the dung heap of Martial… Writing of the death of a little girl, he says…
“Be not heavy upon her earth, she was not heavy upon you.” I really love that one.