“Open the doors! The time is now!” The command occurs in two seemingly divergent poems, Ovid Amores 1.6 and Catullus 61, and this paper will show the link between the paraclausithyron’s locked-out lover and the wedding’s groom. I argue that Ovid’s Amores 1.6 alludes to three Catullan wedding poems (61, 62 and 64), thus presenting the elegiac love song as a parodic (and pathetic) reversal of a wedding song. Ovid makes this connection in three areas: his use of a refrain, a focus on the opening and closing of doors by ‘divine’ figures, and a dependence on stars as temporal guides for human actions. Earlier scholars have commented on the refrain, but tend to link it with magic incantations such as those of Theocritus Idyll 2 (McKeown; Copley) or hymnic refrains (Watson). This paper builds on Watson, but will further show that these motifs draw not only from paraclausithyric predecessors but also from Catullus’ hymnic wedding poems. With these nuptial allusions, Ovid frames the plight of the elegiac lover as a wedding gone awry.
First, Amores 1.6 stands out as the only Latin love elegy with a refrain: tempora noctis eunt: excute poste seram (lines 24, 32, 40, 48, and 56). All three Catullan wedding poems employ refrains, most pertinently Catullus 61, which has a sequence of different refrains that mark the ends of stanzas. This lyric poem contains not only the traditional Hymen-refrain (as does Catullus 62), but also a refrain centered on the passing of time and the persuasion of the bride: abit dies, prodeas nova nupta (90-1, 105-6 and 112-113). This refrain resurfaces in line 192, addressed to the groom: sed abit dies: perge, ne remorare. Such commands, encouraging the appearance and cooperation of the bride (and groom), bear a clear structural similarity to the rhetorical situation of the paraclausithyric lover begging for the doors to be opened. Furthermore, as I will show, the Ovidian refrain’s focus on doors and time signals epithalamic allusions elsewhere in Amores 1.6.
Second, doors as passages and barriers, respectively, are central to both wedding poems and paraclausithyra. Amores 1.6 uses specific allusive language to remind us of this similarity. At Catullus 61.76-7, describing the beginning of the wedding procession, the speaker commands claustra pandite ianuae: virgo adest. This use of pando for domestic doors is rare (as noted by McKeown), but reappears at the beginning of Amores 1.6: difficilem moto cardine pande forem. In charge of this all-importat door is the ianitor, whom Ovid addresses as a god, as shown by Watson. I argue that this ‘divine’ gatekeeper has much in common with Hymenaeus, the marriage divinity praised in Catullus 61 as uniquely able to unite bride and groom.
Finally, Ovid borrows Catullus 61’s technique of using the passing of time as a means of persuasion. The refrains of Amores 1.6 and Catullus 61’s dies abit consist of the verb eo along with units of time (dies and tempora), followed by the corresponding action deemed appropriate. Of course, one speaker is more successful than the other: whereas Catullus’ bride does appear, Ovid’s doorkeeper refuses to open up, and at the end of the poem the speaker refers to temporis absumpti (70). He also tells us that the morning star is beginning to rise, marking the end of the lover’s vigil (65). Ancient poets knew that the evening and morning star were the same celestial body, and soCatullus’ epithalamium, 62, even opens with the words vesper adest and contains a pair of stanzas on the significance of the evening star and its counterpart. To conclude, Ovid’s allusions show that the elegiac affair is the absolute opposite of a wedding, depicting the komos as a bridal procession lacking the bride: doors remain shut and thresholds uncrossed, persuasive refrains and hymns have lost their power, and stars tear lovers away rather than uniting them.
- Copley, F. O. 1956. Exclusus Amator: A study in Latin love poetry. Madison.
- McKeown, J. 1987. Ovid: Amores. Leeds.
- Watson, L. 1982. “Ovid Amores I 6: A Parody of a Hymn?” Mnemosyne 35: 92-102.
- Yardley, J.C. 1978. “The Elegiac paraclausithyron.” Eranos 76: 19-34.