This poem is really based on one of Catullus's poems, known as 'Catullus 51' to my Latin book. An English translation can be found at http://aphrodite.jaze.net/~catullus/text2/e51.htm, although the entire site (http://catullus.iscool.net) includes translations in a variety of languages, including the original Latin, and some biographical information on Catullus.
The original poem, as far as I can tell, was from Sappho, one of the first and greatest love poets. She was a Greek, and lived on the island of Lesbos. Catullus, a Roman poet, wrote what my textbook calls a 'free translation' of Sappho's poem, keeping the first three stanzas and then adding a fourth stanza. The woman whom Catullus desired was given the pseudonym 'Lesbia', in honor of Sappho.
I have not had the opportunity to read Sappho's original poem, nor do I know if it stills exists today. (Many, many poems and other writings from ancient times have been lost.) I have been studying Catullus's poetry this year. While I can't recommend his entire collection of poetry with a clear conscience (his poetry's probably better if you aren't reading him for a grade...), this poem is one of his most simple, most tender, and really, most beautiful.
I don't know why I decided to write this piece -- poetry, to me, is not something which can be controlled. Poetry can spurt out of me, or it can shelter itself inside for weeks, months on end. It's the most subjective type of writing there is, which is why I'm always hesitant to critique it, and even more hesitant to write it. Even if I published books and books of it, I think I'd never be comfortable calling myself a poet. Being a writer is so much more concrete and professional. For me, being a 'writer' invokes images of the intelligent, the sophisticated, the wise. The 'poet' is the the wisher, the dreamer, the secret well-hidden. To admit to myself as a poet is to admit to that secret self living inside of me.
I do remember that when I started to write 51, I wrote the translation of Catullus 51 on one side of the paper, and then started writing 51 on the other side. That way, I could see how the lines matched up. While the content of both poems are different, they did match up very well. The first three stanzas were very easy to write. I rephrased Catullus's words so that they applied, changing the focus of the poem to not be a rival for love -- 'the girl who is together with the boy whom I like' just didn't work for me -- but to be just two people, who are in love, who are together, and the third person who longs for what they have.
For the fourth stanza, I changed 'otium' (idleness, in that translation I pointed out) to 'fear', because...well, 'idleness' connotes 'boredom', which is not what I think was meant. I think that idleness was meant that because Catullus didn't seize his chance, he lost Lesbia's love...well, fear is a good paralyzing reason.
The fifth stanza is my own stanza, the one that I was more hesitant about writing, the one which I don't have a pattern for, and the one that I'm still not completely happy about. since it's my own, I won't waste more space about it. ^^
and...that's about it. ^^ I stink at rhyme and rhythm...the Catullus poem has a neat rhythm to it. ^^ umm...hope you liked this babble. ^^