The plough metaphor in Catullus 11.

A poet of the first rank, Catullus controls his language closely enough to simultaneously achieve multiple effects. So although Mortice quite rightly asserts:

The image of a flower on the edge of a meadow being chopped down by a passing plough is not a new one in Catullus' work - it appears in Homer describing the death of young warriors. It is Catullus' genius, though, to make it personal, and apply it to the pain of a broken heart. Vergil imitates the personal nature of the image in his description of the death of Euryalus in book 9 of the Aeneid.

we do not have to limit ourselves to this obvious metaphor of the flower of callously rejected love shoved aside by the plough. Catullus rarely hides his anger and indignation: in fact he's always remarkably direct. It would seem a little bathetic if the following fiery verses just led to a quaint (if pathetic) flower metaphor:

cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens;

literally translated by Lalage

Let her live and thrive with her adulterers,
300 of whom she embracing holds
loving not any truely, but repeatedly bursting
all groins;

Catullus angrily sets in our minds an image of Lesbia serially taking on one sexual partner after another, machinelike, wearing them out (the wavelike undulation of copulation feeds a metaphor of waves breaking on rocks--famously cold, barren, and heartless in Roman poetry).

But having set Lesbia up as a heartless machine of fornication, he wants self-pityingly to portray his victimhood, and as we know, he likens his love for her to a tender flower:

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratro est.

translated literally by Lalage

Let her not expect my love, as before
which has fallen due to her fault just as
a flower of the distant meadow after it has been
touched by the plowshare passing by.

People have almost always viewed the opening of a furrow in "mother" Earth--for the generative act of inserting seed (and producing new life)--as an analogy for sexual activity. And it turns out that the plough is of greater interest here than the flower. The flower of Catullus' love has been touched casually but fatally by the heartless mechanism of the plough as it passes along engrossed (as it were) in its business.

So in fact, Catullus continues his bitter, nasty invective right to the end of the poem. His misfortune was to get in the path of the great heartless fucking machine that was Lesbia, which destroyed him as it passed in its career of devouring lovers (who break in their great numbers like waves on flinty rocks). Of course, we shouldn't take Catullus' portrait of Lesbia uncritically!

(For the record, I think Catullus and the persona who speaks in his poems are about the same, but many would disagree.)