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Download PDF The Roman Poetry of Love: Elegy and Politics in a Time of Revolution (Classical World)

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Its proponents Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid remain to this day some of the most influential poetic voices of Western civilisation. This accessible introduction combines aesthetic analysis with socio-political context to provide a concise but comprehensive portrait of the Roman elegy, its main participants and its cultural and political milieu. Focusing on a series of specific poems, the title portrays the development of the genre in the context of the Emperor Augustus' ascent to power, following recognizable threads through the texts to build an understanding of the relationship between this poetry and the increasingly totalising regime.

Highlighting and examining the intense affectation of love in these poems, The Roman Poetry of Love explores the works not simply as an expression of a troubled male psychology, but also as a reflection of the overwhelming changes that swept through Rome and Italy in the transition from the late Republic to the Augustan Age.

By highlighting the emotions expressed in the poems, Efi Spentzou takes us beyond the mere techniques of poetical composition into the imaginary world of the elegiac lover and sets it in its turbulent historical context, the second half of the first century BCE. By close readings she examines how each poet responds to the times, leaving the reader with a sharper appreciation of the relationship of the poetry to the age and the differences between the poets within the conventions of the genre. Spentzou shows us how and why Roman elegy still richly repays its readers.

The narrator, who fell in love with Annabel Lee when they were young, believes that their love was so intense that angels became envious and caused her death. He retains his love for her even after her death and is sure they will be reunited. Annabel Lee is thought to be written by Poe in memory of his wife Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe , who had died a couple of years earlier. But our love it was stronger by far than the love. Of those who were older than we—. Of many far wiser than we—. And neither the angels in Heaven above. Nor the demons down under the sea. Can ever dissever my soul from the soul.

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Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;. Poet: William Blake. Published: 17 William Blake is regarded as a highly influential figure in the history of poetry and his poetry collection Songs of Innocence and of Experience is considered one of the leading poetic works of the Romantic era. This poem consists of four quatrains in which the speaker describes the plight of London while he wanders through the city. He sees despair and fear in the faces of the people he meets. Among other things, he talks about the money spent on church buildings while children live in poverty.

London presents a bleak view of the city during the Industrial Revolution with the society being corrupt and dominated by materialism. It also points at the contrast between upper and working class people and suggests that the this could lead to a revolution in London like the recent French Revolution. And mark in every face I meet. Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man,. In every Infants cry of fear,. In every voice: in every ban,.

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How the Chimney-sweepers cry. Every blackning Church appalls,. And the hapless Soldiers sigh. Runs in blood down Palace walls. How the youthful Harlots curse. Blasts the new-born Infants tear. And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse. English Title: Tomorrow, at dawn. Poet: Victor Marie Hugo. Victor Hugo was at the f orefront of the romantic literary movement in France and he is regarded as one of the greatest French poets.

Leopoldine Hugo , the eldest daughter of Victor, died in a boat accident with her husband while she was 3 months pregnant. She was only Her death had a deep impact on her father and he wrote many poems expressing his loss, including this one. In the poem, the speaker expresses his love for a person telling her how he is unable to remain away from her. He is going to meet her and he says he knows that she waits for him. In the last lines of the poem it is revealed that he is visiting her grave. Poem:- translated. Tomorrow, at dawn, the moment the countryside whitens,.

I will leave.


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You see, I know that you await me. I will go through the forest, I will go across the mountain. I can no longer remain away from you.

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I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,. Without seeing anything outside, without hearing any sound,. Alone, unknown, back bent, hands crossed,. Sad, and the day for me will be like the night. I will not look upon the gold of nightfall,. Nor the sails from afar that descend on Harfleur,. And when I arrive, I will place on your grave. A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom. Poet: Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the middle of the 1st century BCE, when Catullus began to write verse, the professional poet in Rome was usually Greek, and the professional poem was the aristocratic epic that served the needs of family pride.

Latin epigram and lyric consisted mainly in the kind of literary dilettantism found in men like Q. Lutatius Catullus consul in BCE , who translated Hellenistic epigrams into Latin distichs, and in the youthful or amateurish work of Cicero. Poetry was meant to serve the interests and leisure of conservative Romans, men of action and accomplishment.

By the time of Augustus, however, Rome had produced, in addition to the great works of Virgil, an extraordinary and significant body of personal lyric and erotic elegy. In less than sixty years poetry as an art, valuable in itself and not merely the recreation of the powerful or the subsidized extension of family fame, had become established in Rome.

This achievement was not simply the result of individual geniuses. Together these poets shared an international perspective on literature, a learned and professional tradition of academic poetry, a desperate concern for the future of Rome, and an intense interest in the pathos and pathology of eros.

Thus, in an age of civil war and political catastrophe, Roman poets began in a single generation to think and write in new and complex ways of themselves, art, sex, the state, passion, learning, and life. Together they made possible the achievement of Horace, Virgil, and Ovid; and while it may be easy to exaggerate the particular role played by Catullus, his work is all that survives of that generation of poets who opened new doors for technique and expression at Rome.

Modern texts are numbered , but the poems numbered are usually excluded, since they were inserted without authority by Marc-Antoine Muret in his edition of There is no probability that Catullus wrote these priapic verses. Of the poems in the manuscript, numbers 2, 14, 58, 68, and 95 are thought to be conflations of what were originally two poems. In addition to these poems, which amount to about 2, lines, there are about twenty references in the ancient authors to other poems by Catullus.

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The manuscript collection is usually divided into three groups. Poems , generally referred to as the polymetrics, are in a variety of lyric meters with the hendecasyllabic meter an eleven-syllable line used in some forty poems. Poems form a middle section, the Opera Maiora Longer Works , which share a learned and allusive Alexandrian style and a recurrent interest in marriage.

If these poems are taken as a group, then the third section, poems , form a collection of epigrams or short poems in the elegiac meter, varying in length from two lines to twenty-six lines. These poems share certain features of style and diction that mark them as a distinctly Roman set of epigrams. Some critics, however, prefer to designate the third group as all poems, long and short, in the elegiac meter, poems The final verdict as to where the second group of poems ends must remain uncertain.

The organization of the whole collection has been a matter of frequent discussion, and although today one commonly sees arguments based upon the assumption that the poems are in the order in which Catullus himself arranged and published them, there is by no means any agreement among scholars that this is the case. The issues are twofold. First, there is the external evidence for a collection; second, there are the internal, aesthetic principles and interpretive consequences of an intentional order.

What, then, is the evidence? The poet Martial around 86 CE also knew of a collection of light poetry called Passer Sparrow , and the second poem begins, Passer, deliciae meae puellae Sparrow, the delight of my girl. According to ancient convention a literary work was commonly designated by its first words. If there was a collection made by Catullus called Passer , that collection probably began with the second poem. Further, Ausonius Eclogues 1. There is, of course, no agreement about what constitutes the collection s or about where the hand of chance or the arrangement of a later editor is seen.

Nevertheless, in addition to the external witnesses and the programmatic poetry there are other signs of an intentional ordering principle in the collection. In the opening sequence of poems, , poems 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 11 suggest the course of the affair with Lesbia from initial desire to final divorce; and another set of closely placed poems 15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 26 focuses on Aurelius, Furius, and Iuventius. This conclusion, however, requires an unruly ordering principle of loose variation and contrast.

Why do these six poems make up the sequence, though, when Catullus wrote eight more polymetrics about Lesbia? And why separate a mock dirge for a dead sparrow from a poem about kisses with a poem about a little boat? Surely, any reader who wants a psychologically effective order can create equally or perhaps more compelling juxtapositions, just as any clever reader can imagine reasons for the present order. Just this situation, however, distinguishes the Catullan collections: there may not be a rigid architectural order to the poems, but there is a suggestive and meaningful order.

There is a structure of relationships that cannot be denied while at the same time it cannot be reduced to a single historical, thematic, or aesthetic principle. The patterns of similarity and difference found in the collection are part of the impression the collection gives of variety and coherence, of dramatic fragments from a life whose themes and concerns recur in old memories and new events.

Thus, the collection has a mimetic quality that simultaneously suggests the coherence as well as the interruptions and continuing qualifications of lived experience, and this quality maintains simultaneously maximum variety and maximum resonance. For interpretation, the problem with this principle of order is simply that a varied and resonant text will, even if radically reshuffled, still produce meaningful juxtapositions. In this way, an otherwise comic version of the foolish lover poem 8 acquires psychological depth and, for some, tragic implications by being part of the Lesbia narrative and by paralleling another desperately pathological monologue of unrequited love poem The whole, then, becomes interrelated though a series of metonomies and metaphors, insuring each poem maximum resonance across a maximum number of poems, and in this way the Catullan collection accomplishes the neat trick of gaining a sense of context without losing the autonomy of the moment.

The order of that collection preserves simultaneously the lyric moment of each poem and the resonance of that moment in the life or the implied life from which it arose. The power of this resonance is evident in the frequency with which critics in the past have attempted to rearrange the poems into a neat narrative. More recently, however, readers have begun to emphasize the ways in which this resonance provokes the desire of readers and contributes to multiple readings as each poem looks forward and backward and across diverse interruptions to multiple variations. The juxtapositions, both continuous and discontinuous, represent a depth of response and not a narrative, a pattern, or a proposition.

Any closure, any collection, however, will always be susceptible to the further resonance created by any additions; even those made by chance or a later editor are necessary corollaries to this principle of maximum variety with maximum resonance.

From what can reasonably be inferred, then, about the principles of order and juxtaposition that seem to have guided Catullus, the exact dimensions of the Catullan libellus little book are unknowable and extraordinarily flexible and permeable. This supposition may not satisfy the desire for historical certitude, but it speaks to the power and attraction of a collection that has continually drawn readers under its spell.

The dedication poem is programmatic. These ideals frequently recur as Roman poets of the next generation work in the shadow of neoteric Alexandrianism and, writing under the daunting aspiration of creating an international tradition, reflect upon their place in that tradition and their contribution to Roman culture. Catullus, with typical lightness and learning, suggests his place in this tradition with a translingual pun. In practice, the Callimachean poetic standard meant writing in the smaller poetic forms—short lyrics, epyllions brief epics , and epigrams; experimenting in new verse forms; playful inversions of genre; an extraordinary ear for phonetic detail; and frequent use of learned and literary allusion.

Thus begins the Passer , whose consistent metaphor for poetic activity is ludus game , a term with both frivolous and erotic associations. In poem 36, Annales Volusi, cacata carta Annals of Volusius, shitty sheets , Catullus contrasts the traditional, epic poetry of Volusius with his own refined new poetry. Catullus imagines returning but repaying the vow with the verses of Volusius and asks Venus to accept the payment:.

More than a biographical tour of Asia Minor, the catalogue is literary and poetic. The poem ends:. For Catullus simply to adopt the refined, erudite, and esoteric aesthetic principles of Callimachus, however, was not possible. A resonant book of short lyric poems that granted privilege to leisure and frivolity was indeed a strange another sense of the Latin, novus and new production.

These interests, often associated with lyric poetry, and the demands of a learned, academic, Callimachean aesthetic may seen incompatible. For Catullus and his generation, however, the two were inextricably linked, since the Callimachean program made imaginable that kind of poetic professionalism and independence upon which this kind of lyric as well as other Hellenistic interests rested. Catullus was fully aware of the conflicts in which he had become involved by his decision to write learned and refined lyric poetry.

He asserted and reflected this antagonism in various moods. In poem 93 he expresses indifference:.

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He addresses with violent mockery in poem 28 friends who, like him, have served abroad under a difficult governor:. But the people rejoice in swollen Antimachus. Finally, the dedication poem introduces elements of the Roman literary tradition that Catullus valued despite their apparent opposition to the Callimachean aesthetic. That aesthetic, with its emphasis on the erudite and exclusive, had rigorously rejected the outworn, the common, and especially the popular. For Catullus, however, there was a Roman tradition of mime and comedy rich in resources.

In contrast to Callimachean exclusivity, it was inclusive and common. Furthermore, this tradition had first undertaken a literary opposition to Roman gravitas seriousness and its characteristic senex severus severe old man , and it had done so with a keen appreciation for irony, ingenuity, flexibility, and deception. Its favorite event was the staged self. In Catullus, this stage and its resources were more than a literary interest. Raised in the rhetorical tradition of Rome, Catullus felt the rhetorical or performed self as an intimate part of his experience and that of others.

In calling his book a lepidus libellus Catullus probably referred to the Callimachean refinement designated by leptos. In referring also to the Latin lepidus , however, he was using a term much at home in the comedy of Plautus, whose favorite characters in addition to the clever slave were the congenial old man senex lepidus and the sweet young thing lepida puella and whose goal was the charming if deceptive tale lepide fabulari. Catullan lepor adds to Callimachean refinement a sense of the lightness of life, an urbanity and social refinement that Catullus indulges throughout his poetry.

Like the characters in Plautine comedy, it exploits the roles people play and their capacity to change roles; it also delights in that presentation of self that proceeds through an endless disclosure of masks. The dedication poem is a performance of this ironic and charming elusiveness. When Catullus adopts the term nugae stuff for his own poetry, he ironically accepts the evaluative terms that the severe old men of Rome would assign to him.

Just as nugae co-opts and rejects the condemnation of conservative society but remains elusive about its own positive evaluation, so aliquid something accepts the approval of Nepos without specific evaluation. Similarly, Nepos is a peculiarly unlikely dedicatee: not only was his expertise in prose which Catullus avoided so far as is known , but his history was also the very kind of public prose that was congenial to conservative Romans.

He was a friend of Cicero and Atticus and does not seem to have appreciated neoteric poetry. One can argue that labor is a Callimachean virtue, but that was the virtue enjoined by Apollo, and laboriosus laborious suggests a little too much work, or work poorly spent. Catullan values, then, elude both his detractors who call them nugae and his appreciators who, like Nepos, think they are something, but apparently do not know what.