[[Read in tandem with Stephen Hinds, Allusion and Intertext. Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Alan Cameron, Chapter XVIII.1,2 "Vergil and the Augustan Recusatio," in Callimachus and his Critics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 454-475.]]
No two readers will ever construct a set of cues in quite the same way; no one reader, even the author, will construct a set of cues in quite the same way twice. -- Hinds (p. 47)
A poet prey to lovers prone to misprision is how the compiler of the new Cambridge companion represents his subject in an introductory essay on the reception accorded Virgil by readers. Sharing some of Martindale's reproaches for business as usual among Virgilists, I look for better in his own piece on the Bucolics, only to find him captive to the very hand-me-downs he chides. Yet I refuse to believe that more than two millennia of readership must end in such a blind alley, hopeless aporia, when I find a less doctrinaire and more text sensitive theory and practice of reading in Hinds, right from his warning that "the conscientious scholar will resist the impulse to naturalize his or her own terminological choices in such a way as to preempt debate upon them." (p. xii).
Martindale scores, I admit, when he writes that "Virgil operates for the committed Virgilian like a sacred book, endlessly repaying meditation, and part of a system of belief and cognition; it is not so much that Virgil imitates, effectively, an extra-literary world as that, for the lover of Virgil, the experience of the world, including the experience of other people, is significantly informed by his works."1
And he scores again on the poet: "an unusual and unusually evident openness to appropriation, so that the meaning of the text is configured within the value system and personal life-history of the individual reader, seems throughout the centuries to have been a particular feature of the response to Virgil."2
These Virgilian foibles represent an extreme case, we are told not without a certain hauteur, of a general subjectivity found by receptionist theorists to infect every reception of literature: "all readings of past texts, even those claiming 'historical accuracy', are representable as acts of appropriation."3
Virgilists must also, with their trade journals, their societies, their mainly academic corps, not to forget their richly funded bimillennial celebrations, instance the further receptionist tenet that "canonical flourishing is always and necessarily sustained by and within institutions which enable dissemination (which include in this case publishing houses, the media, schools and universities)."4
And Virgilists risk yet further reproach: "It is not clear that the history of interpretation is best figured as a history of progress; ... The mistake of scholars is to suppose that the discourses within which they work are the only ones that can deliver valid 'findings'.... The scholarly concern with source criticism -- however illuminating within its own discourse -- is bound up with the whole ideology and power-structure of Classics as an institution. It is perhaps no coincidence that some of the most innovative work on Virgil is now being done by scholars outside the discipline."5 We hear, too, that "'findings' only make sense within the terms of the enquiry that produces them."6 (Cf. "all findings ... are validated or negated only in terms of the discourse, for example 'historical philology', in which they appear."7) All told, Virgilists might be led to fear lest their very professionality impede their access to "valid 'findings'" from outside, which the receptionist is privileged to savor, certify, import and promote.
The above italics are mine and they signal some preliminary suspicions. Do definite articles betray recrudescent dogmatics? Are cross-fertilization and interdisciplinarity being written off? As "innovative" two comparative studies of epic win praise, along with Theodore Ziolkoski's Virgil and the Moderns (Princeton 1993) -- a fascinating (to this Virgilist) revelation of the astonishing range of Virgil's impact in this century. Yet such studies enlarge knowledge of how others have read without pretending to break new interpretive ground. Does receptionism exclude other kinds of innovation?
When I turn to Martindale's "Green Politics," I stumble first on tangled speculations about genre and the author's self-reflexive exegesis of his "contrivedly ambiguous" title (p. 109). He reads "green" simply as recurring "11 times" in the Bucolics and grass as an "unsurprising staple ingredient." But he does add that "umbra and silua are more clearly used metonymically as bucolic markers." Many another metonymic marker would emerge on rereading, to mention only a motif like "beech."8 But more in a moment of what that implies.
Martindale launches his discussion proper by contrasting two critical strains, which he dubs aesthetic and political. He reproves distillations of "the pastoral" as a self-contained aesthetic form (Veyne, Snell, Alpers: pp. 109-111). Against aestheticism Martindale invokes Wolfgang Iser on the Bucolics as "a work of art that thematizes art itself," largely free from "the traditional referential function of poetry as mimesis" (p. 111) -- pronunciamentos from outside the field that for many readers will have an air of déjà lu, e.g. "It is characteristic of Virgil's artistic method to thematize the conventions of whatever genre he is working in until he has forced these conventions to yield a figure for the subject he has chosen to treat.... Virgil's true subject ... is the dynamic of the poetic imagination: the pastoral setting becomes, in Virgil's hands, a figure for the secluded inwardness, perilous detachment, and creative liberty of the poet's mind."9
Martindale has company in his impatience with abstract pastoralism. For instance Alpers' view that Virgil merely reduced to generic convention what Theocritus invented has provoked rebukes, e.g., Tracy, who argued that Virgil's originality lay in creating a poetry book and metapoetics,10 and myself, in a panel discussion of Virgilian scholarship for the Nineties,11 and I have also criticized similar reduction of Virgil in the otherwise valuable study of ancient pastoral by Gutzwiller.12
But Martindale rejects one misreading only to perpetuate another when he refers to B. VI as defining "Virgil's whole project" (p. 111), echoing the influential creed that Virgil in B. VI adopted as the program for the entire bucolic book a Callimachean polemic against epic:13 a view that I criticized in a detailed history of the reception of the Aitia,14 and that Cameron also now rejects (pp. 454-77), not hesitating to denounce what he styles the "Clausen Thomas school." Martindale compounds the fault by tracing the metapoetic scene of Apollo reproving Tityrus "back to farmer Hesiod." More attentive reading would retrace the actual path that leads via two intermediate metapoetic scenes, those of B. I and Id. VII, not to the "farmer" (sc. poet of the Works and Days) but to the "shepherd" Hesiod (sc. poet of the Theogony in his metapoetic encounter with the Muses while he herded on Mount Helicon).15
Less beguiled by scholarly misreadings of another crux in Augustan poetics, Martindale shares (although not acknowledging) the minority view that Horace classified the Bucolics as a species of epos not forte but molle atque facetum (Serm. I.10.43-44: p. 113): read similarly by, e.g., Farrell,16 Leclerq,17 myself,18 and Fraenkel.19
When Martindale turns to B. X, however, commonplaces take over again. He rehashes the familiar signs that here Virgil seals his book and he dismisses scholars who detect genre boundaries seriously explored or bucolic failure confessed. He insists instead on the poem's "wit and virtuosity," leaving hard questions unasked.
Why did Virgil end his book as he did? Why open the final poem with Arethusa and why make such a point of reclaiming her from Syracuse, where she appeared in Theocritus (Idd. 1.117, 16.102 "Sicilian Arethusa")? Why address her as if she had yet to flee from Arcadia, imagine her exile as still in the future? To upstage Theocritus? If so, why not settle for B. V (the lament and praise for dead Daphnis) as a supplement to Id. I? Why move instead to supplant the dying Daphnis of Id. I with the vociferous Gallus of B. X? Why shift the death scene from Sicily to Arcadia? What is Virgil's game?20 His motive is implied, I think, in Hinds's closing apophthegm (p. 144): "Without some idea of the poet as aetiologist, as mobilizer of his own tradition, ever tendentious and ever manipulative, our account of literary tradition will always turn out too flat."21
Martindale pursues his attack on aestheticists by arguing plausibly for allegorical reception. Making a case for topicality both social and political (is there any difference within the pomerium or the beltway?), he twits abstractions like those of Griffin and Jenkyns. (Misapprehension of the Bucolics by the latter was already elsewhere the object of Martindale's well aimed scorn.22)
Reflecting further on allegory, Martindale notes that it has long been marked by discontinuity, and cites the authority of Servius (on B. 1.1: hoc loco Tityri sub persona Vergilium debemus accipere, non tamen ubique sed tantum ubi exigit ratio. Similar discontinuity characterizes, Martindale adds, Virgil's imitation of nature. Faulting critics who generalize the landscape as "Arcadian and idealised" (again Snell and company), Martindale sees instead "a composite of Theocritus' Sicily and various Italian scenes and indeed Arcadia (perhaps out of Gallus' poetry)" (pp. 119-20). Extending his critique of generalization, he dismisses "the modern critical stress on the structural unity of the collection" as undermined by "the considerable variousness of its contents" (p. 120).
Untrammeled by structural constraints, Martindale lights on B. IX, with commonplaces such as "imitates and inverts" Id. VII, Menalcas a "mask for Virgil."
Although recognizing the "poetics of fragmentation" in B. IX (but without recalling the fundamental reading by Damon),23 Martindale dismisses critics who see here "the final 'message' of the whole book ... at the expense of, say, Eclogue 6" (cf. the interpretive creed criticized above).24
By way of conclusion, Martindale asserts that the discourses of aesthetics and politics each are "necessarily present within the other, at however occluded a level," and he affirms that "we need both" (pp. 120-121). The attitude would be ecumenical if only "we" did not place itself above those others -- Virgil lovers, depicted as wandering in their disparities unless corralled and branded by reception theory.
Yet if the receptionist tenet holds, that "all readings of past texts ... are representable as acts of appropriation,"25 where does logic locate the receptionists? Either not reading "past texts" or, if reading, then surely (re)presentable as (mis)appropriators. Or will receptionists argue that they, unlike the garden variety Virgilists, read without peculiar symbiotic love?
Turning back to Martindale's record as a reader, my mind fixed on his closing synthesis -- "present within the other, at however occluded a level." Would rereading, I wondered, uncover traces of others occluded in him, too?
Against aestheticism Martindale urges the hoary allegory that an old Tityrus can represent a young Virgil (or a dead Daphnis Caesar: cf. the assimilation of George Washington to Daphnis in John Parke's Virginia, Philadelphia, 1786). But he neglects the plain fact that the other singer, Meliboeus, better represents the experience of citizens expropriated by revolutionary force, so that Virgil in two voices manages to capture two points of view, using what Perkell has called the irony that "allows the poet, the zero-voice, to be more inclusive than his speakers."26
Against what he terms "the modern critical stress on the structural unity of the collection," Martindale urges mere "considerable variousness" with "characterisation" conceived in dramaturgical terms. thereby occluding considerable evidence that motifs and characters vary systematically in relation to their positions in the book.
The examples of significant variation are too numerous to cite here. They include "beech,"27 from degrees of fullness and material of craft (B. I, II, III, V) to fragmentation (B. IX);28 "beauty" (e.g. formosam ... Amaryllida, 1.5; but formosum ... Alexin, 2.1; then formosissimus annus, 3.57; etc.); and the "grotto" (antrum) as a locus for song (lost in B. 1.75, recovered and reallocated in 5.19, 6.13).29 The examples also include the differentiated poetics of amoebean exchange: amant alterna [sc. carmina] Camenae (B. 3.59), in an expansive and inclusive context, as opposed to alternos [sc. uersus] Musae meminisse uolebant (B. 7.19), in a context that is retrospective and discriminatory, narrated by a restored Meliboeus.30
Then there are the motifs of hours and seasons, as amplified by Spenser and Soubiran, or the trajectory from protecting shade to menacing shadows within B. I and between B. I and X, all of which variously co-ordinate with developments, openings and closings, in eclogues and in the book.31 Characters, too, vary in relation to their place. Tityrus receives expansive orders in B. I, but restrictive orders in B. VI as the book takes a new turn beginning its second half. Meliboeus gets exiled in B. I only to return as a master narrator in B. VII. Even Gallus undergoes an up and a down.
And what of "Arcadia (perhaps out of Gallus)" as Martindale described it? Where do parentheses come from? From the sort of coterie that gave us Callimachean Bucolics? Is Gallus, too, à la page? Not certainly from attentive reading of Virgil's Arcadian motifs in their progressively differentiated series (B. II, IV, VI, VII, and VIII before the full locus in B. X)?
In sum, Martindale's "considerable variousness" occludes in two ways, not only slighting variety per se but also neglecting how the variations work "metonymically as bucolic markers" to thematize the poetry in which they occur.32 The times, settings, seasons, characters, and poetics all vary so as to thematize what Tracy neatly described -- the creation of a complex poetry book.33 Variation both enacts and conveys the metapoetic import of development in the book, from the initial dialectic of movement and rest to the closing despair, contentment, and retreat. A case in point is the figure of Menalcas, which evolves through successive placements from outsider (B. II), through young pretender (B. III), to old master of vatic song (B. V), but the the defeated master driven from the Italian scene (B. IX) but at home gathering acorns in Arcadia (B. X). Such a figure can hardly be read as a personal mask for the poet (pace Martindale and scholiastic tradition), but certainly represents a strand in the poet's mind with the irony described by Perkell.34
A final example must suffice to suggest what Martindale has written off. The first poem, when read from the viewpoint of source criticism, as Martindale calls it,35 alludes to Theocritus, Hesiod, and Lucretius and like them defines poetics by means of a story of authorization (an etiological myth), only that Virgil invents a new figure of authority -- Tityrus's god at Rome.36
Beyond specific allusions, however, the exchange between country figures conveys metapoetic import.37 Virgil portrays Meliboeus as a displaced bucolic singer, georgic proprietor, and citizen beset by troops (sc. representative of the whole scope of epos). By contrast, he imagines Tityrus as an old but just renewed bucolic singer (sc. representative of the bucolic strain in epos). The respective changes in their lives dramatize, or if you will, thematize the strains as Virgil begins to appropriate epic tradition: neither figure alone could be read in the manner of traditional biographical inference as representing Virgil tout court. Martindale should have studied metapoetic irony with Perkell.38
Tityrus's story of authorization takes its departure from the similar scene in Id. VII, which conveys its own metapoetic import, although Cameron treats it as a simple description of a real encounter (pp. 410-18). Two fictive characters as archly differentiated as Simichidas and Lycidas might better be construed like Tityrus and Meliboeus as figuring complementary strains in their maker's art -- one precisely, even preciously, urbane, the other outlandishly rural, so that the irony crackling in their exchange stems from the poet's own sense of how his voices and traditions provoke each other, in the manner observed in Virgil by Perkell.39 In this drama of metapoetry, an emphatically rustic non-Apollo bestows a non-Hesiodic rod via a non-Homeric encounter between town and country on a road in Cos. The allusions set benchmarks from which to reckon what is new here -- Theocritus's own specific position in and against hexameter tradition. Complementing this strain, of course, and representing Theocritus's own complexity of influence, Simichidas compares himself to epigrammatists and his song suggests themes of epigram (odd for Cameron of all people to miss). In the metapoetic china shop, I fear, Cameron is a bit of a bull.
Metapoetics aside, Martindale even scants the initial reception of the Bucolics. In the figure of Tityrus's Roman god Virgil coined a kernel of myth with dual value, both the basis for further epic development and an immediate tool in the propaganda wars. Yet Martindale glosses over the report that the Bucolics were issued with such success as to be performed frequently by actors in the theater (Bucolica eo successu edidit ut in scena quoque per cantores pronuniarentur: Vita Donati 26-27).40 Recitation and theater must have been the media which the topical allegories Martindale vindicates had their effect (so Dewitt).41
Plausibly, too, this clamorous reception accounts for the reports that Virgil became a public, even mythic, figure in his own time (e.g., Tacitus, Dialogus de oratoribus 13, reporting the crowd saluting Virgil in the theater).42 Martindale does remark in another context that "some of the poems ... were performed on stage as miniature dramas" (p. 119), citing no source for "some" as opposed to all and ignoring the question of the impact or actual mode of presentation. Virgil's extraordinary "openness to appropriation," which Martindale remarks,43 must have begun to operate in the contemporary public media from the start. Openness appears on closer reading to be built into the script: more than one sympathy could be beguiled and coopted by the play of Meliboeus and Tityrus and the central, mystificatory oracle of the god: pascite ut ante boues, pueri. summittite tauros (Herd cattle as before, boys. Bring up bulls, B. 1.45). "As before" addresses the nostalgia represented in the expropriated Meliboeus, not the force of revolutionary discontinuity. The latter is camouflaged in the incoherent manumission tale of Tityrus, although implicit in the reference to "godless, barbarian soldiery." The soldiers' import, which is the occluded negative counterpart to the positive image of the god, gets deferred and given voice only in the expropriatory utterance of B. 9.4: "these are mine, old settlers get out." But to perceive this structure of occlusive deferral requires the concept of the book.
As a book, the Bucolics play the premier role among Augustan poetry books and they influence an entire history that includes Petrarch's Bucolicum Carmen, Marot, Spenser, and a host of canzonieri, calendars, sequences, suites, and poem, poetry, and eclogue books:44 a history that for reasons best known to themselves Martindale and his editors chose to ignore, to say nothing of the inner fabric of Virgil's design. Given the evidence of how Martindale treats "past texts," it hardly surprises that he applies the non-title "eclogues" to the Liber Bucolicon and picks as the "best modern commentary" a work that shares his fragmentative, reductive, and occlusive bent.45
When Martindale doubts whether "the history of interpretation is best figured as a history of progress,"46 it is hard to dissent. Servius thought that Virgil used sporadic allegory while Theocritus was everywhere simple, befitting rustic character. To redefine Theocritus as really "Kallimachean," i.e. a practitioner of urbane art artfully flattering to power, was still innovative as late as 1942 when H. J. Rose did so in lectures canonized by institutional power.47
Less time passed before a contrary innovation puffed Callimachus as an aesthetic theorist and enemy of epic, promoted him over Theocritus as Virgil's dominant source (occluding the epic ambition of B. I-IV), and was canonized in its turn by institutional power.48 The latest innovation dethrones Callimachus only to revert to reading Theocritus and Virgil not much more subtly than did Servius. Cameron (p. 476), like Rose, portrays Callimachus as courtier poet and he discredits hyper-Callimachean readings of B. VI, yet lacks conceptual tools to relate his findings to Theocritus, the rest of B. VI, or Virgil's book. He even goes so far as to deny Callimachean elements in B. VI beyond the proem (p. 458).49
The whole spectacle makes this garden variety reader wonder at the parochialism of certain discourse and the "institutions which enable [its] dissemination."50 Does cultural hegemony prefer to replicate the known rather than risk real innovation? Does Virgil's precocious and inveterate identification with power doom him to the ministrations of courtiers and culture brokers? Where the old Paul Valèry recognized the powers of a young poet, why have scholars written off the Bucolics, to mention only Farrell,51 Hardie,52 and now O'Hara?53 Where are the venturesome and insightful, responsive and responsible, the passionately disciplined readers? Reception of the "eclogues" has long since arrived al verde (as Italians say from the green at certain candle ends). Why delay to (re)read the Bucolics?
1. Charles Martindale, "Introduction: 'The Classic of All Europe'," in Companion, 9.
2. Ibid. 6.
4. Ibid. 2.
5. Ibid. 8-9.
6. Ibid. 11.
7. Duncan Kennedy, "Modern Receptions and Their Interpretive Implications," in The Cambridge Companion, 54.
8. Cf. John Van Sickle, The Design of Virgil's Bucolics (Rome 1978) 248, s.v. "beech ... bucolic, symbols of; siluae."
9. David Halperin, "Commentary on Ross," Arethusa 23.1 (1990) 78.
10. Stephen V. Tracy, "Commentary on Alpers," Arethusa 23 (1990) 49-57.
11. "Response to a Georgics Reader Bemused by the Bucolics," Vergilius 36 (1990) 58, n. 10.
12. Kathryn Gutzwiller, Theocritus' Pastoral Analogies. The Formation of a Genre (Madison 1991), criticized by John Van Sickle, A Reading of Virgil's Messianic Eclogue (New York 1992) 8, 143-15.
13. W. V. Clausen, "Callimachus and Latin Poetry," GRBS 5 (1964) 181-196.
14. John Van Sickle, "Virgil's Sixth Eclogue & the Poetics of Middle Style," Liverpool Classical Monthly 2 (1977) 107-108; cf. also my "The End of the Eclogues," Vergilius 41 (1995) 125, a review article on Wendell Clausen, A Commentary on Virgil Eclogues, (Oxford 1994).
15. Cf. my "Epic and Bucolic (Theocritus, Id. VII / Virgil, Ecl. I)," Quaderni Urbinati Di Cultura Classica 19 (1975) 45-72.
16. Joseph Farrell, Vergil's Georgics and the Traditions of Ancient Epic: The Art of Allusion in Literary History (Oxford 1991) 61-63.
17. R. Leclerq, Le divin loisir: Essai sur les Bucoliques de Virgile. Collection Latomus vol. 229 (Brussels 1996) 266 and 405, n. 710: reviewed by John Van Sickle, Vergilius 44 (1998) 113-115.
18. Cf. my Design (note 8 above) 114-115.
19. Eduard Fraenkel, Horace (Oxford 1957) 130.
20. Cf. my recent review articles, "The End of the Eclogues" (note 14 above) 130-31 and "Staging Vergil's Future and Past," Classical Journal 93 (1998) 213-14.
21. Cf. Design (note 8 above) 258, s.v. "Vergilius Maro, P.: ambitious artist."
22. Charles Martindale, Redeeming the Text. Latin Poetry and the Hermeneutics of Reception (Cambridge 1993) 5-6.
23. Philip Damon, Modes of Analogy in Ancient and Medieval Verse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).
24. Cf. notes 13 and 14 above.
25. Martindale (note 1 above) 6.
26. Christine Perkell, "Eclogues," Vergilius 36 (1990) 52.
27. Cf. note 8 above.
28. Cf. note 23 above.
29. For natural features that underlie pastoral myth, see Richard Buxton, Imaginary Greece. The Contexts of Mythology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), e.g. 80-113 on landscape, mountain, sea, cave, and spring.
30. Cf. Design (note 8 above) 258: "versus distinct from carmina"; also underlined in "The End of the Eclogues" (note 14 above) 127.
31. Cf. e.g., John Van Sickle, "Dawn & Dusk as Motifs of Opening & Closure in Heroic & Bucolic Epos (Homer, Apollonius, Theocritus, Virgil)," in Atti del Convegno Di Studi Virgiliani, I (Milan 1984) 124-47.
32. Cf. note 9 above.
33. Cf. note 10 above.
34. Cf. note 26 above.
35. Cf. note 5 above.
36. Cf. note 15 above and "End of the Eclogues" (note 14 above) 120-21.
37. Cf. my Design (note 8 above) 255, s.v. "poetics...; cf. allegory"; also my "How Do We Read Ancient Texts? Codes & Critics in Virgil, Eclogue One," Materiali e Discussioni Per l'Analisi Dei Testi Classici 13 (1984), 107-28.
38. Cf. note 26 above.
40. Vitae vergilianae antiquae, Colin Hardie, ed. (Oxford 1966) 12.
41. Norman Dewitt, Virgil's Biographia Litteraria (Oxford 1923) 129; cf. my Design (note 8 above) 258, s.v. "Vergilius, celebrity of caused by B. performance."
42. Cf. John Van Sickle, Poesia e potere. Il mito Virgilio (Rome: Laterza 1986) 17-24, "Dal mimo al mito," and T. P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) s.v. "drama and history," 131-3, 138-41, 209.
43. Cf. note 2 above.
44. See, e.g., Augustan Poetry Books, John Van Sickle, ed. Arethusa 13 (1980); Neil Fraistat, Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections (Chapel Hill 1986); M. L. Rosenthal and S. Gall, The Modern Poetic Sequence. The Genius of Modern Poetry (Oxford 1983); and more specifically Silvia Longhi, "Il tutto e le parti nel sistema di un canzoniere (Giovanni della Casa)," Strumenti Critici 39-40 (1979), 265-300; also the forthcoming Giovanni della Casa's Poem Book / Ioannis Casae Carminum Liber. Florence 1564, John B. Van Sickle, ed., tr., and comm. (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1999).
45. Clausen (note 14 above).
46. Cf. note 5 above.
47. H. J. Rose, The Eclogues of Vergil, Sather Classical Lectures 16 (Berkeley 1942) 4-5.
48. Wendell Clausen, Virgil's Aeneid and the Tradition of Hellenistic Poetry, Sather Classical Lectures 51 (Berkeley 1987) 9-14, still: cf. the review cited in note 14 above.
49. But see the Callimachean allusions gather in my Design (note 8 above) 156 57, and also now James O'Hara, True Names: Vergil and the Alexandrian Tradition of Etymological Wordplay (Ann Arbor 1996), 94, 248-49.
50. Cf. note 5 above.
51. Cf. Farrell (note 16 above) 61-63, 332.
52. Philip Hardie, Virgil's Aeneid: Cosmos and Imperium (Oxford 1986) 16.
53. Cf. my review of O'Hara (note 20 above) 212.