BMCR 2002.06.29

Lotichius und die römische Elegie (NeoLatina 2)

, , Lotichius und die römische Elegie. NeoLatina, 2. Tübingen: Narr, 2001. 322 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.. ISBN 3823357921. EUR 54.00.

Our knowledge of many Latin authors of early modern Europe is sometimes still very meager and in some cases even the (philological) basis, not to mention further research, is missing. And so it was for a long time with one of the most famous (up to the 18th century) German neo-Latin poets from the period of humanism and Reformation, Peter Lotz, better known as Petrus Lotichius Secundus.

L(otichius) was a nephew of the abbot Petrus Lotichius and therefore named ‘Secundus’, to distinguish him from his also famous uncle (see, e.g., p. 28, n. 53, in this book). The younger L. was born in 1528 in the small town of Schlüchtern (in Hessen) and died as professor of medicine in Heidelberg in 1560; he experienced some of the religious wars in (mid-northern) Germany and also lived in France (namely Montpellier) and Italy, studying in Bologna and Padua. Certain reflections of these experiences are also to be found in his poetry.

L. was a modern ‘poeta doctus’ who was once valued nearly as much as the ancient poets Tibullus, Propertius or Ovid (indeed he wanted to be seen as their successor), and later on as much as the best poets writing in neo-Latin or, then, in German, like Iacopo Sannazaro or Martin Opitz.

To remind us of all this the present collection of essays (often including fundamental philological efforts) has been published as volume 2 in a new series for neo-Latin texts and philology with the ingeniously simple name “NeoLatina”. (Other series of recent date for neo-Latin subjects are, e.g., the “Noctes Neolatinae”, founded by the editors of the also almost new Journal of Neo-Latin Language and Literature (Neulateinisches Jahrbuch) at the University of Bonn and the “Bibliothek seltener Texte”, edited by Hans-Gert Roloff, Free University of Berlin. All of them are signs of the growing interest in the neo-Latin world of texts that in great parts still presents itself to us as ‘terra incognita’.)

The foreword (pp.7-9) of the editors Ulrike AUHAGEN and Eckart SCHÄFER reminds us of L. as the once highly praised and well-known author of the (neo-)Latin tongue who is being appreciated again only after the critical work of scholars like Bernhard Coppel (whose new edition of L.’s works is still awaited) and Stephen Zon (who wrote a biography of L. in 1983). Since then several articles have been published individually, but now, with this collection edited by Auhagen and Schäfer, we get the first ‘teamwork’ (‘Gemeinschaftswerk’, see p. 7) that grasps a good part of the Lotichian elegiac and lyrical oeuvre, with special emphasis on its relationship to the classical Roman elegy.

But another recent effort to present the Lotichian works to the modern public must also be mentioned here (and its merits are not denied by Auhagen and Schäfer, either). A certain number of L.’s elegies and ‘carmina’ has already been edited, translated into German, and commented upon in the anthology of German Humanistic poetry of the 16th century edited by W. Kühlmann, R. Seidel and H. Wiegand in 1997. This is now an undismissible basis for the German neo-Latin poets, replacing anthologies such as those of Perosa/Sparrow or Laurens. Because the texts of L.’s poems, like those of many Renaissance authors, have not been critically edited for centuries, we can rely only on these anthologies; otherwise, we must go back to the author’s (or contemporary) editions, or, in the case of L., to an early critical edition like that of Pieter Burman the Younger (1754, reprinted in 1998).

As a consequence of this the editors and contributors of this collection have also done a lot to provide us with the philological and textual basis for their historical and literary criticism. At the end of the collection (pp. 301-6) we find a concordance of the complete elegiac and lyrical works of L., especially in respect to the two standard editions: the one made mainly after the author’s will by his brother Christian and his humanist friend Petrus Camerarius in 1563, the other that of Burman (according to which L.’s poems are normally enumerated and presented here). On the other hand, several contributors have also fulfilled the tasks of editors and translators of the Lotichian texts they want to explain.

In a short but sufficient introduction (pp. 11-17) Bernhard COPPEL gives a lively picture of the development of the poet’s works and of his personal fortunes, extracting biographical information from certain Lotichian poems and a biography written by a contemporary who was very familiar with the poet’s life. Unfortunately, Coppel’s introduction is a bit too journalistic, i.e., in a certain way too simplistically biographical, in its interpretation of fictional texts as sources of information concerning the real author. But perhaps this can be excused by the fact that this introduction was originally written for a local newspaper of L.’s hometown. (Nevertheless, the question of how much ‘real’, i.e., biographical or generally historical, information we may find in the literary works (certainly not only) of L. will not leave us.)

The following collection of 16 papers is in itself split up into three main parts: a series of 10 papers dealing with several of the Lotichian elegies, simply and convincingly presented in the order of the poems in L.’s elegiac books (pp. 19-197). A second series is formed by 4 papers (pp. 199-298) concerning the smaller lyrical part of the Lotichian oeuvre, i.e., the ‘carmina’, which are nearly defined here by a variety of metres (e.g., Catullian, see p. 270) far beyond the elegiac couplet. A third part (pp. 299ff.) is made up by the appendix already mentioned: the concordance of the entire poetical work of L., listing all the single poems in a complex virtual order that takes into consideration different historical editions.

All this is followed by a kind of bonus — a small presentation with commentary of a recent discovery of a Lotichian epigram (a ‘Lotichius-Fund’) by B. Coppel (pp. 307-310) — and the whole volume is completed by four helpful indices (three for passages mentioned or referred to in this collection: L., selected ancient authors, and neo-Latin authors; one index of names mentioned).

The first series, on the Elegiarum libri IV, provides us with an interesting multiple view of the author’s reception of Roman (elegiac) poetry and of L.’s occupation with certain ancient knowledge (e.g., astrology, see below on Faller). We get acquainted with L.’s elegiac books step by step, i.e., poem by poem from the first ones of book I up to a few of book IV. Most of the papers not only focus on one or two single poems but also discuss certain dominant topics and motifs in the Lotichian elegiac oeuvre, and are thus quite representative. Unfortunately, while some of the papers focus excellently on individual Lotichian poems, various related Roman elegies, and a certain topic or motif common to both, others are not really concerned with the connections of the chosen topics to Roman elegiac poetry or do not seem to deal with the broadness of reception and imitation that is almost always to be found in the Lotichian elegies.

The first contributor to introduce us to a main topic that connects the neo-Latin author’s elegies with Roman ones is, again, Bernhard COPPEL, who now concentrates on ‘exile’ as a basic concept in Ovidian and Lotichian poetry (“Von der Realität zur Fiktion. ‘Exil’ als Grundbegriff elegischer Dichtung bei Ovid und Lotichius”, pp. 21-34). Coppel argues for a certain transformation of a real notion of exile into a poetic one in both. He graphically shows us how we can understand a good part of the first three elegiarum libri when we compare them with Ovid’s Tristia. Following Coppel, one can see very clearly how a neo-Latin poet of the 16th century was able, by means of the Ovidian exile theme, to write classically and individually at the same time (see p. 33) and how ‘exile’ in literature had both political and poetical implications. Coppel, however, seems to interpret both Lotichian and Roman elegy again a little bit too simply autobiographically.

The second paper (pp. 35-52) by Hermann WIEGAND, one of the doyens of (German) neo-Latin philology, deals with the generally very important problem of L.’s imitation and emulation, not only of the ancient author Tibullus but also of the neo-Latin poet Janus Pannonius (1434-1472), whom Wiegand had just discovered as an additional source of inspiration and an object of imitation for L. (see p.37, n. 7 concerning the author’s earlier studies on the subject of L.’s literary models). Wiegand wants to show L.’s productive reception of some of Tibullus’ and Janus Pannonius’ elegiac poems AND his (sc. relative) autonomy. He therefore examines elegies occupied in similar ways with the topics of war, illness, peace, and the moon goddess. But even if Wiegand shows a real intimacy with all three authors, especially in the case of Janus Pannonius and L., I cannot always see such strong parallels that one must assume a really intensive reception or even imitation of Janus Pannonius. Other parallels (in Ovid, Virgil) presented by Wiegand often seem more important for the Lotichian texts and topics in question here. In particular, Wiegand’s argument for an imitation of Janus Pannonius in the contrast (‘Kontrastimitation’, p. 49) sometimes becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy — one of the hermeneutical problems that occur in any research concerning literary influences.

In the next paper (pp. 53-64) on Elegy 1.2, Udo W. SCHOLZ argues something really interesting. Comparing two different versions of this poem, he claims that the earlier, shorter version, the one with less imitating passages, seems to be the better. Later on, when L. wanted to adorn this poem with many more allusions to Roman elegies (by Tib. and Prop.), it became so badly elaborated that the formerly clear argument was rather blurred. A Lotichian ‘fervor ornandi vel amplificandi’ by means of the adorned ancient texts seems to have been rather counterproductive here. Other contributors to this volume (e.g., Manuwald or Lefèvre, see below) also make the observation that L. extended several of his poems after a first publication by means of more imitation of antiquity, but only Scholz shows us that to polish up does not always mean to improve.

As just mentioned, Gesine MANUWALD, the next contributor (pp. 65-83), also observes that L. sometimes revised his poems, intensifying allusions to ancient poetry. She also examines two versions of a Lotichian elegy (1.6, on illness and death abroad) and compares them to two ancient Roman elegies (Tib. 1.3, Ov. trist. 3.3). But Manuwald, in opposition to Scholz, comes to the conclusion that the later, more elaborate version shows the better argument because the poem has reached more sovereignty on the topic by the refined imitation. If something is to be criticized, it is the exclusiveness of the reception of Tibullus and Ovid that Manuwald claims for this poem, neglecting parallels to other ancient authors already noticed in the commentary in the anthology of Kühlmann, Seidel and Wiegand. The latent problem of a self-fulfilling prophecy (or: in texts, you always find what you are intensively looking for) seems to carry on here (see above on Wiegand).

Gregor VOGT-SPIRA’s paper on El. 1.10 (a lament after lucky salvation, pp. 85-96) has to be mentioned, above all, for its lucid analysis of a common phenomenon of L.’s (typically humanistic) ‘imitatio antiquitatis’. Although a main poetical interest was imitation and so a general dependence should have been the consequence, we can often recognize a certain independence in L.’s poetry. This seems to be paradoxical, but, as Vogt-Spira shows us, it is only a consequence of the indestructible distance between antiquity and the Renaissance that led to the productivity of the process of reception (p. 87). With his interpretation of El. 1.10 and its complex interdependence with texts of Virgil, Tibullus and Ovid, Vogt-Spira gives us an excellent example of how a poem of the Renaissance could be perfectly classical in its literariness and at the same time up-to-date in its political and religious content.

Five more papers on L.’s Elegiarum libri follow in this first part of the collection. Thomas BAIER, on L.’s imitation of ancient authors in his famous elegy about the siege of Magdeburg in 1550/51, introduces us to the various dream concepts from antiquity to the Renaissance, amongst which L. perhaps deliberately chose a certain one. Even if the relations of the Lotichian poem to the Roman elegy are not the main focus here, the study is very interesting.

The next paper by Stefan FALLER (pp. 115-134) at first seems to concentrate on the astronomical topic in El. 2.8 and 2.13 (both “De Natali Suo”, i.e., on the author’s birthday). But unfortunately Faller is less interested in the relationship between these poems and Roman elegies (see only p.117) than the (in itself naturally important) philological question in which order these two poems could have been written. I do not want to misjudge the general value of an analysis like this, but if Baier’s paper was already on the edge of the subject of this volume, Faller’s falls quite beyond it.

Alison KEITH is concerned with “Ovidian Allusion in L.’s Callirhoë Elegies” (= El. 2.9/3.3, pp. 135-151), i.e., for the first time here, with poems on an unfortunate love of L.’s elegiac ego. Programmatic and lexical borrowings from Ovid are also to be found here above all, but these are, again, typically combined with programmatic expressions of older Roman origins (Cat., Lucr., Virg., Prop., Tib.). The reception of Ovid’s direct forerunners had already been done by Ovid himself, but now it is, combined with allusions also to Ovid, doubled and, in a way, filtered with an Ovidian technique of imitation and emulation.

With his usual precision and caution Walther LUDWIG, an already well-known expert on L. like Coppel, presents to us three ‘epicedia’ of L.’s (pp. 153-84): Elegies 3.7 (on the death of his ‘Maecenas’ Daniel Stibar), 4.2 (on his admired teacher Jacobus Micyllus), and 4.4 (on his most admired academic teacher Philippus Melanchthon). Ludwig first supplies us with an excellent short history of the ‘epicedion’ in the Renaissance, and as a long supplement we also find prose translations of the three ‘epicedia’ with notes on the structures of the poems (pp. 174-83). As Ludwig demonstrates, the chronological sequence of these poems shows how the poet by every ‘epicedion’ improved his literary technique and refined the internal organization of such a poem. The reception of ancient authors, once again, can be characterized as an Ovidianism (that filters also the reception of older Roman poetry), e.g., the symptomatic reception of Ovid’s elegy on the dead Tibullus as the model for the Micyllus elegy.

The last paper of this part of the collection is dedicated to ‘nature in the elegies of L.’ (by Katrin HASS, pp. 185-97), here worked out as one of the frames for the excessive self-presentation of the author (188), which is, again, characterized by imitation especially of Tibullus and Ovid. Although I appreciated the analyses Hass presents, I doubt that she has done herself a favor by basing her argument on such old research as Georg Ellinger’s (in 1929). I would think that we cannot still follow older scholars like Ellinger who thought of L. mainly as a ‘modern’ poet who developed his poetry on nature as a ‘real basis for confessions of the soul’ (‘wirkliche[r] Träger des seelischen Bekenntnisses’, Ellinger cited in Hass, p. 185) and not only as a ‘neo-Latin artistic exercise’ (‘neulateinische[] Kunstübung’, as above). It seems to be a real anachronism to always search for ‘expression of the soul’ in early modern poetry. Let’s rather wait for the 18th century and let us concentrate on the artistic performances which were more important during the humanist and, later on, the baroque era.

The second part of this volume is dedicated to the Carminum libri II. Here we find a shorter, but nonetheless representative series of papers on single ‘carmina’: Dorothee ELM on a very classical ‘narcissistic’ poem De Philomela = El. 5.1 (after Burman) (pp. 201-212); Eckard LEFÈVRE on two versions of a lamentation (c. 1.10), claiming that the Ovidian allusions seem to have been increased in the later version of this Lotichian poem as well (pp. 213-223); Ulrike AUHAGEN on the question of “Lotichius’ ‘Heroides'” (El. 5,13 and 5,14, pp. 225-41); and a profound paper by Eckart SCHÄFER on a whole thematic complex of these poems, i.e., the love poetry within the Carminum libri (pp. 241-98, with a wealth of informative overviews and tables). Schäfer thereby revises the Burman edition that nearly destroyed the original presentation of a cycle of love poems, and so we gain a new profile of the ‘carmina’ and the love poetry within them. Beyond that, Schäfer mainly focuses on the question of life and fiction in L.’s love poetry and tries to convince us that this poetry is ‘an experiment with life’ (cf. the title of his paper, “Lotichius’ Liebesdichtung – ein Experiment mit dem Leben”). But although Schäfer seems to reach a very sensitive level in the problem of ‘life and fiction’, I cannot follow him so easily: in critical moments (e.g., p. 287), the thesis that L. wanted to mirror his own life in his poetry is baldly stated without concrete arguments.

In the end it cannot be questioned that this volume succeeds in showing the fine — and sometimes failing (see esp. Scholz) — ambitions of L. in regard to imitation and emulation of classical antiquity, most of all imitation of the classical Roman poetry of Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and, last, but absolutely not least, Ovid. And L. must be named almost ‘Ovidian’ in many senses: in his literary style and topics, but also in the fashion of imitating and emulating his poetic forerunners: in the same way Ovid was concerned with his precursors in Rome, L. is concerned with them AND Ovid (and, naturally, with his neo-Latin forerunners — but that is a subject of its own, see esp. Wiegand in this volume). It would have been interesting if some of the contributors had focused even more on the question what the Lotichian reception did NOT receive (and why) — e.g., the sexual liberality of the Roman elegy (a feature missing in L. that is at least sometimes discussed en passant), but that is a desideratum in many studies concerned with the literary reception of antiquity.