BMCR 2009.10.25

Paolino di Nola, Carmi 10 e 11: introduzione, testo, traduzione e commento. Roma: Studi e testi tardoantichi 6

, Paolino di Nola, Carmi 10 e 11: introduzione, testo, traduzione e commento. Roma: Studi e testi tardoantichi 6. Roma: Herder, 2008. 284. ISBN 9788889670354 €32.00 (pb).

Along with deft introduction, standard text,1 and plain Italian translation, Filosini provides a sound, reliable, even affordable commentary on these two gems of Late Antique Latin (135 pages on 399 verses): “This group of epistolary poems composed by Ausonius and Paulinus between 389 and 394 warrants close attention; these pieces have, with justice, entranced modern readers. No other late antique poetry seems so powerfully to evoke the unguarded depths of mutual respect and affection.”2 Paulinus has a full scholarly panoply in the major European languages,3 but has yet, Peter Walsh’s translation, Dennis Trout’s biography, R. P. H. Green’s stylistics, and Catherine Conybeare’s tracing of self-construction notwithstanding, to attract Anglophone apostles and a proper place on today’s classical literature syllabus.4

Filosini’s introduction (pp. 9-45) situates her texts at the threshold between Paulinus’ maturation from highly educated insider and imperial administrator from Bordeaux turned retiree on Spanish estates, and his eventually beatific mission ahead as episcopal curator of St Felix at Nola. These epistolary poems in response to tweaking complaints of neglect from “avuncular” octogenarian Ausonius (probably a close friend and neighbour of the family since forever but— p. 26— not directly and literally his magister in school, pace e.g. Trout, op. cit., p. 275) re-launch the “pupil” just as they draw a close to the “professor'”s output, life, and corpus. Filosini points gently to the importance of these textual negotiations within the telephonic web of inter-communication between Ausonius, Paulinus, Symmachus, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine. She is charged with the duty of placing her “coming out” brace within this ecumenical scenario of texts of faith as a prime construal of “conversion” and its knock-on social-cultural adjustments. Ausonius’ trademark orientation around the pledge of playing for real in the idiom of playful inconsequentiality (in spades) lands Paulinus with a teasing, potentially racking, challenge to think into fitting expression reaffirmed continuities with former loyalties alongside obligatory points of avowed and unbiddable departure. Filosini tones down dramatic-through-lurid reception of Paulinus’ handling of Ausonius (and all he evoked, and stands for), concentrating on the literary modulation of message by intertext-saturated medium and the innovation of a positive dislocation in life (esp. pp. 133, 135, on Carm. 10 vv. 132-3, 141). She handles the overlay of apt biblical phrasing (loci indexed on pp. 255-6) with à propos classical allusions carefully throughout, profiling a reader of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and our Latin canon as committed to doctrina as Ausonius, or any devotee of classicism, could wish (indexed on pp. 239-53; cf. esp. p. 42); she notices but does not embrace ambitious theorizing, whether of a “post-” poetics charm-offensive 5 or of a decently humane self stepping out into ubiquitous-timeless catholic postality scripted through divine presence.6 All told, she makes a level-headed job of recommending these engaging poems for study.

Both Paulinian performances ingeniously—fiendishly, even—rewrite the letters they rise to and answer, trading empathetic banter and bristly critique in a bargain of bonhomie sealed by shared reference points but all the while seamlessly folding intimacy into a display of togetherness “in”, or “for”, Christ, converting pressure to deliver worthily and to both partners’ satisfaction into attractive rapport modelling a low-key style of proselytizing through self-declaration. Filosini profiles (p. 37 n. 137) and tracks (passim) the imbrication as clearly as may be, given her straight commentary format, but it can really make no sense to withhold the Ausonian prompts from full presentation. (For no adequate reason, Filosini’s supervisor and the STTA series director Prof. Consolino gets to append a data-rich plonking saggio on Paulinus’ choice of metres in harmony with Ausonian poetic practice and doctrine, pp. 261-84, complete with her own bibliography. “Instead” …). I’ve known ever since I got started that the head of steam cooking between these two writers makes for a humdinger of an exchange rare in any literature and unrivalled in classics.7 As all editors of either author must front up to, not only is the running-order between the run of Ausonian cues and Paulinus’ answers both a prime theme and an editorial aporia but we have to thank the cultivation of both writers for the preservation in both their oeuvres of the texts they hand us to read, in one Ausonian case marked by very different versions that result from concentrated rewriting and roll out very different product, and hence similarly divergent interaction with his correspondent.8 Seeing both sides now, on the model of the generous old Loeb, but minus the distortions, is a must.

Perhaps over-influenced by coincidence with the predicament faced by Cicero in Ad Q. fr. 3.1, where he has received and replies to a batch of three letters from his brother arriving when he was already well into a missive of his own,9 I see it as a crucial, architectonic, conceit that Paulinus replies ( Carm. 10) in a triple composition to three years’ worth of delayed epistoliterary longing, thus stringing together a catena of overlaid rhythms and moods, positions and tones, that solidifies into a personal credo ( tris deus unus is, after all—after all his circumventilation,—Ausonius’ solution to his Griphus ternarii numeri, v. 88; cf. Filosini pp. 34, 40). Whereas Paulinus’ tête-à-tête with Ausonius pivots in metrical bipolarity around ego te ( Carm. 11 v. 49; cf. Filosini p. 35). Filosini may underplay the self-promotional dimension of “conspiracy” that bids to affiliate Paulinus as paradigm, paragon, and pioneer to the imperial culture represented by Ausonius’ patrimony of paideia (and thereby to dignify the maestro’s own “mission” with a continuing future—as antecedent, training-ground, preparation).10 And she could underscore more heavily the ironies embedded in Paulinus’ play with Ovid as forerunner: the archpoet of the play’s itinerary from precocious frat boy crowing (esp. Amores 3.1.23-4 and 64) through to undead self-publicist of epistolary exile (esp. Tristia 1.7, 5.13, etc.) founds plenty of self-satirizing feint and send-up innuendo (cf. Filosini esp. pp. 92-3, on Carm. 10. vv. 3-4). But her judicious account of the dynamics of camaraderie performed by this reader-writer suite gets the main dilemma across pretty well: if the exchange ends in refusal to accept “ending” (Ausonius is only dead, just as he had at his time of writing been only across the Pyrenees, the spatial iugum that joined the twain that ever shall meet),11 then diagnosis of a decisive split, traditionally congenial to evangelologist and hagiographer, fades before rhetorical brio and epistolographical jousting their way into pre-post-modernity.12

As Filosini reads these to-and-fro texts, she checks out critique together with creed, for urbanity, for authenticity, as an episode in the formation of a post-classical but Christian worldwide amity.13 She stops short of performative idiom, but edges metaliterary texture into her book, as Paulinus loads the reader’s transferential investment in this two-way writing street of provocation to respond and desire to persuade and please.14 On the larger stage, this confrontation from afar points to the vital role of epistolography in creating a telegraphic culture that must finesse/displace (other forms of) dialogical modes of collaborative-contested presentation.15 It’s high time our standard Latin map stretched to take in this envoi hotline between Bordeaux and Catalonia. Filosini’s commentary can help get this winsome showdown on the road.


1. “Appendice A”, p. 257, lists just fifteen “significant” departures in Filosini’s text (all minor) from the CSEL edition, Wilhelm A. von Hartel (ed. and comm.) Sancti Pontii Meropii Paulini Nolani carmina (second edition revised by Margit Kampfner), Bonn: CSEL, Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999. I noticed no more than a score of trivial typos in the whole volume, none involving more than a letter or two out.

2. Dennis E. Trout, Paulinus of Nola. Life, Letters, and Poems, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1999: 68.

3. Esp. David Amherdt (ed. and French trans.), Ausone et Pauline de Nole: correspondance, Bern and Oxford: Sapheneia 9, P. Lang, 2004; Paul Dräger. (ed. and German trans.) D. Magnus Ausonius. Mosella, Bissula, Briefwechsel mit Paulinus Nolanus, Düsseldorf: Tusculum, Artemis & Winkler, 2002. A new Spanish version appeared too late for Filosini: Cienfuegos García, Juan J. (ed. and trans.) Paulino de Nola, Poemas, Madrid: Gredos, 2005.

4. Walsh, Peter. G. (trans.) The Poems of St. Paulinus. New York: Ancient Christian Writers 40, Newman, 1975; Trout in n. 2; R. P. H. Green, The Poetry of Paulinus of Nola, A Study of his Latinity, Brussels: Collection Latomus 120, Latomus, 1971; Catherine Conybeare. Paulinus Noster. Self and Symbols in the Letters of Paulinus of Nola, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

5. S. Georgia Nugent, “Ausonius’ ‘Late-Antique’ poetics and ‘Post-modern’ literary theory”, Ramus 19 (1990) 26-50 goes unnoticed.

6. Conybeare in n. 4, pp. 132-60, ” Homo interior : the inner self”, esp. pp. 147-57 on Ausonius-Paulinus: at 144, on epistolarity and a relational notion of the self; and at 148-9, 153-5, on the interpermeability of god and man as an “attempt to incorporate Ausonius into his new view of the world”.

7. I spotted that the two dedicated essays in the collection of James W. Binns (ed.), Latin Literature of the Fourth Century, London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974 were ships passing in the night: Harold Isbell, “Decimus Magnus Ausonius: the poet and his world”, pp. 22-57, esp. 50-3, and William H. C. Frend, “The two worlds of Paulinus of Nola”, pp. 100-33, esp. 108-11. I soon found that both partners were included in Hugh G. Evelyn-White (ed., trans.), Ausonius. London and Cambridge MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1921, Volume 2: pp. 98-146.

8. Filosini gives an effective “concordance” of the various listings in modern editions (“Appendice B”, p. 259; cf. Filosini pp. 29-36. (She follows Mondin’s numeration and order [= Schenkl = Pastorino], against Green’s O.C.T. [= Amherdt], as also against the Loeb [= Peiper = Dräger]). On the order of play, see Filosini p. 33, Trout in n. 2, p. 69 n. 89; Conybeare in n. 4, pp. 148-9, 151 n. 81; and now Jennifer Ebbeler, “Mixed messages: the play of epistolary codes in two Late Antique Latin correspondences”, in Ruth Morello and Andrew D. Morrison (eds.) Ancient Letters. Classical & Late Antique Epistolography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007: pp. 301-23, at p. 314. Ausonius was an inveterate double-recension merchant: see his Technopaegnia, Fasti, Caesares, Epicedion, and (nb.) several epitaphs.

9. See my essay “‘. . .when who should walk into the room but. . .’. Epistoliterarity in Cicero, Ad Q. fr.. 3.1″, in Morello and Morrison in n. 8, pp. 37-85, esp. 39-41 on the deferrential collage textuality of epistolary culture.

10. Cf. Conybeare in n. 4, pp. 151-3: caelum, patrius, pater, pietas re-construed; Ebbeler in n. 8, pp. 303-15, ” Pietas et paternitas : Ausonius and Paulinus”; Filosini e.g. pp. 120, 147-8, on Carm. 10 vv. 85-88, 193-6, and p. 236 in general index.

11. Ebbeler in n. 8, p. 309, Conybeare in n. 4, p. 156.

12. For Conybeare in n. 4, pp. 155, 157, their ways part in “ultimate rejection of Ausonius”. Deconstructing his own phasing, Trout in n. 2 p. 83: ” Carmen 10 is more an invitation for a rejoinder than a notice of foreclosure”, p. 88, on Carmen 11: “However far apart … poetry and Virgilian imagery still provided a vital bridge between their worlds”.

1.Playing down “the break”: Sigrid Mratschek-Halfmann, Der Briefwechsel des Paulinus von Nola: Kommunikation und soziale Kontakte zwischen christlichen Intellektuellen, Göttingen: Hypomnemata 134, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002: esp. pp. 547-91. Gung-ho: Ebbeler in n. 8, p. 304, “no serious break in the relationship”, p. 313: “Ausonius’s complaints are typical of most epistolary relationships’ ( ipse ueni); Carmen 11 seals a telephonic “eternal bond …; not an eternal farewell…; far from a rejection of Ausonius and his pagan ways, this valediction re-inscribes Ausonius’s position as, like the Christian God, a dominus for Paulinus”.

13. The standard reference here remains: Pierre Fabre, Saint Paulin de Nole et l’amitié chrétienne, Paris: BÉFAR 167, E. de Boccard, 1949, but cf. David Konstan, Friendship in the Classical World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 149-73, “Christian and pagan”: esp. pp. 157-8, “Friendship vs. brotherly love”, and the vast study by Mratschek-Halfmann in n. 12. I have not yet seen the recent essays by Stefan Rebenich, “Freund und Feind bei Augustin und in der christlichen Spaetantike” and Petra Schierl, “Paulinus von Nola: Poetische Reflexionen ueber das Wesen Christi”, in Therese Fuhrer (ed.), Die christlich-philosophischen Diskurse der Spätantike: Texte, Personen, Institutionen: Akten der Tagung vom 22.-25. Februar 2006 am Zentrum für Antike und Moderne der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Stuttgart: Philosophie der Antike 28, Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008 (reviewed by Ilaria L.E. Ramelli at BMCR 2009.09.18).

14. See esp. Gillian R. Knight, “Friendship and erotics in the late antique verse-epistle: Ausonius to Paulinus revisited”, Rheinisches Museum 148 (2005) 361-403. Filosini (esp. pp. 207-09, on Carm. 11. vv. 30-48) comes out against radical re-invention of Christian friendship through intertextuality in the terms suggested by Meike Keul-Deutscher, “Die Rettung einer gefährdeten Freundschaft. Zu Lukrez-Reminiszenzen im Carmen 11 des Paulinus von Nola”, Hermes 126 (1998) 341-69 and by Michael Roberts, “Paulinus Poem 11: Virgil’s First Eclogue, and the limits of amicitia“, Transactions of the American Philological Association 115 (1985) 271-82.

15. See Simon Goldhill, “Why don’t Christians do dialogue?”, in id. (ed.) The End of Dialogue in Antiquity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008: pp. 1-11, introduction. “Virtual community” is the answer suggested by Gillian Clark, “Can we talk? Augustine and the possibility of dialogue”, ibid., pp. 117-48; Richard Miles, “‘Let’s (not) talk about it’. Augustine and the control of epistolary dialogue”, ibid., pp. 135-48 brings the Ausonius-Paulinus exchange into this debate.