BMCR 2020.03.03

They Keep It All Hid: Augustan poetry, its antecedents and reception

, , , They keep it all hid : Augustan poetry, its antecedents and reception. Trends in classics. Supplementary volumes, vol. 56. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018. viii, 192 pages. ISBN 9783110544176

Look Out Kid. “✓”, aka Trends in Classics, is turning out to be quite some resource for us all, with two guest-edited thematic gatherings of a dozen-page contributions p. a. The title of No. 56 artfully references (“mutters”) Dylan, the subtitle indicating this is by way of a Richard Thomas Festschrift. True, the blurb doesn’t flag it up; but between them the title page, an antipodean nautical RaFT for frontispiece, and Ross’s prologue keep nothing hid. Before you wonder, there’s no sign of a particular milestone, and ex-student Sens’ tribute to a “cherished teacher” etc (p.114) is about his chosen theme of epitaphic epigrams, not a portent. Far from it, Richard’s keepin’ on keepin’ on. (And not least he’s still on the road, homing on the astounding Dylan Tulsa Archive: see the post-Nobel Dylan Review vol. 1.2019). Ain’t no more Dylan cane until the final third of Palaima’s closing essay, mind (pp.160-8. Pelliccia’s “(they) have no relevance to a Roman ancilla to begin with” might count as a reference. Without a home).

Rather, the tour (with three “declared” protégés: Knox, Kronenberg, Sens, an acolyte: McNelis, plus co-workers past and present, and sundry professional colleagues) does the honours by way of turning work-in-progress, up-dates, bees stuck in bonnets, and shorter notes, into window references giving onto a composite portrait of the brand Thomas’ scholarly range (Hellenistic poetry, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, reception, Dylan) and patented critical techniques (“hid” allusion and intricate intertextuality, or hybridizing genealogy, subtending “larger meaning”, pp.26, 131, and passim; philological detail, acrostich, etymological play unpacked, pp.1, 21-6, 51, 147; window reference, pp.5, 24, 126, 151; literary memory, p.18; centrepiece, p.98; closural crisis, pp.101-15, etc.).

Herein, obviously a dozen believers. Contributions are listed at the end of the review.

1. McNelis (the acolyte) shows Ennius sorting the Iliad’s rival Dardanid fractions so as to originate the shift of power to Rome; the Aeneid harmonizes Aeneas with Hector to heal the rift, but makes the signs read in the Annales opaque to its Aeneadae: “…even Homeric authority becomes subject to misinterpretation and reconsideration” (p.15).

2. Kronenberg (the protégée) does sparkling homage, in a Thomas pastiche that contrives to be pure Kronenberg, and so doing vindicates the volume twice over. Chasing down textual alders and differently-hued poplars translingually and transgenerically, she traces out from the Phaethontiades of Ecl. 6.63 vs. Aen. 10.190 etc., back through Catull.17.17-20, whose acrostichal alder finally collapses prone | IN the horizontal ditch (and nb 17.21 comes out and tells us so: tantundem omnia sentiens quam si nulla sit usquam = “it’s got the lot in−but it’s there but not there”, like all acrostichs), to a welter of metapoetic intersections between Homer and Hellenistic poetry and scholia. If we care for transpadane triangulation of Greek and Latin with Gallic then add “aliza”, glossed as “white poplar” to the list.

3. Knox (third former student) next posts the elegiac graffiti multiply scrawled on Pompeian walls and/or inscribed in rooms and argues through echoes of Propertius 1.1.5 and (the interpolation) Amores 3.11.35-6 that we have here fans’ homage to extracurricular texts from (who else but) Gallus, presumably from his first album. Prop. 1.6.12 (building on Gallus’ 1.5) joins in the nexus with−no graffito this−a codex painted into the famous writing-kit mural from House of Fabius Secundus (V.4.13) to clinch the link from song-and-dance-man to those who sailed with him. When dealing with (1) Candida me docuit… or with (2) Quisquis amat… efforts, though, the medium surely controls the messaging:

(1) “taught me”−use your imagination, write your own fair couplet/coupling, and…say no more. The formula writes itself, and carries on or else doesn’t: the poet must complete the verse, but/so we needn’t/better not draw conclusions on the wall;

(2) “Is there anyone out there−anyone can’t read, got no heart, off sex? Go on−”. Now we’re all attracted/suckered in, we’ve joined the game, we run straight on−to what? To a pun−a blessing, and/or curse: ualeat, <=> pereat qui nescit amare (all power to you/get lost, “Hi!−Bye!”); or a welcome: ueniat, enlisted for sexist abuse; or to some other flourish/some gibberish; or, naturally, the never-too-soon/always premature freeze-out.

What’s probably got you baffled: when they cite/recycle, graffiti can textualize space, but they’re always about exciting/inciting/dumping/deflating, by anti/logic all their own.

4. Casali’s note for his bound to be mashed commentary rightly stresses the iam in the famous crux (p.49). His gazetteer review of interpretations cares not to come up any higher, rather threatens a let-down for fans like me−one more green-and-yellow straightman casualty in the making? (Think how Thomas’ Georgics manages a measure of nonconformism…) “We can imagine Dido’s psychological process…” indeed (p.49). As it happens Patroclus’ promise to Iliadic Briseis will soon (p.81) remind us of Austin’s doomed invocation of the “felicitous conditions” requisite for the paradigmatic speech-act of marriage, and of the vocation of narrative to elude and outplay any mere diagnosis: infelix Dido is well and truly compromised, she’s booked to be waste-d.

5. O’Hara’s note returns to the vomit: his one-way ticket to burn aggiornamentofinds a meta-generic signpost where his True Names didn’t look: lugentes campi enounce “Elegy Fields Forever”. Got it.

6. Hejduk stars next, in a short that covers her Ms Jean Brodie Latin verse class. Every step of the way we walk Horace lines, students, we’ll catch his Satire monkeying with the “SEST” (= “Short E -ST”, or -SP/-SC/-SQ): 1.2.30, 71, 3.44, 10.72, 2.3.43, 296; cf. 1.5.35?, 2.2.36?). Each and every time metrics expertly enact “flaws”: when something’s not right, it’s wrong.

7. Pelliccia conscripts Odes 2.5 as retroactive correction to cancel buying Odes 2.4 as “banter from Uncle Horace”: we better talk this over, and next time around feel the brutality−”they’re people: are we?”. So happens I recently denounced scholarship on 2.5 (Omnibus 75.2018:4-6, “Da ya think it’s sexy?”), and can’t buy this version either; but his eloquence on 2.4’s deployment of “ambivalent myth to force…a dilemma”, after ironized reception of Alcaeus (fr.42; pp.84-6), gets real real with sex-slavery. And, yes indeed, the quartet rosette of “love songs” intertwines 2.4 <=> 5 <<=>> 8 <=> 9, interset in the “centering” hub of the collection Odes 1-3, 2.2-11, precisely in order, in orders, to interact.

8. Boyd pursues “love” (cura) through “pain” (cura) through “cure” (cura) as Remedia confronts the elegiac-Horatian ideology of “rustication” by blurring Georgics into Eclogues, her stamping-grounds. As taking the cure brings on relapse, such is love sick−farmecology. And back when the Eclogues first finally bussed in Gallus to clinch the deal, we get it, that elegy must’ve walked this way before ever bucolic lined up−but the bleeding ideological polarity surely belongs to time out of mind.

9. Sens broadens out epigram’s De mortuis epitaphic trick from the Anthology through Erinna and Callimachus and beyond: “Don’t be rotten to the poetry or you’re being rotten to the departed, and death’s already been rotten to them, so…”. As the poems self-describe they self-enact, self-commemorate, and self-seal: “your poet will die, so treat his work as if he’s already gone”. The bicultural variations are legion: eventually inuidet Orco in Odes 4.2.24 (p.114) will by calque on “on-looking/non-seeing” do a “Hades” on “Hades”. Any judge, he holds a grudge, could well wonder why we’re on-side so automatically with tenuous textuality−when epigrams are, congenitally, all closure and−no trousers.

10. Breed does his thing. Here, on second poems through Eclogue 2’s genre-founding modelling of bucolic through reclamation of Idyll “2”, with Virgil seizing on a provocative maverick sequencing that sets urban grit to grow the rustic pearl of Theocr. 3-13, then melding it with Id. 11 and 3. In turn Tib. 1.2 mash-ups away with Id. 2 fed in via Ecl. 8. The patterning exercise demonstrates how “‘conventional'(‘s) just another word for intertextual complexity” (p.125. Kristofferson’s me, and Bobby). Epode 2, of course, and Propertius 1.2 force entry upon the scene (p.124), but Tib. just ain’t Tib. without Satires 1, 1.2 inclusive. My own lazy take on these seconds is that they don’t suffer the schizoid stress on firsts to be programme and instantiation both (= “p(r)oems”), as esp. in Id. 1’s Bowl ekphrasis + Bucolic song-ing. Where 1sts are captatious (meta-) and enigmatic (para-), 2nds go uncompromising for the blunt “Take it from us, this is the shop window”).

11. Martindale updates a re-worked essay he’s been chewing on since, oh, the mid-1970s (p.131), with always fresh vindication and re-articulation of transhistoricality in reception. So when he says right out loud for all us ok boomers: “The room in which I write this essay contains comparatively few artefacts made in the last two decades” (ibid.), we can rule right out of, and then into, the picture much of the ambience that has come-to-shape this latest version. Historicize the essay, and things, and times, have changed. Marvell’s disputed intertextuality with Horace, but also Lucan and a-l-l of ’em, provokes all manner of caricature synkrisis both ends (e.g. p.138 on Odes 2.1, p.145 on 1.37) in building towards marvellous promotion of principled “anachronic” hermeneutics (p.146. Me, I’d guess I’m younger than that now).

12. Palaima brings up the rear. Pursues “the old lie” of Odes 3.2.13, applying the art of intertextuality, fuzzy or sharp, through the ins and outs of reception−without the lyric’s focalization through, then empathy with, The Enemy, mind (à la John Brown went off to war). He re-reads up close, both ways, between the similia of Il. 21-257-62 and Georg. 1.104-10 so they “irrigate” each other through sharp difference: “derivation”, he dubs it (p.156). Tyrtaeus (fr.10.1-2) and Callinus (fr.1.5-8) then afford a fuzzy grip on Horace’s dulce et decorum−without inter(re)ference from/with that Other, the dulce decus that “protects” the whole collection (Odes 1.1.2: Diddy-Daddy Maecenas). And finally, here’s how Dylan got to “write up” Masters of War channelling the Cuban missile crisis, “the greatest anti-war song ever written” (Why Dylan Matters p.319): through the 1959 reprint of Dalton Trumbo’s eve of war novel Johnny Got His Gun (1939). Which bestseller, along with hardware and sentiment, fuels Dylan’s “| You…”s and “you−you who…” (also the clinch “Ah but you who…” for The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll) that build that genius harangue. But not the telltale “You that… “s, nor the evil melody from Nottamun Town, which I know through Bert Jansch, but which has the tangled ubiquity of a modern “folk” dulce et decorum: see Why Dylan Matters pp.133-5).

Table of Contents

David O. Ross, “Prologue”. (1-2)
Charles McNelis, “Mythical and literary genealogies: Aeneas and the Trojan line in Homer, Ennius and Virgil”. (3-15)
Leah Kronenberg, “Reading Virgil and his trees: the alder and the poplar tree in Catullus and Virgil”. (17-27)
Peter E. Knox, “A known unknown in Pompeian graffiti?”. (29-40)
Sergio Casali, “Dido’s furtivus amor (Virgil, Aeneid 4.171-2). (41-9)
James O’Hara, “Genre, gender, and the etymology behond the phrase lugentes campi at Aeneid 6.441-51. (51-62)
Julia Hejduk, “Saepe stilum vertas: moral and metrical missteps in Horace’s Satires”. (63-73)
Hayden Pelliccia, “The reception of Horace Odes 2.4 in Horace Odes 2.5. (75-88)
Barbara Weiden Boyd, “Beatus ille qui procul … otiis?: Ovid’s rustication cure (Remedia amoris 169-98). (89-99)
Alexander Sens, “Envy and closure in the Greek Anthology”. (101-115)
Brian W. Breed, “Some second poems: Theocritus, Virgil, Tibullus”. (117-129)
Charles Martindale, “The Horatianism of Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode'”. (131-146)
Thomas Palaima, “Masters of war: Virgil, Horace, Owen, Pound, Trumbo, Dylan and the art of reference”. (147-168)
Works cited; Notes on contributors; Index of passages discussed; Index rerum. (169-192)