The Common Spring

The Common Spring: Essays on Latin and English Poetry

Niall Rudd
Series: Phoenix Essays
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 206
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Common Spring
    Book Description:

    This collection aims to bring out the continuity between major poets in Latin and English, presenting to a wider audience papers previously published only in academic periodicals along with a number of unpublished pieces. It contains essays on Virgil, Horace, Ovid and Juvenal, which are intended for the reader with a genuine but not necessarily specialised interest in Latin poetry. Corresponding papers on English poets, including Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Swift and Tennyson, emphasise the debt owed to their Roman predecessors. Two more general pieces, on the poetry of romantic love and on classical humanism, further underline the continuity between past and present.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-504-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Niall Rudd
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Virgil’s Contribution to Pastoral
    (pp. 1-24)

    As pastoral poetry is about shepherds (pastores), we expect it to present an age-old peaceful existence, quite different from that of warriors, hunters – or even farmers. In Theocritus’ bucolic idylls this expectation is largely fulfilled. The occasional references to hunting (e.g. 5.106-7 and 8.58) are entirely incidental; inIdyll10, which is about harvesters, one character has ceased to be an effective workman since he has fallen in love;Idyll21, about fishing, is not by Theocritus. It seems that strenuous work is only accepted when it has been stylised and frozen into a work of art. Thus, inIdyll...

  6. 2 Necessity and Invention in the Aeneid
    (pp. 25-44)

    The sort of necessity I have in mind is that imposed by history or legend. Imagine a historian writing about eleventh-century England. On reaching the battle of Hastings he may contend, in the traditional way, that King Harold was killed by an arrow entering his eye. Or he may reject that piece of tradition as a misconception arising from a misreading of the Bayeux Tapestry. What he cannot do is to maintain that William never reached England; or that, having done so, he and the Normans were defeated.

    According to Servius,¹ Augustus proposed to Virgil that he should write an...

  7. 3 Horace’s Odes: a Defence of Criticism
    (pp. 45-60)

    The traditional but now rather unfashionable thesis of this paper is that, in interpreting a Horatian ode, there is a scale of probability above which is truth and below which is either falsehood or ignorance; and that such a scale should form the basis of our emotional and aesthetic response. I am talking of truth in specific cases, not about ‘Truth’ with a capital T, which may safely be left to metaphysicians. The activity in question involves judgment, (the Greekkrinein– root of our ‘criticism’). If an academic rejects every assertion about a poem or if he accepts every assertion...

  8. 4 Achilles or Agamemnon? Horace, Epistle 1.2.13
    (pp. 61-62)

    Antenor proposes to end the war by having Helen sent home (Iliad7.350-51). Paris (Alexander) refuses to agree, though he offers to hand over treasure that he had brought from Greece (357-64). Earlier Nestor had tried to mediate in the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon (Iliad1.275-84). The identity ofhuncin line 13 of this epistle cannot be decided on linguistic grounds, forhicmay refer to either the former or the latter of the two people just mentioned.¹ So we turn to the context of Nestor’s intervention; and we do so with the assumption that Horace has got...

  9. 5 Theme and Imagery in Propertius 2.15
    (pp. 63-68)

    A glance at P.J. Enk’s commentary (Leiden, 1962) vol. 2, 212-14 will show how much dispute there has been about this poem's coher-ence. In the past several scholars have proposed transpositions but no scheme has won acceptance; and no modern expert advocates that procedure.¹ Another way of understanding the poem's design might be through its modes of expression – exclamation, narrative, threat, etc.² However, this also proves unsatisfactory; for, although a number of clear divisions can be made, the sections are too short and fragmented to be regarded as structural units. (We will find, however, that at three important points a...

  10. 6 Echo and Narcissus: a Study in Duality
    (pp. 69-74)

    In Ovid,Metamorphoses3.339-510 the poet brings together the stories of Echo and Narcissus. Echo, in love with Narcissus and rejected by him, pines away to become a disembodied voice (339-401). Subsequently Narcissus, following a prayer from a similarly rejected lover, falls in love with his own reflection and pines away himself – to be visited at the moment of his death by Echo (402-510).

    One could start from the probability, noted by several commentators, that Ovid was the first to bring Echo (auditory reflection) into relation with Narcissus (visual reflection). This brilliant innovation had also a psychological dimension; for, since...

  11. 7 The Tropicality of Juvenal
    (pp. 75-94)

    Juvenal may be regarded as topical in two respects. First, he provides an interesting illustration of the current dispute between traditional empirics, who are sometimes accused of assuming that every question ought to have one right answer, and post-modern relativists, who often seem to imply that there is no right answer to anything. Secondly, at the end of the paper I shall note how some of Juvenal’s complaints about ancient Rome are highly relevant to our own experience.

    I suggest, then, that we begin by standing, as it were, beside Juvenal, entering into his feelings of indignation and disgust. After...

  12. 8 The Classical Presence in Titus Andronicus
    (pp. 95-112)

    This paper has to do with the play’sRomanitas.By that I mean, not its tenuous relation to historical fact, but rather the characters’ awareness of Rome’s cultural traditions.¹ The plural is needed, because there were two such traditions. When, as Horace said, ‘Captive Greece made her rough conqueror captive’ (Epistles2.1.156), she brought to Latium her poetry and mythology (along with much else). The point is so familiar that one tends to forget its exceptional nature. In the annals of imperialism how many victors have learned the language of the vanquished and set about acquiring their culture? From Homer...

  13. 9 The Taming of the Shrew: Some Classical Points of Reference
    (pp. 113-120)

    The story of Venus and Adonis is recounted by Ovid inMetamorphoses10.525-59 and 708-39; but there is there no running brook and no attempt at concealment on Venus’ part. As J.A.K. Thomson and others have seen, the playwright has in mind the story of Salmacis and Hermaphrodites as told inMetamorphoses4. There the young Hermaphrodites comes to a pool in Caria:non illic canna palustris / nec steriles ulvae nec acuta cuspide iunci(298-9); Golding translates: ‘No fenniesedge, no barren recke, no reede / Nor rush with pricking poynt was there, nor other moorish weede’ (362-3). The...

  14. 10 Milton, Sonnet 17 (Carey no. 87): an Avoidable Controversy
    (pp. 121-128)

    For two hundred years or so after its publication, there is no evience, so far as I know, that the sonnet caused any perplexity.¹ The controversy about the last two lines (which affects, of course, the interpretation of the whole poem) seems to have begun in 1859, when Thomas Keightly wrote ‘spare, sc. time’.² In 1882 he was contra-dicted by David Masson, who said ‘surely the opposite – “refrain from interposing them oft”.’³ Subsequently, at least a dozen editors and critics followed Masson’s lead; but, according to F. Neiman, writing in 1949, they did so ‘uncritically’.⁴ After that the debate expanded...

  15. 11 Dryden on Horace and Juvenal
    (pp. 129-142)

    Dryden’s comparison of Horace and Juvenal comes in his famousDiscourse Concerning The Original And Progress Of Satirebeginning on p.78.¹ There Dryden concedes that Horace was ‘the better poet’ but he bases his superiority on theEpodesandOdes,which he rightly excludes from his discussion of satire. His reasons for doing so, however, are not satisfactory. ‘Horace,’ he says, ‘has written many of them satirically, against his private enemies ... but he had purged himself of this choler before he entered on those discourses which are more properly called the Roman Satire. He has not now to do...

  16. 12 Problems of Patronage: Horace, Epistles 1.7.46-98 and Swift’s Imitation
    (pp. 143-160)

    Two thousand years after his death the name ‘Maecenas’ is still synonymous with a generous patron.¹ A great deal is known about him, but only a few relevant points can be noted here. In addition to his command of Greek he had a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, being cited by the Elder Pliny as an authority on aquatic creatures and on precious stones. He wrote aSymposium— an event at which Virgil and Horace were guests — and a mysterious piece entitledPrometheus. A fragment of jewelled verse addressed to Horace in affectionate terms further testifies to his interest in precious stones;...

  17. 13 Variation and lnversion in Pope’s Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot
    (pp. 161-172)

    In theory, Pope’s duty as a Christian satirist was clear enough. If attacked, he should not seek personal revenge (that would be returning evil for evil); at the same time he had an obligation to speak out against vice. This position was, however, not easy to maintain; what if the attacker was, in Dryden’s sense, a public nuisance? Even if he was not, could Pope always be trusted to tell the difference? Again, in dealing with vicious men, the satirist ought, as Dr Arbuthnot had urged in a letter, to ’study more to reform than chastise’, though he did admit...

  18. 14 The Optimistic Lines in Johnson’s The Vanity of Human Wishes
    (pp. 173-176)

    We learn from the commentaries that, according to Mrs Piozzi, Johnson had his mother in mind in this passage. What seems to be less widely noticed is the fact that, when Johnson deserted the mordant Juvenal here (as he had to do), he found a very different but no less appropriate source, namely CiceroOn Old Age.

    With the first two lines compare:libidinosa enim et intemperans adulescentia effetum corpus tradit senectuti(‘A self-indulgent and intemperate prime delivers a worn-out body to old age’;de Senectute29).

    With lines 293-4 compare:non intellegitur quando obrepat senectus, ita sensim sine sensu...

  19. 15 Two Invitations: Tennyson To the Rev. F.D. Maurice and Horace to Maecenas (Odes, 3.29)
    (pp. 177-190)

    Tyrrhenian descendant of kings, I have long had ready for you here a mellow wine in a cask as yet untilted — rose-blooms too, Maecenas, and pomade pressed for your hair. Shake yourself free from delay, and don't just keep looking at well-watered Tibur and the sloping fields of Aefula and the ridge of Telegonus the parricide. Get away from cloying affluence and that pile which almost touches the clouds above; stop being fascinated by the smoke and wealth and noise of prosperous Rome. Often a change is welcome to rich people; and simple meals at the small homes of poor...

  20. 16 Romantic Love in Classical Times?
    (pp. 191-212)

    I start with four quotations: (1) ‘That all European poetry has come out of the Provenfal poetry written in the twelfth century by the troubadours of Languedoc is now accepted on every side.’ (The writer is talking of love poetry.); (2) ‘The passion and sorrow of love were an emotional discovery of the French troubadours and their successors.’; (3) ‘French poets in the eleventh century discovered or invented, or were the first to express, that romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the nineteenth.’ ; (4) ‘The conception of romantic love which has dominated the...

  21. 17 Classical Humanism and its Critics
    (pp. 213-232)

    By ‘Classical Humanism’ I understand the rational study of the Greeks and Romans as fellow human beings. So the concept is defined by a subject, a method and an assumption. As for the criticism, that began quite early. In the fifteenth century, for example, a row broke out when the Greek Bessarion, whom Valla calledLatinorum Graecissimus, Graecorum Latinissimus(‘of Latins the most Greek; of Greeks the most Latin’), had the effrontery to emend a single letter of Jerome’s Vulgate (atJohn21.22) on the basis of the Greek text.¹ He was, of course, strongly criticised, although he was clearly...

  22. NOTES
    (pp. 233-269)