Status training rewards

These functions were important to the community and to its ruler (or whoever was the poet's patron), especially as he and/or his ancestors were principal beneficiaries of the finely formed public praises that the poet could bestow or withhold. And such services could not be performed by any Tom, Dick, or Harry. They called for special knowledge, skill, and training. Consequently a master poet enjoyed a high status, and in some cases felt able to address his prince or patron almost as an equal. Pindar is notable for the lack of deference with which he dispenses advice to his aristocratic paymasters. In

9 Durante (1960), 231 f. ~ (1976), 167; Schmitt (1967), 303.

10 F. Specht, ZVS 64 (1937), 3; P. Thieme, ZDMG 107 (1957), 85; Schmitt (1967), 301 f.; Pind. fr. 70b. 23, cf. Nem. 4. 74; Bacchyl. 13. 231; Solon 1. 1.

Ireland the highest grade offili, the ollam, had a standing in law equivalent to that of a king or bishop. Patron and poet had a symbiotic relationship that could be seen as almost conjugal in nature: the Indian purohita-, the poet-sacrificer, was attached to his king in a ceremony that echoed the marriage liturgy, and the poet in Ireland and Wales could be represented figuratively as the spouse or lover of his patron.11

The position of the poet in ancient India and medieval Ireland has provided scholars with much further material for comparison.12 In both countries poetry was a hereditary profession that ran in certain families, the art passing from father to son, as in the six families of Rishis responsible for books 2-7 of the Rigveda. The poet had to acquire all the technical aspects of the art and master an extensive body of traditional subject matter. This meant a long period of rigorous training. Caesar says that the Druidic syllabus might occupy up to twenty years. The fili, according to early Irish texts, trained for seven years, attaining successive grades. He had to learn by heart a very large number of narratives and genealogies in addition to other lore.13 For the education of the Brahman the Laws of Manu specify thirty-six years.

The finished poet in some cases had a stable relationship with a particular noble prince or family; in other cases he travelled about with his dependants, attaching himself to one court after another. For the services he rendered in glorifying his patron he could expect handsome recompense. Both Indian and Celtic poets were rewarded with gifts of horses and cattle, whereupon the donor received further praise for his liberality.14 According to one Irish source the rewards for different fili grades ranged from one calf to ten cows, which was the equivalent of five horses, a chariot, or a slave-woman. Vedic poets (e.g. RV 1. 126; 6. 27. 8; 7. 18. 22 f.; 8. 2. 42, 19. 36 f., 46. 22-4) gratefully record their patrons' gifts of quantities of horses, chariots, cattle, and women. Very similar acknowledgements appear in some of the early Welsh heroic poems; one would think they were documents of the same culture.15 If the patron was mean, the poet could publicize that too. Zarathushtra (Y. 44. 18 f.)

11 P. Mac Cana, 'The poet as spouse of his patron', Eriu 39 (1988), 79-85. The title purohita-means 'praepositus', and indicates his high position at court: Campanile (1977), 31 n. 51.

12 See Campanile-Orlandi-Sani (1974); Dillon (1975), 52-69; Campanile (1977), 27-33; (1990b), 49-53; Watkins (1995), 71-8; Sergent (1995), 388.

13 See Thurneysen (1921), 66-70; D. 0 hAodha in Tristram (1991), 207 f.

14 Campanile (1977), 37-47; (1990b), 77-9, 82; Meid (1990), 15-17; Watkins (1994), 388, 538, 676; (1995), 73 f., 78-80, 115, 186 f.

15 Marwnad Cunedda 31-5 (Book of Taliesin 69 f.), Trawsganu Kynan Garwyn 1-24 (Book of Taliesin 45), trs. in Koch-Carey (2000), 291, 301. For praises of the patron's liberality see ibid. 343, 345, 350. A seventeenth-century Gaelic lament for four Macdonalds still praises their generous gifts to poets of clothes, horses, and gold cups: K. H. Jackson, A Celtic Miscellany (Harmondsworth 1971), 238.

complains of not having received the reward he has been promised, ten mares with stallion and a camel, and there is a famous Irish quatrain from the ninth century that goes 'I have heard he does not give horses for poems: he gives what is innate to him—a cow!'16

In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, when the infant god demonstrates his newly invented lyre with a song honouring all the gods, Apollo exclaims, 'this is worth fifty cows!' (437). The reference is to his own fifty cows that Hermes had stolen, which he is now content to let him keep in exchange for the lyre. But the transaction seems like a reminiscence of the kind of society reflected in the early Indic and Celtic sources, where a poet might indeed be rewarded for an outstanding song with a herd of cattle. The epic singers portrayed in the Odyssey, Phemius and Demodocus, are not shown as receiving boons on this scale, but each is attached to a nobleman's house and is provided with a living, besides getting occasional bonuses from those pleased with his performances. The best professional poets in archaic Greece could earn rich rewards. The famous citharode Arion is represented by Herodotus (1. 24. 1) as making himself wealthy by his recitals in Sicily and Italy. Poets such as Simonides and Pindar composed laudatory poems for rich patrons in many parts of Greece for agreed fees, in money rather than livestock.17 It pays to increase your word power.

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