The Immortality of Verse

Discover The Secret Of Immotality

Discover The Secret Of Immortality

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Ovid's claim to immortality reflects a common theme in poetry, but in his case it has proved true.

Quid mihi, Livor edax, ignavos obicis annos, ingeniique vocas carmen inertis opus; non me more patrum, dum strenua sustinet aetas, praemia militiae pulverulenta sequi, nec me verbosas leges ediscere nec me 5

ingrato vocem prostituisse foro? mortale est, quod quaeris, opus, mihi fama perennis quaeritur, in toto semper ut orbe canar.

text Ovid Heroides, Amores, trans. G. Showerman, revised G. P. Gould

(Loeb Classical Library, 1977) meter elegiac couplet [§m2]

quid mihi | Livor e|dax || Ig|navos | obicis | annos ingenl|ique vo|cas || carmen i|nert!s o|pus

1 Quid why; mihi... ignavos ... annos dat. and acc. after obicis (obicid -ere lit., throw [something] (acc.) at [someone] (dat.)) reproach me with idle (ignavus) years; Livor edax voc. biting (edax (edacis)) Envy (livor livoris m.).

2 vocas (do you call) is followed by an accusative, carmen (here poetry), and a predicative accusative, opus, which is qualified by a genitive of description [§G2o], ingenil... inertis (the work of a lazy mind).

3ff. Three acc.+inf. constructions [§gio] follow: non me ... sequi that I do not pursue; nec me ... ediscere and that I do not memorize (edisco -ere); and nec me ... prostituisse and that I have not put to unworthy use (prostituo -ere)—Latin does not need a specific word to introduce indirect speech when the context makes clear who is speaking (here Livor), but in English we must insert saying, claiming, or something similar; more patrum according to the custom (abl. of manner [§G45]) of [our] fathers—it was normal for young men to enter the army or to take up law; strenua ... aetas vigorous age, i.e., youth; sustinet [me] supports (sustineo -ere) [me]; praemia militiae pulverulenta the dusty rewards of military service (militia -ae f.)—Ovid is thinking of marches over unimproved roads; verbosas leges wordy laws; ingrato ... foro abl. of place where [§G38]—the forum, which was the center of legal life, is called ingratus (thankless) because it gave no adequate reward for a persons ability. 7f. mortalis mortal—because the memory of a persons military or legal career does not survive him; mihi dat. of agent [§g 29] by me; perennis everlasting; the purpose clause is introduced by a postponed ut [§g 4]; orbis orbis m. world; canar (1 sg. pres. subj. pass, cand -ere) I may be sung—Ovid will be sung in the sense that his poetry will be read. 9f. Ovid lists some of the great poets of the Greek and Roman past, beginning with Homer (Maeonides -ae m. lit,, the Lydian), who was universally acknowl-

vivet Maeonides, Tenedos dum stabit et Ide, dum rapidas Simois in mare volvet aquas. 10

Ennius arte carens animosique Accius oris 19

casurum nullo tempore nomen habent.

carmina sublimis tunc sunt peritura Lucreti, 23

exitio terras cum dabit una dies;

Tityrus et segetes Aeneiaque arma legentur, 25

Roma triumphati dum caput orbis erit;

donee erunt ignes arcusque Cupidinis arma, discentur numeri, culte Tibulle, tui.

ergo, cum silices, cum dens patientis aratri 31

depereant aevo, carmina morte carent.

edged pre-eminent (cf. Lucretius De rerum natura 3.1037, page 24); Tenedos (-1 f.) and Ide (-es f.) are nom. sg. Greek names and are the subject of stabit (the sg. verb agreeing with the nearer subject [§g 58])—the former, an island off the coast of Asia Minor, and the latter, a mountain near Troy (in English, Ida), are both involved in the Trojan story, part of which is the subject of Homer's Iliad; rapidus swift; Simois (Simoentis m.) a river near Troy mentioned by Homer.

i9f. On Ennius, see page 3; arte abl. after carens lacking in art—Ennius' poetry was regarded as rough by the more refined Augustan poets; Accius (170-c. 80 b.c.) wrote tragedies; animosi... oris gen. of description [§G2o] of spirited mouth; take casurum (fut. pple. of cado -ere fall) with nomen, i.e., a name that will die; nullo tempore abl. of time when [§g37] at no time—it is ironic that, except for meager fragments, the works of neither have survived.

23f, sublimis ... Lucreti of majestic Lucretius (see page 22); sunt peritura (fut. pple. of pereo -Ire) = peribunt will perish; cum is postponed [§g4]; exitio dat. after dabit will give to destruction (exitium -(1)1 n.), i.e., will see the destruction of; terras here the earth—Ovid is stating a theory of Lucretius'.

25 Instead of naming Vergil (see page 51), Ovid alludes to his three works by metonymy [§g 97]: Tityrus -i m. a character in the Eclogues; segetes crops (seges segetis f.)—the subject of the Georgics is farming; Aeneia arma (the arms of Aeneas (Aeneius adj. of Aeneas)) refers to the Aeneid; lego -ere here read.

26 Roma -ae f. Rome; take triumphati with orbis, of the conquered (triumpho -are) world; dum (while, as long as) is postponed [§G4].

27 ignes arcusque (fires and a how; arcus -us m.) (cf. Pervigilium Veneris, 1. 33, page 215) is the subject of erunt, and Cupidinis arma (the weapons of Cupid; Cupido Cupidinis m.) is the predicate.

28 discentur 3 pi. fut. ind. pass, disco -ere learn; numeri verses (numerus -I m.); cultus elegant (on Tibullus, see page 117).

31 ergo therefore, so; cum + subj., here although; silex silicis m.flint, a proverbially hard stone; dens patientis aratri the tooth (dens dentis m.) of the long-lasting (patiens (patientis)) plow (aratrum -1 n.).

32 depereo -Ire perish; aevo instrumental abl. [§047] through age (aevum -I n.); morte abl. after carent.

cedant carminibus reges regumque triumphi, cedat et auriferi ripa benigna Tagi! vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo 3 5

pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua, sustineamque coma metuentem frigora myrtum, atque a sollicito multus amante legar!

33 cédant (jussive subj. [§g6ç>]) governs the dative carminibus, let... yield to poetry (lit., songs); triumphus -i m. triumph.

34 et is postponed [§g 3]; aurifer adj. gold-bearing; Tagus -ï m. a river in Spain famous for its alluvial gold; ripa benigna generous bank (rîpa -ae f.).

35 vilia worthless [things] (vïlis adj.); mïrëtur jussive subj. [§g6g]; vulgus -i n. the common herd, used here in a derogatory sense; flàvus fair-haired; Apolló Apollinis M. god of poetry.

36 Scansion indicates pócula Castalia plëna, but because the final syllable of a pentameter can be long or short, we must use syntax to determine whether we have aqua or aqua—since Apolló can only be nominative and is therefore the subject of ministret (if vocative, Apolló could not be qualified by the nominative flavus), aqua cannot be nominative (vocative O water hardly seems appropriate to the sense), and we are left with aqua, with which we can take Castalia; trans, cups (pôculum -ï n.)full of (plënus + abl.) Castalian water (Castalius adj. of Castalia -ae f. a fountain on Mt. Parnassus at Delphi, whose waters were supposed to give poetic inspiration—cf. 11. if. of Persius' prologue, page 166); ministret optative subj. [§067] with Apolló as subject, may Apollo serve (ministró -are).

37 sustineam optative subj. [§067] may I support (sustineô -ère); coma instrumental abl. [§g47] with [my] hair (coma -ae f.); metuentem frigora myrtum lit., myrtle (myrtus -I f.) fearing the cold (frïgora pi. for sg. [§g53]; frigus firigoris n.)—Ovid wrote on erotic themes and so was a suitable recipient of a myrtle chaplet (myrfle was sacred to Venus—cf.Pervigilium Veneris, 1,6,page 214); myrtle fears the cold because it does not grow in colder climates.

38 à sollicito ... amante by an anxious lover (amans amantis m./f.); multus much, trans, by an adverb [§g 55], often; legar optative subj. [§g 67] may I be read— the reference is to Ovid's manual for lovers, the Ars amatoria.

39 pascitur 3 sg. pres. ind. pass, pascó -ere feed (tr.)—the passive is used intransitively in the sense feed oneself [§059]; in vivis on the living; fata pi. for sg. [§G 53] here death; quiescó -ere grows quiet.

40 suus ... quemque tuëtur honós (= honor) lit., his renown protects (tueor tuërï) each [person], trans, each is protected by his renown [§g 56]; ex mérito according to [his] worth.

41 ergó therefore, so; suprëmus ... ignis the last fire—the Romans practiced cremation (see "Roman Beliefs About an Afterlife," page 78); adëderit 3 sg. fut. perf. act. adedó -ere, lit., will have consumed, but trans, has consumed [§g66].

42 vïvam fut. I will live on; pars ... multa a large part; mei gen. of ego; superstes (superstitis) surviving.

pascitur in vivís Livor; post fata quiescit, cum suus ex mérito quemque tuetur honos. 40

ergo etiam cum me supremus adederit ignis, vivam, parsque mei multa superstes erit.

<-: Ovid Amores 1.15 (with omissions)

Pick Three Lines ... Any Three Lines

The elder Seneca (horn c. 50 b.c.) has been overshadowed by his more famous son of the same name (see page 168), but his surviving writings, which are concerned with instruction in rhetoric, contain a great deal of information about the Rome of his day. In his Contrô-versiae (Opposing Arguments), he tells a curious story about Ovid.

The poet was once asked by his friends to remove three lines [from his poems]. In turn, he requested that he himself should exclude three that were not to be touched. The stipulation seemed fair. In private, the friends wrote down the lines they wanted removed, he those he wanted left in.

Each of the two tablets had the same lines. One of the witnesses, •Àlbinovanus Pedo, used to say that the first [lineJ was semibovemque virum semivirumque bovem and the second et gelidum Borean egelidumque Notum Contrôversiae 2.2.12

The first line, from Ovid's Ars amâtôria (2.24), is a description of the Minotaur; who was both half-bull man and half-man bull; the second lint, and the chilling north wind and the de-chilling south wind, is from Ovid's Amôres (2.11.10). The third either was not known to Seneca or was accidentally omitted from manuscripts of the Contrôversiae.

The two lines appear to have offended Ovid s friends because of their play on words. By way of excusing the poet, Seneca adds that Ovid, although a person of the highest talent, had the judgment—but not the will—to check the lack of restraint sometimes evident in his ■ work. ■ ■

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