Propertius' Epic Tongue (试发表)

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Propertius and Cynthia at Tivoli, Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon,.
Propertius and Cynthia at Tivoli, Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon,.
Propertius started his quest for a new direction (or perhaps new directions) of elegiac poetry in the time of Augustus and the outcome was the fourth book of his elegies. Through Book IV, Propertius tried to expand of the genre through a series of poems, these vary so much in their subjects and narrators that one may say that Propertius was making not only one, but many attempts to expand the realm of elegy in those poems. This paper will focus on one of those attempts, which is Propertius’ absorption of the epic elements. In the first two parts, I will try to uncover the two main ways for Propertius to draw from the epic poetry to serve his purpose of expression. In the fourth part, I will illustrate that Propertius was actually incorporating epic elements within his poems in order to make his own poetic works stand out in the genre of elegy. 1. Objectivity In the first lines of Amores, Ovid parodied of the opening of the Aeneid. But Propertius didn’t take this only as a special effect, but thought thoroughly of the possibility of the combination of epic and lyric poetry. The essential difference between epic and lyric poetry is that epic poetry focuses on the objective narration, while lyric poetry, especially elegiac poetry, focuses on individual expression. While epic strives to depict the scenes and the plot vividly, elegies are all about the feelings of individuals. Only objective narratives are open to comments while individual feelings are not to be commented or criticized, but to be felt. The direct involvement of the lyric poetry is effective for the readers, but the openness to the opinions of the readers is not less effective and even serves more for the audience during the recitals. While reading the poems of Propertius’ Book IV, we often marvel at the various possibilities of giving comments to the subjects that are depicted or narrated. Indeed, the ordinary way of the expression of the lyric poets is to speak only for himself, and, as a consequence, what can we say about a person’s own feeling? No matter their feelings are impassive or passionate, appealing or cruel, delighted or desperate, our comments are not appropriate. It is due to the fact that we know the points of views are different from one to one another, we may be able to change one’s behavior, but never their feelings, moreover, it’s due to the fact that these lyric poets are capable of setting their emotions and feelings into circumstances that make them the only ones right and proper. ( The subject of epics is mainly historical or mythical stories, the narration of plot and the depiction of details. Confined by the limitation of poetry that it is written in verses, epic poets don’t add their own comments directly into the epics themselves. But in the meantime, China has a genre of this kind of narration of historical or mythical subjects that is not in verses (it is still performed nowadays). The essential of this genre (called Pingshu, which is literally translated as storytelling with comments) is the comments of the narrators. People naturally have their own comments and opinions upon events and stories which take place among other people, and it is even more naturally for them to seek acceptance and agreements of their opinions from others.) Here, the experiences are different, a nicely composed epic makes us the witnesses of those mythical and historical events that are otherwise only legends , lacking both details and images in our minds, while lyric poetry intensifies the poets’ feeling, thus, in order to understand and appreciate it, we have to substitute the narrators of the poems for our own selves, and consequently we justify whatever feeling that is expressed and the depiction of the outer world becomes, to us, even foggier and more oblique. (παλαιγενέων κλέα φωτῶν μνήσομαι “I will recount the deeds of the generations of the past”, Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, I. 1-2. Also, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται “so that things done by man not be forgotten in time, and that great and marvelous deeds, some displayed by the Hellenes, some by the barbarians, not lose their glory” Herodotus, Histories I.1. 1. Both the epic of Apollonius and the all-embracing non-metric work of Herodotus are typical Greek narratives.) Obviously, Propertius is aware of this difference between the epic and the elegiac poetry, but right from the first lines of the first poem of Book IV, Propertius obscured the difference. The first 54 lines of 4.1 are most striking to every reader who is familiar with the elegiac metre. We don’t see girls, dinners or wines any more but instead have a series of contrast of the geographical, historical (and mythical), political and social respects of the city of Rome. The voice of an individual speaker is hardly heard while pure depiction is almost everything. In poetry and all literature, objectivity can also be the source of affection to the readers and are not lack of expressive power (think of the example of Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, Illusions perdues and Le Père Goriot). Through these sets of contrasts, in a terse way, Propertius is still able to move his readers. Similar to that of Herodotus in Histories, the main topic here in the first lines of poem I is that the fortune of people and cities is swinging under the uncertainty of fate. Since everybody has the experience of the uncertainty of life, the parts of the poems that are touching can be widely felt. Please see the third part of the paper for more details. (Cf. Solon’s first speech to Croesus, Herodotus, Histories I. 32. 4-6, and the prologue to the whole work, I. 5. 4.) Even in those poems that are not impersonal and have the speakers speaking for themselves, the angle of the expression is different and leaning towards the objective depictions. We can discern this character from the elaborative details of the depictions. In the voice of Vertumnus, Propertius put forward the bucolic scene of the Roman countryside (4.2 lines 11-18). There isn’t any involvement of the livings with this scene, and the lavishness of the description of fruits and flowers was never seen before in the elegiac poetry, since that for a poem of only sixty four lines, eight lines of pure description is a luxury. In 4.6, while introduces Apollo, Propertius’ description of the appearance of the god of Delos (lines 25-36) is purely epic. (Cf. Apolloniu Rhodius, Argonautica II. 674-681.) 2. Images Propertius often wrote his lines with expressions like quodcumque uides (whatever you see), maxima Roma(the great Rome), and with the grandiose images most unlikely to appear in elegiac poetry, e.g. the old house of the brothers (gradibus domus ista Remi se sustulit, 4.1 9-10), the original political organization before the foundation of the city of Rome (curia . . . pellitos habuit, rustica corda, patres, 11-14), the traditional native rituals (cum tremeret patrio pendula turba sacro, 17-20), etc. In most of the poems of Book IV, we don’t see the typical images like ianus, carmen magicum or pes velox, set in ordinary elegiac contexts. Even in the poems which are set in traditional elegiac scenes, the images and the objects depicted are not the formal elegiac ones. Take 4.3 as an example, which is about a young wife longing for her husband who was out for military services, although the speaker expresses in this poem her own feelings about her husband’s away from home, the outer sections are her imagination of the places her husband traveled to and fought at. This poem gives readers the impression that in spite of the fact that scene is set in the woman’s own room, the readers would think more of Stygio lacu (the Stygian water), ascensis Bactris (climbing the city of Batra, line 63). Even inside the room of the lady, it is always linked to the outside battlefields, e.g. lorica (breastplate), gravis hasta (heavy spear) and castris quarta lacerna tuis (the fourth cloak for your military services). 3, Parody We can’t say that Propertius was imitating the epic poetry; rather, it is a parody of the epic poetry in many respects. For example, in 4.1, instead of invoking the Muses or Apollo, Propertius spoke to the abstract hospes and to himself. In the first lines of contrasts between Rome before and Rome then, though the subjects are mythical, historical and heroic, the sudden changing of images is not epic, since epic poetry is about letting the audience and the readers be the witness of the various legendary events – the feelings and the opinions are for the readers’ decisions from their own viewpoints – it strives to make clear and elaborate description and narration in order that the events are put forth as vividly as possible. Thus, the combination of epic and elegy has its focus point: the elegiac mood is more important here, Propertius aims at setting out our feelings towards those images, not the specific sceneries. Take my own favorite set of contrast as an example here: lines 9-10: ‘Where the house of Remus raises itself from the stairway, a single hearth was the whole great kingdom of the brothers.' ('Qua gradibus domus ista Remi se sustulit olim,/unus erat fratrum maxima regna focus.') The sets of contrasts here are based on what is now and what used to be in Rome, yet this contrast which we are talking about is a double contrast: the main contrast is between the legendary hut of Romulus and Remus and the great building there at the time of Augustus (the contrast is chiefly about the landscape of the Palatine hill, so we don’t need a discussion on what building that might be). However, Propertius added a new image: ‘unus erat fratrum maxima regna focus’. This image is purely out of the imagination of Propertius, which adds the tint of elegiac mood to these lines: it makes us feel what Propertius wishes us to feel. The poor hut of the brothers reminds us of their once pathetic condition, thus, the grand scenery of the seven hills before us is even more striking and touching. Here, Propertius’ intention is not to introduce us to the actual scene and thus there is no description of the Palatine hill or any specific detail of that kind. The feelings of the readers are most important to Propertius, and through the double contrast of our example, he makes us focus on the grand view of the Palatine hill of the Augustan time by contrasting the scalae Caci and the small hut of the brothers, and also makes us pay attention to their once miserable living condition and the importance of the poor hut for them. This certainty of viewpoint is of most importance, and can be easily deduced from our former discussion of the difference between epic and elegy. Therefore, once our viewpoint is set up, our feelings are also set up as the intention of the poet, and this control of the readers’ feelings is typically the lyric poets' bag. From line 55 on, Propertius started his announcement of his own purpose of the whole book, which is consisted of a series of poems that are mainly aetiological (4.1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10 and maybe 3). It is a surprise that he compared his own book of elegies to the historical epic of Ennius (line 61) instead of a work of a lyric poet. Only if we are aware of Propertius’ special perspective of elegiac poetry can we understand this comparison that is of great importance. We cannot say that Propertius wanted to compose a series of ‘elegiac epics’, since right after he mentioned Ennius, Propertius called the name of Bacchus, (who is the god of lyric poetry, tragic and music, while Apollo is the god of epic poetry,) and proclaimed himself to be the ‘Roman Callimachus’. The poems of Book IV are framed as a unity. This is the character of epic poetry, yet here, starting from the aetiological point of view (poems 1, 2), to the emotional perspective (poems 3-5), then to the historical one (poem 6), then to the elegiac (poems 7-8, the death of the heroine), then to the grand finale, which are odes to two of the Romans’ most respected deities (Poems 9-10) and finally the epilogue recapitulation and the rebirth. This structure of the book can be supported by the paces and the themes of those poems. The most illustrating point of the understanding of the structure of the whole Book IV is stated by John Warden considering poem IX. ‘Propertius like Hercules has been for too long a pleading lover; and just as Hercules excluded women from his rites, so Propertius wishes to exclude women from his life and from his poetry. It is for this that he prays for the god's assistance. In other words the poem should be read as a rejection of love poetry for other themes.’ This opinion opens my eyes to the theme of the last two poems: death and rebirth. We can thus understand the opening two lines of Cornelia in the last poem, ‘desine, Pauline, meum lacrimis urgere sepulchrum: panditur ad nullas ianua nigra preces’, that start a narration which is completely different from that of Cynthia’s in poem VII. Moreover, and more importantly, the rejection of love theme opens also Propertius’ lyric poetry to endless possibilities late in his career. ( John Warden, ‘Epic into Elegy: Propertius 4, 9, 70f.’ Hermes, Vol. 110, No. 2 (1982), p. 228.) Indeed, if we strive to look into poem XI, we may find that it is drawn from Apollonius Rhodius IV. 1432-1449, from Virgil VIII. 190-275, and, perhaps, from Livy I. 7. This subject typical for epics was only afterwards taken by Ovid in his Fasti. The poem’s derived from Virgil is beyond doubt, but still, the distinction is obvious. Virgil gave us a fully described account and detailed context, while Hercules’ own account is not mentioned. In the Propertius poem, however, the essential part is Hercules’ own words. The thirst of Hercules and the nymphs, I think, is derived from the Apollonius section, yet the distinction is different from that with Virgil. In the Apollonius section, the account is told by the Hesperides, who think Heracles was with most destructive wanton violence (ὀλοώτατος ὕβριν) and most grim in form (καὶ δέμας), and like a beast (φορβάδι ἶσος). This is the feeling of the Hesperides towards Heracles (although we may also say that this is the comment of the epic poet). Now, in Propertius’ version, which is perfectly supplementing the understanding of the Apollonius section, the women-denouncing role played by Hercules can be well justified. I think of the northern European myth which is applied by Richard Wagner in his lengthiest and most influential opera in the history of music, Der Ring Des Nibelungen. In this opera, Alberich, the Nibelung, failed to make advance to the nymphs of the Rhine, denounced all women and the love of women, and thus gained the power of the gold of Rhine and became the only legal owner of the Ring. I would like to venture to suggest that Propertius is Hercules and Alberich of the elegiac poets in Book IV, and thus tries to make his point that elegies, together with every lyric poem, may also gain the utmost power and endless possibilities of expression. ( We may find many features surprisingly in common between the two, such as the hymn to Hercules (V. 287f, P. 71-72) and the tradition of the Great Shrine. Cf. Warden, 230. In the Apollonius section, we have the nymphs Hesperides narrated to the Argonauts the arriving of Heracles, looking for water. Having killed the dragon that guarded the golden apples and taken the golden apples, he accidentally kicked a rock and thus found water to quench his burning mouth.) 4, Conclusion Now I am obliged to put forth the reason of this absorption of the epic poetry for Propertius. In both the sections of Apollonius and Virgil sited above, the account is mainly about descriptions, which is setting up the actual view of the event. ( Even in the Apollonius section, although the poet adds in personal feeling into the Hesperides’ words, the main subject is still the action of Heracles in one of his labors.) Yet in Propertius IV 9, the main part is Hercules’and the sacerdos’ words (lines 16-20, 33-50, and 53-60, almost half of the poem). These lines are speeches from the figures’ own points of views, especially that of Hercules. The stress on the 38th line, ‘I am that person, and the world I accepted calls me the descendent of Alceus (Alcides)’('Ille ego sum: Alciden terra recepta uocat.'), shows the standpoint of Hercules: he accepts the world, and in front of the doors of the sacred grove (nemus), he also wants to be accepted as he accepts others. (In the traditional legend of Hercules (Heracles), the hero was depicted as a lonely man; he can’t stay with anybody for a long time, for example, Hylas, his adopted son (or his own son, as in some minor sources), wasn’t able to hang on with Heracles (one of the Naiads drew him down into the water, cf. Apollonius Rhodius I. 1344f), and when he was looking for his favorite, Heracles himself was lost to the Argonauts.) Every word of his imploring the priestess is clumsy, thus his loneliness is even more obvious and standing out to us: Hercules tries to make the point that his is a renowned hero that should be accepted into the grove with trust, but he chooses the violent part of his fame and character (lines 39-42). When he wants to show the priest that he is not fearsome, among all his expeditions and adventures, chooses the labor of the belt of Hippolyte, and thus becomes even clumsier in front of the priestess (lines 49-50). Now, Propertius ingeniously sets us a fixed viewpoint, and therefore we sympathize with the loneliness and the longing for being accepted. While the standpoint of elegiac poetry is rather narrow to that of a painful lover, epic poetry puts forth every kind of people in front of the audience. Therefore, with the context of epic poetry, elegiac poets would be able to get numerous other feelings to express. We may even put the conclusion even forward: Propertius wants to show us that with this new method, he can express the feelings of everyone, even Hercules, the dullest to human sentiments. (Cf., for example, pseudo-Apollodorus, Biblioteca I. 5 §9.) Throughout the history of all arts, in certain periods, people tends to put interesting peculiarities together and mold them into a brand new style that shares the characters of the former periods. Wagner uses the term Gesamtkunstwerk to express this sort of collective style. We have examples of it all over the history of arts from the east to the west. In our case, we have the literature of the Hellenistic age, which established the basis of the Augustan poetry and was most influential to Propertius (he proclaimed himself to be the Roman Callimachus, III. 1 lines 1-2, IV. 1. 64). Perhaps the most striking character of Propertius’ elegies is the fourth book’s divergence from ordinary elegiac poetry. Although Propertius himself is indeed known for his elegies, he would not play such an important role in the Augustan literature if he did not compose the final book of his elegies, which is most special and spectacular. Bibliography, Hugh E. Pillinger, ‘Some Callimachean Influences on Propertius, Book 4’ Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 73, (1969), pp. 171-199 W. R. Johnson, ‘The Emotions of Patriotism: Propertius 4.6’ California Studies in Classical Antiquity, Vol. 6, (1973), pp. 151-180 John Warden, ‘Epic into Elegy: Propertius 4, 9, 70f.’ Hermes, Vol. 110, No. 2 (1982), pp. 228-242 James H. Dee, ‘Propertius 4.2: Callimachus Romanus at Work’ The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Spring, 1974), pp. 43-55
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最后更新 2012-03-21 11:21:48