As in literature poetry precedes prose, so in poetry a special and ‘heightened’ diction seems to precede everyday language. Mr.T.S.Eliot has put it thus: ‘Every revolution in poetry is apt to be, and sometimes to announce itself as, a return to common speech.’ How does this apply to Greek and Latin ? There are objections to considering words in isolation from this point of view, since neutral ones are apt to go now grey, now purple, according to their company; but (...) if we do not do so, we deny ourselves the only considerable method of investigation that is still open to us. Again, we must recognize that most poems are composed largely of ordinary words, though these are often used in a way that is not ordinary. (shrink)
The elements which every schoolboy learns on beginning Latin Verse Composition include a number of rules which seem arbitrarily designed to make the game harder. In hexameters, he is told, he must have a masculine caesura either in the third foot or in the second and fourth, and end normally with a disyllabic or a trisyllable; in pentameters he must end with a disyllabic; and in neither line may a single monosyllable stand at the end. Rarely, in my experience, is (...) any reason given him by way of redress, and he will search for one in vain in most of the school text-books, in introductions like Postgate's to Tibullus and Propertius, and in histories of Latin literature like Wight Duff's and Mackail's. This reticence may be due to the dissensions of experts on this subject and on the subject of Latin accentuation in general, but the theory that predominates in England, among those who hold a theory at all, explains so many of the phenomena that it deserves to be more widely and precisely known. The most detailed exposition of it is by E. H. Sturtevant, who summed up his analyses in a pair of articles in the Transactions of the American Philological Association in 1923–4. While his careful work is invaluable as marshalling the statistics and evidence, it errs on the side of excessive minuteness, and leaves room not merely for some additions, but for a different kind of treatment concerned less with bare statistics and more with poetic principles and historical development. Since Latin Verse Composition plays such an important part in English higher classical education, it seems desirable that a less technical and more accessible account should be available for English readers. Such an account I attempt to give here, keeping separate as far as possible the exposition and the consideration of the criticisms and rival theories that have been advanced. (shrink)
In his valuable contribution to the Fondation Hardt Entretiens of 1960 on Hesiod Professor La Penna dealt with the famous ‘theodicy of labour’ in Virgil, Georgics I. 118–59. He recalled that, whereas Hesiod made Prometheus' trickery the reason for Zeus' hiding fire and the other goods and so rendering labour necessary, Virgil omits mention of Prometheus or of any element of guilt.