The Politics of a Poet:
The Archipoeta As Revealed
by His Imagery
MOST OF THE POETS of the High Middle Ages are anonymous in the sense that of their lives we know nothing. But of the Archipoeta we know less than nothing, for even his name is a mocking travesty of a title, probably a play on that of his patron, the Archicancellarius, Reinald von Dassel, Archbishop of Cologne. Only ten poems can be ascribed with any certainty to a poet whose sense of form and whose verbal agility equal or exceed those of any medieval poet. These ten short poems appear to be intensely personal and to reflect the idiosyncrasies of their author and his reactions to the events and personages of his time. There is no independent evidence about this remarkable man, no documents exist to which he was a witness; there are no records of his relations with other poets or with his patrons. He is thus to an even greater degree than most contemporary writers in Latin or the vernacular a persona, a poet who appears only in his works. Since many of these works present the poet in the first person, it is a natural assumption that the statements made there are those of the poet himself, that he is telling of his own feelings and views and using the vehicle of his verse to make known to the world his personal reactions to patrons, to emperors, to courtiers, and to bishops.
Such a view might be described as a pathetic fallacy, although not inthe way in which the expression is usually used. The ideas he expresses are, of course, his own but they are conditioned by the genre in which he writes and the effects which he wishes to produce. When a poet un