Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections

By Neil Fraistat | Go to book overview

dressing the man whose puella the lover is enjoying, asking the fool to please make it more interesting by at least trying to hinder their affair. A perverse kind of game is masquerading as love. In book 3 the lover and the poet fail, deservedly. The girl no longer trusts him and seeks her own happiness elsewhere; the lover is often deceived, rejected, and once even impotent; and the poetry seems to look outside the topoi of erotic elegy for material. Altogether, the collection strikes us as more loosely organized than Horace Satires, but still organized to work with some important themes and to dramatize the progressive failure of a lover who does not understand what love really signifies.

Ovid expressly denies organization or selectivity or variety as qualities of the Letters from the Black Sea; instead, he emphasizes lack of plan, monotony, and mere communication as the guiding principles, if such they may be called, of the three books. Well, monotony is an important theme, which often seems more evident in Ovid's constant iteration than in the actual poems themselves. Trapped in exile among barbarians far from Rome, Ovid does not in fact let himself sink into lethargy; he actively fights the cruel monotony of his existence and the seemingly monotonous indifference of his friends, Augustus, and the once-admiring audience he possessed in Rome. He writes to many different people in Rome, each of them a distinct problem of communication. And time passes on the Black Sea, drearily but season by wretched season. Thus, these letters do exhibit modest and useful organization: general chronological development of Ovid's years along with occasional developments in Rome at the end of Augustus's reign; a quite intricate variation of addressees; 23 but above all the dramatic movements of a sensitive poet who struggles to keep up his talent, to maintain contact with Rome and his friends, and to record for the world his sense of injustice at the punishment Augustus has inflicted on him. Granted, this is the most loosely organized collection of the Augustan era, but Ovid has ordered his poems to give rich interplay to his important themes and made his supposed lack of order just one more support for his poetic purposes, one further mark against Augustus.


NOTES
1.
Augustine Confessions 3.6.
2.
The move from scroll to codex was a gradual development between the second and fourth centuries of our era. See Leighton D. Reynolds and Nigel G. Wilson, Scribes and Scholars ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 30 ff.

-63-

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Poems in Their Place: The Intertextuality and Order of Poetic Collections
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction the Place of the Book and the Book as Place 3
  • Notes 14
  • Some Issues for Study of Integrated Collections 18
  • Notes 40
  • The Theory and Practice of Poetic Arrangement from Vergil to Ovid 44
  • Notes 63
  • Sequences, Systems, Models Sidney and the Secularization of Sonnets 66
  • Notes 91
  • Jonson, Marvell, and Miscellaneity? 95
  • Notes 115
  • The Arrangement and Order of John Donne's Poems 119
  • Appendix A: Epigrams 150
  • Appendix B: Love Elegies 150
  • Appendix C: Epicedes and Obsequies 153
  • Appendix D: Divine Poems 154
  • Appendix E: Verse Letters 155
  • "Strange Text!" "Paradise Regain'D . . . to Which is Added Samson Agonistes" 164
  • Notes 191
  • "Images Reflect from Art to Art" Alexander Pope's Collected Works of 1717 195
  • Notes 231
  • Multum in Pairvo Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes of 1807 234
  • Notes 251
  • The Book of Byron and the Book of a World 254
  • Notes 271
  • The Arrangement of Browning's Dramatic Lyrics (1842) 273
  • Notes 286
  • Whitman's Leaves and the American "Lyric-Epic" 289
  • Notes 306
  • Marjorie Perloff the Two Ariels the (re)making of the Sylvia Plath Canon 308
  • Notes 331
  • Index 335
  • Notes on the Contributors 343
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