Words and the Poet: Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil's Aeneid

Words and the Poet: Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil's Aeneid

Words and the Poet: Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil's Aeneid

Words and the Poet: Characteristic Techniques of Style in Vergil's Aeneid


Throughout his vast literary output, to a surprising extent, Vergil avoided artifacts of poetic diction like archaism and grecism, preferring instead ordinary language that grew from the common stock of the Latin tongue such as colloquialisms and prosaisms. This remarkabley coherent and readable study identifies and categorizes such diction in Vergil's writings showing further how such comparatively unpromising material was converted by the poet's methods of "combination" (unctura) into poetry. In a critical analysis, Lyne draws parallels between Horace's procedures in combining works to "make them new," and Vergil's bold combinations which veritably extort unexpected and novel sense.


to the paperback edition

Chapter I 'Vergil's Diction: Context and Definitions' gives a kind of theoretical basis to this book. The chapter is rooted in Aristotle, 'Longinus' and Horace. Although items of modern literary theory feature in the bibliography and had some influence on the book, the fact remains that the methodology of Words and the Poet substantially consists of my own developments from these ancient critics. If I were re-writing the book today, I should take some greater account of the ferment of modern literary theory; but I have to confess that the book would in the end be little changed. It was, and would remain, firmly pragmatic. Like my other book on Vergil (Further Voices in Vergil's Aeneid, Oxford, 1987, paperback edition 1992 with updated preface), Words and the Poet 'is designed to stand or fall . . . by the practical exegetical value of the examples.'

There is however one theoretical preoccupation of mine for which I should like now to find space. But it has been briefly treated elsewhere, and I therefore simply refer the reader to remarks on An audience's limitations and the fallacy of audience limitation in my article 'Vergil Aeneid: Subversion by Intertextuality. Catullus 66.39-40 and Other Examples', G&R 41 (1994), 187-204, esp. 196-8. E.g. 'I think the simple fact is that a great artist does not confine the richness of his work to the intellectual capacity or physical circumstances of his audience, probably (simply) because he cannot. Of course he will provide something for that audience -- if it is quantifiable and definable -- . . . But poetic creativity works at such incalculably multiple and profound levels, poetic genius is so rich, that the poet may pack his text with meaning and effects way beyond what his immediate audience can grasp, way beyond indeed what he himself may be consciously aware of. These meanings are left to be unpacked, gradually, by succeeding generations.'

The following is some useful bibliography that has appeared since the bibliographical update in the 1992 paperback of Further Voices. I include commentaries, specialist studies, surveys, and works that will give some orientation in the world of modern theory.

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