Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Musica Incantans

Academic journal article Seventeenth-Century News

Musica Incantans

Article excerpt

* Musica incantans. By Robert South. Edited and translated, with commentary, by Dennis Miedek. Hamburger Beitrage zur neulateinischen Philologie, 10. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2013. IX + 112 pp. In 2006, after having conducted his first New Year's Concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Mariss Jansons told the world that music as the language of our hearts and of our souls should become even more important in our lives. Robert South (1634-1716) wanted to express (nearly) the same sentiment through his marvelous Neo-Latin poem Musica incantans (Oxford, 1655), which was famous in his day and later but is almost forgotten now, since the text was never edited or translated. Dennis Miedek successfully changed this regrettable situation by editing, translating into German, and commenting on the 358 hexameters in his master's thesis. A supervised paper as part of the rather new but quite renowned series Hamburger Beitrage zur neulateinischen Philologie has to be considered as a very special case indeed: The curriculum of Osnabruck University made it possible by offering a specialization in the field of Neo-Latin Studies to exceptionally talented and learned young people. That is what Stephan Heilen tells us in his introduction about the promising young scholar whose first book seems to be the successful product of a rather ambitious project: the publication of a very interesting and substantial text.

Musica ineantans sive poema exprimem musieae vires iuvenem in insaniam adigentis et musici indepericulum is an ingenious mixture of genres. A young man gets angry after having eagerly listened to the beautiful (and fatally dangerous) music he explicitly begged for. Finally he kills himself by jumping into the sea. The musician gets accused of murder, defends himself in the manner of an orator, and is--luckily enough--allowed to leave as a free man. Different layers are artificially interwoven: mythological elements and protagonists and speeches in the courtroom, romantic scenes and the detailed description of symptoms of madness. In the very end music rules everything--the musician is another, better Orpheus.

Working with his sources and the (many) different manuscripts and printed editions, Miedek shows profound knowledge. Nowadays, this is rather atypical for a standardized master's thesis. Miedek draws a precise stemma and clearly shows that the text was revised between 1655 and 1667. …

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