Romance in the Latin Elegiac Poets

By Elizabeth Hazelton Haight | Go to book overview

II
GREEK ELEGIAC POETRY BEFORE GALLUS

In the hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column,
In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.

S. T. COLERIDGE.

AS WE queried first "What is Romance?" we must now ask, "What is Elegiac Poetry?" And before answering we must put out of our minds the usual associations in English of elegiac poetry. For the English word elegy although it is derived from the same stem as elegiac (whatever the origin of that stem), has come to mean to us a song of mourning, "a short poem of lamentation or regret" for some dear dead. This theme, however, was only one of several subjects which the ancients used in their elegiacs and the essential characteristic of their elegiac poetry was not theme, but meter. Poetry written in couplets or distichs composed of a dactylic hexameter and a dactylic pentameter was elegiac poetry and with the Greeks the early themes celebrated in such meter were war and love, as well as laments for the dead. Gnomic moral poetry too was written in elegiacs.

The ebb and flow of the distich of uneven lines was described by Ovid as the invention of Cupid who when the poet was preparing to sing of arms and wars in hexameters, stole one foot from every other line, to make a lighter meter suited for love; therefore Ovid must let

-8-

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Romance in the Latin Elegiac Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Contents xi
  • I - What is "Romance"? 1
  • II - Greek Elegiac Poetry Before Gallus 8
  • III - The Elegies of Catullus 16
  • IV - Gallus 26
  • VII - Publius Ovidius Naso 125
  • VIII - The Latin Novel and the End Of Romance 220
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 239
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