Callimachus and Virgil’s Eclogue

Titters sings about two shepherds who capture Silence and make him sing, is not only a poem about Silence’ mythical song. The poem also makes direct reference to Virgin’s contemporaries Virus and Gallus, as well as more subtle references to other poets and forms of poetry. Although the words are put into the mouth of Titters, the direct naming of Virus and Gallus blurs the line between the voices of Titters and Virgil, making it clear that the poet is always present in his characters.

All the allusion in this poem makes it clear that Eclogue 6 is not only bout the song of Silence but is also a poem about poetry, in which Virgil shows not only his influences but also his poetical ambitions. The poem opens with a direct reference to his “Sicilian strains” , a reference to Theocratic, whose work includes famous Bucolic poems to which Virgil imitates and alludes throughout the Eclogues, and who can be said to have created the genre.

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Virgil sets up a comparison between such bucolic poetry and epic poetry when he says “nor did [my Muse] blush to dwell in the woods” , referring to the supposed inferiority of bucolic poetry to epic. The comparison between the Eclogues and epic becomes clear in the recitation which follows in lines 3-8. The “rages et profile” of line 3, which is the subject-matter suitable for epic, captures the essence of epic poetry in a way that Virgil will repeat at the beginning of the Amended with his “arm virtue canon” opening.

Virgil refuses to take on epic poetry by citing Apollo advice to him that “a shepherd… Should feed sheep that are fat, but sing a lay fine-spun”. This closely echoes Apollo advice to Calamitous at the beginning of his Theta, where Apollo says “poet, feed the victim to be as fat as possible but, my friend, keep the Muse slender. ” This almost direct translation from Greek to Latin makes the reference to Calamitous unmistakable and raises the question of why Virgil alludes to Calamitous here.

Other references to Calamitous can be found in the praise of Gallus in lines 64-73, when Gallus is given the reed-pipe of the Cesarean Hissed, showing Gallus’ imitation of Hosier’s Theosophy but the imitation had already been done in the Theta of Calamitous, which Virgil duly references with “origin’ in line 72, a erect translation of action in Greek. Furthermore, line 8 of Eclogue 6 “aggregates tenet meditated harebrained MUSM” closely echoes line 2 of Eclogue 1, also featuring Titters, specifically in the emphasis on “tenet” or slender, a key feature of Calcimine poetry.

Therefore Virgil references Calamitous both directly and indirectly, expressing the same poetic intent as Calamitous to avoid epic in almost the same words as Calamitous, the Alexandria poet of the 3rd century BC who wrote the Theta, a collection of elegiac poems, and was renowned for his rejection of pick poetry, preferring to write shorter works packed closely with subtle allusion. Calamitous had either a moral or aesthetic opposition to epic and he laid the foundations for the Alexandria type of poetry which similarly employed dense allusion to myth and to other poetry.

Calcimine poetry and stay away from epic, there are numerous passages which cast doubt on the strength of his support for the Calcimine aesthetic and demonstrate a desire to experiment with other forms of poetry. In lines 11-12 Virgil says that “no page is more welcome than that which bears on its front the name of Virus”, yet Virus is the subject to be written about in epic poetry, and in this poem he can be said to represent the genre with his name.

Likewise Virgil endorses the love poet Gallus, who will “tell of the birth of the Granny wood, that there be no grove wherein Apollo glories more”. The references to other forms of poetry are not only invoked by the names of representatives but are also hidden in the style of the poem. Lines 31-40 in the song of Silence are strongly evocative of the didactic poetry of Lucrative as Silence tells of the origin of the world.

Furthermore, it is significant that, having opened the poem with what seems to be a personal programmatic statement, the remainder and vast majority is spoken by Silence who heard the words from the laurels who heard them from the river Reroutes who heard them from Apollo. By using Silence as a mouthpiece it is possible that Virgil is merely mimicking the poetry he pretends to endorse. Finally, the link to Eclogue 1 established earlier with the important word “tenet” also presents issues for the Calcimine statement, since Rome and the land-confiscations break through into that eclogue.

Jesse
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