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Panormita's reply to his critics: the 'Hermaphroditus' and the literary defense.

In her discussion of imitatio, Julia Haig Gaisser(1) describes how humanist scholars and poets justified their light, titillating compositions, based on Catullus, Martial, and The Priapea, by invoking the ancient literary defense, whose purpose was essentially to ward off potential critics or else to justify their oeuvre by making a sharp distinction between their life and their art. One locus classicus is Catullus 16.5-6: "Nam castum esse decet pium poetam/ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est" (The devoted poet ought to be chaste himself, his verses need not be so). Another is Martial, Epigrams 1.4.8, which, modeled as it is on Ovid, Tristia 2.354, speaks not of poets in general but of Martial himself: "Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba" (My writing is lascivious, my life pure). The classical defensio or apologia was thus revived and given new meaning by the humanists as they sought to justify their literary endeavors in light of an emerging and ultimately puritanical sense of decorum.

Prominent among these men was the canon lawyer, poet, and scholar Antonio Beccadelli of Palermo (hence his popular sobriquet "il Panormita"), who lived from 1394 to 1471. The eldest son of Enrico di Vannino Beccadelli, who had played an active role in Sicilian politics and had been appointed Praetor of Palermo in 1393, Panormita distinguished himself in many of the leading intellectual and aristocratic circles of the day. Eventually he became ambassador and tutor to Alfonso V of Aragon, later king of Naples. Panormita's best known work, the Hermaphroditus, a corpus of eighty-one witty and often obscene Latin epigrams modeled on Martial and the Priapea, earned him fame and praise by, among others, Guarino da Verona, who called Panormita the poetic scion of another renowned Sicilian, Theocritus.(2) But the Hermaphroditus brought increasingly vociferous critics as well, before whom Panormita would have to defend not only his work but also his life and morals.

The following will discuss Panormita's adaptation of the defensio, or what for our purposes might also be called the pagina lasciva vita proba argument, both in his epigrams and in his letters, against the background not only of his literary forbears but of other Renaissance neo-Latin poets. My discussion has been guided by Gaisser,(3) J.P. Sullivan,(4) and Amy Richlin(5) who each review the literary defense from Catullus to Pliny the Younger and its humanist revival. They indicate how pervasive the argument was, and how malleable a rhetorical device. The defensio was used to defend a poet's work, notably erotic or obscene verse, against carping critics who are regarded variously as ignorant or even degenerate.

The defensio could be used within a context of either insult or flattery: insults against those regarded as the poet's inferiors, who carped at his work out of ignorance; and flattery of those to whom a work was dedicated or who complimented the work, even if guardedly. They were the poet's social equals or superiors. The defensio could also be applied, within a Christian milieu, to a situation in which the speaker, a person in authority, advised the addressee to steer clear of obscene poetry in order not to endanger his immortal soul. Within this context, the distinction between pagina lasciva and vita proba, arguably, cannot be so neatly maintained.

The object of this paper is to shed further light on the use of the ancient literary defense among the early humanists as they sought to imitate the classical poets while at the same time warding off possible accusations of pagan license. The defensio, with its stress on the poet's moral probity and the strict separation of his life from his work, was eminently adaptable to the Christian ethic. Indeed, so adaptable was the defensio as an argument that even those who denied its validity, i.e., that a writer of bawdy verses could be upright in his life, still resorted to the language of the defensio. However, not only morality but also elegance and refinement were at issue. Panormita and others could point to their renowned predecessors who dabbled in scabrous verse. Those who argued otherwise were unenlightened and, as the classical defensio set up a strict barrier between life and art, so did it also separate the educated from the uneducated.

Gaisser states that the defensio's use in the Renaissance was mainly literary, that it identified one as a "Catullan poet," though it "could not answer serious moral objections, and no one expected it to."(6) However, I think that, at least in Panormita's case, the defensio was in fact utilized to answer serious charges as well as to indicate that the poet was a true sophisticate in the tradition of Catullus, Martial, and other great poets of antiquity. Since it proved an important rhetorical tool in defining the literary and moral program of the humanist poets, at least in regard to playful verse, the defensio merits further attention.

The rather relaxed, if always respectful, tone Panormita takes with his social equals or superiors before 1435 reveals his secure stature as a poet of note who became poeta aulicus to the duke of Milan. When the Hermaphroditus was published in 1425, Panormita complimented its dedicatee, Cosimo de' Medici, from whom he was hoping to win patronage, as a man of acuity and taste who would appreciate the wit of the Hermaphroditus. After 1435, however, once the condemnation of the Hermaphroditus had become widespread and damaged his reputation, Panormita, effectively abandoning the defensio as a legitimation of his poetic purpose, assumed a far more apologetic, even self-effacing, attitude before his detractors.

The main focus of this paper will be Panormita's Hermaphroditus 1.1, 1.20, and 2.11;(7) a letter by Poggio Bracciolini to Panormita and Panormita's reply;(8) Panormita's letter to Bartolomeo della Capra;(9) and Carmina varia 5 and 6.(10) I will also take a brief look at the defensio after Panormita, concluding with Joseph Scaliger's use of the pagina lasciva vita proba argument in the dedication to Sebastien Senneton at the opening of his commentary on the Priapea as well as in his "castigation" of Catullus and the Roman elegists. I note here that all Latin translations are my own.

Prior to a discussion of the texts, however, it would be useful to provide some background to the development and devices of the defensio as they relate particularly to Panormita and the Hermaphroditus. Essentially any innovative poet had to take pains to explain himself and his work to his audience. This was especially necessary in the case of epigram which, being one of the "low" genres of poetry, often resorted to frank sexual language and themes. In the case of Martial, who needed literary patronage, the defensio served both to justify the poet's life and to separate epigram from the "higher" genres of epic and drama while defending it as a worthy poetic practice requiring labor and dedication. And like the other poetic forms, epigram had its own meters, language, and themes. That these themes and language might prove offensive to some should not redound to the poet's discredit. Rather, let censorious - read here "unenlightened" readers keep away.

Like other poetic forms with lascivious or erotic content, epigram commonly referred to itself disingenuously as lusus (play), paegnia (playthings), ioci (jokes), nugae (trifles), or ineptiae (foolery)." On the other hand, lusus et ioci also denoted light, sophisticated verse untrammeled by the weighty (and often boring) themes of epic. Mock-modest, too, was the poet's admission that he could not compose epic. This could be turned on its head, however, as happens in Herm. 2.1, where Panormita humorously informs his addressee, Cosimo de' Medici, that he will be able to compose an epic if Cosimo will play Maecenas to the poet's Vergil.(12)

Certainly the social relation of the poet to his intended audience helped to determine the overall tone of the defensio. Catullus in poem 16, which was so often adduced by the early humanists, couches his argument within the context of a violent verbal attack on Furius and Aurelius, whom he derides as pathics. As both Gaisser and Richlin observe, Catullus, while stating in line 5 that the poet ought to be castus and pius, makes no claim to being chaste himself. According to Gaisser, "Catullus presents not an easy antithesis between the chastity of the poet and the obscenity of his verse but rather a general statement of propriety that leaves his own character unrevealed."(13) Indeed, Richlin notes that for Catullus to begin and end his poem with the sexual threat pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo is neither castus nor pius.(14)

Ovid, Martial, Pliny, and other Catullan imitators abandoned Catullus's irony and ambiguity for the purpose of answering their critics. In the case of Martial, who is at pains to please his lordly patrons,(15) Catullus's threat, which establishes both his social and sexual ascendancy over his critics, has been depersonalized. When, in Ep. 1.35.5, Martial argues that his books non possunt sine mentula placere, the mentula is no longer the poet's own vengeful instrument, but has become a general symbol of sensuality.(16) And in his apologiae Martial specifies those occasions on which such sensuality, in the form of erotic or obscene poetry, may be expressed, such as marriage feasts, fertility festivals, and imperial triumphs where indecency is allowed. In Ep. 1.35 Martial replies to a certain Cornelius, who complains that the poet's epigrams are not fit reading material for schoolboys: "Quid si me iubeas thalassionem/verbis dicere non thalassionis?/Quis Floralia vestit et stolatum/permittit meretricibus pudorem?/Lex haec carminibus data est iocosis,/ne possint, nisi pruriant, iuvare . . ./nec castrare velis meos libellos./Gallo turpius est nihil Priapo" (What if you should order me to write a marriage hymn without using the words of a marriage hymn? Who puts dothes on the Floralia or wraps chaste maidens' robes around the harlots? This law has been given to wanton verse: that it can't please unless it titillates. . . . Please do not castrate my book. There is nothing worse than a gelded Priapus) (Ep. 1.35.6-11, 14-15). As the harlots - who took to the stage during the ludi Florales(17) - ought not to be concealed by a stola, which is inappropriate to their station anyway, so should the ithyphallic god Priapus not be castrated, that is, the mentula ought to be revealed and retained in erotic poetry. This theme of "revealing" versus "concealing," which will be operative in several of the apologiae to be discussed in this paper, recurs in Martial, Ep. 3.68, in a humorous and ironic warning to a Roman matron to not go beyond the female-oriented part of the book:

Hue est usque tibi scriptus, matrona, libellus. Cui sint scripta rogas interiora? Mihi.

Gymnasium, thermae, stadium est hac parte: recede. Exuimur: nudos parce videre viros.

Hinc iam deposito post vina rosasque pudore, quid dicat nescit saucia Terpsichore:

schemate nec dubio, sed aperte nominat illam quam recipit sexto mense superba Venus,

custodem medio statuit quam vilicus horto, opposita spectat quam proba virgo manu.

Si bene te novi, longum iam lassa libellum ponebas, totum nunc studiosa legis.

(My book to this point has been written for you, matron. For whom, you ask, is the remainder? For me. Here are the gymnasium, the baths, the stadium: withdraw. From this point on, all shame aside: Terpsichore, drunk after the wine and roses, no longer guards her speech: with no ambiguous expressions but openly, she names that which haughty Venus receives at her June festival, which the steward sets up as guardian in the middle of the garden, and which the chaste virgin looks askant at, with her hand before her face. If I know you well, already weary with a lengthy book, you were putting it down. Now you eagerly read it all.)

Once again the reading of scabrous poetry is linked with a fertility festival and connected with the god Priapus, whose statue is prominently displayed in the garden, and which the seasoned matron will "look at" by eagerly reading on.

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw a great deal of scholarly activity around and imitations of Catullus, Martial, and the Priapea. We may randomly include here the Hermaphroditus itself; Giovanni Pontano's Parthenopaeus, sive Amores, and the Hendecasyllabi; and Pacifico Massimo's Elegiae iocosae. The humanists actively studied the Priapea (traditionally ascribed to the youthful Vergil, thus granting to them greater respectability); in the period between 1475 and 1606, no fewer than eight commentaries on this work appeared.(18) Nevertheless, the authors of such commentaries felt compelled to justify themselves to their audience. Niccolo Fabrizio Sacca ends his commentary (in the late fifteenth century) with an epilogue which is essentially a captatio benevolentiae and a familiar tag from Martial, Ep. 1.4: "Quicquid est, legas sine discrimine neque inhibeat rei turpitudo, quod urticae proxima saepe rosa, ex procacissimo libello nostros mores nequaquam vellicans, 'nam lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba.' Vale" (Whatever it is, please read it without prejudice, nor let the foulness of the subject matter inhibit you - for the rose is often neighbor to the thorn. In no way carp at my morals because of a wanton book, for "my page is lascivious but my life is chaste." Farewell).

Assuming the inferior social role, Panormita opens the first book of the Hermaphroditus with a polite appeal to Cosimo, whom he asks to read his book if Cosimo has time to spare from his distinguished work in the affairs of Florence: "Si vacat et patrii cura studioque senatus,/quicquid id est, placido lumine Cosme, legas" (If, Cosimo, you can spare some time from the affairs of state and the fray of politics, kindly read this,/whatever its worth, with a placid gaze) (Herm. 1.1.1-2).One possible model here is Martial, Ep. 1.4.1-2 - "Contigeris nostros, Caesar, si forte libellos,/terrarum dominum pone supercilium" (If you by chance take up our books, Caesar,/put away that stern look that rules the world) - where Martial similarly assumes a deprecatory tone before the emperor. But while Martial develops his poem simply as a defense of his morals and the permissibility of obscenity in epigram, Panormita mingles this argument with a piquant description of his work's lubricious content: "Elicit hoc cuivis tristi rigidoque cachinnos/cuique, vel Hippolyto, concitat inguen opus" (This work teases loud laughter even from the mirthless; it stirs the member even of Hippolytus) (Herm. 1.1.3-4). Turning to classical models again, we may adduce passages that feature Hippolytus, a notorious example of sexual frigidity, as he is "brought to life" by an exotic dancer, namely, Ovid, Amores 2.4.29-32; Priapea 19; and Martial, Ep. 6.71. A brief illustrative example is Martial, in Ep. 14.203, Puella Gaditana, or "The Girl from Cadiz": "Tam tremulum crisat, tam blandum prurit, ut ipsum,/masturbatorem fecerit Hippolytum" (She gives her buttocks such a shake, she makes such an alluring and wanton display, she has even made Hippolytus masturbate). Panormita, however, applies this salacious metaphor to the poems themselves. But while departing from his models in this respect, Panormita still follows, as he says, "the learned poets of antiquity." Lines 5-14 are a skillful blending of topoi already described, namely, the uprightness of the poet's life despite the obscene content of his verses and the blunt dismissal of his hostile critics: "Hac quoque parte sequor doctos veteresque poetas,/quos etiam lusus composuisse liquet,/quos et perspicuum est vitam vixisse pudicam,/si fuit obsceni plena tabella ioci./Id later ignarum volgus, cui nulla priores/visere, sed ventri dedita cura fuit;/cuius ethos lusus nostros inscitia carpet./O, ira sit! Doctis irreprehensus ero./Tu lege, tuque rudem nihili fac, Cosme, popellum;/tu mecum aeternos ipse sequare viros" (In this I follow the learned poets of antiquity, who - it's well known - composed lascivious verse and were famed as well for living upright lives, even if their writing was full of obscene jests. This fact is hidden from the untutored throng: they've no concern about surveying the past, their care's their stomach. It's their ignorance that condemns my playful verse. So be it, then! I'll find no blame among the educated. Read me, Cosimo, take no need of the crude rabble. Follow with me the men of deathless fame).

Panormita pointedly contrasts the educated and the uneducated. To drive the opposition home, he juxtaposes images of clarity and obscurity. It is "transparently clear" (perspicuum) that the ancient poets lived chaste lives, although it is equally clear (liquet) that they wrote erotic verses, or lusus - but clear to whom? Certainly not to the ignorant throng (ignarum volgus), from whom such a fact is hidden (later), for they have no interest in looking with attention (visere) at the work of the ancients. By implication first and then by direct statement, Panormita says that the educated (doctis) will find no fault with him. The poem ends with a lavish compliment to Cosimo, who is, of course, to be included among the enlightened.

In the opening poem of the Hermaphroditus, then, Panormita uses the familiar trappings of the defensio with a typical formula of entreaty to Cosimo (lines 1-2). But in his youthful enthusiasm, Panormita, possibly having in mind Cosimo's taste for ribald verses,(19) has no doubt that the work will be well received. Scholars and historians, depending on their view of the Hermaphroditus, tell varying stories of the work's reception: according to V. Cronin, Cosimo accepted the dedication, "not from any sympathy for its subject matter, but because he believed in broadmindedness."(20) Michael de Cossart, however, notes that Cosimo's "official response was warm," and that he "praised the work."(21) Carol Kidwell, apparently taking her cue from Francesco Colangelo's 1820 biography of Panormita, describes it this way: "Far from reading it after dinner to entertain his guests, as Beccadelli had proposed, Cosimo burnt his copy."(22) In any event, the hoped-for Florentine patronage was not forthcoming.

In possible anticipation of hostile reactions to his lascivious work, Panormita addresses his critics elsewhere in the Hermaphroditus. Another epigram pointedly contrasting the educated and uneducated is Herm. 1.20, a reply to the carping critic Hodus, who is one of Panormita's frequent targets: "Hodus ait nostram vitam non esse pudicam:/e scriptis mentem concipit ille meis./Non debet teneros Hodus legisse Catullos,/non vidit penem, verpe Priape, tuum./Quod decuit Marcos, quod Marsos quodve Pedones,/denique quod cunctos, num mihi turpe putem?/Me sine cum tantis simul una errare poetis,/et tu cum vulgo crede, quid, Hode, velis" (Hodus says my life is unchaste: he conceives this notion from my works. Hodus must not have read the tender verses of Catullus, nor seen your penis, lewd Priapus. Should I think what was proper for Marcus, Marsus, and Pedo, indeed all the poets, is disgusting in my case? Allow me to err - if I do err - with such great bards. You, Hodus, along with the rest of the rabble, believe anything you like). This poem incorporates features already seen in our discussion of Herm. 1.1, namely, the admissibility of obscenity in epigram and the poet's dismissal of the carping throng. Panormita martials his literary models: Catullus - the phrase teneros Catullos may refer to love poetry generally or perhaps elegy - the Priapea; the Marci (presumably a reference to Marcus Valerius Martialis, or Martial); the Marsi (Domitius Marsus, an Augustan epigrammatic poet); and the Pedones (Pedo Albinovanus, a contemporary and friend of Ovid). The list of poets is merely formulaic and similar to that used by Martial.(23) But again it drives home the fact that Panormita has several predecessors, none of whom the ignorant Hodus could have read. In line 4, Panormita, addressing Priapus, says that Hodus has not seen (non vidit) the god's erect penis (the adjective verpus denoting the penis with the prepuce drawn back). Therefore, in light of the image of clarity versus obscurity already observed in Herm. 1.1, the censorious Hodus has no familiarity with Priapic verses. And given that in Panormita's day the Priapea were largely thought to be the youthful work of Vergil, Hodus's ignorance of the classics is further underlined.

Based, then, on his ignorance of literature, Hodus impugns Panormita's life, alleging that it is non . . . pudicam. In his own defense, the poet has adduced not only names familiar to him through Martial but cunctos, "all the poets," for whom the writing of scabrous verse was suitable (decuit) and not foul (turpe). The pagina lasciva vita proba argument is restated here, albeit more allusively than in Herm. 1.1. The social position of Panormita vis-a-vis Hodus is also the reverse of that of Panormita before Cosimo. Whereas in Herm. 1.1 the poet, complimenting his socially superior addressee, defended himself by castigating the ignorance of unnamed others, Panormita now exploits the rhetorical trappings of the defensio to ridicule his opponent directly. Their social paths completely diverge, as Panormita emphasizes with the pronouns ego and tu: Panormita will err, he says, in Hodus's lights, with the great poets while Hodus himself remains mired in the beliefs of the vulgar throng.

A likely classical model for the structure and at times even the wording of this poem is Pliny, Epistulae 5.3.(24) In his letter to the esteemed lawyer Titius Aristo, Pliny defends his writing and recitation of scabrous verses (versiculos severos parum). The letter is a reply to those critics of Pliny's first volume of hendecasyllables which he first describes in Epist. 4.14, where he quotes Catullus 16.5-8 in defense of his poetic purpose and makes the point that summos illos et gravissimos viros have written lascivious poetry. Pliny employs the argument, familiar from Martial's epigrams, that obscenity suits certain genres, namely, mimes; lyricos, or lyric poetry (possibly in the spirit of Catullus); and Sotadics, an extremely coarse poetic form.

The contrast in Pliny, Ep. 5.3, between revelation and concealment, enlightenment and ignorance, is fully developed: the open-minded Aristo thought that it should not be hidden (non celandum) that a lengthy discussion of Pliny's verses had taken place at his house with a variety of judgments being passed, some mildly chastising Pliny for his brand of poetic endeavor. However, Pliny does not take it badly that his critics do not know (nesciunt) that many men - and here he cites over twenty examples - both eminent and of upright morals (gravissimos, sanctissimos) and learnedness (doctissimos) wrote the same. Pliny is open to various stimuli: he hears (audio) and watches (specto) mimes, and reads (lego) lyrics, and understands (intellego) Sotadics.

We may also observe distinct verbal similarities between Herm. 1.20, especially line 7, and Pliny's letter. Pliny is confident, he says, that those who are aware of the quality of his literary predecessors will grant him leave to model himself even on those whose "frivolous" efforts, let alone their serious writing, it is praiseworthy to express ("ab illis autem quibus notum est quos quantosque auctores sequor, facile impetrari posse confido est ut errare me sed cum illis sinant quorum non seria modo verum etiam lusus exprimere laudabile est," Epist. 5.3.4 [my italics]).

Herm. 2.11 reintroduces Hodus as a reader of Panormita's verses, even though he criticizes the poet's morals. Therefore, Panormita must again separate his life from his art while at the same time acknowledging that by writing as he does, he follows in the footsteps of Ovid and Vergil: "Quod genium versusque meos relegisve probasve,/gratum est; quod mores arguis, Hode, queror./Crede, velim, nostra vitam distare papyro:/si mea charta procax, mens sine labe mea est./Delitias pedibus celebres clausere poetae,/ac ego Nasones Virgiliosque sequor" (That you regard my genius and reread my verses is pleasing; but, Hodus, I lament the fact that you censure my morals. Please believe me: my life and what I write are separate. If my book is wanton, my mind is without blemish. The celebrated bards enclosed their wanton interests in verse: thus do I follow Ovid and Vergil). "Life" and "verse," then, are mutual contradictories. The phrase delitias pedibus claudere is a double entendre: it can refer to the tight metrical structure of poetry, as opposed to the sermo solutus of prose. It also denotes how the poet "corrals" his sexual or racy thoughts and confines them to verse, thus neatly separating art from life.

The character Hodus reappears in an undated letter by Panormita, which serves as a reply to a letter by Poggio dated 2 April 1426, after he had read the Hermaphroditus (Epistolae [4:79.sup.r] f.). Poggio begins by praising the work for its learning (doctrinam), the agreeableness of its verse (iucunditatem carminis), its wit (iocos et sales), and its having roused the Latin muses from their long sleep (latinas musas, quae iamdiu nimium dormierunt a somno excitas). But with that said, Poggio then advises Panormita, still flushed with youthful enthusiasm, to set his sights on more serious endeavors (graviora). He uses the classic example of the young Vergil leaving behind his early Priapea to pursue more serious studies (severioribus), as well as a gnome from Terence whose import is that youth brings a certain style of living - in this case wantonness - but demands more sober behavior. Therefore - and this sounds perhaps a bit disingenuous coming from the future composer of the Facetiae(25) - Panormita should attempt more "adult" subjects, so that his life may not be censured as impure by the obscenity of his book (ne arguatur vita impura libelli obscoenitate). This last statement is in effect critical of the defensio's traditional argument that the poet's verses do not necessarily reflect his life. Poggio has appropriated the language of the defensio but turned the argument on its head; whereas before the severiores denoted those nagging critics who were the enemies of light, sophisticated poetry, the word severior for Poggio indicates in this context one who has a mature mind. And ioci et sales now denote racy juvenilia that one will hopefully grow out of.

There is a rather pinched, puritanical sensibility about Poggio's final admonition to Panormita as he says, "scis enim non licere idem nobis, qui Christiani sumus, quod olim poetis, qui Deum ignorabant" (For you know that the same license is not given to us Christians as was given to the poets of old, who did not know God).(26) However, given what happened to Panormita a few years later, the poet may, in hindsight, have looked on Poggio's admonition as very sound advice.

Panormita's lengthy reply to Poggio (Epistolae [4:80.sup.v] ff.), while couched in the language of flattery - at the beginning of his letter he says that Poggio's elegance of diction would have indicated him as the author even if the letter had remained unsigned - strives to answer Poggio's objections: Panormita had not expected, he says, that such a learned man would object to the book's lascivity. And with that we reenter the familiar world of the classical defensio: Poggio would know that men who were learned (doctos), serious (graves), and of sound character (sanctos) wrote lascivious verse. Panormita then proceeds to name them in a catalogue at least as ambitious as that of Pliny in Epist. 5.3.

Following Horace in the Ars poetica (lines 58-59) - and as a polite rebuttal to Poggio - Panormita says that it is allowed to poets and painters to dare (audere) and to be permitted (licere) to do anything they like, even on a lascivious subject. The poet quotes Catullus 16.5-9: "Nam castum esse decet plum poetam/ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est,/qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem,/si sint molliculi ac parum pudici/et quod pruriat incitare possunt" (The devoted poet should be chaste, his verses need not be so - verses which have wit and salt if they are somewhat wanton and indecent and can arouse feelings of desire). Panormita, further to underline the necessity of frank language to epigram, quotes from Martial, Ep. 1.35.3-5: "sed hi libelli,/tamquam conjugibus suis mariti,/non possunt sine mentula placere" (These books, as husbands to their wives, cannot please without a prick). Buoyed by such illustrious examples, Panormita returns to the censorious Hodus, whom he derides as nescioquis ex ultima vulgi faece ("a nobody from the absolute dregs of society"). But - as in Herm. 1.20 - Panormita, having reintroduced this opponent, the generic critic, dismisses him again: his maledictions are as nothing. It is the learned Poggio before whom Panormita needs to defend himself. That being the case, and since Poggio has objected to the Hermaphroditus on Christian grounds, Panormita peppers his argument with appropriate examples. The absolute separation between personal morality and the writing of scabrous verse, which had been breached by Poggio, must be closed again. Panormita quotes from Apuleius (Apologia 11),(27) who says (in discussing the homoerotic poetry of Plato) that to dissemble and conceal is the mark of "sinners" (peccantes), while to proclaim and declare openly is the sign of those who are merely jesting (ludentes, recalling the lusus et ioci which are the earmarks of light, sophisticated poetry).

Proceeding next to the philosophers, Panormita adduces Seneca, whom he calls a Christian and a friend of the apostle Paul.(28) Panormita elaborates on Plato who, he takes pains to point out, while not a Christian in name was not ignorant of God (Deum non ignoraverit, repeating Poggio's own words) and in fact served one God. Nonetheless, Plato wrote pederastic verses which were nothing if not delicate and amorous (molles et amatorios). Panormita quotes a Latin translation of a poem attributed to Plato in Aulus Gellius (Noctes Atticae 19.11), which describes how a beautiful boy's kisses make the speaker's soul wander: he "dies" to himself and lives in the boy.(29) Prominent also among the numerous poets and philosophers are the Athenian statesman Solon, one of the Seven Sages,(30) and Sappho, whose verses to her lover Phaon - "surviving," says Panormita, "in a Latin translation"(31) - are so wanton yet so elegant that they could restore to manly vigor those two proverbial elders Nestor and Priam.(32)

It is absurd, Panormita argues, to rail against those who use what might be considered obscene language when the occasion calls for it - which might even be in the pulpit. Panormita offers the example of a priest, tentatively identified as Giovanni Capistrano,(33) whose sermons, filled with fire and brimstone, contained such unabashedly brutal language that the poet remained unsure whether he was in church or in the forum. But the priest's purpose was to upbraid sinners by referring to foul deeds in appropriately foul language; therefore, his morals should not be impugned. So it is with Panormita, who resorts to obscenity because the genre in which he writes - as demonstrated, again, by generations of poets - demands it.(34)

Having said that, Panormita returns to the language of supplication and flattery: he writes epigrams now because he has not the leisure to compose more ambitious works such as epic. He hopes he someday will perform such a task, however, so that his name will live. Deflecting all direct censure from Poggio, Panormita says he could continue complaining about the rabble's charge against him before one so learned as Poggio, who realizes the inexperience (imperitiam) of the crowd(35) - but enough with this. He ends by complimenting the style of Poggio's letter and expressing gratitude for its content. Panormita's only regret at this point is that the letter was too brief.

In 1427 Panormita wrote a letter to Bartolomeo della Capra, archbishop of Milan (Epistolae [2:38.sup.r] ff.), who, he learned through Giovanni Lamola, wished to receive a copy of the Hermaphroditus. This letter shows several rhetorical features already displayed in the preceding examples. Panormita, assuming the subservient social position, begins with elaborate praise of the addressee, emphasizing his suave ingenium, doctrinam, and animi virtutes. Indeed, Capra's esteem and even love of Panormita, though the two have never met, make Panormita nearly burst with joy, as he compares himself rather facetiously to a bloated skin which, if pricked by a fingernail, would explode.

At this point Panormita expands on the subject of the love of friends, particularly the love of a friend like Capra, who puts the "stamp of approval" on Panormita's enterprise. For his part, Capra shows every sign of virtue and uprightness (virtutes, probitas). It is, precisely, a literary friendship. Friendships seldom endure throughout life, but the same cannot be said of those cemented by the Muses (quam musae devinxerunt).

Having completed, then, an elaborate prelude in which he establishes Capra's learning and virtue (made more manifest by his esteem of Panormita, which links them both to the Muses), the poet moves briskly on to the business at hand, which is to supply Capra with a copy of the Hermaphroditus, for Lamola says that the bishop has an incredible desire - literally a thirst (sitim) - both to see (videndi) and to read attentively (lectitandi) the poet's verses. Capra's eagerness to read is certainly evident; the "seeing" may refer to the actual viewing of the book, personified here as a hermaphrodite with the genitalia of both sexes exposed.(36) There is the implicit danger, then, that given the work's lubricity, Capra may be looked upon as somehow lewd or else unaware of the Hermaphroditus's content. Panormita is rather hesitant, he says, to send it, given that it is a work of his youth. However, the poet will ward off censure - an implicit concern of the defensio - by acceding to Capra's request. The onus will therefore lie on Capra because he has, literally, "asked for it."

With a peremptory mitto igitur, the poet sends the Hermaphroditus, a book admittedly lascivious (lascivum), on its way; however, in the by now familiar language of the classical defensio, but with a Christian touch, it is of a lasciviousness, says Panormita, practiced by summi oratores, sanctissimi poetae, gravissimi philosophi, viri continentes et Christiani. Panormita then adduces the Catullan tag (16.5-6). The argument here is truncated, since Capra, with all his erudition, does not need to be told at length. Panormita's final request to Capra is that he first discuss with the poet what he will say about the work to others so that Panormita might best determine what Capra's judgment is. As if anticipating hostile criticism, Panormita says that this openness and frankness would be a mark of greater honesty and friendship.

The years 1429 to 1432 were auspicious ones for Panormita. In addition to obtaining a professorship of rhetoric at Pavia, he won at last the long-awaited patronage, having been made court poet to Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan. And in 1432 the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund crowned him poet laureate on the strength of the Hermaphroditus.

But with greater fame came increased criticism. Two of Panormita's most strident opponents were the Franciscan friar Antonio da Rho (Antonius Raudensis) and Lorenzo Valla, a former friend and colleague who had featured Panormita in the first edition of his dialogue De voluptate (On Pleasure), but who turned against Panormita after 1431, when the poet's reputation as an immoralist grew. Valla was now assiduously cultivating the attention of the new pope, Eugenius IV, who had publicly condemned the Hermaphroditus.

In an invective poem written around 1433 (Carmina varia)(37) Panormita turns against not only Valla and Antonio but also the lawyer Catone Sacco. This particular triad is chosen because in the revised version of Valla's De voluptate, retitled De vero bono (On the True Good), Antonio and Sacco have replaced Panormita as interlocutors. Panormita scornfully dismisses his opponents in terms reminiscent of Herm. 1.20 and boasts of his position as court poet:

Quid curem Rhodus quod nostra poemata culpet, si mea Maecenas carmina docte probas?

Quid curem quod me cymex Laurentius odit, si me Crottiades unus et alter amat?

Quid curem carpat vitam Cato Saccus Iacchus, si Feruffino iudice vita proba est?

Quid curem quod me livor sectetur ubique, si semper virtus invidiosa fuit?

Curandum placeas tantum doctisque bonisque: summa quidem laus est displicuisse malis.

Why should I care that da Rho finds fault with my poems, if, learned Maecenas, you approve? Why should I care that the insect Lorenzo despises me, if both Crotti love me? Why should I care that Catone Sacco criticizes my life, if my life is pure in the opinion of Feruffino? Why should I care that ill will pursues me everywhere, if virtue is ever the object of envy? Take care to please only the learned and good: it is the highest praise to displease the wicked.

The "Maecenas" here is Francesco Barbavara, minister to the Visconti, whom Panormita elsewhere refers to explicitly as Maecenas, after Augustus's minister of culture (Carmina varia 1.40). Feruffino is possibly Giovanni Feruffino, jurist and lecturer at the Studio at Pavia or his relation, Domenico, secretary to the duke of Milan and a protector of Panormita.(38) The elegant patronymic Crottiades refers to Luigi and Lanzalotto Crotto, friends of Panormita at Pavia.(39)

This poem is a rhetorical tour de force with its anaphora of quid curem and the plosive effect of the frequently alliterated "c." The familiar features of the defensio are brought to bear to defame enemies and to flatter friends and patrons. Panormita, addressing Barbavara directly, calls him doctus, or "learned." Valla, by contrast, is called a cymex, or "bug," a term of reproach possibly borrowed from Horace's Satires (1.10.78) against a critic, for carping at Panormita's poems.(40) The absurdly pompous Cato Saccus Iacchus for Sacco may recall the censorious Cato of antiquity, who appears at the opening of Martial's Epigrams.

To be precise, it is envy (livor) that drives these inept critics; moreover, it is the poet's own virtus that forms the object of this envy. The link between learning and goodness and evil and ineptitude is made clear in the poem's final two lines: Panormita wishes to please the "learned and good," and indeed considers the condemnation of the "wicked" (who are also ignorant) to be the highest praise. Again, Panormita draws attention to the probity of his life in line 6; by extension, he indicts the folly and evil of those contemporaries who cannot recognize true virtue when they see it.

Panormita's fortunes were soon to topple, however. His enemies' machinations against him led to the duke's reducing his annual income from four hundred florins a year to forty or even thirty. Having newly married, Panormita could ill afford such a loss. Therefore, he was forced to leave the duke's service and "wander" with King Alfonso of Aragon for several years before being installed by the king at the center of a glittering literary court at Naples. The final work of Panormita to be considered here dates to sometime after 1435,(41) the year when, significantly, Panormita's former champion Guarino da Verona withdrew his support for the poet in a letter to Giovanni Lamola.(42) The following poem, addressed to Cosimo de' Medici (Carmina varia 6),(43) is in effect a capitulation by Panormita to his critics. The poet now assumes an abject position before his addressee and asks Cosimo to forgive him for the Hermaphroditus. In it images of dirt and shame are prominent:

Si bene commemini scripsi tibi, Cosme, libellum cui turpis titulus Hermaphroditus erat.

Hic faeces varias Veneris moresque profanos, quos natura fugit, me docuisse piget.

Immortale mihi sperabam surgere nomen, si possem Vestae frangere templa deae.

Te quoque, quem sanctum coluit Florentia civem, non puduit sociis commemorare meis,

sic quoque non Rhodi famam nomenque celebre Parnasi: at corvo non maculatur olor.

Iam tantis si indigna viris cecinisse nefandum est, parcite: proh noxam conspicor ipse meam.

If you recall, Cosimo, I dedicated to you a book with the foul title of Hermaphroditus. It grieves me to recall here the various filthy acts and impious ways of Venus, which nature flees from. I was hoping to raise up an immortal name for myself if I could destroy the temple of the goddess Vesta. It did not shame me even to speak of you to my friends, you whom Florence has cherished as a citizen of inviolate morals. So, too, did it not shame me to call upon the fame of Rhodes [i.e., Apollo] and the celebrated name of Parnassus, but the swan is not defiled by the crow. It is impious to have celebrated in verse things unworthy of such great men. Alas, I, too, recognize my offense.

The poet's attitude here is the complete opposite of the confidence shown earlier. Whereas in Herm. 1.3 Panormita, addressing Cosimo, had said that the title Hermaphroditus eminently suited the book's subject matter, it is now simply "foul" (turpis). Before, such turpitudo would have been in the minds of those who had no sense to appreciate bawdy, elegant verses. And while formerly the witnessing or writing of sexual themes had been the sign that one was human after all, now the ways of Venus are "unclean," filthy dregs (faeces) and frank sexual descriptions and language "go against nature."

The poem's next image is one of violence and sacrilege: in trying to gain a name for himself, Panormita has stormed the temple of Vesta, the virginal goddess of the hearth, and has tried to sully the fame of Florence's "sacred" citizen whom it cherishes - as though Cosimo, too, were a god in a temple. Fortunately, however, the swan (a white bird with links to poetry and Apollo) is not defiled by contact with the crow (a black bird).

Here the distinction between carmina lasciva and vita proba remains absolute; only now it is Cosimo's life that is blameless while Panormita's poems are bawdy. The shame, the offense, the stain, the dirt are indeed Panormita's own. In this poem the classical defensio has been effectively abandoned by the poet as a literary and moral argument.(44) In the generations after Panormita's death, the pagina lasciva vita proba argument would live on, even in the works of those who rejected the Catullan and Martialian literary programs. My summary here can be no more than selective.(45)

In the 1480s the Carmelite Battista Spagnoli, or Mantuan, condemned erotic poetry of all kinds by claiming that in effect any such separation between pagina lasciva and vita proba was spurious. As he states in Contra poetas impudice scribentes carmen, "Vita decet sacros et pagina casta poetas:/castus enim vatum spiritus atque sacer./Si proba vita tibi lascivaque pagina, multos/efficis incestos in veneremque trahis" (A chaste life is fitting for sacred poets, for the inspiration of poets is chaste and holy. If your life is upright and your page wanton, you make many unchaste and lure them into venery) (Contra poetas, 1922).(46) Mantuan exploits the familiar language of the defensio: decet here recalls decuit in Herm. 1.20.5. However, the "fittingness" that Panormita saw in the works of the great poets of antiquity who wrote scabrous verses - hence the appropriateness with the added suggestion of sophistication - is now inappropriate in Mantuan's more puritanical world view.

At the same time that Mantuan was composing his poetic diatribe against licentious literature, Giovanni Pontano, whose youthful Pruritus, sive de lascivia (1449) had been inspired by the Hermaphroditus, was returning in his old age to erotic poetry in the style of Catullus with his Hendecasyllabi. This collection of poems, in two books dealing with the sexual attractions of the resort at Baiae, rebuts Mantuan's stringent morality and also admonishes Michele Marullo, a younger friend of Pontano at Naples. W. Ludwig states the case here admirably, and I will cull from his argument.(47)

In book one of his Epigrams (Ep. 1.62), partly modeled on Catullus, Marullo responds to a certain "Quintilianus" - very possibly Pontano himself - who called Marullo's book nimium castus . . . nimiumque pudicus. Adducing the familiar defense, "Quintilianus" argues that even a poeta castus must, if he is to write in the style of Catullus, compose verses that are molliculi ac parum pudici. Says Ludwig: "Marullo, on the contrary, was in favour of carmina casta: they please Apollo and the Muses and, as he says, 'vetat ingenuus verba inhonesta pudor . . . . Sit procul a nobis obscoena licentia scripti:/ludimus innocuae carmina mentis opus."'(48)

Obscoena licentia scripti is, then, the object at issue. But as Pontano shows in his Hendecasyllabi, where he often invokes voluptas, the poet can "compartmentalize" his bawdy verses as Panormita had done in Herm. 2.11, and separate them from his Christian life by writing as an Epicurean. I quote again from Ludwig:

Voluptas . . . was, of come, known to Pontano and his contemporaries as the leading Epicurean term and was interpreted as meaning "sensual pleasures." In Lorenzo Valla's dialogue De vera voluptate . . . the poet Maffeo Vegio had defended the Epicurean position . . . . To defend the voluptas of Epicurus as the highest aim, was, in the fifteenth century, only possible under the protection of the poetica licentia. The poetical example of Catullus and his distinction between the castus et pius poeta and his versus molliculi et parum pudici made possible and legitimized for Pontano a poetry of Epicureanism, which he separated from his Christian beliefs. Catullus thus had a certain role in the complex process in which some humanists distanced themselves from the moral precepts and doctrines of Christianity.(49)

Nearly a century later, in 1573, Joseph Scaliger, in the dedication of his commentary on the Priapea,(50) asked his friend Sebastien Senneton to protect him from certain hostile critics within what Gaisser calls "a harsher climate" produced by "the dry winds of religious orthodoxy and sexual prudery."(51) As a way of fending off criticism, Scaliger openly admits the obscenity of the collection and furthermore abhors the age that brought such poems into existence, for it licensed not only the writing of "things foul" (turpia) but the doing of them as well.

Nevertheless, in his own defense Scaliger questions why he should be pilloried when so many commentaries by chaste and learned men (sanctissimis et doctissimis viris) have appeared already. Scaliger's final appeal to Senneton is that his critics will come from among those who know neither him nor his work; the learned (doctissimos viros), by contrast, are fully cognizant of Scaliger's own blamelessness and innocence and that of his writings (et mea et scriptorum meorum integritas atque innocentia).

We detect here several familiar features of the defensio seen already in the case of Panormita, particularly the argument that the men of unimpeachable character who are also the most learned will not reproach him, while the ignorant will. Also to be noted is a contrast, familiar from classical sources, between revealing and concealing. First of all, Scaliger states that his life is clearly evident (perspecta) to those who know him; by contrast, his detractors have no awareness of it. Second, Scaliger, being scrupulous about propriety, asks Senneton what there is in his commentary that is so suspect that it cannot be spoken openly, or so unrestrained that it cannot be said to a friend ("quid in interpretatione nostra nut ita suspectum est, ut non tecte, aut ita aperte dictum est, quod non necessario dicendum fuerit?" [my italics]).

The matter of propriety, particularly within a Christian context, is very important, as it was the Calvinist Scaliger who upbraided the ancients for not only speaking about but also doing foul things (which is a perversion of the pagina lasciva vita proba argument). On this note, in his 1582 "castigation" of Catullus, Tibullus, and Propertius, Scaliger assumed a censorious attitude toward Catullus and the Roman elegists by regarding them as not only improper but frivolous; however, they should be studied for their excellent Latinity.(52)

Ultimately, for Scaliger the breach between vita and pagina became nearly an unbridgeable gulf between pagan and Christian. The rhetorical trappings of the defensio could still be brought into play, but it lacked the passion of Catullus and even the servility of Martial, who had a very practical aim in mind: to ingratiate himself with his imperial patrons.

The difference between Panormita and Scaliger is that Panormita began by looking to the ancient world for vindication and ended, under the weight of criticism, by indicting himself. Scaliger, using the formulae of the defensio, began by indicting the ancient world, as the breach between pagina lasciva and vita proba became one between ancient turpitude and Christian morality.

The classical defensio remained for over a century after Panormita, functioning as a useful rhetorical device and one malleable enough to be made compatible with Christianity. But in the hands of its more severe critics, the traditional defensio was perverted, degenerating into a rather flaccid, formulaic argument that was dealt not with elegance but with guilt and prudery.(53)

1 Gaisser, 208-11, 220-33.

2 Forberg, 166.

3 Gaisser.

4 Sullivan, 56-77.

5 Richlin.

6 Gaisser, 228-29.

7 In Coppini.

8 In Antonii Bononiae Beecatelli cognomento Panhormitae epistolarum libri V. All further references to the letters by, to, and about Panormita in this paper will be to this edition, unless otherwise noted.

9 Ibid.

10 In Arnaldi et al.

11 In Herm. 2.1.20 Panormita refers to his poems as extemporaneous pieces (immeditata), composed whenever he can spare a moment from legal cases or when he is drinking.

12 Compare Martial, Ep. 8.55 (56), 23-24, where he claims that, if subsidized by the likes of Maecenas, he still could not be a Vergil. And see Panormita's letter to Poggio, to be discussed below (Epistolae [4:80.sup.v]ff.), in which, as part of his defense against low critics, Panormita states that he presently has no time for "serious" poetic endeavors such as epic, but hopes to have someday.

13 Gaisser, 210.

14 Richlin, 14.

15 Martial uses the language of appeasement before Domitian in Ep. 1.4, imploring the emperor with the hortatory spectas (please regard) and the entreating precor (I beg). Encouraging Domitian to read his work without a censorious attitude and emphasizing, again, the appropriateness of obscenity to epigram, Martial employs the examples of bawdy apotropaic verses spoken during an imperial triumph (line 3) as wall as mimes and marriage songs, all occasions of verbal license.

16 Gaisser, 210.

17 Richlin, 10.

18 See Hausmann, 423-50.

19 See Cossart, 9.

20 Cronin, 74.

21 Cossart, 9.

22 Kidwell, 53-54.

23 Epigrams, 1 praef. 12; 2.71.3; 5.5.5-6; 7.99.7; and 8.55(56).24. Just how much direct contact Panormita had with the text of Catullus remains uncertain. W. Ludwig, reviewing Catullan imitations in the neo-Latin poets, observes that while Panormita saw himself as the heir of Catullus, particularly at Herm. 1.20.3, there are few apparent borrowings from Catullus himself. Ludwig notes the possible influence of the all-important Catull. 16.1, in Herm. 1.14.1: Cur qui paedicat semel, aut semel irrimat, auctor, although he adduces as well Priap. 35.1-2: Pedicabere, fur, semel; sed idem/si prensus fueris bis, irrumabo. There are also reminiscences of Catull. 97.2-4 in Herm. 1.19.9-10, where Panormita decries the os impurum of the pathic Quintius, and the motif of the "hundred and thousand kisses" (cf. Catull. 5.7-9) in Appendix Hermaphroditi 2, lines 83 and 87 (ed. Forberg, 158 and 160). See Ludwig, 1989(1), 16870. According to Gaisser, 20-24, in Panormita's day manuscripts of Catullus were hard to come by; hence, Gaisser argues, it is doubtful that Panormita knew the poet's work well at all. Reviewing the contemporary reading list of Ugolino Pisano (1436 or 1437), she states, "Ugolino, like Panormita, knew enough about Catullus to include him in a list of scandalous ancient poets, but perhaps that was all he knew" (22). Panormita's letter to Poggio (Epistolae 4:81) demonstrates that he was familiar at least with Catullus 16, which he quotes at length. Gaisser, 21, suggests that he "perhaps" found poem 16 in Catullus himself, "but probably saw [it] in Pliny." In Herm. 2.23 Panormita begs the addressee, Galeazzo, to find him a copy of Catullus for his importunate girlfriend. Says Ludwig, 1989(1), 170, "Zumindest anfangs scheint er wahrend der Abfassung der Gedichte des Hermaphroditus gar keinen vollstandigen Catulltext besessen zu haben."

24 It is apparent that Panormita knew Pliny, for in his letter to Poggio (Epistolae [4:82.sup.v]), Panormita cites Pliny as a source for including Seneca among those who wrote obscene verse.

25 The Facetiae, composed between 1438 and 1452, are the product of Poggio's middle and old age. He begins his book with a preface to the reader which is a typical defensio: anticipating some readers' disapproval, Poggio adduces the familiar arguments that the ancients - prudentissimos ac doctissimos viros - were delighted by poetry of this kind, and that therefore it should not be avoided. The facetiae are meant to be a light genre, composed in moments of leisure to relax a mind weighted with dull care. Therefore, undue censure ought not to be applied. Let Poggio's readers be men of wit and sophistication; more rustic types - echoes once more of Herm. 1.20 - may think anything they like. Only let them not fauk the author for the contents of his poems. Bracciolini, 1-6.

26 Such puritanism is addressed by the renowned humanist scholar Guarino da Verona in a letter to Giovanni Lamola (1426), in L'Hermaphrodite de Panormita, xiii-xiv, after the latter had sent Guarino a copy of the Hermaphroditus. He congratulates the poet for his elegance and for rendering his lascivious subject in suitably ribald language. The authority of an elegant poet (vatis non inlepidi) carries more weight, says Guarino, than the clamor of the ignorant (imperitorum) (shades of the vulgar Hodus), whom nothing delights except tears, fasting, and psalms (lacrimae, jejunia, psalms), unaware - the classic argument - that one's writings do not reflect one's morals (immemores quod aliud in vim aliud in oratione spectari convenit).

27 Apuleius is responding here to charges made impugning his character, including his writing of verses. He cites, among others, Catull. 16.5-6.

28 Although early Christians popularly believed that Seneca and Paul knew and corresponded with each other, there is no evidence for it. See for example B. Robinson, 203.

29 This version is based on a Greek original preserved in the Palatine Anthology 5.77, in which the speaker addresses a certain Agathon. This poem, long thought to be by Plato, has been shown to be a product of the Hellenistic age: see Page, 162, and especially Ludwig, 1989(2), 435-47, esp. 438-39.

30 Solon appears also in a letter by Panormita to Guarino da Verona (Epistolae [4:75.sup.r]ff.). Guarino, who has received a copy of the Hermaphroditus (see n. 26, above) praises it profusely - Panormita fears too much so. Panormita asks Guarino to recall the ancient law of Solon penalizing anyone who tries to mislead others. Guarino perhaps misrepresents Panormita's talents by praising them so highly.

31 Panormita apparently has in mind here Ovid, Heroides 15, where Sappho bemoans the loss of Phaon and tearfully recalls their romantic encounters. See Ludwig, 1989, 170, n. 35, on the acceptance of this letter as a genuine work of Sappho in Panormita's day.

32 Priam and Nestor were often used, in a lubricious context, to indicate the power of lascivious verse to arouse; cf. Priapea 76.

33 In note 3 of the German translation of this letter in the 1908 Leipzig edition of Forberg's Hermaphroditus.

34 Cf. Guarino's letter to Lamola, cited above (n. 26), where he adduces the example of Saint Jerome who, though a man of chastity, could, when the occasion called for it, describe the speech and language of prostitutes.

35 Panormita's letter to Guarino da Verona, cited above (n. 30), repeats this mock-modest stance: Panormita fears Guarino is being far too generous in his praise of the Hermphroditus. After all, it is the work of a man "distracted by a thousand occupations." Panormita describes his book self-deprecatingly as inter coenandum lusimus, "something I played at between courses."

36 Such personification occurs within the Hermaphroditus itself. In Herm. 1.3 Panormita describes his book as having a cunnus and a mentula; in Herm. 2.37, following the classical tradition of the poet sending his book on its way to a patron with the missive, "Go, little book," Panormita despatches the Hermaphroditus to a brothel whose denizens will gratify both its sex organs.

37 Arnaldi et al., 22.

38 Ibid., 23, n. 6.

39 Ibid., n. 4.

40 Panormita mocks Valla's poetic abilities in a brief poem (Carmina varia 10, in Arnaldi et al, 26): "Carmina componis, Laurenti, starts pede in uno:/nil mirum si sic carmina facta cadunt" (Lorenzo, you compose verses while standing on one foot: no wonder that the resulting verses fall flat). The imagery is taken from Horace, Satires 1.4, where Horace describes the early Roman satirist Lucilius, who was too diffuse and careless in composition. Panormita also wrote another invective against Antonio da Rho (In Rhodum), in retaliation for Antonio's criticism of the Hermaphroditus (see Colangelo, 291-92).

41 Arnaldi et al., 23-24.

42 R. Sabbadini in Coppini, clxxxvi, n.90.

43 Arnaldi et al., 23-24.

44 Although Panormita had publicly repudiated the Hermaphroditus by about 1435, there is at least one piece of internal evidence to suggest that he was still adding to it several years later. Kidwell, 40, tentatively dates Herm. 1.38, addressed to Giovanni Pontano, to about 1450, when Pontano was accompanying Panormita as Alfonso's ambassador. In this poem Panormita, true to form, commiserates with Pontano in his infatuation with a married woman named Polla, and wishes him well in conducting an affair with her.

45 I must mention in passing Peter Godman's excellent discussion of Johannes Secundus's Basium 12, which is at least tangential to my subject. There Johannes asks his addressees, matronaeque, puellulaeque castae (line 2), of the kind we see, for example, in Martial, Ep. 3.68 and Priapea 8, why they turn their faces away from the poet. In a defense of his virtue as ambiguous as that of Catullus 16, Johannes disdains any purported carmina mentulata. But Basium 12 ends up being an indictment of the bogus respectability of these same matrons and girls who now, grown "wanton," (vultus . . .protervos, line 10), are all attentive to the possibility that Johannes will let fly some verbum mentulatum. See Godman, 170-71.

46 In Gaisser, 229-30.

47 Ludwig, 1989(1), 181-87, and "The Origin and Development of the Catullan Style in Neo-Latin Poetry," in Godman et al., 83-97.

48 Godman et al., 193.

49 Ibid., 195; cf. Ludwig, 1989(1), 186-87.

50 Hausmann, 444.

51 Gaisser, 190.

52 "Vellem equidem ipsi veteres pudoris aliquam rationem habuissent, neque tot infamibus scriptis hominibus sese traduxissent. Sed qui aliter contigisse videmus, interea nos isto Catone contenti erimus. Nam ex quibus Latinitatem, quam ex istis fontibus hauriemus?" Castigationes in Catullum, Tibullum, Propertium (Antwerp, 1582), praefatio, in G. Robinson, 143. But there immediately follows the reminder that these three poets combined speak no more disgracefully than a single play of Aristophanes, whom John Chrysostom was fond of reading. And, says Scaliger, no age has seen Chrysostom's equal in eloquence, uprightness, or piety ("cui profecto eloquentia, probitate, pietare parem alium nulla post aetas tulit"). Ibid., 143-44.

53 My thanks to the anonymous reviewers and editors of Renaissance Quarterly.


Antonii Bononiae Beccatelli cognomento Panhormitae epistolarum libri V. Venice, 1553.

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Title Annotation:poet Antonio Beccadelli
Author:O'Connor, Eugene
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1997
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