The poeta as rusticus in Ovid, Amores 1.7.
In this article I argue for another interpretation of this poem that locates Amores 1.7 firmly in the elegiac topos of the lover's violence. Specifically, I examine Tibullus 1.10.51-66 and Propertius 2.5.21-6, two poems to which Amores 1.7 has direct verbal and thematic connections. (2) My intention is, first, to focus on the characters of the rusticus and the poeta in Tibullus 1.10 between whom Tibullus draws a contrast when it comes to the battles of love, and, second, to discuss how Propertius in 2.5 objects to Tibullus's description of a drunken rusticus as a rapist, a scene that, in his view, should not have been written. Finally, I argue that in Amores 1.7 Ovid confronts and redirects the topos of elegiac violence by creating a poeta who is also a rusticus. (3)
Rusticitas is a quality that Ovid disdains and one that his elegy is designed to combat, (4) but in Amores 1.7, Ovid's poet-speaker gradually reveals that he has actually engaged in the behavior of Tibullus's rusticus by physically attacking his puella. Ovid thus combats the parochial and exclusionary conventions of Propertius and Tibullus who define the elegiac lover ostensibly as a peaceful man. At the same time, however, Ovid's poet-speaker punctuates his revelations with a high degree of epic features that show that, despite his uncouth behavior, he is a poet and a learned poet at that. As I suggest here, Ovid, by creating a poet-speaker who is a poeta as well as a rusticus, reworks both Tibullus, who has created a distinction between the behavior of a rusticus and that of a poeta, and Propertius, who believes that any poet who describes the behavior of a rusticus is himself behaving as one.
In the final poem of his first book, Tibullus creates a distinction between the rusticus and the poeta which calls on earlier themes in his poetry and connects the rusticus with the soldier. (5) After a series of contrasts between war and peace which ends with a disquisition on the types of love that involve both war and peace (51-66), Tibullus begins his final section with the rusticus, who, drunk after a festival, beats and rapes his wife: (6)
rusticus e lucoque vehit, male sobrius ipse, uxorem plaustro progeniemque domum. sed veneris tunc bella calent, scissosque capillos femina, perfractas conqueriturque fores; (51-4) The countryman, himself hardly sober, brings home from the sacred grove his wife and offspring in his wagon. But then the battles of love grow hot and the woman laments her torn hair and her broken gates.
Tibullus describes the condition of the rusticus with a form of litotes (male sobrius), (7) and we realize quickly that his drunkenness is ugly as Tibullus moves from the journey home (51-2) to the assault. His language is strong. He chooses bella to define the action of the rusticus, and its contrast with the noun veneris emphasizes his brutality. (8) Tibullus describes the remainder of the attack from the point of view of the woman (femina ... conqueritur), whose victimization he highlights both by his positioning of the woman (femina) between the two modes of attack (scissos, perfractas) and by his use of the passive participles to describe the actions done to her. The phrase perfractas ... fores reveals that the sexual act is not consensual, (9) and the phrase scissosque capillos perverts what should happen to hair during sex from erotic disorder to violent ripping.
The level of the rusticus's violence in 1.10 becomes clearer when we compare his actions to similar ones in Tibullus 1.1: nunc levis est tractanda venus, dum frangere postes / non pudet et rixas inseruisse iuvat (Now easy lovemaking must be performed, as long as it is not shameful to break down the gates and to introduce spats, 1.73-4). (10) The tone of this passage is entirely different from that of 1.10.51-4. Here Tibullus characterizes the lovemaking with the adjective levis (lighthearted), a happy descriptor of the act and also a catch-word for elegy (e.g., Am. 2.1.21, 3.1.41, where the personified Elegy describes herself as levis), and he calls the entire scenario shame-free (non pudet) and pleasing (iuvat). (11) He also calls the erotic struggles of foreplay raw, not bella, a distinction he makes again in 1.10.57 (James 2003, 188). However, in both passages, Tibullus emphasizes the idea of sex as male conquest by utilizing similar vocabulary (venus, 1.1.73; veneris, 1.10.53;frangere postes, 1.1.74; perfractas...fores, 1.10.54). He distinguishes the rape of 1.10 from the foreplay of 1.1, but both involve violence. The violence of the former is literal and brutal, that of the latter playful and playacted.
In 1.10, Tibullus continues to emphasize violence even as he details the reaction of the now remorseful rusticus to the reaction of his wife: flet teneras subtusa genas: sed victor et ipse / flet sibi dementes tam valuisse manus (She weeps, pouring tears over her tender cheeks: but he himself as victor weeps that his maddened hands were so strong, 55-6). Tibullus brings husband and wife together by their shared action (flet) made emphatic by repetition and location. At the same time he distinguishes them through a strong contrast. The uxor bewails her bruised cheeks, described as tener, a word that again has strong associations with both elegy and the elegiac mistress (e.g., Am. 2.1.4, 3.8.2). But, even as the anger of the rusticus dissolves into tears, Tibullus describes him in military terms: he is the conqueror (victor) and his power has prevailed (valuisse).
Earlier in Book 1, Tibullus's poet-speaker expresses remorse for a hypothetical act of violence in a way that presages both the violence and the remorse of the rusticus in 1.10: non ego te pulsare velim, sed, venerit iste / si furor, optarim non habuisse manus (I would not want to strike you, but, if that madness should appear, I would want not to have had hands, 1.6.73-4). The language is strong. The infinitive pulsare suggests the breaking of gates, (12) but also indicates a physical attack on the puella, and the noun furor indicates the anger necessary for a lover to behave in such a way. The level of remorse is also strong and hyperbolic--Bright (1978, 180) calls it "morbid" and "unexampled before Tibullus." But the situations are different. Both the violence and the remorse of 1.6 are hypothetical, whereas in 1.10 the violence has occurred and the remorse is a reaction. And yet the madness (furor; dementes) and the hands (manus) connect the passage of 1.6 with that of 1.10, and each text shows that the potential for violence is always present.
In 1.10 Tibullus continues to highlight the abusive behavior of the rusticus by contrasting his bella with the rixa of the lover:
at lascivus Amor rixae mala verba ministrat, inter et iratum lentus utrumque sedet. a lapis est ferrumque, suam quicumque puellam verberat: e caelo deripit ille deos. (57-60) But wanton Amor attends to the evil words of the quarrel and slowly he sits between each angry one. Oh, he is a rock or iron, he who beats his mistress. That man snatches gods from the sky.
Because of Amor's intervention, the rixa remains a rixa and does not become a helium,u Amor works to deescalate the altercation, and Tibullus displays his function as mediator splendidly with the arrangement of inter et iratum lentus utrumque sedet, which shows the deity both bringing together through bracketing (inter ... sedet) and separating (iratum lentus utrumque) the lovers. Tibullus then reinforces the contrast between rusticus and lover by criticizing and condemning any lover who goes so far as to treat his puella as a slave through physical assault (verberat). (14) He surrounds this unacceptable action with two condemnations: the proverbial rebuke of a hardhearted person, and a very specific accusation of impiety. (15) The admonition thus reinforces the contrast between rusticus and lover, while introducing a connection between the rusticus and the miles.
Tibullus finalizes the contrast between the rusticus and lover by suggesting gentler forms of strength for the lover to practice:
sit satis e membris tenuem rescindere vestem, sit satis ornatus dissoluisse comae, sit lacrimas movisse satis: quater ille beatus, quo tenera irato here puella potest! (61-4) Let it be enough to tear the garment from the body, let it be enough to disarrange the arrangement of the hair, let it be enough to cause tears to happen. That man is four times blessed whose delicate girl is able to weep when he is angry.
Tibullus brings us back to the rustica uxor specifically, and elegy generally, with the adjectives tenuem and tenera, which recall the adjective teneras above (55). Even more explicitly, he evokes the encounter between the rusticus and his wife with the infinitive rescindere that recalls the participle scissos (53) and with the noun comae that recalls the noun capillos (53). His emphasis has changed: now the lover is tearing a dress that can easily be torn because it is thin and fine, and he is disarranging hair, not cutting or ripping it. More significantly, he is not forcing sex on his puella. Yet his actions mimic violence. The puella weeps because the lover is angry, and in what becomes another proverbial expression, quater ille beatus (cf. Vergil, Aen. 1.94; Putnam 1973, 152), her weeping under these circumstances is what the lover desires (James 2003, 188).
The final contrast of this section and nearly the entire poem explicitly brings together the rusticus and the miles: sed manibus qui saevus erit, scutumque sudemque / is gerat et miti sit procul a Venere (But whoever is savage with his hands, let him bear a shield and a spike and let him be far from gentle Venus, 65-6). This distinction between the lover and the soldier connects the rusticus with the soldier (Gaisser 1983, 71) through the repetition of manus (56) and manibus (65), as well as the action of both, who use their hands as weapons. Thus, the two are different from the lover who engages in quarrels (rixa), not wars (bella), and whose physical actions with his puella are foreplay and not an assault. Tibullus's message is twofold. First, there is a limit to the way a lover can engage in sexual foreplay and be angry with a mistress, which simulates, but does not involve, a physical attack; and second, when the rusticus, who is otherwise idealized, forgets or overlooks or is simply too drunk to remember how to behave appropriately, his lovemaking belongs on the battlefield, not in the bedroom.
The rusticus as violent lover is a departure from Tibullus's typical rusticus of Book 1, who participates in rural occupations, sacrifice (1.1.23), and farming (1.9.8). Tibullus also, rather charmingly, refers to Priapus as the Bacchi... rustica proles (1.4.7). Most significantly, however, Tibullus calls himself a rusticus in his opening poem: ipse seram teneras maturo tempore vites / rusticus et facili grandia poma manu (I myself will sow tender vines at the appropriate time as a rusticus and great fruits with an easy hand, 1.1.7-8). In a programmatic poem in which he declares his preference for a quiet country existence over a military/political life, Tibullus's poet-speaker calls himself a farmer as he coopts for himself a primary function of rural life, planting. His self-designation is startling, since the term rusticus is generally uncomplimentary (Tzounakas 2006, 112-3; Maltby 2002, 122); and Tibullus may be acknowledging this anomaly with the emphatic pronoun ipse (Putnam 1973, 5; Maltby 2002, 122). In this instance, however, the term rusticus has "positive associations of simplicity and moral probity" (Tzounakas 2006, 113), (16) accentuated by the adjectives tener and facilis, both of which suggest an ease and calmness to the life of the farmer (unlike the plowing of the hard ground noted by Tibullus in 1.9.8). These terms also reveal the poet-speaker's preference for a simple poetic style (Tzounakas 2006, 114, 113 note 12), since the adjective tener is a typical designator for elegiac poetry (Putnam 1973, 51; Lee 1975, x). Just as Tibullus's poet-speaker seems to draw a contrast between the life of a farmer and that of a soldier or even a poet, he aligns the poet and the farmer through metaphor.
In 1.10, however, Tibullus distinguishes the poet from the farmer by using the degree of physical violence as his touchstone. Although he reshapes the alliances of both poems, from poet and farmer versus soldier in 1.1 to poet versus farmer and soldier in 1.10, all are engaging in violence of a sort. It is therefore quite significant that Tibullus should insert into 1.10 the vignette of the rusticus who turns violent after a peaceful festival. His intent is to show a difference between the rusticus and the poeta, but the effect is to reveal that erotic foreplay is a type of assault.
Tibullus's distinction between the rusticus and the poet-lover may be his final word on the subject, but Propertius, in his Elegy 2.5, criticizes Tibullus for writing the drunken and violent rusticus in the first place. In an elegy of high censure of Cynthia, where the poet-speaker berates her for being "heartless, an incorrigible liar, frivolous and unworthy of his devotion" (Richardson 1976, 224), he nevertheless states that he will not resort to violence:
nec tibi periuro scindam de corpora vestes, nec mea praeclusas fregerit ira fores, nec tibi conexos iratus carpere crines, nec duris ausim laedere pollicibus. rusticus haec aliquis tam turpia proelia quaerat, cuius non hederae circuiere caput. (2.5.21-6) I would not dare to rip clothes from the body of lying you, nor would my anger shatter closed gates, nor would I angry dare to seize styled hair or to wound with harsh thumbs: let some countryman seek these extremely disgusting battles, whose head ivy does not encircle.
The point of view is different: Propertius speaks in the first person and addresses Cynthia directly and emphatically (tibi... tibi), whereas Tibullus stays with the third person when speaking of both the rusticus and the lover. Yet clearly Propertius is imitating Tibullus's vocabulary in his itemization of actions that his poet-speaker will not take against Cynthia. Specifically, the verb scindam (21) recalls scissos (Tibullus 1.10.53), the verbfregerit (22) recalls perfractas (Tibullus 1.10.54), and the phrase scindam de corpore vestem recalls Tibullus's a membris tenuem rescindere vestem (1.10.61) (Solmsen 1961, 274). The actions are also similar: torn hair, forcible sex, bruised cheeks, and torn clothing. Propertius assigns all of Tibullus's actions to the poet-lover, but Tibullus parsed these actions and saw distinctions between physical assault and erotic foreplay. His rusticus tore the hair and bruised the cheeks of his wife as he raped her, whereas his lover tore the clothing and disarranged the hair of his puella as part of foreplay, but he did not harm her physically. Propertius's poet-speaker is suggesting that he could threaten Cynthia with all of these actions, sees them as violent actions (proelia), and, significantly, specifies that they are actions of a rusticus, not a lover. His final injunction (rusticus ... quaerat) is clear, and when he condemns these actions with the dismissive adjective aliquis and the condemnatory adjective turpia, itself made more intense by the adverb tam, he is qualifying all of them as behavior highly unworthy of a poet (Richardson 1976, 226; James 2003, 313 note 115).
Propertius, then, sees the same distinction between rusticus and poet-lover that Tibullus does, but he pushes the topic further. It is not that a poet should not behave in a violent way, but he also should not write about such behavior. Solmsen (1961, 275) argues that the purpose of Propertius's contrast is not that the rusticus is not a poeta, but that a poeta should not behave as a rusticus. He continues:
The criticism and the repudiation are aimed at the poet who delights in such 'low' subjects. Although he is apparently saying that a rustic who engages in such fights has the excuse of knowing nothing about the arts and the refinement of manners which goes with them Propertius also says that a poet who stoops to such matters is a rusticus (and not a poeta doctus). (17)
Propertius's point is clear but it is also clear that Propertius has just described his poet-speaker engaging in an attack that is more violent than any that Tibullus allowed for his poet-speaker. It is true that Propertius's poet-speaker is describing behavior that he will not undertake, preferring instead to use his poetry against his puella (27-30; Frederick 1997, 181), but the violence is present and functions as part of the poetry that Propertius's poet-speaker is using as a weapon. Through his criticism of Tibullus, Propertius becomes precisely what he is condemning in Tibullus.
The irony continues when, in 2.15, Propertius's poet-speaker again threatens his puella with the type of violence he seems to decry in 2.5: (18)
quod si pertendens animo vestita cubaris, scissa veste meas experiere manus, quin etiam si me ulterius provexerit ira, ostendes matri bracchia laesa tuae. (2.15.17-20) But if being resolute in your mind, you, clothed, sleep with me, with clothing torn you will experience my hands; furthermore, if my anger provokes me more, you will show bruised arms to your mother.
Again Propertius threatens to tear her clothing, this time because she is wearing it against his wishes; and he sees his anger extending to bruising her arms. James (2003, 188) sees this scene as a rixa that has spun out of control, thereby again reinforcing that the distinction between a rixa and a helium relies on a physical attack on the puella. In this passage the violence is hypothetical and conditional (quod si... si), and likely will not happen. Propertius has not written violence as an occurrence as Tibullus did in 1.10, but he has written violence.
In Amores 1.7, Ovid merrily discards both Tibullus's distinction between the rusticus and the poeta and Propertius's distinction between the poeta and the rusticus to create a poet-speaker who is not a rusticus but who behaves as a one. (19) In this poem the poet-speaker has in fact attacked his mistress and he now covers himself with remorse as he tries, through various means, to justify and mitigate his offense. (20) His debt to his predecessors is obvious. Like the rusticus at Tibullus 1.10.56, he sees his body parts, for instance, as terrible weapons, and he castigates his hands: adde manus in vincla meas (meruere catenas) (Place my hands in restraints; they deserve chains, 1); mea vesana laesa puella manu (the girl wounded by my insane hand, 4); quid mihi vobiscum, caedis scelerumque ministrae? / debita sacrilegae vincla subite manus (What have I got to do with you, servants of slaughter and crimes? Get under the deserved chains, lawless hands, 27-8). He also chastises his arms: nam furor in dominam temeraria bracchia movit (For madness has moved my rash arms against my mistress, 3), and, in a wish that recalls Tibullus 1.6.73-4 (so Barsby 1973, 85), he wants them to fall from his shoulders: ante meos umeris vellem cecidisse lacertos / utiliter potui parte carere mei (I would like my arms to fall from my shoulders; I could usefully be without this part of me, 23-4). Furthermore, he attributes his actions to madness, although to a far greater degree than does Tibullus, who uses the adjective demens to characterize the hands of his rusticus, and Propertius, who suggests that his anger (ira, iratus) will not drive him to such action. Ovid's poet-speaker is quite mad. Fie mentions his furor twice (2, 3), characterizes his hands and later his strength with the adjective vesanus (4, 25), and declares that others will call him demens (19).
Similarities continue with the type of damage that Ovid's poet-speaker inflicts: hair pulling (11,49) cheek wounding (39, 49), and dress ripping (47-8). But Ovid's poet-speaker does not break gates, and this omission suggests that his violence stops short of rape. He, like Tibullus (Barsby 1973, 85), suggests a series of alternative actions that he could have undertaken, shouting (45-6) and ripping her garment (47-8), although he pedantically catches himself by stating that the puella's sash would prevent him ripping the entire garment in two (48). The reaction of Ovid's puella (flet mea vesana laesa puella manu, 4) recalls that of Tibullus's uxor (flet teneras subtusa genas, 55; see McKeown 1989, 166 and Maltby 2002, 354). The sarcastic picture of Ovid's poet-speaker as triumphator (35-8) recalls Tibullus's designation of the rusticus as victor (1.10.55), and Ovid's designation of his poet-speaker as ferreus (50) answers Tibullus, who states that anyone who strikes a puella must be implacable (lapis est ferrumque, 1.10.59). Finally, although Ovid's poet-speaker does not specifically weep as Tibullus's rusticus does, we can imagine the entire Amores 1.7 as his highly exaggerated and tear-stricken response to his actions.
To write his angst and drama, Ovid's poet-speaker employs a solemn and lofty tone through the use of epic diction, scenes, and conventions: mythological exempla, patronymics, and similes. The diction and events of the poem have been discussed by other commentators, and I will simply note them here. Barbara Stirrup (1973, 826) mentions "the epic high-style periphrases": Schoenida (13), Maenalias (14), Cressa (16), to which can be added 1ydides (31, 34). John Barsby (1973, 83) notes the "epic phrase" clipei dominus septemplicis (7), and James Morrison (1992, 573) draws direct and significant connections between this phrase and Aeneid 12.925. Ellen Greene (1998, 85-7) notes that the terms furor, vesana, and demens are better suited to more serious contexts, although they do have erotic connotations (Khan 1966, 882; Barsby 1973, 83); and Akbar Khan (1966, 889-90; cf. Barsby 1973, 87; Stirrup 1973, 829) notes the use of tumidus (43), rigidus (46), and intonare (46), all of which belong in epic. Dramatic situations include the poet-speaker's outburst against his hands (27-8), which picks up the beginning (1-4) and end (62, 65-6) of the poem, and which "is expressed in rhetorical, high-style language" (Stirrup 1973, 827; cf. Barsby 1973, 85). Another piece of drama is the puella's rejection of the remorseful poet-speaker, which occurs as a result of his triple attempt to throw himself at her feet (61), an event that is difficult to imagine, but which has clear affinities with Odyssey 11 and Aeneid 4 and 6 (Parker 1969, 85; Stirrup 1973, 830-1; Barsby 1973, 89; McICeown 1989, 194).
Contributing to the elevated tone of Amores 1.7 is an unusual array of mythological exempla. The first series amplifies the themes of maddened anger and remorse:
quid? non et clipei dominus septemplicis Aiax stravit deprensos lata per arva greges, et vindex in matre patris, malus ultor, Orestes ausus in arcanas poscere tela deas? (7-10) What? Did not Ajax, master of the seven-layered shield not lay out the captured flock through the broad fields? And the protector of his father against his mother, the evil avenger, Orestes, did he not dare to seek weapons against the hidden goddesses?
Ovid's Latin is clever. In addition to the balance of the couplets noted by J. C. McKeown (1989, 168), Ovid postpones the name of each hero to the end of his respective line, and prefaces the name with defining characteristics marked by synchisis (clipei dominus septemplicis Aiax), exotic word choice (septemplicis), and neat juxtaposition (matre patris). He postpones the deed that defeats each hero to the second line, and that placement highlights the anticlimactic nature of these deeds. Both stories can be said to support the nature and extent of the madness felt by the poet-speaker, but neither is "very convincing," according to John Barsby (1973, 83) who states further: "[T]hese were great figures of tragedy caught up in impossible situations, and the comparison of Ovid's circum stances to theirs is highly exaggerated." Greene (1998, 85-6) suggests that these exempla reveal "the speaker's equivocation and inconsistency" because they counter through rationalization the poet-speaker's expressions of remorse, themselves exaggerated, at the beginning of the poem. (21) The result is a trivialization of the assault. There is no doubt that these exempla call into question the poet-speaker's intent and even his taste. They contribute to both the humor and the horror of the poem, yet they are highly rhetorical and poetic. The poet-speaker is introducing a strong epic theme in these early stages of the poem.
The second set of exempla follows quickly upon the first, and raises even more issues. After admitting that he has ruined his puella's coiffeur (11), the poet-speaker quickly backs away from his action by acknowledging that her disheveled hair is becoming (12), and he immediately distances himself further from his action by comparing her to three heroines of epic--Atalanta, Ariadne, and Cassandra:
sic formosa fuit; talem Schoeneida dicam Maenalias arcu sollicitasse feras; talis periuri promissaque velaque Thesei flevit praecipites Cressa tulisse Notos; sic, nisi vittatis quod erat, Cassandra, capillis, procubuit templo, casta Minerva, tuo. (13-8) Thus she was beautiful: I would say Atalanta was like her when she harassed the Maenalian beasts with her bow; and the Cretan woman was like her when she wept that the headlong South winds had taken away both the promises and the sails of lying Theseus. Thus, except that she was of bound hair, Cassandra was like her when she lay recumbent in your temple, chaste Minerva.
Again, Ovid's Latin is elegant and fits its subject. (22) He refers to Atalanta through her patronymic (Schoenida), to her prey through location (Maenelias), and identifies Ariadne likewise by her place of origin (Cressa). He is plainer with his reference to Cassandra, although he breaks his third-person narrative with an apostrophe to Minerva. It is difficult to see, however, that all of these exempla make the same point, and, indeed, the poet-speaker acknowledges the anomaly as he ploddingly explains that Cassandra's hair is not like the disarranged hair of his mistress. (23) Scholars actively dislike these exempla. Barsby (1973, 85) calls them "not particularly apt." Leslie Cahoon (1988, 7) sees the connection between the puella and these three heroines as "their sexual appeal as victims," and she states further:
These exempla move in a disturbing direction: from Atalanta forced to marry against her will; to Ariadne, exploited, betrayed, and abandoned, to Cassandra, about to be raped and vainly beseeching casta Minerva to save her own chastity. To rate them in terms of their beauty under such circumstances is grotesque, and to fault the most tragic instance for a too virginal arrangement of hair is singularly heartless.
Greene (1998, 86-7) sees the exempla as a reinforcement of the "linkage in the poem between male sexual desire and domination over the mistress," and suggests further that they "support the sanctioning of violence toward his mistress and the pleasure it brings." The very oddness of these exempla becomes even more pronounced because of their eloquence. Ovid jars his audiences even as he impresses.
The final exemplum in the poem locates the poet and his action firmly in the realm of the Iliad:
pessima Tydides scelerum monimenta reliquit: ille deam primus perculit; alter ego. et minus ille nocens: mihi quam profitebar amare laesa est; Tydides saevus in hoste fuit. (31-4) The son of Tydeus left behind the worst monuments: that one was the first to strike a goddess. I am the second. And that one was less harmful: the one whom I was professing to love was wounded by me; the son of Tydeus was fierce against an enemy.
The poet-speaker is recalling events from Iliad 5.330-53), when, as part of his aristeia, Diomedes battles with deities and wounds Aphrodite herself. This exemplum functions differently from the two previous series: the poet-speaker is using a contrast with Diomedes to cast more blame on himself. Despite the prosaic distinction he makes between a warrior who strikes an enemy and a lover who strikes his mistress, the exemplum raises the puella to the status of a dea (Khan 1966, 887), an effect found in other poems of the Amoves (e.g., 1.3: cf. Barsby 1973, 87; 1.5.1-8: cf. McKeown 1989, 182), and, by extension, the status of the poet-speaker to one of the greatest heroes of the Iliad. Ovid's Latin is heavy with its pounding repetitions of the patronymic Tydides and ille and with the key words perculit and saevus emphasized through their placement after the caesura in the pentameter line. And his words are strong. He characterizes Diomedes' deed with the transferred epithet pessimum. He surrounds the noun 'tydides in the first line with the adjective pessimum and the noun scelerum, and characterizes tydides in the last line as saevus. Other word choices contribute to the atmosphere of war and violence: perculit, nocens, laesa est, hoste.
As the final epic exemplum of the poem, these lines provide an appropriate introduction to the sarcastic triumph scene that follows. Greene (1998, 88) calls them "highly rhetorical" and suggests further that the poet-speaker is "striking a pose" to win the puella's forgiveness. His intentions are not clean in respect to his puella. However, this exemplum and the others that precede it are demonstrating that he is paying a great deal of attention to epic. Ovid uses mythological exempla throughout the Amores; such use is a hallmark of elegy, although Ovid does not use as much myth as Propertius does, and Tibullus is even more sparing in his use of exempla (Bright 1978, 1). Yet when we compare the use of exempla in Amores 1.7 with that found in the rest of Book 1 of the Amores--once in 1.1 (7-12), once in 1.3 (21-4), once in 1.8 (47-50), once in 1.9 (33-8) and once in 1.10 (1-7)--we see an increased and excessive use of mythological exempla in Amores 1.7. The difference must be deliberate. One effect of all this myth is to question the intent of the poem, and the odd nature of some of these exempla promotes the conclusion, not new, that the poet-speaker is not genuine in his apology to the puella. The very fact that the exempla are there, however, contributes to the elevated tone of the poem, a suspect tone, but a tone all the same.
The series of similes with which the poet-speaker describes his puella's reaction also contributes to the epic qualities of the poem:
astitit ilia amens albo et sine sanguine vultu, caeduntur Pariis qualia saxa iugis; exanimes artus et membra trementia vidi, ut cum populeas ventilat aura comas, ut leni Zephyro gracilis vibratur harundo summave cum tepido stringitur unda Noto; suspensaeque diu lacrimae fluxere per ora, qualiter abiecta de nive manat aqua. (51-8) She stood there mindless and with a countenance white without blood, just like the rocks that are cut from Parian ridges; I saw her lifeless joints and her limbs trembling, as when the air ruffles the leaves of the poplar, as when the graceful reed vibrates because of the gentle West wind, or as when the tips of waves are grazed by the warm South wind; tears, suspended for a long time, flowed over her face, just as water drips from melting snow.
The poet-speaker intersperses the puella's reactions with a succession of images drawn from nature: Parian marble, which resembles the color of her skin; poplar leaves, reeds, and waves, which resemble her trembling; and melting snow, which resembles her tears. (24) Ovid's Latin is masterful. The placement of verbs, for instance, varies from the emphatic astitit and caeduntur of the first two lines, to the equally emphatic vidi of the third, to the sequence of ventilat, vibratur, stringitur, fluxere, and manat. The verbs of the hexameter lines (vibratur, fluxere) hold the same metrical position after a caesura. Similarly, the verbs of the pentameter lines (ventilat, stringitur) hold the same metrical position, placed as they are after the strong caesura of the line. The final verb, manat, breaks the pattern of the pentameter verbs but this variation brings it in line with the verbs of the hexameter lines. The arrangement of nouns and adjectives shows a similar variation. Thus, we see chiasmus of nouns and adjectives in the first (Pariis qualia saxa iugis) and fourth (summa ... tepido.... unda Noto) similes, although the fourth simile also has interlocking word order. We also see interlocking word order in the third simile (leni Zephyro gracilis ... harundo). The second and fifth similes break these patterns by having only adjectives. These similes begin in nearly the same way with the introductory phrase and an adjective (ut cum populeas, qualiter abiecta), both of which fill out the first half of the pentameter, but the placement of the verbs (ventilat, manat) varies the latter half of each line.
The number and nature of the similes also contribute to the elevated tone of the poem. Only three other times do we see as many as five similes in a single sequence in the poetry of Ovid (Wilkins 1932, 74), and this number brings these similes more in line with those of epic than of elegy, although they are not the extended similes of epic.25 A stronger connection to epic occurs with the last simile, which evokes Penelope's tears in Odyssey 19 (Korenjak and Schaffenrath 2012, 876). Commentators assess Ovid's similes variously. McKeown (1989, 190) notes that they contribute to the humor and tension of the scene: they are exaggerated and postpone the puella's reaction. Barsby (1973, 89) finds it significant that these similes "are taken from inanimate and unfeeling nature: Ovid is fascinated by the appearance of the girl but shows no awareness of her emotions in his choice of illustrations." Khan (1966, 891) and Greene (1998, 89-90) concur. Khan notes that Ovid focuses on "the pictorial qualities of the figure before him" as a way of avoiding any emotional reaction, and Greene builds on these points to show that with these similes Ovid is in fact describing a woman who is powerless in the face of violence from her lover. All these points are true. But it is another point that Greene makes that connects with my purpose in this article. She states (1998, 89): "The amator metaphorizes the woman right out of sentient existence and again diverts attention from his violent behavior to his poetic virtuosity." I agree wholeheartedly that poetic virtuosity is on display here, but not entirely as a distraction. Through his poet-speaker, Ovid is demonstrating that the lover can be a violent man and a talented poet at one and the same time.
This discussion of Amoves 1.7 and its relationship with its literary predecessors contributes much to the understanding of the poetic relationship between Ovid and his older contemporaries and to the understanding of Ovid's own elegiac poetry. Not unusually, he has taken an elegiac topos and made it his own. More significantly, however, he has also taken an elegiac assumption of how a poet-speaker should behave in a certain circumstance, and has revised and expanded this assumption. Through his poet-speaker Ovid confronts the attitudes toward violence engendered by Tibullus and Propertius and exposes them as half-truths. Whereas his predecessors were coyly hesitant to explore the violence of the poet-speaker as a reality and instead danced around the topic either by not allowing the poet-speaker to engage in violence or by couching his violence as an imagined or hypothetical situation, Ovid, in Amoves 1.7, moves the poet-speaker's violence from possibility to reality. Yet this violence does not diminish the poet-speaker's ability to function as a poet or a lover. Ovid is being humorous; his utilization of the technique of "rhetorical inflation followed by deflation," a hallmark of Propertius (Sullivan 1976, 65), contributes all the more to the humor of this poem. He is also at his pompous best in this poem with his relentless reliance on epic language and conventions. But his humor and pomposity have a point: by showing that a boor can be the height of refinement, Ovid is showing that he can deliver in an acceptable way even a subject as unpalatable as violence against women. He thus has the best of both worlds: he exposes an elegiac conceit as a sham and, once again, he exposes himself as a master poet.
Ovid's response to the attitude of Tibullus and Propertius toward elegiac violence also says much about his own poetry. On the one hand, his battle is small compared to those of Propertius and Tibullus. Notably, it does not include rape, and the focus is more on the poet-speaker's remorse than on the battle itself. Yet even this focus is not the priority of the entire poem. In fact, in Amores 1.7, where only twenty-three of the 68 lines of the poem detail the poet-speaker's remorse and only four of those 23 lines describe his attack on his puella, the inescapable conclusion is that this poem is not about a lover's attack on his mistress, but about the writing of that very scenario in the best possible way. Thus, Ovid writes the elegiac rixa and its aftermath as an epic battle. Frederick (1997, 179, 188-9) suggests that both elegiac violence and sex become metaphors for epic and both violate poetic principles of elegy. In Amores 1.7 Ovid exemplifies the first part of this assumption and refutes the second. Certainly, his poem, steeped as it is in epic conventions, has conflated the genres of elegy and epic, an effect that is not surprising when we consider that Ovid's poet-speaker has been playing with the writing of epic from the beginning of the Amores, when he ostensibly lost his own battle to Cupid and was compelled to write elegy. (26) Now, in Amores 1.7, Ovid is writing a tiny epic about a dangerous subject that he both trivializes through the contrast of form and content and heightens through a high degree of gravitas that both supports and undercuts the poet-speaker's actions. Just as he transcends the boundaries of what constitutes a good poet-speaker, so, too, does he transcend the boundaries of genre. He compels his audiences to accept that erotic love can indeed be violent and that writing violence can be highly poetic and graceful, and what better way to achieve both than through the poetry of epic. (27)
Adams, J. N. 1982. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary. London.
Barsby, J. 1973. Ovid: Amores I. Oxford.
Bright, D. F. 1978. Haec mihi fingeham: Tibullus in His World. Leiden.
Cahoon, L. 1985. "A Program for Betrayal: Ovidian Nequitia in Amores 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1." Helios 12: 29-39.
--. 1988. "The Bed as Battlefield: Erotic Conquest and Military Metaphor in
Ovid's Amores." TAPA 118: 293-307.
Dalzell, A. 1996. The Critique of Didactic Poetry: Essays on Lucretius, Virgil and Ovid. Toronto.
Fraenkel, H. 1945. Ovid: A Poet between Two Worlds. Berkeley.
Frederick, D. 1997. "Reading Broken Skin: Violence in Roman Elegy." In J. P. Hallett and M. Skinner, eds., Roman Sexualities. Princeton. 172-93.
Gaisser, J. H. 1983. "Amor, Rura and Militia in Three Elegies of Tibullus: 1.1, 1.5 and 1.10." Latomus 42: 58-72.
Greene, E. 1998. The Erotics of Domination: Male Desire and the Mistress in Latin Love Poetry. Baltimore.
James, S. 2003. Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy. Los Angeles.
Keith, A. 2008. Propertius: Poet of Love and Leisure. London.
Khan, A. 1966. "Ovidius Furens: A Revaluation of Amores 1.7." Latomus 25: 880-94.
Korenjak, M., and F. Schaffenrath. 2012. "Snowmelt in the Alps: Corinna's Tears at Ovid, Amores 1.7.58." CQ 62: 874-7.
Lee, G. 1975. Tibullus: Elegies. Leeds.
Maltby, R. 2002. Tibullus: Elegies: Text, Introduction and Commentary. Cambridge.
McKeown, J. C. 1987. Ovid: Amores: Text, Prolegomena and Commentary; Volume I: Text and Prolegomena. Liverpool.
--. 1989. Ovid: Amores: Text, Prolegomena and Commentary; Volume II: A Commentary on Book One. Liverpool.
Morrison, J. V 1992. "Literary Reference and Generic Transgression in Ovid, Amores 1.7: Lover, Poet, and Furor." Latomus 51: 571-89.
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(1) Barsby (1973, 83) notes that Ovid alludes specifically to Propertius 2.5.21-5 and Tibullus 1.10.53-66, both of which he cites and translates in his Appendix (pp. 169-70), and both of which are the focus of this article. Barsby also notes Tibullus 1.6.69-76. McKeown (1989, 162) adds to these passages: Am. 2.5.45-6; Are am. 2.169-70, 3.5.67-70; Tibullus 1.1.73-4; and Propertius 2.15.17-20, 4.5.31.
(2) Solmsen (1961,274) locates the publication of Tibullus's first book between the publications of Propertius's first and second books and states further: "The verses of Propertius are his answer to the newly published book of the rival elegiac poet." McKeown (1987, 75) locates the publication of Ovid's first book after the publication of Propertius's third. He discusses thoroughly the difficulties of establishing a relative chronology among the elegists, but does state (85): "Where there is borrowing of subject matter or diction between the Amores and the later books of Propertius or Tibullus, it is probable that, as is a priori more likely, it is more often Ovid, the junior elegist, who is the imitator."
(3) James (2003, 184-97) sees this topos "as demonstrating the lover-poet's angry resentment of the puella and as a real threat to her." James also sees the poems as a result of the elegiac lover's resentment of his publicly servile status. It is her view that Ovid's escalation of these threats to actual violence reveals and criticizes these threats in other elegists. She concludes (2003, 197): "Ovid shows this anger and resentment to be systematic, part of the condition of male elegiac passion, and he further showcases the dangers it presents to women."
(4) In Amores 3.1, Elegy declares that Venus herself would be rustica without the aid of Elegy.
(5) I do not agree with Gaisser 1983, 70-1, that the rusticus in this passage is the same as the old farmer and his wife in lines 39-40. The latter is not called a rusticus, his age is clearly stated (pigra senecta), and the presence of an uxor in both scenes is not enough for the connection to be made.
(6) For texts I use the following OCT editions: Postgate for Tibullus, Kenney for Ovid, and Heyworth for Propertius. Unless otherwise noted, the translations are mine and are intentionally literal.
(7) The phrase male sobrius is found in Tibullus only here. Ovid uses the phrase in Amores 1.12 against the servant Nape, whose drunkenness, his poet-speaker assumes, causes her to stumble as she is about to deliver a message to Corinna. This is a bad omen in his view and one of the contributing factors to Corinna's refusal of his invitation. In only one other instance in Tibullus's poetry does alcohol lead to abuse. Carm. 2.5.103 reveals the remorse of a iuvenis who spoke badly to his puella while he was drunk. Putnam (1973, 151) notes the similarity.
(8) Adams (1982, 158) assumes that both bella (in this context) and rixa in, e.g., Propertius 2.15.4, are metaphors for sexual intercourse.
(9) Murgatroyd (2001, 293) notes that the phrase has both military and erotic connotations. Cahoon (1988, 297) observes that the lover's breaking of gates in Amores 1.9.20 "is surely at least as suggestive of rape as of seduction." In a discussion of Amores 2.1.27-8, Cahoon (1985, 32) equates the puella s doors with her genitalia. McKeown (1989, 267), however, does not believe that this passage supports the rape metaphor. Adams (1983, 89) does not cite fores in this context but does state: "The external female pudenda may be likened to a door, and the vagina to a path of passage."
(10) Murgatroyd (2001, 69, 301) comments on the phrase inseruisse rixas, which is tricky enough to translate that some commentators have preferred to emend the text to the more understandable conseruisse. Murgatroyd translates the phrase "to introduce brawls" or "to include brawls." Putnam (1973, 60) also translates inseruisse as "introduce" and states: "Door-crashing and brawling are regular elegiac events."
(11) The lack of shame derives from the appropriate age of the lover, who is young. Just previously (69-72) Tibullus has stated that love must be celebrated before the onset of old age and death. My thanks to the anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of this article for a reminder about the context of these lines.
(12) The infinitive pulsare appears only here in Tibullus's poetry, and only here does it refer to physical violence.
(13) James (2003, 185) uses this passage to distinguish between "the rixa, or quarrel, a form of sexual play between the lover-poet and puella, and the lover-poet's assault on the puella's house or person."
(14) The very strong verb verberat can refer to a physical or verbal assault, and appears only here in Tibullus' poetry to refer to humans (OLD, s.v. verbero). Its only other appearance in Tibullus refers to rain: ianua difficilis domini te verberet imber (1.2.7).
(15) Murgatroyd (2001,294) suggests that this accusation refers to the Titanomachy or Gigantomachy and, further, that Tibullus is raising the puella to the status of a diva.
(16) Lee (1975, viii) states: "He is pleased to call himself rusticus, giving the word (which carries strong overtones of boorishness) a positive value lacking in Ovid and Propertius."
(17) Cf. Maltby 2002, 353-4; James 2003, 192; Tzounakas 2006, 120; Keith 2008, 72-3.
(18) James (2003, 192-3) suggests that he also threatens murder-suicide in 2.8.25-8.
(19) Ovid does not use the term rusticus in Amores 1.7, a poem that is about the poet-speaker's relationship with his puella. In Amores 3.4 he does distinguish a rusticus from an urbanus, when, with heavy irony, he tells us that a rusticus is wounded by his unfaithful wife, whereas an urbanus is not. My thanks to the anonymous reviewer of an earlier version of this article for pointing out this passage.
(20) In Amores 2.5.45-6, the poet-speaker thinks about harming his faithless puella, but he relents: sicut erant (et erant culti) laniare capillos / et fuit in teneras impetus ire genas. His proposed actions are similar to those found in Amores 1.7.
(21) Olstein (1979, 297) notes that both heroes "paid heavily for their misdeeds," as, she suggests, will Ovid's poet-speaker.
(22) Khan (1966, 665) states: "The artistry of v. 15-16 is worthy of note."
(23) McKeown (1989, 174), however, suggests that "the wearing of a vitta need not necessarily imply an ordered coiffeur."
(24) Korenjak and Schaffenrath (2012), who suggest emending abiecta to Alpina (875), note the symmetry of the content of these similes (876).
(25) Book 3 of the Iliad, as just one example, opens with a series of similes comparing first the Trojans to wild cranes, then the dust they raise with their marching to a windstorm at night, then Menelaus to a lion, and finally Alexander to a man who nearly steps on a snake (1-37).
(26) Dalzell (1996, 135) states: "Questions of genre were a major preoccupation of him throughout the whole of his career. None of the other elegiac poets were so conscious of the limits of genre or so ready to transcend them."
(27) I wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for Helios of an earlier version of this article, whose suggestions greatly strengthened the discussion of Tibullus and Propertius, and the editor of Helios for his help and encouragement. I dedicate this article to the late John T. Davis, who inspired in me a love for the Amores of Ovid.
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|Author:||Perkins, Caroline A.|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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