« ZurückWeiter »
I. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ELEGY
THE Roman elegy founded by Cornelius Gallus and perfected by Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid was the culmination of an aesthetic evolution the earliest stage of which in our surviving record carries us as far back as the days when the kingdom of Gyges and Kroisos still loomed large on the eastern horizon of Hellenic civilization.' Nor can it be claimed that even then the elegy was in any respect rudimentary. On the contrary the great typical moods of the department are all visible and the elegiac distichủ shows by its very perfection of technique that it had already been subjected to artistic manipulation for a considerable length of time.
It is impossible here to discuss the question of origins at any length. The matter was obscure even to the ancient critics, and the solutions offered by modern scholarship are none of them entirely satisfactory. It is important however to observe that the traditional association of the elegy with the flute naturally points to an ultimate origin in the sphere of those orgiastic cults with which the flute itself was identified. The real significance of this statement becomes evident as soon as we recall to mind that in a primitive condition of society the expression of emotion soon reaches the ecstatic or orgiastic stage, and that from that point, whether the original motive was sorrow, patriotic fervour, religious excitement, or love, the symptoms, whether in action or thought, are very much the same. From this point of view therefore it would seem most likely that, as Crusius says, the leading motives of the elegy in its preliterary period were the lament for the dead and the patriotic call to arms, a specific type of the hortatory mood (TT POTPETTiKÝ). We find both moods united in the oldest surviving specimen of poetry animated by the lyrico-elegiac spirit, the dirge in Iliad 24, 725 f. The connection therefore of the flute with the elegy itself would appear to suggest that this form of poetry, though refined and raised to artistic excellence at an early period by the Ionians, sprang originally from the orgiastic mood. It is true that the elegy was also recited at symposiaand to the accompaniment of the Aute. This however involves no contradiction. On such occasions joy and sorrow met quite as naturally as they did in the orgiastic cults to which reference has already been made.
1 The only satisfactory account of the elegy as a whole is given by Crusius, Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie, 5 (1905), pp. 2260-2307. The student is referred to it for further details and for the most important literature of the subject.
2 On the independent use of the pentameter see Usener, Altgriechischer Vers. bau, p. 99; Immisch, Philologenversammlung zu Görlitz, 1889, p. 380; Kirby Flower Smith, A. J. P. 22, pp. 165-194; P. Rasi, De Eleg. Lat., p. 36; Reitzenstein, Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie, 6, p. 76, etc. On the origin of the distich see also Zacher, Philologus, 57, pp. 18 f., etc.
3 Crusius, l.c., pp. 2260 f. and ref.
4 Dümmler, Philol., 53, P. 201; Immisch, 1.c.; Rohde, Der Griechische Roman, pp. 139 f., etc.
On Greek soil the history of the elegy as a developed literary form may be conveniently divided into two periods, the Old and the New. The Old elegy (7th to 4th cent. B.C.) comprises the old Ionian school, the Dorian school of the Peloponnese, Solon, Theognis, and their contemporaries, and fourth, the Attic school. The New elegy begins with the Age of Alexander the Great and, at least for our present purpose, extends to Parthenios, the friend and teacher of Cornelius Gallus, the founder of the Roman elegy.
The Ionian group (7th to 6th cent. B.c.), the earliest and greatest period of the Old elegy, is represented, e.g., by Archilochos of Paros, Kallinos of Ephesos, Mimnermos of Kolophon.
It is interesting to observe how fully the tendencies of the elegy yet to be are either foreshadowed or completely developed
i The sympotic origin of the elegy is especially emphasized by Reitzenstein in his Epigramm und Skolion.
even in the scanty fragments of these early poets. The four leading moods — threnodic, hortatory, erotic, didactic (OpnuntiKÝ, apoτρεπτική, ερωτική, διδακτική) - are all represented. Now too, as throughout the entire history of the department, the poet's attitude is preferably subjective, but the objective attitude of the epic or dramatic poet as we see it in the narrative elegy had already begun. Even the realistic vein of Asios (see Athenaios, 3, 125, D) appeared again in the Alexandrian poets and certain of their Roman imitators. The same is true of style and technique. These are generally determined by the Ionian epic. Hence the certain amount of elevation and dignity ever afterwards characteristic of the type. So in their manipulation of the distich these old Ionian masters exhibit the same tendency to develop an idea by parallelism and antithesis which we find in the later poets, especially Tibullus himself.
The overshadowing genius of this period is Archilochos of Paros, but taking the subsequent history of the department as a whole, the most interesting and by far the most important representative of this school of elegy, perhaps even of the entire elegy, is Mimnermos of Kolophon.
Mimnermos, like Kallinos, used the distich as a vehicle of patriotic feeling. He also betrays a fondness for local legends. But his most important contribution to elegiac art is the sentimental-erotic mood characterizing the poems to his beloved Nanno. Equally important is the fact that he does not express emotion after the manner of the Aeolic lyric. He either analyzes it, presents it rhetorically, as in the old gnomic poetry, or illustrates it by a parallel taken from myth. These methods of development, especially this peculiar and characteristic use of myth, make the Nanno, as every student of Propertius knows, a prototype the Hellenistic elegy (cp. Hor. Epist. 2, 2, 101 ; Propert. 1, 9, 11).
A singer and a player of the flute as well as a poet, Mimnermos was also especially notable for his use of epic forms.