Cicero's poetry

Laurentius

Civis Illustris
Whenever the topic shifts to Cicero's poetry I see that many bash his poetic works quite harshly, what is your opinion on that? It seems normal to me, not really the horrendous mess some people make it out to be.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
O fortunatam natam me consule Romam!

Hey, it scans. Great stuff, just what we were looking for.

Juvenal, well, he was just a sourpuss.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I haven't actually read much of his poetry at all. The line just quoted was the only one I remembered because it was discussed on the forum. That line isn't great, but I can't have an opinion of my own about his poetry in general. I only know that it was already bashed by ancient authors.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Whenever the topic shifts to Cicero's poetry I see that many bash his poetic works quite harshly, what is your opinion on that? It seems normal to me, not really the horrendous mess some people make it out to be.
Not too much of his poetry has survived, and I haven't read all of it.

The few bits and pieces I have read seemed fine to me, though, and it seemed to be cleaner than what Catullus produced.

I'm yet to hear a good explanation as to why his poetry should be a mess. Obviously, writing an epos to praise yourself is not the most laudable topic to choose for a poet, but the mere composition of lines looked pretty good to me.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I actually remember asking the same question to a Latin professor, but he sort of dodged it ... he simply said that Latin prose culminated in Cicero and poetry culminated in Vergil (which is not even true, as Ovid shows).

It really seemed to me like Cicero writing poetry on pretty much the same level as Vergil (while not even dedicating his whole life to poetry) would just ruin that narrative.
 

Laurentius

Civis Illustris
Not too much of his poetry has survived, and I haven't read all of it.

The few bits and pieces I have read seemed fine to me, though, and it seemed to be cleaner than what Catullus produced.

I'm yet to hear a good explanation as to why his poetry should be a mess. Obviously, writing an epos to praise yourself is not the most laudable topic to choose for a poet, but the mere composition of lines looked pretty good to me.
That's what I mean, they always come up with that infamous line and say that it "has a horrible sound" or something like that, whatever it means, and no-one ever points out why. I mean obviously that verse reeks of self-importance and writing an epic poem to glorify yourself is ridiculous (while I guess commissioning it to someone else is perfectly fine for some reason), but it's clear from the rest of it that he can write fine lines. I can remember my first Latin teacher commenting on how bad of a poet he was too. If anything I think they should criticise his self-centered personality in general, not his poetic skills.
 
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Bitmap

Civis Illustris
If anything I think they should criticise his self-centered personality in general, not his poetic skills.
I think most of the criticism he attracted, already in the Antiquity, was actually about his self-centeredness. You will remember the popular lines from Quint. 11,24:

In carminibus utinam pepercisset, quae non desierunt carpere maligni:
"cedant arma togae, concedat laurea linguae"
et
"o fortunatam natam me consule Romam!"
et Iovem illum a quo in concilium deorum advocatur, et Minervam quae artes eum edocuit: quae sibi ille secutus quaedam Graecorum exempla permiserat.


I have to admit that I found that episode kind of funny, though ... I mean, despite desperately searching, you don't find a poet to write an epic about you, so you just write it yourself? :D :D That's brilliant.

It could just be that the quality of his prose (which often was self-centered as well) outshone his poetry ... I don't know. But generally speaking, I agree that his verse was decent.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
That's what I mean, they always come up with that infamous line and say that it "has a horrible sound" or something like that, whatever it means, and no-one ever points out why.
I think it's the -natam natam.
 

Laurentius

Civis Illustris
I think most of the criticism he attracted, already in the Antiquity, was actually about his self-centeredness. You will remember the popular lines from Quint. 11,24:

In carminibus utinam pepercisset, quae non desierunt carpere maligni:
"cedant arma togae, concedat laurea linguae"
et
"o fortunatam natam me consule Romam!"
et Iovem illum a quo in concilium deorum advocatur, et Minervam quae artes eum edocuit: quae sibi ille secutus quaedam Graecorum exempla permiserat.


I have to admit that I found that episode kind of funny, though ... I mean, despite desperately searching, you don't find a poet to write an epic about you, so you just write it yourself? :D :D That's brilliant.

It could just be that the quality of his prose (which often was self-centered as well) outshone his poetry ... I don't know. But generally speaking, I agree that his verse was decent.
That would imply that he thought someone else would be better at writing it. ;)
I think it's the -natam natam.
Well, quite.

Cedant...concedat isn't exactly brilliant either.
It's the first and only time I've seen such fiery criticism regarding a simple repetition like that. Had someone more celebrated written the same thing, I wonder if people would be talking about how elegant it is.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
It's possible that people blindly follow the "traditional" opinion without really knowing themselves. Again, I myself can't really have an opinion right now regarding Cicero's poetic work in general. I'd need to read it first. I think the fortunatam line isn't very pretty, but of course you don't judge someone's whole work by a single line. I love Shakespeare and think he was extremely good, yet he wrote a few awful lines; he's just not judged by those lines alone. I didn't even notice the cedat/concedat thing at first. Now that it's been pointed out I guess it isn't very good, but it's of course still not enough to condemn Cicero's poetry wholesale.
 

Etaoin Shrdlu

μεσσηγυδορποχέστης
Had someone more celebrated written the same thing, I wonder if people would be talking about how elegant it is.
Why wonder? Just find a similar repetition in the writings of a more celebrated poet, and see what the commentaries have to say about it.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Possibly from this, the earliest extant written mention of Shakespeare, by a contemporary. Some have interpreted the bolded part as an accusation of plagiarism. I think a few lines have also actually been found in Shakespeare that occurred in slightly earlier works by others, or if not the exact lines then similar ones.

“Yes, trust them not, for there is an upstart crow, beautiful with our feathers, that, with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie.”
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
He plagiarized from Plautus and Terence.
He adapted stories from Plautus and Terence (well, at least I know The Comedy of Errors is based on Plautus's Menaechmi; I don't know about Terence but maybe), and from many other sources, too. That's not exactly plagiarism.
 
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