Latin poetry: "terms and conditions" (so to speak).

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
Hi, all. I have a short question about Latin poetic terminology. I think that the term carmen refers to any poem, regardless of the type of poem or verse employed by the poet. I am wondering if there existed in Latin terms used specifically to describe what in English we call "blank verse" and "lyric verse". Thanks much!
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Blank verse is unrhymed metrical verse. In the classical period, all Latin verse was blank (rhyme wasn't used until late antiquity), so they naturally didn't have a specific term for it. I've no idea if a term was created later.

Lyrica (neut. pl.) means lyric verse. You can presumably also say lyrici versus, carmina lyrica, and whatnot.
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
Thank you, @Pacifica. Sorry for not checking back more quickly...(been quite busy lately).
In the classical period, all Latin verse was blank (rhyme wasn't used until late antiquity)...
Oh, those poor fellows, to never know the elation of a Byronic hymn...

Actually, not having tried as yet to read any poetry in Latin (simple prose is troublesome enough for me at present, thank you very much!), I did not realize that. I have been of the thought that there was lyric poetry contained within "the corpus". Certainly, the concept of lyric verse was known...didn't Sappho of Lesbos write lyric verse in Greek?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Yes, lyric poetry was known. I provided a translation above; maybe you missed it. Or maybe you thought lyric poetry had to be rhymed. Well, no.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Just to make things clear: ancient Greek poetry didn't rhyme any more than Latin poetry did.
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
The Oxford Classical Dictionary dixit:
The term ‘lyric’ (λυρικός) is derived from λύρα, ‘lyre’. As a designation of a category of poetry it is not found before the Hellenistic period [...] Its use in the ancient world was more precise than the terms 'lyric' and 'lyrical' as now used with reference either to modern or to ancient poetry. Though the term was extended to poetry sung to other stringed instruments or to the flute, it is always used of sung poetry as distinct from stichic, distichic (elegy included), or epodic poems which were recited or spoken. [...] The modern definition of lyric (verse neither epic nor dramatic but characterized by brevity, use of stanzas, and the enthusiastic expression of personal experience and emotion) would have meant little in Roman antiquity. Greek lyric could be defined by the social settings of its performance, the accompaniment of the lyre, and the use of certain metrical patterns.
 

scrabulista

Consul
Staff member
Did the Nine Muses have terms for their purviews?
 

Agrippa

Civis Illustris
Cf. e.g. Lewis&Short s. v. Musa: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0059:alphabetic+letter=M:entry+group=54:entry=Musa1

Perhaps also useful the follwing hexameters (cf. https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/muse_(Enciclopedia-Dantesca)/). I arranged the Muses alphabetically:

Carmina Calliope libris heroica mandat.
Clio gesta canens transactis tempora reddit.
Plectra gerens Erato saltat pede, carmine ducto.
Doctiloquos calamos Euterpe flatibus urget.
Melpomene tragico proclamat maesta boatu.
Signat cuncta manu, loquiturque Polymnia gestu.
Terpsichore affectus citharis movet, imperat, auget.
Comica lascivo gaudet sermone Thalia.
Uranie caeli motus scrutatur et astra.
 
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