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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database

Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, 9.12-9.16

nanXII To his friend Oresius [c. 484 CE] I HAVE just received your letter, which I may compare to the salt mined in the hills of Tarragona. The reader finds it sharp and lucid, yet none the less of a bland savour. The phraseology is charming, but the matter is also full of point. Taking small account of my present state of life, it asks me for a new poem, and this demand brings me no less trouble of mind than the admirable diction delight. At the very outset of my religious career, the art of versifying was the first thing that I renounced; gravity of deed was now my business, and if I occupied myself with such frivolous things as verses, I might well be accused of levity. [2] Besides, it is a matter of universal experience that a pursuit which has been intermitted for any time is only resumed with difficulty. Every one knows that both art and artist achieve their highest by constant practice; if the usual exercise be forgone, arm and intellect alike will grow inert. The later or the more seldom the bow is used, the more refractory it is under the hand; it is the same with the ox under his yoke and the horse with his bridle. Moreover, disinclination is not my only motive; it is accompanied by a certain timidity. After three whole Olympiads of silence, to begin rhyming again would be no less embarrassing than irksome. [3] But it seems almost a crime to refuse you even the most difficult things; your warm heart is quite unused to be denied, and it would be a shame to deceive you of your confident hope. I shall therefore choose a middle path: I will compose nothing new; but if I can find any of my former letters containing poems, written before the pressure of my present duties, you shall have them. I shall merely ask you not to be unfair, and set me down as an incurable poetaster. I shall pride myself just as much on your good opinion if you deign to think of me rather as a modest than as an accomplished man. Farewell.

nanXIII To his friend Tonantius [c. 481 CE] I MUST admit that your judgement on my verses has long been too flattering and appreciative: I must admit that you rank me among the elect of poets and even above many of their number. I might be inclined to listen, were not your critical acumen influenced by your friendship. Praises born of partiality, though uttered in perfect good faith, are really based on error. [2] You ask me now to send you some Asclepiads forged on the Horatian anvil, that you may keep yourself in practice by declaiming them at table. I do so, though never in my life have I been so busily engaged in writing prose. 'Long time, with hand well worn by the pen, have I written smooth hendecasyllables which you might sing more easily than choriambics, dancing on lighter foot to freer measure. But you will that our way should henceforth run by the Calabrian road, where, with reins of mighty music, Flaccus guided his lyric steeds to the melody of Pindar, while the strings were struck to the Glyconian rhythm, to the Alcaic also and the Pherecratian, the Lesbian and the anapaestic; in the freshness of his varied song he went, with words like violets of diverse hue about him. Hard was it for bards of old, hard for me to-day to see that the tongue, essaying the various music of verse, trips not by reason of too many written letters, and their male style which forbids luxuriant Graces. Hardly may Leo himself attempt it, king of the Castalian choir; hardly he who most nearly follows him, Lampridius, though he professes prose and verse alike before his students of Burdigala. Yet this it is which I must try for you: spare me, then, your jests. Suffer your poet to keep to the close his pledge of modesty; for nothing is less excellent than this, to end with laxity where the beginning was with rigour.'

nanXIV To his friend Burgundio (No indication of date) It doubles my own pain to learn that you too are driven to keep your bed. No fate is so hard to bear as the separation of friends through sickness, when they are quite close to each other. Unless they share one room, they cannot exchange a word of mutual comfort or offer a prayer together. Each has burden of anxiety enough on his own account, but a greater for his friend. However ill a man may be, his fears for himself vanish before the knowledge of his friend's danger. [2] But God, most affectionate son, has relieved me of my worst disquietude, since you begin to regain strength. They say you even want to get up, and what I long even more to hear, that you are strong enough to do so. I really think you must be, or you would not have begun to ask my advice again, and set me literary problems with the ardour of one perfectly recovered. Though you are only a convalescent, you seem far more inclined for some ethical discourse of Socrates, than any physical treatise of Hippocrates. Verily you deserve, if ever man did, the encouragement of Rome's applauding hands, the thunder of the Athenaeum hailing you master, till the seats shake with the clamour through every tier. [3] And were but peace ours, and the roads free, these triumphs you would attain, given the opportunity of forming yourself in the society of our senatorial youth. Of such fame and such distinction I judge you capable from the becoming speech you recently made; you delivered extempore the matter of a written discourse, with the result that the kindly acclaimed you, the supercilious marvelled, the most accomplished had no fault to find. But I ought not to embarrass your modesty by impertinent excess of praise; my eulogies are better made to third persons than to yourself. I will proceed to the real subject of my letter.

nanXV To his friend Gelasius [c. 481 CE] You prove my offence against you, and I do not defend myself on the charge. In so far as no letter in this collection bears your name, I have indeed offended. But you write that you will regard the fault as venial, provided I send you something for recital at table, like the letter in prose and verse which I sent not long ago to my friend Tonantius for a similar purpose. You conclude by deploring that when I drop into poetry I never write anything but hendecasyllables, preferring that in the present case I should substitute for this trochaic facility something composed in verses of six feet. I acquiesce, only hoping that the enclosed will please you, whether you style it ode or eclogue. The composition was hard work, for when one is out of practice in a given metre, to write in it is far from easy. 'You wish, dear friend, the fierce iambic to echo through my pages with impetuous rhythm, as hitherto the trochee; the spondee with its two slow feet and its time of four, to hold the flighty dactyl in check awhile; you wish that other swiftest of all feet to resound with these, named fitly from the Pyrrhic dance, and always to be placed at the conclusion; you wish next the anapaest to bound the beginning or the end of the verse, which only in strictness deserves its name when a third long syllable follows upon two short. An ordinary poet — for such, you know, your Sollius is — has not the skill to manage all these measures. My note is uncertain, my wandering tongue has no art to unroll from echoing mouth the long-drawn epic. That skill is rather Leo's, or his who in Latin song follows in Leo's steps, and in the Greek stands first, who descends from the Sire of the Consentii; who with lyre and tone and measure has sung, men say, by the ford of Pegasus in every form we know, and in the Greek tongue has held the high stars by Pindar's side, and ranged victorious the twin-peaked hill, second to none among the caves of Delphi. But if either bard forsake the Doric speech, and sing to the poet's lyre a Latian strain, then, Flaccus, all too feebly shalt thou wield the plectrum of Venusia, and thou, O vanquished swan of Aufidus, shalt bow thy white and tuneful neck, moaning to hear the music of the swans of Atax. Nor these alone are skilled, albeit than the common skilled more skilful. For the rhetor Severianus had sung with a more transcending voice, and Domnulus, the subtle bard of Africa, with more elegance, and the learned Petrus with more harmonious strength, whose love of writing letters would never have stayed him from composing marvellous verse. And ever more masterly had been the melodious music of Proculus, him of Ligurian home and race, so finishing his graceful poems as to make his country rival in men's love Mantua of the Venetian land, and himself arise the peer of Homer in his glory, or drive abreast with Maro's car. But I, whose thought and style merit contempt, how should I raise my babbling voice among these, even for your pleasure, without proof of babbling unashamed and achievement falling ever short of my ambition? Yet if even this shame suffice not to deter me, how shall I deny you? Love knows not fear: 'tis therefore I obey.'

nanXVI To his friend Firminus [c. 484 CE] You may remember, honoured Son, asking me to add a ninth book, specially composed for you, to the eight already issued: those addressed to Constantius, whose great qualities are known to you, his eminent capacity, his sanity in counsel, his pre-eminent gift of eloquence, by which, in the discussion of public affairs, he eclipses all other speakers on his own or on the opposite side. Herewith I fulfil my promise with punctuality, if not strictly as proposed. [2] For on my return after my diocesan visitation, I began going through all my mouldering old papers for any chance drafts of letters that might be among them; I worked as fast and as hard as I could, and then had them out and transcribed them with all speed. I did not allow the wintry season to interfere with my resolve of fulfilling your desire, though the copyist was hindered by the cold which prevented the ink drying on the page; the drops froze harder than the pen, and as the hand pressed the point on the page, they seemed to break from it rather than to flow. I have done my best to acquit my obligation before the mild Favonian breeze brings his natal showers to fertilize our twelfth month, which you call the month of Numa.

Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

3 results
1. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, 1.2, 2.1, 7.9, 8.9, 9.13-9.16 (5th cent. CE - 5th cent. CE)

2. Epigraphy, Seg, 54.214

3. Epigraphy, Ig, 12.4.278

Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
proculus Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 159; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 159
seneca Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 159; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 159
sidonius, persona' Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 159
sidonius, persona Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 159