Poets Hating Poets, But Stealing their Lines

Greek Anthology 11.130 Pollianus

“I hate those cyclic poets who say “but thereupon”
Thieves of other people’s poems.
So I put my mind on elegies. For I can’t steal
Anything from Parthenios or Kallimakhos.
May I become “a beast with ears” if I ever write
Something like “yellow chalice from the rivers”.
These poets rip off Homer so shamefully that
They have already written “Rage, Goddess, sing it!”

Τοὺς κυκλίους τούτους τοὺς „αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα” λέγοντας
μισῶ, λωποδύτας ἀλλοτρίων ἐπέων.
καὶ διὰ τοῦτ’ ἐλέγοις προσέχω πλέον· οὐδὲν ἔχω γὰρ
Παρθενίου κλέπτειν ἢ πάλι Καλλιμάχου.
„θηρὶ μὲν οὐατόεντι” γενοίμην, εἴ ποτε γράψω,
εἴκελος, „ἐκ ποταμῶν χλωρὰ χελιδόνια.”
οἱ δ’ οὕτως τὸν ῞Ομηρον ἀναιδῶς λωποδυτοῦσιν,
ὥστε γράφειν ἤδη „μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά.”

This poem plays on a generic conflict most famous in Callimachus, fr. 28

“I hate the cyclic poem and I don’t enjoy
The road that goes too far this way and that.
I despise as well the loved one who wanders—I
Don’t drink from just any stream: I loathe all common things.
Yes, Lysanius, you are fine—but before I say that clearly
Some Echo says “he belongs to another”.

᾿Εχθαίρω τὸ ποίημα τὸ κυκλικόν, οὐδὲ κελεύθῳ
χαίρω, τίς πολλοὺς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε φέρει•
μισέω καὶ περίφοιτον ἐρώμενον, οὐδ’ ἀπὸ κρήνης
πίνω• σικχαίνω πάντα τὰ δημόσια.
Λυσανίη, σὺ δὲ ναίχι καλὸς καλός—ἀλλὰ πρὶν εἰπεῖν
τοῦτο σαφῶς, ᾿Ηχώ φησί τις• ‘ἄλλος ἔχει.’


But Roman poets get in on this game too: Horace, Ars Poetica 136-144

“Don’t begin, as a certain Cyclic poet once did, ‘I will sing the fortune of Priam and that noble war…’ What could he produce worthy of such an opening? The mountains would part, and out would pop a ridiculous mouse. How much more proper the poet who labored at nothing foolishly: ‘Tell me, Muse, about the man who, in the time after Troy was captured, saw the cities and ways of many men.’ He had a mind, not to produce smoke from lightning, but to let the fire come forth from the smoke…”

Nec sic incipies, ut scriptor cyclicus olim:
“Fortunam Priami cantabo et nobile bellum”.
Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu?
Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.
Quanto rectius hic, qui nil molitur inepte:               140
“Dic mihi, Musa, uirum, captae post tempora Troiae
qui mores hominum multorum uidit et urbes”.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem

Later scholars get a little too excited about this.

One thought on “Poets Hating Poets, But Stealing their Lines

  1. I would think that any poetaster capable of an absurdly jingling line like ‘Τοὺς κυκλίους τούτους τοὺς’ has given up any claim to serve as a literary critic!

    I find something utterly delightful, though, in the very conception of a hatred for those who write αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα.

Leave a Reply