Latin Authors, Far From Homer

Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (47):

“I took my critical life in my hand, some years ago, when I suggested that Catullua was in some ways a better writer than Sappho, not for melopoeia, but for economy of words. I don’t in the least know whether this is true. One should start with an open mind.

The snobbism of the renaissance held that all Greek poetry was better than ANY Latin poetry. The most intelligent of the Quattrocento Latinists, Basinio of Parma, proclaimed a very different thesis; he held that you couldn’t write Latin poetry really well unless you knew Greek. That is, you see, very different. In the margins of his Latin narrative you can still see the tags of Homer that he was using to keep his melodic sense active.

I don’t believe that any Latin author is in measurable distance of Homer. I doubt if Catullus is inferior to Sappho. I doubt if Propertius is a millimetre inferior to his Greek antecedents; Ovid is for us a store-house of a vast mass of matter that we cannot NOW get from the Greek.

He is uneven. He is clear. His verse is as lucid as prose. Metrically he is not a patch on Catullus or Propertius.”

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Auguste Jean Baptiste Vinchon, Propertius and Cynthia at Tivoli

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