Landor's Latin Poems: Fifty Pieces

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1st Edition

240 x 160 mm. 112pp Illustrated.... [In stock in Australia, for immediate delivery]

This selection says nothing about the English writings of Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864), which run to 16 volumes; and apart from a brief introductory sketch it makes only occasional remarks about his life. Instead it presents 50 illustrations of his exceptional dexterity in Latin verse, showing his hostile treatment of political figures (including royalty), his relations with friends, his pleasures and sufferings as a lover, and his delight in the changing phases of nature. The long closing piece treats, within a mythological framework, the great forces that govern the world and its inhabitants.

Landor offers an interesting contrast with Dr Johnson, who died in 1784 when Landor was nine and who is sometimes wrongly described as the last important writer with an inner command of Latin. First, though Landor was careless about money, and at times in serious trouble with debt, he had an inheritance which put him in a different position from Johnson's. Again, while some of Johnson's Latin pieces show a deeply felt belief in religion, Landor's deities are those of classical paganism.

Other points emerge from a consideration of what they owe to their Latin predecessors. Both draw on Vergil - especially on the pastorals (Eclogues). And both are indebted to Horace for the metrical forms which he took over from the Greeks and for his genial good sense. But Horace also wrote some abusive epodes on women (nos. 8 and 12) that, though shunned by the fastidious doctor, foreshadow Landor's attacks on Princess Caroline of Brunswick.

But it is Catullus who provides the most revealing contrast. His eleven-syllable line, though ignored by Johnson, is frequently used by Landor. In one such line Catullus brands Julius Caesar, who was already one of the most powerful men in Rome, as 'an evil pervert' and 'a catamite' (57.1-2). That must have appealed to the rebel in Landor. In another, a girl called Ameana is insulted in the most brutal terms (41).

But it was primarily for his infatuation with Lesbia and his anguished disillusion that Catullus served as a model for Landor. That is made clear in the wild hyperbole of the very first poem, in which the iron domination of the Roman empire is redeemed by Catullus' love-poetry. As. we read it, the intervening centuries collapse, and we are left with one gifted young poet talking to another in a shared language.

This book is intended primarily for readers whose Latin is somewhat rusty, but even the translation (it is hoped) may help to revive interest in a writer who was admired for his passion and dexterity and detested by his victims.

Niall Rudd is a retired Professor of Latin who's main interest is the Latin poets and those English poets who drew inspiration from them.
^ Poetry ^

(9780838757598)

SKU 9780838757598
Barcode # 9780838757598
Brand AUP
Artist / Author Niall RUDD (translator & editor)

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