NOTE I.—On the Use of Alliteration in Latin Poetry.
It is impossible to read the earlier Latin poets, or even Virgil, without seeing that they abound in repetitions of the same letter or sound, either intentionally introduced or unconsciously presenting themselves owing to constant habit. Alliteration and assonance are the natural ornaments of poetry in a rude age. In Anglo-Saxon literature alliteration is one of the chief ways of distinguishing poetry from prose. But when a strict prosody is formed, it is no longer needed. Thus in almost all civilised poetry, it has been discarded, except as an occasional and appropriate ornament for a special purpose. Greek poetry gives few instances. The art of Homer has long passed the stage at which such an aid to effect is sought for. The cadence of the Greek hexameter would be marred by so inartistic a device. The dramatists resort to it now and then, e.g. Oedipus, in his blind rage, thus taunts Tiresias:
tuphlos ta t' ota ton te noun ta t' ommat' ei.
But here the alliteration is as true to nature as it is artistically effective. For it is known that violent emotion irresistibly compels us to heap together similar sounds. Several subtle and probably unconscious instances of it are given by Peile from the Idyllic poets; but as a rule it is true of Greek as it is of English, French, and Italian poetry, that when metre, caesura, or rhyme, hold sway, alliteration plays an altogether subordinate part. It is otherwise in Latin poetry. Here, owing to the fondness for all that is old, alliteration is retained in what is correspondingly a much later period of growth. After Virgil, indeed, it almost disappears, but as used by him it is such an instrument for effect, that perhaps the discontinuance of it was a loss rather than a gain. It is employed in Latin poetry for various purposes. Plautus makes it subservient to comic effect (Capt. 903, quoted by Munro.).
“Quanta pernis pestis veniet, quanta labes larido,
Quanta sumini absumedo, quanta callo calamitas
Quanta lanies lassitudo.”
Compare our verse:
“Right round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.”
Ennius and the tragedians make it express the stronger emotions, as violence:
“Priamo vi vitam evitari.“
So Virgil, imitating him: fit via vi; Lucr. vivida vis animi pervicit; or again pity, which is expressed by the same letter (pronounced as w), e.g. neu patriae validas in viscera vertite vires; viva videns vivo sepeliri viscera, busto, from Virgil and Lucr. respectively. A hard letter expresses difficulty or effort, e.g. manibus magnos divellere montis. So Pope: Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone. Or emphasis, parare non potuit pedibus qui pontum per vada possent, from Lucretius; multaque prae_terea vatum prae_di ta pri_orum, from Virgil. Rarely it has no special appropriateness, or is a mere display of ingenuity, as: O Tite tute Tati tibi tanta tyranne tulisti (Ennius). Assonance is almost equally common, and is even more strange to our taste. In Greek, Hebrew, and many languages, it occurs in the form of Paronomasia, or play on words; but this presupposes a rapport between the name and what is implied by it. Assonance in Latin poetry has no such relevance. It simply emphasizes or adorns, e.g. Aug_usto aug_urio postquam incluta condita Roma est (Enn.); pulcram pulcritudinem (Plaut.). It takes divers forms, e.g. the omoioteleuton akin to our rhyme. Vincla recus_antum et sera sub nocte rud_entum; cornua relat_arum obvertimus antenn_arum. The beginnings of rhyme are here seen, and perhaps still more in the elegiac, debuerant fusos evoluisse meos; or Sapphic, Pone me pigris ubi nulla campis Arbor aestiva recreatur aura. Other varieties of assonance are the frequent employment of the same preposition in the same part of the foot, e.g. insontem, infando indicio—disjectis disque supatis; the mere repetition of the same word, lacerum crudeliter ora, ora manusque; or of a different inflexion of it, omnis feret omnia tellus, non omnia possumus omnes ; most of all, by employing several words of a somewhat similar sound, what is in fact a jingle, e.g. the well-known line, Cedant arma togae con_cedat lau_rea lau_di; or again, mente cle_menteedita (Laberius). Instances of this are endless; and in estimating the mechanical structure of Latin poetry, which is the chief side of it, we observe the care with which the greatest artists retain every method of producing effect, even if somewhat old fashioned (see on this subject Munro's Lucr. preface to Notes II. which has often been referred to.)
NOTE II.—Some additional details on the History of the Mimus (from Woelfflin. Publ. Syri Sententiae, Lips. 1869).
The mime at first differed from other kinds of comedy—(1) in having no proper plot; (2) in not being presented primarily on the stage; (3) in having but one actor. Eudicos imitated the gestures of boxing; Theodorus the creaking of a windlass; Parmeno did the grunting of a pig to perfection. Any one who raised a laugh by such kinds if imitation was properly said mimum agere. Mimes are thus defined by Diomedes (p. 491, 13 k), sermones cuiuslibet et molus sine reverentia vel factorum et dictorum turpium cum lascivia imitatio. Such mimes as these were often held at banquets for the amusement of great men. Sulla was passionately fond of them. Admitted to the stage, they naturally took the place of interludes or afterpieces. When a man imitated e.g. a muleteer (Petr. Sat. 68), he had his mule with him; or if he imitated a causidicus, or a drunken ruffian (Ath. 14, 621, c.), some other person was by to play the foil to his violence. Thus arose the distinction of parts and dialogue; the chief actor was calledArchimimus, and the mime was then developed after the example of the Atellanae. When several actors took part in a piece, each was said mimum agere, though this phrase originally applied only to the single actor.
When the mime first came on the stage, it was acted in front of the curtain (Fest. p. 326, ed. Mull.), afterwards, as its proportions increased, a new kind of curtain called siparium was introduced, so that while the mime was being performed on this new and enlarged proscaenium the regular drama were going on behind the siparium. Pliny (xxxv. 199) calls Syrus mimicae scaenae conditorem ; and as he certainly did not build a theatre, it is most probable that Pliny refers to his invention of the siparium. He evidently had a natural genius for this kind of representation, in which Macrobius (ii. 7. 6) and Quintilian allow him the highest place. Laberius appears to have been a more careful writer. Syrus was not a literary man, but an improvisator and moralist. His sententiae were held in great honour in the rhetorical schools in the time of Augustus, and are quoted by the elder Seneca (Contr. 206, 4). The younger Seneca also frequently quotes them in his letters (Ep. 108, 8, &c.), and often imitates their style. There are some interesting lines in Petronius (Satir. 55), which are almost certainly from Syrus. Being little known, they are worth quoting as a popular denunciation of luxury—
“Luxuriae rictu Martis marcent moenia,
Tuo palato clausus pavo pascitur
Plumato amictus aureo Babylonico;
Gallina tibi Numidica, tibi gallus spado:
Ciconia etiam grata peregrina hospita
Pietaticultrix gracilipes crotalistria
Avis, exul hiemis, titulus tepidi temporis
Nequitiae nidum in cacabo fecit modo.
Quo margarita cara tribaca Indica?
An ut matrona ornata phaleris pelagiis
Tollat pedes indomita in strato extraneo?
Zmaragdum ad quam rem viridem, pretiosum vitrum.
Quo Carchedonios optas ignes lnpideos
Nisi ut scintilles? probitas est carbunculus.”
There is a rude but unmistakable vigour in these lines which, when compared with the quotation from Laberius given in the text of the work, cause us to think very highly of the mime as patronized by Caesar.
NOTE III.—Fragments of Valerius Soranus.
This writer, who was somewhat earlier than the present epoch, having been a contemporary of Sulla but having outlived him, was noted for his great learning. He is mentioned by Pliny as the first to prefix a table of contents to his book. His native town, Sora, was well known for its activity in liberal studies. He is said by Plutarch to have announced publicly the secret name of Rome or of her tutelary deity, for which the gods punished him by death. St. Augustine (C. D. vii. 9) quotes two interesting hexameters as from him:
“Iupiter omnipotens, rerum rex ipse deusque
Progenitor genetrixque, deum deus, unus et omnes.”
Servius (Aen. iv. 638) cites two verses of a similar character, which are most probably from Soranus. Iupiter, addressing the gods, says,
“Caelicolae, mea membra, dei, quos nostra potestas
Officiis, diversa facit.”
These fragments show an extraordinary power of condensed expression, as well as a clear grasp on the unity of the Supreme Being, for which reason they are quoted.