Thursday, June 7, 2007

Greek and Roman Love Poetry - The pursuit of the Beloved from Sappho to Catullus

In Our Time, presented by Melvyn Bragg (BBC Radio 4) discusses the work of the poetess Sappho.
Greek and Roman love poetry - the source of many of the images and metaphors of love that have survived in literature through the centuries. We begin with the words of Sappho, known as the Tenth Muse and one of the great love poets of Ancient Greece:

“Love, bittersweet and inescapable,
creeps up on me and grabs me once again”

Such heartfelt imploring by Sappho and other (mainly male) writers led poetry away from the great epics of Homer and towards a very personal expression of emotion. These outpourings would have been sung at intimate gatherings, accompanied by the lyre and plenty of wine. The style fell out of fashion only to be revived first in Alexandria in the third Century BC and again by the Roman poets starting in the 50s BC. Catullus and his peers developed the form, employing powerful metaphors of war and slavery to express their devotion to their Beloved – as well as the ill treatment they invariably received at her hands!

So why did Greek poetry move away from heroic narratives and turn to love in the 6th Century BC? How did the Romans transform the genre? And what effect did the sexual politics of the day have on the form?

Contributors

Nick Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London

Edith Hall, Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London

Maria Wyke, Professor of Latin at University College London
The programme is available for download as an MP3 file here.
A bibliography can be found here.

Greek and Roman Love Poetry - The pursuit of the Beloved from Sappho to Catullus

1 comment:

Poetry said...

Feather brained clouds off on rain's errand.


Insects mating furiously in flight--They call them love bugs.



Cleaving to one another as oblivion approaches.



Working their wings in the morning breeze.