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Archpoet’s Archicancellarie, vir discrete mentis: Ovidian Imitation and its Metapoetical Implications

Pedro Baroni Schmidt

Archpoet is the assigned title to a 12th century author who belongs to the so-called Goliardic movement of the Medieval Latin literature. From his writings, ten poems were preserved; one of them, which begins with the verse Archicancellarie, vir discrete mentis (4 in Eberle’s edition, 5 in Langosch’s) deserves notice for its metapoetical and “über-generic” character. Several different genres can be found in the poem: the epistolary (the aspect of letter, the enunciation and praise of the addressee, the implication of a previous request); the elegiac (the themes of lament, sadness, incapacity, refusal of epic); the sympotic (the praise of wine and food); and the satirical (the critique of uses of the clergy). Nevertheless, if the poem is analyzed in the key of Ovidian imitation, it receives new tones. The poem not only cites Ovid explicitly in verse 56 (Nasonem post calicem carmine praeibo, “after a glass [of wine] I outdo Ovid in poetry”) but also borrows from the Roman poet the themes, the commonplaces and the lexical expression. The poem shows an intertextual dialogue with Tristia 1.1, where Ovid exposes the frailty of the poet, the turbulence of the moment and the necessary conditions to write poetry. These three issues, and chiefly the last one, are recreated by the Archpoet in an emulative and at the same time ironical imitation. Our objective here is to present the imitative processes carried on by the Archpoet in relation to the Ovidian work (and mainly to Tristia 1.1), in order to argue that this medieval production is not an ill-defined poem (as some may judge it) but rather a poem that transcends the borders of the genres, uniting and joining them in a metapoetical manifesto.

Session/Panel Title:

Imitation in Medieval Latin Literature

Session/Paper Number

76.3

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