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25.2.Henkel

Readers since antiquity have seen the influence, even quotation, of Gallan love elegy in Eclogue 10 (Serv. ad 10.46: hi autem omnes versus Galli sunt; cf. Hollis ad FRP 141). This discussion has centered around the song spoken by Gallus himself, but further Gallan influence can be seen in the poem’s narrative frame, spoken by a character that many have judged to be Vergil (since he refers to the position of Ecl. 10 as last in its collection, extremum laborem, 1). Conte, Harrison, and others have discussed the metapoetic interaction between elegy and pastoral in Gallus’s song, since the elegist Gallus plays the pastoral role of Daphnis (Theoc. 1). The same metapoetic interaction can also be found in the frame, where the pastoral narrator plays elegiac role of poet-lover. Just as the elegist Gallus takes part in pastoral’s foundational conceit of singing shepherds, so too the pastoral narrator of Ecl. 10 participates in the foundational conceit of elegy, singing first-person complaints about his unhappy love and his competition with a rich, gift-giving rival.

While Gallus’s song in Ecl. 10 (31–69) tells of the elegist’s unrequited love for Lycoris, who is herself going north to follow a soldier (46–49), the poem’s narrative frame (1–8, 70–77) can be read as describing the narrator’s unrequited love for Gallus, who is himself in love with Lycoris. Some readers have seen the possibility of homoerotic love in the narrator's reference to his love for Gallus (Gallo, cuius amor tantum mihi crescit in horas, 73; Coleman). Rather than seeing this as autobiography, we should see Vergil as adopting the conventions of Roman elegy, which pretends to verisimilitude through its first-person narrative, but which uses ostensibly real love affairs to make metapoetic statements about poetry. When Vergil styles Ecl. 10 as a gift “for my Gallus,” though “the sort that Lycoris herself might read” (pauca meo Gallo sed quae legat ipsa Lycoris, | carmina sunt dicenda; neget quis carmina Gallo? 2–3), his allusion, as always, is literary: “poems such as Lycoris would read” are Gallan elegy, which we know imagined Lycoris as its reader (New Gallus 1). In these lines Vergil’s narrator assumes the elegiac role of exclusus amator, whose wheedling beloved asks for a present (neget quis carmina Gallo? 4), but who instead gives love poetry (Ecl. 10, Vergil’s extremum laborem) and prays for this to count as much or more than the gifts of his rival (Pierides: vos haec facietis maxima Gallo, Ecl 10.72). Later elegists frequently wish to be allowed to offer poems to their mistresses instead of gifts (James), and although this motif is not found in surviving Gallus, it is comparable to that poet’s concern that his verses be “worthy of my mistress” (NG 6–7). There are thus two metaliterary points in Vergil’s narrator's claim that amor Galli grows hourly for him (73, above): as elsewhere in the Eclogues, Vergil uses erotic love as a metaphor for literary influence (cf. Hubbard on Ecl. 2), and since amor and amores can refer to the genre of love poetry (DServ. ad Ecl. 8.23, Harrison 33), he underlines his admiration for Gallan elegy in this most elegiac of the Eclogues. That Gallus himself is in love with Lycoris ensures that the narrator’s love will be unrequited, as always in elegy.

The figure of the poet-lover is well-known from later Roman elegy, but at this early date, Vergil’s allusion must be to the poetry of Gallus himself. The metapoetic interaction between elegy and pastoral in Ecl.10 is thus complex, but balanced: Vergil casts the elegist Gallus into a role drawn from Theocritus, the originator of pastoral, and the pastoral narrator into a role drawn from Gallus, the originator of Roman love elegy. Both characters function equally as vehicles for Vergil’s meditation on the similarities—and ultimately differences (both characters reject the poem’s initial characterization of them)—between pastoral and elegy.

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