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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Venus and Adonis Query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1397  Wednesday, 6 June 2001

[1]     From:   Gary Allen <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 20:50:27 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query

[2]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 19:52:32 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gary Allen <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 20:50:27 EDT
Subject: 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query

Rainbow Saari asks:

I believe the two lines of Latin poetry that are printed above the
Dedication to Southampton on the title page of Venus and Adonis, come
from one of Ovid's poems. Judy Craig (SHS. 11.0707 Sonnet 20) gives
their translation as 'Let base conceited wits admire vile things; fair
Phoebus lead me to the Muses springs. ' Can some kind soul tell me where
in Ovid's works these lines are found?

Others here can and perhaps will give you fluent and informative data
about these lines, which are found in Elegy 15 of book I of the Amores.
In brief, though, here is a link to Marlowe's translation:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.03.0016&l

ayout=&loc=1.15.1

Gary

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 19:52:32 -0600
Subject: 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1361 Venus and Adonis Query

>I believe the two lines of Latin poetry that are printed above the
>Dedication to Southampton on the title page of Venus and Adonis, come
>from one of Ovid's poems. Judy Craig (SHS. 11.0707 Sonnet 20) gives
>their translation as 'Let base conceited wits admire vile things; fair
>Phoebus lead me to the Muses springs. ' Can some kind soul tell me where
>in Ovid's works these lines are found?

As Maria Concolato pointed out, they're from 'Amores', I, XV, 35-6.  In
case you're interested, here are a few (lightly edited) comments I wrote
a couple of years ago in another context, based on my researches for the
forthcoming Variorum edition of the Poems.

For the record, here are the lines in Latin:

Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.

Here are some translations of this Latin couplet:

Christopher Marlowe, *Ovids First Booke* (printed 1598,
     written by 1593):
"Let base conceited wits admire vild things,
Fair Phoebus lead me to the muses' springs."

Ben Jonson, *Poetaster* I.i (1601):
"Kneel hinds to trash: me let bright Phoebus swell,
With cups flowing from the Muses' well."

Richard Wilbur, Pelican Shakespeare (1969):
"Let the cheap dazzle the crowd; for me,
may golden Apollo minister full cups from the
Castilian spring."

Katherine Eisaman Maus, Norton Shakespeare (1997):
"Let vile people admire vile things;
may fair-haired Apollo serve me goblets
filled with Castilian water."

Richard Halpern (1997, in article cited below):
"Let cheap things dazzle the crowd;
may Apollo server me cups filled
with water from the Castilian spring."

The same Latin couplet that Shakespeare
used also appears after John Day's name in the
Lansdowne manuscript of Day's play *Parliament of Bees*
(MS Lansdowne 725).  For some discussion of such
title-page mottoes, see James G. McManaway, "Latin
Title-Page Mottoes As a Clue to Dramatic Authorship,"
*Library*, 4th series, 26 (1945), 28-36.

Here is some of the commentary on the couplet that I can put my hands on
right at the moment:

T.S. Baynes, "What Shakespeare learnt at School," *Fraser's Magazine*,
Jan. 1880, p.99ff.  (reprinted in his *Shakespeare Studies* (1894)):
"The quotation is one which, from the circumstances of the case, could
hardly have been chosen by any but a scholar, or at least by one who
knew the original well.  >From their setting in the 'Elegy,' the lines
would fail to attract special attention and be relatively unimportant in
a translation... It is a characteristic utterance on the part of Ovid,
and... is perhaps still more characteristic of the mouth of
Shakespeare...  In these lines he avows himself the child of Apollo, and
declares that henceforth his elixir vitae will be full draughts from the
Castilian spring.  The same proud not of confidence in himself and
devotion to his art reappears again and again in the Sonnets... [The
quotation] shows that Shakespeare had extended his study of Ovid...
beyond the books usually read in schools."

Richard Wilbur, "Introduction" to the Narrative Poems in the Pelican
Shakespeare (1969), p.1401: "The epigraph, moreover, was taken from
Ovid's Amores.  Shakespeare was thus promising in some measure to
emulate a witty, charming, and delicately sensual Latin poet.  He was
also choosing to retell a tale which every literate person knew in the
original, and which had already been variously treated by English poets:
by Golding in his moralized translation of Ovid, by Lodge, and by
several others."

John Roe, New Cambridge edition of Shakespeare's Poems (1992), p.78:
[After citing the Ovidian source and giving Marlowe's translation]: "By
invoking Ovid the poem may be signalling the rarefied eroticism that is
to follow (see Introduction, pp.15ff)." [The relevant section of Roe's
introduction is called "The Literary Context and Tradition", and
compares Shakespeare's poem to Ovid's and to other Elizabethan poems in
the Ovidian tradition.]

Richard Halpern, "'Pining their Maws': Female Readers of the Text in
Shakespeare's *Venus and Adonis*," in Philip C. Kolin, ed., *Venus and
Adonis: Critical Essays* (1997), p. 377: "The prefatory material to
Shakespeare's *Venus and Adonis* is a study in disingenuousness and
misdirection, beginning with the epigraph from Ovid's Amores: "Vilia
miretur vulgus: mihi flavus Apollo / Pocula Castalia plena ministret
aqua." ("Let cheap things dazzle the crowd; may Apollo serve me cups
filled with water from the Castalian spring").  In what is at once a
change of genre and a change in vocation, these lines apparently signal
Shakespeare's conversion from popular playwright to classicizing poet.
[note] (In Sonnet 111 he would similiarly disparage his playwrighting as
"public means which public manners breeds.")  But of course his
abandonment of the stage was hardly voluntary; he turned to writing
Ovidian verse in 1593 not because he had heard a higher calling but
because the theaters had been closed on account of the plague.

Moreover, *Venus and Adonis* bears more than a little resemblance to the
plays that Shakespeare seems to be rejecting.  The poem divides rather
neatly into comic and tragic halves, and the former of these explores
issues central to Shakespeare's early romantic comedies.  By depicting
the sexual fascination exerted by a beautiful and androgynous young man,
Shakespeare draws on the appeal that the boy-actors added to his
crossdressing plays.  Indeed, Venus' frustration at the sight of a
physically compelling but sexually unforthcoming youth foreshadows
Olivia's plight when confronted with the disguised Viola in *Twelfth
Night*.  Despite the Apollonian pretensions of its epigraph, *Venus and
Adonis* is neither nobler nor purer than Shakespeare's "cheap" plays."
[note: "In Amores I.xv, Ovid gives thanks for the privacy and leisure
needed for lyric poetry.  Early in that poem he thanks Envy for not
"prostituting my voice in the ungrateful forum" ("me / Ingrato vocem
prostituisse foro") (5-6), thus clarifying what he later means by the
"vilia" that please the crowd.  This reference to public oratory makes
it even likelier that Shakespeare takes "vilia" to refer to public
theater."]

Dave Kathman

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