Two thousand years of Latin poetry

Bilingual anthology of Latin poetry. Choice of poems from the beginning (IIIe s. av. AD)

Editing and translation by Philippe Heuzé, with André Daviault, Sylvain Durand, Yves Hersant, René Martin and Étienne Wolff

La Pléiade Library, 1,920 p., € 69 until June 30, € 74 after

“Tum capiti inscripsit caelesti haec nomina flamma: /” TV VATES ERIS ”. In nostros is succumbed to artus / tum calor insolitus, ceu, puro splendida uitro, / solis inardescit radiis uis limpida fontis. “ (1)

These Latin verses, in which Arthur Rimbaud imagines receiving his vocation from the god Phœbus, were composed for a school assignment in November 1868, when he was a student at the Collège de Charleville. They are part of the selection of this sparkling bilingual anthology of Latin poetry, between ancient and medieval anthology (from the Augustan poets, from Virgil to the elegiacs, to Ovid, Pétrone and Ausone, to Joseph d’Exeter, Du Bellay or Pétrarque) and modern curiosities (Charles Baudelaire, Pascal Quignard).

Whether one is a Latinist or not, whether or not one remembers one day crossed texts, there will be a certain pleasure in discovering them, at the same time as realizing the extreme ductility and creativity of the Latin language. The genius of this language has a marked gift for satisfying a constant aspiration for universal poetic language: to say more, to suggest, to open ”, underlines Philippe Heuzé in his preface. He quotes Nietzsche celebrating the odes of Horace: “In some languages ​​it is not even possible to want what is being achieved here. This mosaic of words, where each word, by its timbre, its place in the sentence, the idea it expresses, radiates its strength. “

Philippe Heuzé inscribes Latin poetry in its diversity and in two thousand years of history – in what it drew, including for versification, from the Homeric Greek heritage, then from Rome and the Middle Ages. It also shows the singular contribution of Latin Christian poetry, in particular that of hymns. Thus those composed in IVe century by Ambrose of Milan, or, at the same time, the rereading of the Gospels by Juvencus or, ” in literary patchwork »Of verses borrowed from Virgil, by the patrician Proba.

This poetry rejects the mythology which, in pagan poetry, is almost an obligatory language, and finds a new inspiration in the Bible, in particular in the Psalms (George Buchanan). It transforms the image into a symbol and among the greatest (like Thomas Aquinas) brings theology into the line of thought. »So the Tantum ergo sacramentum, some singing Pange Lingua by Thomas Aquinas, included in his Office of the Blessed Sacrament ; so the medieval Regina Salve, Veni Creator Spiritus, Dies Irae, by different authors … A whole poetry that will exercise“On the poets of the XXe century (Péguy, Claudel, Cendrars…) a decisive influence ”.

Celebration of the meeting of poetry and the Latin language since the IIIe century BC, this volume, complete with biographical sketches of more than 180 authors, will delight nostalgic and beauty lovers alike. Something to stretch out, like the shepherd Tityra Bucolic of Virgil, peaceful under the shade of a beech, to remember, savor or sing, more than a rural poem.


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