Calpurnius, Bucolica IV (pt. 1)


Permalink 12:26:11 am, by Chris Jones Email , 449 words, 6148 views   English (US)
Categories: Calpurnius' Bucolica

Calpurnius, Bucolica IV (pt. 1)

Text can be found at the Latin Library

Summary: After a lengthy discussion, Meliboeus coaxes Corydon to join his brother Amyntas and sing verses about a deus…qui populos urbesque regit.


This eclogue stands at the center of Calpurnius’ collection, and at 169 verses is significantly longer than any of the other Bucolicae. Even a cursory reading shows the importance Calpurnius placed on this poem to underscore the overall theme of the collection: The rule of the new emperor Nero inspires an evocation of Virgil and hence the celebration a new golden age for Rome.

References to his predecessor are everywhere: Tityrus, of course, is widely recognized as Virgil’s own avatar in the Eclogues, and when Corydon proclaims:

Truces haec fistula tauros
conciliat, nostroque sonat dulcissima Fauno.
Tityrus hanc habuit, cecinit qui primus in istis
montibus Hyblaea modulabile carmen avena.

This pipe savage bulls
wins over, and makes the sweetest sound for our Faunus.
Tityrus had it, who first sang in these mountains
a tuneful poem on a Hyblaean reed.

(Hybla is a mountain in Sicily, a nod to Virgil’s inspiration the Greek Theocritus)

it’s obvious he’s a stand-in Calpurnius himself, the pipes a symbol of the bucolic form handed down from the bard of Mantua.

This allegorical tone pervades the entire first half of the poem, e.g. when Corydon asks Meliboeus Si tu faveas trepido mihi, forsitan illos/experiar calamos (58-9), is he identifying Meliboeus with his real-world patron (i.e. his “Maecenas")? Calpurnius’ patron in Nero’s court has never been identified, but there is enough detail here to tantalize–he was himself a writer (dulcia carmins saepe/concinis) and probably held a ceremonial title as an augurer (tibi…venturos diciere nimbos…attribuere dei). SOme scholars identify him with the future conspirator Calpurnius Piso–a good guess, but not a perfect one. It’s also tempting o try and identify other characters in Calpurnius’ piece; who could doctus Iollas be, or Amyntas–the brother he recommends shoudl frange…calamos?

I’m also beginning to notice a repetition between different poems in the collection. In verse 2, Corydon is seated sub hac platano, quam garrulus adstrepit umor; later he describes his place rupe sub hac eadem, quam proxima pinus obumbrat. Recall how in bucolic I Ornytus remarks that he seeks shade bullantes ubi fagus aquas radice sub ipsa/protegit, and in II the competitors Idas and Astacus meet ad gelidos fontes et easdem forte sub umbras. Maybe Corydon is running out of ideas…

This poem–like the previous three–uses a framing device to highlight the “poem within the poem", here a panegyric of Nero delivered in alternate strains by Corydon and Amyntas. We’ll look into the details of this next time.


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Qui sciet quae quoque sint modo dicenda, nisi tamen in procinctu paratamque ad omnis casus habuerit eloquentiam, velut clausis thesauris incubabit.

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