Monday, August 12, 2013

Lucretius' image of Venus

Simply for comparison:

Given that the Hippolytus begins with the speech of Aphrodite and devotes choral odes as well as dialogue to the goddess, it might be worthwhile to look at a different poet's rendering of the goddess -- in this case the Proem to De Rerum Natura of Lucretius:

The image of Venus here suggests some of the major ways in which Rome's vision of Amor, and of the entire fabric of the world, differs significantly from the sense of Eros and Aphrodite that comes through the Hippolytus. Some of these differences between the Greek and Roman world views came up in some of our discussions of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Here's the opening of Book 1 of De Rerum Natura:*

Capitoline Venus
Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands- for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-
Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,
Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,
For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,
For thee waters of the unvexed deep
Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky
Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
For soon as comes the springtime face of day,
And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred,
First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee,
Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine,
And leap the wild herds round the happy fields
Or swim the bounding torrents. Thus amain,
Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee
Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead,
And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams,
Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains,
Kindling the lure of love in every breast,
Thou bringest the eternal generations forth,
Kind after kind. And since 'tis thou alone
Guidest the Cosmos, and without thee naught
Is risen to reach the shining shores of light,
Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born,
Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse
Which I presume on Nature to compose . . .

*The 1916 translation is by William Ellery Leonard, used on the Perseus site. The hyperlinked Latin text is here.

The Hippolytus' choral ode that begins with "Eros, Eros" ends with a different vision of the goddess of love (563-4)
Terrible, she breathes on all; a bee
that flits and hovers
Aphrodite Cnidus

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