Classical Quarterly 63 (1):447-449 (2013)
AbstractAnagrams and syllabic wordplay of the kind championed by Frederick Ahl in his Metaformations have not always been favourably received by scholars of Latin poetry; I would hesitate to propose the following instance, were it not for the fact that its occurrence seems peculiarly apposite to the context in which it appears. That Roman poets were prepared to use such techniques to enhance the presentation of an argument by exemplifying its operation at a verbal level is demonstrated by the famous passage of Lucretius in which the poet seeks to illustrate the tendency of semina … ardoris to create fire in wood by the literal presence of elements from the word for ‘fires’ in that denoting wood. A similar conception may underlie the association insinuated by the love elegists between amor and mors, suggesting that death is somehow ‘written into’ love: so Propertius declares laus in amore mori, while Tibullus appears to point to the lurking presence of death in the pursuit of love in the lines interea, dum fata sinunt, iungamus amores: | iam ueniet tenebris Mors adoperta caput – so swift and unexpected is death's approach that it is already present in aMOReS in the preceding line. Ovid's awareness of the poetic potential of this kind of play is fully exhibited in his celebrated account of Echo and Narcissus in Metamorphoses 3, where the subject matter gives the poet ample scope to exploit the humorous and pathetic possibilities afforded by Echo's fragmented repetitions of the frustrated entreaties of her beloved.
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