Category: Reception

Invitation to the Dance: Who Helps?


As a surprise, a full-blown classical piece for chorus and orchestra with this title from 1936 by the American composer Arthur Sheperd turned up in a recent haul through Google. It is set to the text of Sidonius’ ‘Age, convocata pubes’ in an adaptation by Howard Jones. Below the results of a first investigation, added to the Reception – Other – United States section of this website.

Who knows of a recording of this piece?

Arthur Sheperd (1880-1958), Invitation to the Dance for chorus and orchestra (1936) on a poem by Howard Mumford Jones (1892-1980) after Sidonius Apollinaris, Carm. 37 in Ep. 9.13.5 ‘Age, convocata pubes’:

Spread the board with linen snow.
Bid ivy and the laurel grow
Over it, and with them twine
The green branches of the vine.
Bring great baskets that shall hold
Cytisus and the marigold,
Cassia and starwort bring
And crocuses, till everything,
Couch and sideboard, all shall be
A garland of perfumery.
Then with balsam-perfumed hand
Smooth disheveled locks; and stand
Frankincense about, to rise —
An Arabian sacrifice —
Smoking to the lofty roof.

Next, let darkness be a proof
That our lamps with day may vie,
Glittering from the chamber’s sky.
Only in their bowls be spilled
Oil nor grease, but have them filled
With such odorous balm as came
From the east to give them flame.
Then bid loaded servants bring
Viands that shall please a king,
Bowing underneath the weight
Of chased silver rich and great.
Last, in bowl and patera
And in caudron mingle a
Portion of Falernian wine
With due nard, while roses shine
Wreathed about the cup and round
The cup’s tripod. We’ll confound —
Where the garlands sway in grace
From vase to alabaster vase —
All the measures of the dance;
And our languid limbs shall glance
In a mazy Mænad play.—
Step and voice shall Bacchus sway,
And in garment let each man
Be a Dionysian!

See William S. Newman, ‘Arthur Sheperd’, The Musical Quarterly 36,2 (1950) 159-79, esp. 172; Archives West, entry ‘Arthur Sheperd’, Choral works 9.1; WorldCat, entry ‘Invitation to the dance’. Text from Philip S. Allen, The Romanesque Lyric, with renderings into English verse by Howard M. Jones, University of North Carolina Press, 1928, reprinted in An Anthology of World Poetry, ed. Mark Van Doren, New York, 1928, p. 453-54, where Sheperd may well have found it; also available here and here.

Manitius’ Indexes Opened Up

The three volumes of Max Manitius’ Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters are a Fundgrube of the most minute references. Joop van Waarden has made a three-page document which is an elaboration, for the lemma Sidonius Apollinaris, of the indexes of these volumes by means of the text passages they refer to. Its aim is to simplify access to the wealth of detail they contain, and make them even more accessible for the study of Sidonius’ reception.

This document initiates a new page ‘Appendices’ in the Companion Continued section. Here goes.

Carmen 24 Alive in the 16th Century

For his ‘Ad librum’, physician, botanist and poet Euricius Cordus (Heinrich Ritze, 1486 Hessen-1535 Bremen) was inspired by Sidonius’ famous envoi ‘Propempticon ad libellum’ (Carm. 24), up to its Phalaecian hendecasyllables, providing it with overtones of Catullus and Martial:

Ad librum
Non praeceps adeo ruas, libelle,
quin tuum prius audias parentem,
quae mandata tibi det exeunti.
Omnes quotquot ubique litteratos
cultoresque novem vides sororum,
meo nomine plurimum saluta.
Et si dignus eis videbor, ut me
antiquae numero sodalitatis,
extremum licet, adnotent, precare.
Dehinc ut rhinocerotas atque barros,
ronchos, auriculas ciconiasque
unius facias pili memento.
Demum quam potes eminus proculque
declines, fugias, abomineris
tectos tetrico hypocritas cucullo
rugosamque senum severitatem
et tantum placitos sibi sophastros,
invisum Latiis genus camenis.
Hoc est quod volui, osculare patrem
aeternumque vale, miselle fili.

See also the Receptions page Germany

An Unexpected Twist

Today, on the occasion of Sidonius’ death on a 21/23rd August some 1,540 years ago, a striking piece of literary reception giving an unexpected twist to the famous Carmen 12 on the impossibility of writing poetry among the barbarians.

Playwright and stage director Hartmut Lange (born 1937, in exile to West-Berlin from the DDR in 1965), in his 1972 play Staschek oder das Leben des Ovid on the dilemmas of compromising with the powers that be, has the protagonist meet Sidonius in Bordeaux instead of meeting Ovid in Tomi, as he expected. Staschek persuades Sidonius to smear his hair with rancid butter to assuage the barbarians. These, indeed, become nicer, but the stench makes Sidonius vomit all the time and prevents him from reciting his ‘ode to Venus’.

The play is a vivid satire of cowardice and self-interest in the face of totalitarianism (Horace and Vergil figure on the wrong side whereas Ovid refuses to collaborate). In the end, everybody has to compromise one way or another, even Sidonius.

See the Reception/Germany page for fuller detail on discussions by Kurt Smolak and Theodore Ziolkowski.

Text to be found in Hartmut Lange, Vom Werden der Vernunft und andere Stücke fürs Theater, Zürich: Diogenes. 1988, 307-41, esp. 338-39.

Out Soon: Lo specchio del modello

Lo specchio del modello: Orizzonti intertestuali e Fortleben di Sidonio Apollinare is in print. Edited by Anita Di Stefano and Marco Onorato, it brings together the papers given at the homonymous conference, 4-5 October 2018 at the University of Messina.
Authors include Silvia Condorelli, Franca Ela Consolino, Anita Di Stefano, Maria Jennifer Falcone, Luciana Furbetta, Jesús Hernández Lobato, Marco Onorato, Aaron Pelttari, Stefania Santelia, Rosa Santoro, Joop van Waarden, Étienne Wolff, and Matthijs Zoeter.

Contents here

“The poems of Apollinaris awaken a special love in me”

New on the Translations and Reception/Germany pages: entries on Karl Wolfskehl. The Jewish poet and translator Karl Wolfskehl (1869-1948), in the last decades of his life a refugee from Nazi Germany, first in Italy, then in New Zealand, extensively read and admired Sidonius’ work. An aestheticist in the tradition of Stefan George, he was sensitive to Sidonius’ particular style while his plight as an exile created a feeling of shared fates with Sidonius and his time “of festering and pregnant doom”.

Sidonius for Creative Writing

A brand-new historical novel on Sidonius is forthcoming. Annabelle Grierson (in arte J A Grierson) has recently got her Creative Writing Master degree at Auckland University of Technology with a two-part novel breathing life into fifth-century history, with Sidonius among its protagonists. She was inspired by his letters, and the novels actually quote them, including the famous letter to Bishop Graecus (Ep. 7.7), which is cited almost in full. The first volume, entitled The Wars with Attila, centred around a fictionalised Avitus, is expected to be published next Spring. The second volume, centred around Sidonius, will be called The Last Roman.
For information, go here.