Didactic poem

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A didactic poem is the representation of an object from culture, society, literature or science in a highly poetic form. The common meter of the didactic poetry is the engraved hexameter , didactic poems in elegiac distich , in sotadeen or in iambic meter also occur, but are much rarer. The didactic poem is in itself a genre of Greco - Roman literature , but it has a broad Middle Latin tradition and from the 15th to 18th centuries , as part of the return to antiquity, experienced a renaissance as a segment of neo-Latin literature. Most didactic poems were therefore written in Latin (after the beginnings of didactic poetry in Greece) ; however, there are also numerous didactic poems in vernacular. At the end of the 18th century, the genus largely died out.

An example from the 20th century is Karl Herschmann's Das enthaltende Bridge textbook , which sets out the rules of this card game in pairs of rhyming four-part iambia along with tips on playing strategy.

History of the didactic poem

The earliest evidence of teaching poetry ("didactic poetry") comes from the 7th century BC. During this time the Greek poet Hesiod from Askra in Boeotia wrote a poem about the origin of the world (see creation myths ) and the genealogies of Greek gods ( theogony ) and another about agriculture ( works and days , Greek ἔργα καὶ ἡμέραι / érga kai hemérai ; the second part, "days", is probably fake), the background of which is an inheritance dispute with his brother Perses. Although both the theogony and the erga are not didactic poems in the strict sense, these works, written in hexameters, are considered by later poets to be prototypes of didactic poetry that were often used as a guide.

In classical Greece of the 5th century BC The Lower Italian natural philosophers Parmenides and Empedocles used the poetic form to present their teaching: Both of Parmenides 'didactic poem About Being and Empedocles' didactic poem About Nature , however, only a few fragments have survived, which nevertheless give a good impression of the power of speech their authors convey.

The didactic poem went through a change in the time of Hellenism , because from this time on the authors of didactic poems no longer presented the results of their own research in poetic form, but instead took their material from a specialist prose submission. The earliest (and at the same time most effective) evidence of Hellenistic didactic poetry are the Phainomena des Aratos , which in about 1000 verses depict the starry sky and special celestial phenomena, e.g. B. comets describe. Two didactic poems by Nikandros from Kolophon have also survived from the Hellenistic period , each dealing with about 600 verses with dangerous animals, especially snakes ( Theriaká ) and with the remedies against snake bites ( Alexipharmaka ). Other didactic poems by Nikander, such as the botanical Georgika , have only survived in fragments.

The Roman didactic poem begins with the translation of a Hellenistic model of Archestratos of Gela by the poet Ennius , who translated his Hedypatheia , a metrical collection of cooking recipes, into Latin. Only a few fragments have survived of this, as of the other early Roman didactic poems, such as the literary-historical pieces by Accius , Porcius Licinius and Volcacius Sedigitus .

The didactic poem De rerum natura by T. Lucretius Carus represents an essential innovation in the genre ; which refers to the heroic epic due to its length of six books as well as linguistically and stylistically as well as in individual scenes and the fictionality e.g. For example, the Homeric poems are opposed to the rationality of the Epicurean explanation of the world, by means of which people are to be deprived of their fear of death and their fear of the gods.

The two “great” early imperial didactic poems of Virgil and Manilius are to be understood as reactions to the didactic poem of Lucretius :

The subject of Virgil's didactic poem Georgica is, with clear reference to Hesiod's Erga and Nikander's Georgika (whose title Virgil took over), agriculture, livestock and beekeeping and the work that the farmer has to do. Virgil presents the concept of a systematic, well-planned, mortal organ to the Lucretian concept of an accidentally created world of atoms, in which free will is the product of an accidental deviation in the steady atomic rain and the soul is a mortal organ that evaporates into its atoms after the death of man. towards a cosmos permeated by a divine universal spirit, in which destructive and regulating forces lie in a constant battle. Virgil sees the world as a place where hard work is demanded of people, which, however, positively forces them to be creative and ingenuity, so that it is possible for them to avoid the chaos that erupts again and again, which for Virgil is in the wilderness of nature, but also manifested in war and in love, to tame.

Marcus Manilius didactic poem Astronomica or Astronomicon libri V is a comprehensive presentation of the astronomy and astrology of the time .

Ovid founded the Roman didactics of love and used subjects and figures from elegy and comedy , and composed in the elegiac distich. The beginning of the didactic poem on beauty products ( medicamina faciei femineae ), where a song of praise to civilization is sung, is still worth reading today . Cheerful reflections on love life full of irony can be found in his love art, the Ars amatoria ; The subject of this poem is not love as passion, but eroticism as a social phenomenon. The Remedia amoris (“remedies against love”) refer to the annoyance that the ars amandi had aroused: the technique of eroticism also includes being able to free oneself from a passion that becomes uncomfortable.

The late antiquity returns once again to the Greek didactic poem: Postumius Rufius Festus Avienus (second half of the 4th century AD..) Used a Greek original in describing the coast of Brittany to the Black Sea ( De ora maritima ). The material basis is probably the periplus of the Carthaginian navigator Himilko from the 5th century BC. The work is written in iambic trimeters and at the end is based on the Pontus digression from Sallust's histories . It is a valuable source of knowledge about the Carthaginian expansion into the Atlantic and about geography and nautical science in ancient times.

The teaching poem was also a common mnemonic method at the medical school of Salerno in the 12th and 13th centuries to make it easier for students to absorb knowledge. For example, the doctor and university professor Gilles de Corbeil wrote his medical works in Latin dactylic hexameter verses.


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Amaury Duval: Gilles de Corbeil, médecin et poète. In: Amaury Duval: Histoire littéraire de la France : XIIIe siècle. Volume 16 (13th century), Firmin Didot Père et Fils, Paris 1824, pp. 506-511.