A Poem for All Seasons: Alcuin’s “O vos, est aetas”

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Abstract

There is no complete account of the transmission of Alcuin’s poems, which is apparently quite unpredictable if not random. The circulation of a number of short compositions, which accompany his treatises and his letters, and their circulation together, is so far uncharted. Particularly intriguing is the manuscript tradition of “O vos, est aetas,” a poem in seven distichs, in which young men are encouraged to learn rhetoric and to cultivate virtue. The poem generally occurs in connection with two prose works by Alcuin, the De dialectica (henceforth DD) and the Disputatio de rhetorica et virtutibus (henceforth DR). It may be copied either between the two treatises, before the prologue poem of the DD, “Me lege, qui veterum” (carm. 77), as in the edition of André Duchesne, or at the end of the DR, as in the edition of Frobenius Forster. It may also be copied before, after, or between the so-called pseudo-Alcuinian Schemata. The poem also occurs independently of the two Alcuinian treatises and takes different forms in the many manuscripts that preserve it. “O vos” does not always occur in its complete form (14 lines) and there are versions which feature only a part of its couplets, arranged in different combinations.A close inspection of the tradition of the poem and its collocation within the manuscripts that preserve it yields a different picture from the accepted one. The instances in which the poem occurs independently from the prose works by Alcuin are much more numerous than the data of the Clavis imply, and those in which the poem is not copied out completely are much less frequent than surmised by Wallach and other scholars. In his still standard edition, Ernst Dümmler chose to publish the entire poem (as carm. 80.1), alongside another piece, “Qui, rogo, civiles” (carm. 80.2), which is indeed the usual prologue of the DR. This choice, however, needs some consideration, the more so as it is hardly supported by the manuscript tradition. A close inspection of the tradition of the poem and its collocation within the manuscripts that preserve it yields a different picture from the accepted one. The instances in which the poem occurs independently from the prose works by Alcuin are much more numerous than the data of the Clavis imply, and those in which the poem is not copied out completely are much less frequent than surmised by Wallach and other scholars. In his still standard edition, Ernst Dümmler chose to publish the entire poem (as carm. 80.1), alongside another piece, “Qui, rogo, civiles” (carm. 80.2), which is indeed the usual prologue of the DR. This choice, however, needs some consideration, the more so as it is hardly supported by the manuscript tradition.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteTeaching and Learning in Medieval Europe. Essays in Honour of Gernot R. Wieland on his 67th Birthday
Pagine123-146
Numero di pagine24
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2017

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomePUBLICATIONS OF THE JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL LATIN

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