Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Franz Dolveck, Paulini Nolani Carmina. Corpus Christianorum. Series Latina, 21. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2015. Pp. 748. ISBN 9782503558073. €395.00.

Reviewed by Aaron Pelttari, University of Edinburgh (aaron.pelttari@ed.ac.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

Pontius Meropius Paulinus was born into a leading family of Aquitania in the middle of the fourth century. He was a student of Ausonius of Bordeaux and rose to become a suffect consul and governor of Campania, before leaving politics and committing himself to a life of Christian devotion. He moved to Nola in Campania in 395 where he promoted the cult of saint Felix; he was elevated to the bishopric sometime between 408-410. He was friends with or corresponded with most of the leading Christian intellectuals in the West. In short, Paulinus of Nola was an outstanding and important figure in his own time. His life suggests many of the ways that individual Christians found new roles for themselves in the Church in the fifth century, and so he has benefited from continued scholarly attention.1

For those unfamiliar with the poetry of Paulinus, he offers much elegance and some serious thought. For his elegance, consider his description of a certain Martinianus's ill-fated decision to travel by sea rather than on land:

Sed, longa secum spatia terrarum putans,
Vertit uiae sententiam
Et otiosam fluctuandi nauseam
Pedum labori praetulit:
Narbone soluit per trucem ponti uiam,
Fragili carinae credulus. (Ad Cytherium 23-28 [Hartel XXIV])

You will not be surprised that Paulinus recalls how the ship sank—we can only imagine that the passengers' nausea was less than leisurely! Paulinus's optimistic belief in progress (of religion and of culture in general) and his joy in paradox come through in his description of a new building project that displays "novelty in the old and antiquity in novelty": In ueteri nouitas atque in nouitate uetustas (Nat. 10.175 [Hartel XXVIII]). Paulinus is a crucial link between the ludic poetry of Optatian and Ausonius and the high Christian poetry of Prudentius or Sedulius.

Franz Dolveck's new edition of Paulinus's poetry is an enormous achievement and a marvelous work of scholarship. The editor departs in many important ways from Hartel's edition published in the Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum, originally in 1894.2 I would single out his stemma on pp. 225-226 for special consideration. The stemma organizes the tradition of Paulinus's poems into no less than 32 manuscripts, 29 hyparchetypes, 11 other relevant collections or sources, and includes 8 points of contamination. I was very sceptical when I saw that the editor's reconstruction was this complex. However, the introduction offers a logical argument for every line on the stemma, and Dolveck's arguments are efficient and almost always persuasive.

Dolveck's study of the early history of Paulinus's poems leads him to make a number of important changes. He shows that the extant Natalicia, composed in honor of Saint Felix, derive from an early, probably complete edition; and he advances the likely hypothesis that this edition was prepared by the author himself (74-115). Thirteen complete poems survive and fragments from a fourteenth Natalicium. Dolveck departs from Hartel's roughly chronological ordering of the poems and sensibly numbers these Nat. 1-14. The second-half of the volume is devoted to the Carmina varia. Most of these seem to derive from a posthumous edition of Paulinus's letters and poems—the exceptions are the Epithalamium in Iulianum et Titiam (which has a completely different manuscript transmission and was probably excluded from the collection because the addressee had been denounced as a Pelagian) and the included poems of Ausonius. The poems attributed to Ausonius are the Ephemeris, including the Oratio minor (Hartel IV) and the Oratio maior (Hartel V, Green II.3). Because different manuscripts ascribe each of the prayers to Ausonius and Paulinus, Dolveck comes to the surprising conclusion that Paulinus helped Ausonius write Ephemeris and that the Oratio maior is Paulinus's revised version of the original shorter poem (179-219). Dolveck also publishes the three last letters of Ausonius to Paulinus (Ausonius Paulino – Vltimarum 1-33) in this edition because he demonstrates that they derive (in their original form) from the posthumous edition of Paulinus's writings mentioned above. Ausonius's original letters were included in the collection of Paulinus's writings and only later introduced into the tradition of Ausonius's poetry when an editor was gathering their letters together (134-178). Some readers will be surprised to find that this history of the text confirms that Paulinus and Ausonius probably remained on friendly terms despite their different approaches to religion and poetry.4 Dolveck does not print Hartel VI (Laus sancti Iohannis), Hartel XXX (Basilicae veteris inscriptiones, Hartel XXXII (the so-called poema ultimum) or Hartel XXXIII (obitus Baebiani); nor does he print the poem for Licentius included with Epist. 8 or the lines included in Epist. 32 for Sulpicius Severus (25). He is also unconvinced that a recently rediscovered six-line epigram celebrating Felix was written by Paulinus (110-112). He does include the Epitaphium Cynegii along with a new, more complete study of the text and the inscription from which it derives (678-684).

The mention of authorial revisions will spark the interest of some. Dolveck provides good evidence for thinking that we can find authorial revisions in the texts of Ausonius and Paulinus, although not all cases are likely to convince. However, he does not really engage with sceptical critics like Günther Jachmann and Christian Gnilka.5 We can await further debate on individual passages and on parallel problems in the transmission of Prudentius.

Some individual readings are more convincing than others. Many critics will probably agree at this point that Ausonius Paulino – Vltimarum Tertia Recognita (= Auson. Epist. 24 [Green]) is Ausonius's revised version of Epist. 23 (Green), and we have plenty of evidence that ancient authors revised their own writing.6 Three letters deserve further study for the evidence they provide of how authors revised occasional works after their initial presentation. But I see no reason to think that hominem in De obitu Celsi 57 was a change made by the author rather than anyone else (675). More broadly, Nat. 4.49 deserves further attention; Dolveck athetizes the line because it only appears in one (of the two) main branches of the tradition and because the use of the phrase aërios proceres is unusual (99 and 663). The phrase is odd and the line somewhat repetitive, but there is nothing odd about a scribe skipping a line, and the parallel from Prudent. Apoth. 1011 suggests there is more to the story. On the other hand, I found the emendation prae se for praesens in Ausonio Paulinus – Vltimarum prima 75 to be fully convincing; and the same for sicut at Ad Cytherium 772 and the discussion of Abramio from De obitu Celsi 583 (675-676). Perhaps tunc should be read in place of nunc at Ad Cytherium 5.

The text and apparatus are clear and accurate. Thanks to the images the Vatican library has provided online, I was able to do spot checks of ms R (Vatican, Pal. Lat. 235) and did not notice any issues. Dolveck intelligently decided not to note scribal corrections and obvious very small mistakes in his apparatus criticus. Misprints are rare.7

My only real criticism of this volume is that the introduction displays a certain disregard for the reader. For example, Dolveck begins a discussion of manuscript N on p. 144, at which point one has to flip back to p. 138 to recall that N is Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 7558, from where one returns to the second section of the introduction to find a codicological description for N, where the manuscript is listed in alphabetical order by location. On finding N at p. 52, the reader then discovers that p. 144 repeats the second paragraph of the codicological description, except that authors' names are included and folio numbers are excluded. More broadly, the description of manuscripts on pp. 31-68 is nice to have, but it distracts from, more than it advances, the relevant arguments presented in the other parts of the introduction. Likewise, in the apparatus criticus to Oratio maior, we find the following note: "84/85 uide introduc.," without any reference to page numbers or sections. The most relevant pages are 202-204, but the whole section spans 179-219 (the introduction is divided into ten untitled subsections). Such difficulties are frustrating because the material arguments in the introduction are individually presented in an eminently clear and persuasive French.

Paratexts are an important part of modern editions, as they were for ancient and medieval texts. The editor confusingly retains three titles for each of the Natalicia. Natalicium II, for example, is headed "LIBER PRIMUS" with "Hartel XIII" in brackets. The problem is that F (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, clm 6412) names Nat. I a "praefatio" rather than "Liber primus," and the numbering of the poems in ε shows that the information goes back further (108-109). This is fascinating because the first poem does indeed read like a preface, with its invocation of Felix, its evaluation of the author's life, a prayer for safe voyage, and metapoetic ending on the poet's life and tired body (claudere promeritam defesso corpore uitam, Nat. 1.39). But the double numbering is distracting. As for Hartel's numbers, hopefully users will follow Dolveck's lead in using the Latin titles from now on, although I am unsure whether "Vltimarum" will last. Some titles are given expanded versions without any source being cited: the subtitle "Vale, domine illustris" before line 19 of Ausonio Paulinus – Vltimarum prima is given without any explanation; but if you consult Hartel you will find that the subtitle appears in Paris. lat. 7558 in a second hand. Likewise, the subtitle with Ad Cytherium, "Meropius Paulinus Cytherio fratri in Christo domino salutem," is explained only in Hartel. Continuing with the paratexts, the indices are useful, although including the material from the introduction in the Index nominum would have been welcome. Dolveck explains (238) that his Index fontium derives from the Index auctorum revised by Margit Kamptner in 1999 for the new printing of Hartel's edition. Our editor is more selective in the parallels that he cites, and he also cites a number of new passages: for parallels with Prudentius (excluding poems not printed in both editions) Kamptner cites 66 parallel passages; Dolveck cites 36; and they agree on 18 of the passages. Dolveck kindly prints those parallels (and not just the references) in an apparatus fontium at the bottom of each page. Lastly, punctuation and layout: Ellipses are more common than usual in Latin poetry, and there is a strange exclamation mark in Ad Cytherium 137. Dolveck dispenses with paragraph divisions but capitalizes the first letter of each line.

The small criticisms above will do nothing to dull the obvious impressiveness of this important new edition of Paulinus's poetry. Since the editor is overly modest and passes over in silence the translation of Paulinus's poems that he completed in his doctoral thesis (234), we can hope that he is considering publishing a translation and the text again, perhaps in the Budé series and with separate volumes devoted to the Natalicia and Carmina varia.


1.   This includes an excellent biography: Trout, Dennis. 1999. Paulinus of Nola: Life, Letters, and Poems. Berkeley; a study of his letters: Conybeare, Catherine. 2000. Paulinus Noster: Self and Symbols in the Letters of Paulinus of Nola. Oxford; and several detailed commentaries: Amherdt, David. (ed.) 2004. Ausone et Paulin de Nole, correspondance. Bern; Surmann, Beate. (ed.) 2005. Licht-Blick: Paulinus Nolanus, carm. 23. Trier; and Sciajno, Lorenzo. (ed.) 2008. Il carme 15: Natalicium IV. Pisa.
2.   Hartel, Guilelmus. (ed.) 1894. Paulinus Nolanus: Carmina. Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, 30. Vienna. A second revised edition with new indices and notes was edited by Margit Kamptner in 1999. Dolveck sensibly corrects his predecessor's errors, including metrically flawed lines at Nat. 5.223 [Hartel XVI], Nat. 9.490 [Hartel XXVII], Nat. 11.281 [Hartel XIX], Nat. 11.502 [Hartel XIX], and Nat. 13.650 [Hartel XXI].
3.   This new and unhelpful heading (Vltima) is borrowed from Combeaud, Bernard. (ed.) 2010. Opuscula omnia. Bordeaux.
4.   See further Ebbeler, Jen. 2007. "Mixed Messages: The Play of Epistolary Codes in Two Late Antique Latin Correspondences," in Ruth Morello and A.D. Morrison (eds.) Ancient Letters: Classical and Late Antique Epistolography. Oxford, 301-324.
5.   See Jachmann, Günther. 1941. "Das Problem der Urvariante in der Antike und die Grundlagen der Ausoniuskritik," in Concordia Decennalis. Cologne, 47-104; and Gnilka, Christian. 2000. "Zu Paulinus Nolanus," in Prudentiania. Leipzig, I.435-458. For a theoretical review of variants, interpolations, and their discovery, see the recent synthesis in Tarrant, Richard. 2016. Texts, Editors, and Readers. Cambridge, 4 and 85-104; the latter, however, does not consider the evidence on either side from late antiquity.
6.   As argued convincingly by Green, R.P.H. 1991. The Works of Ausonius. Oxford, 654-663. The workshop being organised by Sean Gurd and Scott McGill for the 2017 meeting of the Society for Classical Studies on The Genesis of the Ancient Text: New Approaches is a reminder of how much recent work is addressing just this question.
7.   I noticed only the following four (with page numbers): "ambitiosus et et ipsa" (516), "Suffugia illato confusus lumine quaëram" (543), the numbering is off by one in the first four verses of Ausonius Paulino – Vltimarum tertia recognita (546), and "eternae" (606).

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