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Time and the integrity of poetry: Ambrose and Augustine

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Chapter Summary

In two highly instructive and densely argued articles the Latin scholar Jan den Boeft has offered some fresh insights into the poetry of Ambrose. In his 'Ambrosius Lyricus' he pays attention to the specific nature of Ambrose's lyricism which, rather than being explained 'in terms that express spontaneity and subjectivity and allot a leading role to the emotions' fit with the tendency of classical pagan poetry such as Horace's 'to control the expression of feelings by thoughtful ordering'. Whilst Augustine seems to emphasize the difference between time and eternity and, as a consequence, time's fragile status as severely lacking in 'eternal' characteristics such as stability and immutability, Ambrose feels more at ease at the divisions and subdivisions of time as they manifest themselves in the change of seasons, the change of night and day, and, more specifically, the change of the hours/horae.

Keywords: Augustine; Horace; pagan poetry; poetry of Ambrose



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