De Arte Poetica

Today is thursday – and it’s cold out there. But I’ve been at home the last few days to clean out a bit and thought I would do a few errands today. Here’s some of what I’ve encountered.

At Foto/C in Holbergsgade in downtown Copenhagen I talked to the manager. I usually ask if there’s a trifle or two from the odds and ends box. But no such trifle today. Except he wanted to present me with a rather shabby-looking canvas camera bag. I certainly did’t want the bag myself but thought I could give it to a friend that’s on a still tighter budget than myself. Whence I accepted the gift, thank you very much.

But in the odds and ends box in the Photographica shop in Skindergade i sort of hit pay-dirt. There was a Sigma 24mm super-wide lens for my Nikon autofocus lurking i a dark corner. Seems to be in nice condition, except I haven’t tested the functions yet. But for 7.50 $ I thought I could handle the risk.

But the main stop today was the dutch old-books sale in the Heilig Geist Church House in ‘central-downtown’. The price today is 20 Kr ($3). First thing, though, I talked to a friendly art-historian who wanted to have me partake in his excitement over some interesting finds – always glad to!

I also found a few ‘forlorn titbits’ myself (they are both Danish, whence quotes will be Danish also):

1. CAJUS CORNELIUS TACITUS OM GERMANIENS BELIGGENHED, SÆDER OG FOLKESLAG. Af det latinske med anmærkninger ved Dr. Gustav Ludvig Baden. Kiøbenhavn, 1795, 80 p. Bound in contemporary, well worn half calf.

I think this is the original Danish edition of this well known, little gem. It can’t be overly common, at least there seems to be none of any vintage for sale in Denmark at present.

As said the binding is rather shabby and well worn, even if it’s still keeping tidily together.

Someone has cut a corner from a flyleaf, but the bookstock itself is extremely nice. In fact it’s almost like new exept for half a dozen timid and probably easy to remove pencil markings.

On the titel page you can also read: ‘Tyge Rothe Nordens Statsforfatning, første deel, s. 424: “- for hver der vil kiende Norden og de Nordiske sæder, kan ingen kosteligere skat være end denne ypperligen philosopherende historikers saa gehaltige som i korthed sammentrengte værk”.’

From the foreword by the translator, Mr. Baden (1764-1840) I quote:

‘Nok, endnu den dag i dag finde vi de umiskiendeligste beviser for at bogen indeholder de paalideligste efterretninger om de vore oldefædre, han beskriver; endnu den dag i dag finde vi – vel anderledes modellerede – dog de samme love, de samme indretninger, de samme skikke, som Tacitus har opbevaret os.

‘Herpaa at giøre læseren opmærksom har jeg og derfor især søgt med anmærkningerne, ved af Snorre, Saxo, Scøning, Suhm, Kofod Ancher, Stiernhöck, Rothe og flere at oplyse og bestyrke Tacitus’ kostelige efterretninger.

‘Måtte nu ikkun oversættelsen svare til sin original! Imidlertid, med fuldest selvbevidsthed om al mulig anvendt flid paa denne oversættelse, tør jeg hos den kyndige læser saameget mere vente overbærelse, som originalen er Tacitus, hvis præcision og nervøse stiil er saa vanskelig at give et fremmet sprog.

‘Hvad under derfor, at doctor Anton i sin afhandling over Tacitus, hvor tillige recenseres 32 i ni forskiellige sprog givne oversættelser af denne berømte historieskrivers værker, allene tør bestemt rose den spanske og danske oversættelse’.

I’ill present just one more short quote – or rather the whole of the very short part 4:

‘GERMANERNES LEGEMS KONSTITUSION.

‘Jeg (i.e. Tacitus) er selv af deres mening som troe: “at Germaniens folk er ikke ved giftermaal med andre nationer blandet, men en egen reen, og sig selv allene lig nasion”.

‘Derfor have de og alle, uagtet folkemængden er saa stor, ens legems positur: mørkeblaa øine, røde haar, store men kun til at anfalde (angribe) stærke legemer. Arbeide og slid kunde de ikke udholde. (note 1.)

‘Tørst og hede taale de slet ikke. Til kuld og hunger har deres klima eller jordbund vant dem.”

Note.1. US-President Mr. Trump?

2. DEN POETISKE KONST. Et Sidestykke Til Det Bekjendte Horazianske DE ARTE POETICA. Af Otto v. Staffeldt. 1826, Odense, 37 p. Softcover booklet.

This interesting little booklet is rather shabby in outward appearance and dog eared almost throughout. There’s a water stain in the upper right-hand corner. But – apart from these blemishes the pages are absolutely clean with no trace of foxing.

Like the title above, this booklet would appear to be rather uncommon; at least there is none for sale on the web in Denmark at present.

The aim of the booklet is evidently to more or less expound on: What is poetry? An interesting question that Mr. Staffeldt tries to answer, perhaps a trifle humorously, in his 38 pages long poem.

Well then – what IS poetry? I guess the answer could be, that it’s many things:

Firstly – to put a story in verse first and foremost is and always has been a helping hand – by way of mnemonics – to remembering long tales from yore.

Secondly – it is and perhaps always has been a way to (help) entrance – charm, captivate or even bewitch – the reader or listener – by the sounds and rythm of the words, lines and verse.

And thirdly – may just be an effort of the poet to please an audience.

Or any possible combination of the above?

Of course one might add, as a fourth item, an more or less conscious effort at being disruptive, annoying, vexing or even malicious, if the author is unbalanced and/or more or less insane?

Here is a few lines from Mr. Staffeldt’s long poem (page 15):

‘Grundregler for et episk digt at give,
Jeg vist nok vogter mig. – En definition
alt mangler: – Og ei let det definert kan blive.
Da blev foruden fod min svage lektion.

‘Med defineringer man maa varsom være!
Derom alt mindet har Voltaire:
Og skottet haant mod hver som saadant vovet har.
Og paa sin vante viis holdt hver af dem for nar.

“Man har (saa vil han det) et heltedigt creeret
“af stor og herlig daad, saalænge repeteret
“af endnu større helt, indtil den er fuldbragt,
“i tiden af et aar. – Grundstenen her er lagt,
“nøiagtigen som jeg har refereret,

“Dog ikke mindre sees i Engeland
“et heltedigt, til himmelen ophævet
“af sort og hvidt heelt genialisk vævet:

“Hvori vor helt, – hiin paradisets mand,
“langt fra et aar at holde stand,
“i første kamp gik glip af smule vid i panden.
“Paa een og samme dag af fanden
“og af sin hustru bringes fra forstand, –
“og føres ynkelig ved næsen.”

Well – perhaps I should have let Mr. Staffeldt speak more on his own?

(10./11.January.2019)

Crossposted on www.gamleboeger.dk and http://blocnotesimma.wordpress.com

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