In and Out of Latin
Diptych and virtual diptych in Marvell, Milton, Du Bellay and others
in Conversations
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This chapter offers access to the kinds of conversation with antiquity made possible by instances of parallel Latin and vernacular composition in certain early modern poets. A substantial subset of Marvell’s poetry is in Latin; and of particular interest are instances in which the poet writes Latin and English versions of the same poem. Ros and Hortus now ask to be considered alongside ‘On a Drop of Dew’ and ‘The Garden’ as parallel and cross-referential compositions in which Marvell plays with, and thematises, his dual literary competence in English and in Latin. These are special cases; but the idea of ‘diptych’ composition offers a distinctive way of getting a purchase on literary bilingualism at large. In Marvell’s time, the matter is rendered most fully tangible in Milton’s double book of Poems English and Latin. However, the chapter’s midsection takes the idea of the cross-linguistic diptych in a different and hypothetical direction: what if one were to imagine a Latin ‘twin’ for every vernacular poem in the classical tradition, even in the 99% of cases in which no such twin exists? Such a thought-experiment finds traction in the case of the famously Latinate English of Paradise Lost; with an added twist in that translators were not lacking who took it upon themselves to do what Milton did not do, and to render the epic’s Latinate and Virgilian verse into post-virgilian Latin. The final pages briefly extend the conversation to the poetry of Ronsard and Du Bellay a century earlier in France.


Classical and Renaissance intertextuality


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