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Hesiod’s didactic poetry

By M. Heath


This paper falls into two parts: (i) The first part argues that Works and Days is more coherently organised, and displays greater coherence of thought, than many interpreters recognise. However, the last part of the poem (from 695), heterogeneous and loosely structured, poses severe problems. \ud \ud (ii) The second part is concerned with the end(s) to which the Hesiodic poems were composed. It is argued that neither Works and Days (which is formally a didactic poem) nor Theogony (which is not) can be fully explained in didactic terms. The poetics of the Theogony proem emphasise beauty and pleasure, and take a cautious view of the truth of poetry; similar inferences can be drawn from Homer. However, this does not exclude the possibility that the poet's intentions were partially, but not solely, didactic. We should recognise the limits of what can be said with confidence.\ud \ud \ud ‘Follow, poet, follow right To the bottom of the night, With your unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice;\ud With the farming of a verse Make a vineyard of the curse...’\ud (W. H. Auden

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1985
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:2654

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