Court and Exile: The Poetry of Ovid and Yu Xin by Alexander Beecroft
- 4:30 pm on Friday, November 7, 2014
- 6:30 pm on Friday, November 7, 2014
- 745 Commonweath Avenue, STH Room 625
The poets Ovid (43 BC-AD 17) and Yu Xin (AD 513-81) are both famous, among other things, for the fact that each ended their lives in exile – Ovid as a result, he tells us, of carmen et error (“a song and a mistake”); that is, for his implication in the political and sexual scandals of Augustan Rome; Yu Xin, because he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the North by a Southern dynasty in Six Dynasties China, and was never allowed to return. The best-known poetry of each is only loosely connected to their exile: Ovid is most familiar for the erotic and epic poems he wrote prior to his exile, while the single most famous poem of Yu Xin, the Ai Jiangnan Fu (“Lament for the Land South of the River”) reflects on the fall of a southern dynasty and deals only briefly with events after his own exile. Both poets, then, construct personas as court poets, who are driven from the center to the periphery as a result of events beyond their control, and in general their representations of exile suggest that it is the precise opposite of life at court. And yet, fascinatingly, both poets write, during their exile, poetry targeted at other courts. A great deal of Yu Xin’s surviving corpus are poems directed at the Northern Zhou regime in which he lived his final decades. Less extensively, Ovid composes poems to Cotys, King of Thrace, and discusses the (quite possibly imaginary) project of writing poetry in the Getic language. Both poets, then, transfer the tropes of court poetry to a new court context, targeting both that audience and a (real or imagined) audience at home in Rome or Jiankang. This paper will explore the intriguing strategies by which each poet manages this delicate balance.