« Podebrad and Kunstatt, George of Poems, Anonymous, in the Early Church Poeschl, Thomas »

Poems, Anonymous, in the Early Church

POEMS, ANONYMOUS, IN THE EARLY CHURCH: A small group of compositions of unknown authorship and of relatively small poetic excellence, though not without interest for the history of literature, dogma, and culture.

1. Carmen adversus Marcionem: A refutation of Marcionistic dualism in five books, containing 1,302 clumsy hexameters. The first book attacks heresy in general and Marcionism in particular the second shows the harmony of the Old and the New 100Testament; the third demonstrates the unity of Church doctrine with the teaching of the Old Testament, of Christ, and of the apostles; the fourth refutes Marcionistic tenets one by one; and the fifth considers the antitheses. The place, date, and authorship of the poem are too problematical to admit of even plausible solution, though the implication of the anonymous De duodecim scriptoribus ecclesiasticis that the poet was a certain Bishop Victorious (most likely Victorious of Pettau [q.v.]) deserves serious consideration.

2–3. Carmine de Sodoma; Carmen de Jona: Two poems of 166 and 105 hexameters respectively, ascribed by a number of manuscripts to Tertullian or Cyprian. Their use of the Itala shows that they can scarcely have been written later than 400. They may be fragments of some longer poem, and are characterized by a considerable degree of artistic merit.

4. Carmen de Genesi: A fragmentary composition in hexameters, often printed in the works of Tertullian and Cyprian, and representing the first part of a poetic version of the Heptateuch contained in a few manuscripts. It has been suggested that the poem was written by a Cyprian who lived in Gaul early in the fifth century, though others have distinguished two authors in the fragment.

5. Carmen de Judicio Domini, or Ad Flavium Felicem de resurrectione mortuorum: A poem variously ascribed to Tertullian and Cyprian, though showing close affinities to Commodian and the Carmen adversus Marcionem. On the basis of Isidore of Seville (De vir. ill., vii.), it may not improbably be ascribed to Verecundus of Junca in Byzacene (d. about 552), despite certain differences in style.

6. Carmen ad Senatorem ex Christiana Religione ad Idola Conversum: A poem of eighty-five hexameters ascribed by the manuscripts to Cyprian, expressing the hope that a renegade senator, possibly Flavianus, prefect of the city of Rome (late fourth century), might ultimately return to Christianity.

7. Carmen de Pascha: An allegorical composition of sixty-nine hexameters, also called De cruce and De ligno vitæ. It gives the history of Christianity from the crucifixion to the sending of the Holy Ghost, and though assigned both to Cyprian and to Victorinus Afer, probably dates from the fifth century.

8. Carmen de Passione Domini: A poem of eighty hexameters printed with the works of Lactantius, but probably written between 1495 and 1500, perhaps by its anonymous first editor (Venice, 1501).

9. Carmen de Laudibus Domini: A panegyric in 148 hexameters, composed in Gaul, probably between 316 and 323, by a contemporary of Juvencus, perhaps resident in Flavia Ædua (the modern Autun).

10. Carmen adversus Flavianum: A poem of 122 hexameters, polemizing against the advocates of paganism, especially Clavianus, prefect of Rome. Since the latter fell in the rebellion against Theodosius I., the poem was written in or shortly after 394.

11. Carmen de Fratribus Septem Macchabæis Interfectis ab Antiocho Epiphane: A poetic version of II Macc. vii. in two recensions, one of 394 hexameters, and the other of 389. It has been ascribed, though without sufficient reason, both to Hilary of Arles and to Victorinus Afer.

12. Carmen de Jesu Christo et de Homine: A poem of 137 hexameters on the redemptive work of Christ, conjecturally assigned to Victorinus of Pettau or to some later Christian grammarian.

13–14. Carmen de Lege Domini and Carmen de Nativitate, Vita, Passions et Resurrections Domini: Two poems, one of 106 and the other of 216 hexameters, ascribed to a certain Victorinus. They treat of the Old and New Testaments respectively, and are a cento from the Carmen adversus Marcionem

15. Carmen de Providentia Divina: A long poem seeking to refute skepticism regarding the divine governance of the world. It was composed in southern Gaul about 415, but though in phrase and versification it resembles the work of Prosper of Aquitaine (q.v.), to whom the manuscripts ascribe it, its tendency toward semi-Pelagianism makes such an identification impossible.

16–17. Metrum in Genesin and De Evangelio: Two poems ascribed by the manuscripts to Hilary of Poitiers (apparently an error for Hilary of Arles). The first poem is a paraphrase of Gen. i.–ix. in 204 hexameters; the second is a mere fragment.

18. Christos Pashon, or Christus Patiens: A Greek drama of 2,640 iambic trimeters erroneously ascribed to Gregory Nazianzen, really written at earliest in the eleventh century by an unknown author. It is a cento from the Greek tragedians (especially Euripides), the Bible, and such older apocryphal writings as the Protevangelium of James. The prologue, spoken by the Virgin, announces the author's intention of narrating the passion in Euripidean style; and the dramatis personæ, are Christ, the Virgin (the leading rôle), Joseph of Arimathea, St. John the Divine, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, a messenger, Pilate, the high priests, a chorus of maidens, a semi-chorus, young men, and the watch. The whole is a closet drama, and is the only known instance of a Greek attempt to produce a passion play.

(G. Krüger.)

Bibliography: Works to-be used in general are: J. F. C. Bähr, Die christliche Dichter und Geschichtsschreiber, Carlsruhe, 1872; A. Ebert, Allgemeine Geschichte der Litteratur des Mittelalters, Leipsic, 1889; M. Manitius, Geschichte der christlich-lateinischen Poesie, Stuttgart, 1891. For editions of the works under discussion: G. Fabricius, Poetarum veterum ecclesiasticorum opera Christiana, Basel, 1564; F. Oehler, Tertulliani Opera, Leipsic, 1854; G. Hartel, Cypriani Opera, Vienna, 1871; R. Peiper, Cypriani Galli poetæ Heptateuchos, Vienna, 1891.

On 1 consult for editions: Fabricius, ut sup., pp. 257–286; Oehler, ut sup., 781–798; and for discussions: Bähr, ut sup., pp. 21–22; Ebert, ut sup., p. 312, no. 1; Manitius, ut sup., 148–156; E. Hückstädt, Ueber das pseudotertullianische Gedicht adv. Marcionem. Leipsic. 1875 (cf. A. Hilgenfeld, in ZWT, xix (154–159); A. Oxé, Prolegomena de carmine adv. Marcionitas, Leipsic, 1888; J. Ziehen, Zur Geschichte der Lehrdichtung in der spätrömischen Litteratur, in Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum, i (1898), 409.

On 2–4, for editions consult: the edition of 2 by G. Morelius, Paris, 1560; Fabricius, 298–302; Oehler, ut sup., 769–776; Hartel, ut sup., 283–301; Peiper, ut sup., 1–7, 212–226; for discussions consult. Bähr, ut sup., pp. 34, 41; Ebert, ut sup., 118–224; Manitius, ut sup., 51–54, 167–170; H. Best, De Cypriani quæ feruntur metris in Heptateucham, Marburg, 1891.


On 5 for editions consult: Fabricius, ut sup., pp. 286–294; Oehler, ut sup., pp. 776–781, Hertel, ut sup., pp. 308–325; and for discussions: Bähr, ut sup., p. 23; Manitius, ut sup., 344–348; O. Bardenhewer, Patrologie, Freiburg, 1901, Eng. transl., St. Louis, 1908.

On 6 for editions consult: Hartel, ut sup., pp. 302–305; Peiper, ut sup., 227–230; for discussions, Bähr, ut sup., p. 24; Ebert, ut sup., pp. 313–314; Manitius, ut sup., pp. 130–133.

For the rest the works already cited are available. Additional sources for one or more are: S. Brandt, Ueber das dem Lact. zugeschriebene Gedicht, Leipsic, 1891; W. Brandes, Ueber die frühchristliche Gedicht Laudes Domini, Brunswick, 1887; (on 10) G. Delisle, in Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes, ser. 6, vol. iii., pp. 297 sqq., Paris, 1867, and T. Mommsen, in Hermes, iv (1869), 350–363; (on 13–14): A. Mai, Classici auctores, v. 382–385, Rome, 1833, and A. Oxe, Victorini versus de lege Domini, Crefeld, 1894. For editions of 18 that of Bladus, Rome, 1542, and that in MPG, xxxviii. 131–338 may be named; and the later ones of F. Dübner, Paris, 1846; J. G. Brambs, Leipsic, 1885; A. Ellison, ib. 1885 (Greek and German; useful for the list of literature and the introduction); Germ. transl. by E. A. Pullig, Bonn, 1893. Consult Krumbacher, Geschichte, pp. 746–748 (also with lists of literature).

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