Maximianus (poet) - Reception


Despite its erotic content, Maximianus's verse was part of the corpus of texts used in the 11th and 12th centuries to teach schoolboys the rudiments of Latin, though its use for this purpose was criticized by Alexander of Villedieu:

quamvis haec non sit doctrina satis generalis,
proderit ipsa tamen plus nugis Maximiani.

(Although this instruction is not wholly sufficient,
it is more profitable than the trifles of Maximianus.)

Perhaps because of this use of the poetry in elementary education, echoes of and references to it are found in a wide variety of medieval writers. A Middle English poem entitled "Le Regret de Maximian" was based on Maximianus's first elegy, and Chaucer's use of the Latin poet's work has been investigated by a number of scholars.

Although one or more printed editions of the work had appeared in the 15th century, it was the 1501 edition by the Neapolitan teenager Pomponius Gauricus that attracted the most attention among Renaissance scholars. Gauricus, suppressing the distich in which the name Maximianus appears and altering the reference to Boethius, published the verse as the work of the first-century-BC poet Cornelius Gallus, whose elegies were thought to be entirely lost. This enthusiastic error (or deliberate fraud) caused Maximianus's poetry to be widely misattributed to Gallus for hundreds of years. Gauricus also appears responsible for the division of the verse, which in almost all the manuscripts appears as a continuous poem, into six elegies—a division that has been followed by subsequent editors.

The first published English translation, by Hovenden Walker, was titled The Impotent Lover: Accurately Described in Six Elegies upon Old Age, with the Old Doting Letcher's Resentments on the Past Pleasures and Vigorous Performances of Youth.

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