Corinna Criticism

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Edwin Arnold (essay date 1869)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

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SOURCE: Arnold, Edwin. “Corinna.” In The Poets of Greece, p. 150. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1869, Arnold notes that Corinna's beauty may have rivaled her ability to compose verses.]

This poetess was a native of Tanagra in Bœotia, and she must have been no mean singer, if it be true, as is alleged, that she four times wrested the prize of song from the great Pindar himself. There is nothing extant to account for this high triumph, or only a few incoherent fragments, quoted here and there by Apollonius, Hephæstio, and others. Thus it is at least possible, as certain mischievous authors report, that the beauty of Corinna had more effect upon the mind of her judges than her verses.

C. M. Bowra (essay date February 1931)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bowra, C. M. “The Date of Corinna.” The Classical Review 45, no. 1 (February 1931): 4-5.

[In the following essay, Bowra sets forth his objections to E. Lobel's argument (see Further Reading) that Corinna belongs to a later date than is traditionally assigned to her.]

In Hermes LXV. (1930), pp. 356-365, Mr. E. Lobel has put forward, with some uncertainty, a view that Corinna was not a contemporary of Pindar, but lived at some later period before 300 b.c. Coming from an authority so distinguished, and combined with much that is acute and just on questions of language and metre, this opinion is bound to receive serious consideration. But if we examine it closely, we shall see that the arguments on which it is founded are unpersuasive.

Mr. Lobel's first argument is that the view that Corinna was a contemporary of Pindar is based on the fragment where she takes Myrtis to task for trying to compete with him (Bergk P.L.G. III., fr. 21). This, we are told, is no evidence for date; nor need we regard it as corroborating the different stories of Pindar's relations with Corinna known from Plutarch, Aelian, Pausanias and Suidas. Mr. Lobel dismisses these pieces of evidence as ‘contradictory and somewhat childish information.’ It is of course true that the scholars of Alexandria and Byzantium liked to have stories which involved the juxtaposition of famous names, and that as they recorded quarrels between Pindar and Bacchylides, so they liked to think of Pindar being taught or censured or defeated by Corinna. The stories themselves may well be fabrications, but they would never have won any acceptance had the Alexandrian scholars not believed that Pindar and Corinna were contemporaries. Even the tritest of literary anecdotes requires some basis of fact, and when Mr. Lobel denies the whole tradition outright, he strikes at the roots of ancient chronology and can only be justified if he provides really cogent evidence to prove his case.

This indeed he tries to do. He points out that Corinna, unlike most early poets, commonly fails to lengthen a vowel naturally short before the combination of a mute and a liquid. In this respect her practice is the opposite of that of Sappho and Alcaeus, and Mr. Lobel finds this ‘would appear unquestionably to be a sign of relative lateness.’ Here, then, is an important view requiring close consideration. The facts are undoubtedly as Mr. Lobel states them, but they do not prove his contention of a late date. In the first place, though Sappho and Alcaeus lengthen naturally short vowels before the combination of a mute and a liquid, not all early poets follow the same practice. Pindar freely leaves them short. In Olympian I. there are nine cases of it: l. 2 ἔξοχα πλούτου, l. 17 θαμα τράπεζαν, l. 19 ὑπo γλυκυτάταιs, l. 40 'Αγλαoτρίαιναν, l. 60 μετα τριω̑ν, ib. ὅτi κλέψαιs, l. 66 τὸ ταχύπoτμον, l. 89 ἀνεφρόντισεν, l. 106 ἐπiτροποs, and this frequency of shorts is maintained throughout his work. Bacchylides provides: I. 4 αἰολoπρύμνοιs, III. 65 πλείονα χρυσόν, ib. 83 ὅσια δρω̑ν, IV. 2 oχρυσόκομαs, V. 107 ἔνθα...

(The entire section is 15,941 words.)