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Poetry: Gay Male  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  

The third chapter, "Poetry of Friendship among Greeks and Romans," turns to "literary" texts, offering selections from Homer (Achilles and Patroclus), Theognis, Anacreon, Meleager, Theocritus, Bion, Ovid, Virgil, Catullus, and Martial.

Turning from the ancient world, Carpenter compiled a fourth chapter on "Friendship in Early Christian and Medieval Times." Here, alongside selections from Saint Augustine's Confessions, one finds brief examples of "Eastern" love poetry by the likes of Hafiz of Shiraz, together with fragments of J. S. Buckingham's travel writing.

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Chapter five, "The Renaissance and Modern Times," moves from Montaigne's assays to Michelangelo's sonnets; from Richard Barnfield through Sir Francis Bacon to Shakespeare (sonnets 18, 20, 104, and 108 plus brief extracts from The Merchant of Venice and Henry V).

The rest of this chapter is a haphazard mixture of items, ranging from Winckelmann's letters to the poetry of August von Platen; from Wagner's letters to poems by the pioneering sexologist K. H. Ulrichs; and from Byron and Shelley, through Alfred Tennyson's In Memoriam (five sections: 13, 18, 59, 127, and 128), to Walt Whitman ("Recorders Ages Hence," "When I Heard at the Close of the Day," and "I Hear It Was Charged Against Me").

The enlarged edition of Ioläus, which Carpenter published in 1926, contained an appendix covering the same breadth as that of the body of the book, from Aristotle to Edward Fitzgerald, via Prussia and Ceylon. In the preface to the first edition, Carpenter had acknowledged that the collection was "only incomplete, and a small contribution, at best, towards a large subject." Knowing as well as anyone how very large the subject was indeed, Carpenter left the apology to stand even in the enlarged edition.

Patrick Anderson and Alistair Sutherland's Eros (1961)

By the time Patrick Anderson and Alistair Sutherland had come to publish their book Eros (1961)--again an "anthology of friendship," again named after a boy in Greek myth--the canon had greatly expanded. The ten chapters of this new collection were as follows.

"The Great Originals" lays the ground rules with the stories of David and Jonathan, and Achilles and Patroclus, and Zeus and Ganymede. Interestingly, the chapter ends with Oscar Wilde's famous courtroom plea on behalf of "the love that dare not speak its name," a decision by which Anderson and Sutherland clearly intend to link their ancient material not only with modern instances of "friendship" but also with criminalized homosexuality.

(Remember that Eros came out between the publication of the Wolfenden Report of 1957, which proposed the legalization of private, consensual homosexual acts in England, and the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which effected the reforms.)

The second chapter, "The Greeks," gives a much fuller account than Carpenter's of Greek customs, thought, and literature; and its poetic selections are arranged under thematic subheadings such as "Boyflowers," "Eyes of Fire and Virtue," "The Variety of Loves--and of Love," and "Jokes about Effeminacy."

The last named, containing an extract from Aristophanes's Thesmophoriazusae, is useful as a reminder that our heritage includes not only celebrations of same-sex love, but also expressions of what has come to be called homophobia.

There follows a chapter on "The Romans," primarily consisting of prose essays (Cicero) and fiction (Petronius), but also, of course, containing Virgil's second eclogue and other poetry by Horace, Tibullus, Catullus, and Juvenal. Like the passage from Aristophanes, the items from Juvenal's Satires mock effeminacy.

Chapter four, "The Dark and Middle Ages," turns to the Christian world via the new proliferation of penalties for sodomy--again, clearly broadening the scope of the anthology beyond mere "friendship." Included thereafter are several of Helen Waddell's famous translations of medieval love poems and a number of love letters between monks. As in Ioläus, this chapter shifts its focus to the Islamic world with extensive selections from Hafiz, followed by poems of boy-love by a number of "Moors."

"The Renaissance" follows, with letters and sonnets by Michelangelo and essays by Montaigne. Sir Philip Sidney opens the account, and Shakespeare is represented by twenty-six sonnets (20, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 22, 27, 29, 41, 42, 53, 54, 62, 67, 73, 79, 80, 98, 99, 104, 106, 110, 116, 135, and 144). Long extracts from Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander and Richard Barnfield's pastorals lead into essays by Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Thomas Browne.

Chapter six, "Eighteenth Century and Romantics," begins with an account of the loves of Thomas Gray; continues with sizable extracts from William Beckford's short novel Vathek and ten poems by Byron; and ends with an extract from Endymion, which the editors say, "for all the normality of Keats," establishes that "the spirit of Eros" nevertheless flourishes in his verse.

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