Archpoet


Archpoet
(ca. 1130–ca. 1165)
   One of the best-known of the 12th-century Latin poets known collectively as “goliards” (because of their tongue-in-cheek devotion to a mythical patron of vagabonds named Golias) is known only by his title Archpoet. Like the other poets in gOLIARDIC VERSE, the Archpoet satirizes the church and praises the delights of the flesh, especially gambling, food and drink, and sex.
   Ten poems attributed to the Archpoet survive in 35 manuscripts (comprising some 714 lines), and from the poems details of his life can be gleaned. In one poem he claims to be of knightly birth. The poet’s patron was the noble and wealthy Reinald von Dassel, archbishop of Cologne and archchancellor of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (whom the Archpoet praised in one of his poems). Reinald was made archbishop in 1159 and died in 1167, so the Archpoet must have been active at that time. Dassel apparently had to use his influence more than once to bail the poet out of trouble, for which the Archpoet showed his gratitude in his poem “In Praise of Archbishop Reinald von Dassel.” The Archpoet’s best-known poem is his “Confession of Golias,” in which he confesses to the sins of gambling, drinking, and sexual excesses.Apparently the poem was written in response to complaints about his excesses made to his patron—complaints he dealt with by freely and comically admitting to them. Another poem, the “Confession of Jonah,” seems to have been written after he was dismissed from Dassel’s service because of some ill-advised sexual escapade. In the poem he compares himself to Jonah, who refused God’s command, and now from exile begs for a second chance.
   Several of the Archpoet’s poems are begging poems, asking his patron for money. In some poems he writes in quantitative verse—the long and short syllables of classical Latin; sometimes he writes in rhythmic verse—the stressed and unstressed syllables typical of vernacular Germanic poetry. His poems are full of allusions to classical Latin and to Christian texts, and sometimes border on the sacrilegious. His best-known lines, from stanza 12 of his poem X (“The Confession of Golias”), sum up his themes and his attitude:
   I propose to die in a tavern,
   So that wine may be near my mouth as I die.
   Then choruses of angels will happily sing:
   “May god be kind to this drinker.”
   (qtd. in Hardin and Hasty 1994, 9)
   Bibliography
   ■ Dronke, Peter. “The Archpoet and the Classics,” in Latin Poetry and the Classical Tradition, edited by Peter Godman and Oswyn Murray. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990, 57–72.
   ■ ———.“The Art of the Archpoet: A Reading of ‘Lingua balbus.’ ” In The Interpretation of Medieval Lyric Poetry, edited by W. H. T. Jackson, 22–43. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.
   ■ Hardin, James, and Will Hasty, eds. “German Writers and Works of the Early Middle Ages: 800–1170,” Vol. 148, Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994, 8–9.
   ■ Watenpuhl, Heinrich, and Heinrich Krefeld, eds. Die Gedichte des Archipoeta. Heidelberg, Germany: Carl Winter, 1958.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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