Early Latin Poetry of Sylvester
Johannis Phrygius

Studia Latina Upsaliensia, No. 32

By Josef Eskhult
November 2007
Uppsala University
Distributed by Coronet Books Inc.
ISBN: 9789155469474
568 pages, 6 1/2 x 9 1/2"
$99.50 Paper Original

This thesis contains three major portions of the early Latin poetry of the theologian Sylvester Johannis Phrygius (1572–1628), one of the most pro-lific and important Swedish poets at the turn of the 17th century.

The verses exhibit marked influence from the Protestant Universities of Northern Germany at which Phrygius had studied. There Lutheranism had coalesced with the Humanist movement, so as to produce a highly creative cultural environment. It was through Jena, Wittenberg and Rostock that the learned culture of the Renaissance found its way into Sweden.

The first section consists of poems from Phrygius’ Ecloga prima print (1599), whose main part is an eclogue, a pastoral dirge on the death of the daughter of the bishop of Linköping. Vergil’s first eclogue is the model of the text, which is characterized by allegorical messages so typical of the period. The second consists of Threnologia dramatica, a dramatic lamentation in elegiac distichs written around 1600 in memory of King John III of Sweden. The third section is the Centuria prima print (1602), the main part of which consists of captioned moral distichs arranged in emblematic manner. These verses were meant to give guidance to a young nobleman on the virtuous path of life, as well as rhetorical and mnemonic aid. Commonplace material is present in abundance.

Altogether these poetic works strongly reflect the literary ideals of the Renaissance as well as historical realities in Sweden at the time, such as the civil war and the struggle against the forces of the Counter-Reformation. The aim of the thesis is to provide an interpretative context for Phrygius’ poems by finding and identifying Phrygius’ literary models and sources, allusions and intertexts, both ancient and contemporary ones, and to show how these texts mirror the dramatic events in Sweden during the decades around 1600.


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