Praxilla (c. 450 BCE?)
Raynor's first note on #1 describes the first layer in an aesthetic suppression of a female lyric poet. The cliche insult, "sillier than Praxilla's Adonis," presumes a male aesthetic which would forbid associating the lamenting spirit of Venus' dead lover with something as mundane as regret for the lost taste of fruit ("ripe cucumbers, and apples and pears"). The division of the universe into "subjects fit for serious poetry" and "subjects unfit for serious poetry" presumes some standards of value by which the world may be divided, standards which would challenge the ingenuity of many poets. The cultural authority which controls that division also, in effect, says which writers are "fit" to be poets, and such authorities are not always the product of transparently obvious good reasoning. What does it do to one's capacity to be creative, to be receptive to inspiration, if one believes one is not, by such a cultural definition, capable of it?
1) The first three images of #1's elegy for the lost beauties of life are entirely traditional for Greek descriptions of what the dead miss about living, focusing as they do on light. Praxilla's technique involves presenting the sources of light in an interesting sequence, moving from the brightest star to the first stars of night to the full moon. To be fair to her detractors, the shift to the garden images is sudden, entirely unprecedented in surviving Greek poetry of lament. What effect does she achieve by this juxtaposition of the soul's lament for lost light with the loss of "ripe cucumbers...apples and pears"? Note that, like the three fruits parallel the three light sources. Do the differences among the fruits also parallel, in some way, the differences among the light sources, and how would that affect our feeling for the soul's sense of loss?
2) Greek poets often use punning language that links the action of the verse to the names of people and places mentioned in the verse. In Praxilla's #1, see Raynor's note about her home town's name. (Also compare Anyte's #3 on 126, note page 189.) What might this mean about her intentions in describing what Adonis, dying, laments?
3) #3 and 4 are known to be drinking songs because of their meter. Greek lyric poets tended to follow strict rules about what meters were appropriate to what kinds of events. What do you see in common about Praxilla's subjects for these songs, and what might those subjects suggest about how she saw life in mid-fifth century BCE Sikyon?
4) #5 also, like 3 and 4, draws attention to a difference between external appearances and hidden reality. In this case, it involves a woman's beauty. How does it frame the difference between virginity and marriage, and what does that sugggest about the culture's view of married women?