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Poets in a Landscape
Gilbert Highet
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Poets in a Landscape

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  88 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews

Gilbert Highet was a legendary teacher at Columbia University, admired for his scholarship and his charisma as a lecturer. Poets in a Landscape is his delightful exploration of both Latin literature and the Italian landscape. As Highet writes in his introduction, “I have endeavored to recall some of the greatest Roman poets by describing the places were they lived, recreat

Hardcover, 267 pages
Published December 31st 1979 by Greenwood Press (first published January 1st 1957)
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Barbarian that I am, my knowledge of the central Latin poetry, excepting Ovid’s exilic Epistulae, and what bits of the Metamorphoses an English major meets in footnotes to the Fairie Queene, has never amounted to more than names on a timeline. Poets in a Landscape is the introduction I needed. It’s graceful, engaging, conversational; dense with learning, but fluent and fleet. Scottish classicist Gilbert Highet was one of the great teacher-critics on the Columbia faculty, alongside Lionel Trillin ...more
Just about a lifetime ago I was sitting in a plaza in Rome just across from the Pantheon. I was reading Gunter Grass and the sky was perfect. My luggage made it almost two days after my arrival. I was content. A large bald man with a fain aura of menace sat on the marble steps next to me. He made a comment in a brogue-ish way that it was a lovely day. I concurred with a bit of flourish, saying something ridiculous like its beauty was timeless. I don't think he offered his name but said he was fr ...more
Justin Evans
A very pleasant read, with much unintended comedy. First the good: Highet writes well, and gives you just enough information so that you want to read more of, or just read, the poets he discusses here: Catullus, Virgil, Propertius, Horace, Tibullus, Ovid, and Juvenal. He also makes me want to go back to Rome. His biographies of the poets are charming, in the patrician, pre-criticism manner; his discussions of the poetry are intriguing, particularly when he focuses closely (as in the Horace chapt ...more
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contexts, 1950s, antiquity
In the summer of 1956, Highet and his wife toured Italy, visiting the relics of several classical Latin poets. This book reports what he found. Highet was a serious scholar, but in Poets in a Landscape he wears his learning lightly and sprinkles his account with plenty of interesting tidbits: Catullus popularized the word basium, the ancestor of the French, Italian & Spanish words for 'kiss'; Vergil was born in a ditch; Propertius hailed from Assisi, like St. Francis; Vergil is buried next t ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is adorable and i should give it to chenier, maybe. it is adorable because it is, basically, of historical interest more than anything else, a relic of the 50s (although this adorability-via-historical-interest dimension actually is also responsible for its most non-adorable part, i.e. gilbert highet's inability to write about women without being a raging misogynist, to the point that i think it negatively affected the way he assessed some of the poets). the travel writing is adorable. ...more
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book was a life-changer for me. I read it one summer when I was in high school and it transformed me from someone taking Latin because I had to do so to someone who cared about Latin poetry and wanted to be able to read it in the original. I ended up a classics major in university and I have been reading Latin ever since. I have not reread it in a long time because I'm afraid that at a different stage in my life it won't seem the same as in did all those years ago.

The charm of this book is
Chris Schaeffer
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, rambling, tweedy discourse on the great Roman poets. The kind of gently expository scholarship that could never be written nowadays. Don't get me wrong, I love French Theory and its attendant ambiguities and interstices, but don't you sometimes miss having books like this, where a guy who knows everything about something slowly and winningly teaches you why he loves it so much?

This was a graduation gift from my girlfriend, and whenever I look through it I miss that atmosphere of int
Spenceface Klavan
Jun 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I get the sense that the favorite pastime of critics who analyze the Roman lyric poets is to dig up juicy, damning details about their personal lives. A lot of writing on these guys reads like a character assassination -- Catullus paraded his affair with a married woman; Ovid lead an emperor's daughter down a shadowy garden path whose details are too filthy to have survived the record of history. This is almost too easy. For one thing, poets are people: broken, vulnerable, frail bundles of missh ...more
Justin Howe
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A series of biographies of Roman poets mixed with an Italian travel guide circa 1957. Highet’s a classicist of the urbane and highly educated type, but he has a passionate love of his subject, an inviting style, and the ability to share his enthusiasm with his readers.

Plus, he gives the occasional “fuck yeah, books!” battle cry that I love: “These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice, as inaudible as the streams of soun
Jul 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book to read when traveling, especially in Italy but really appropriate for anyone interested in history and poetry. Eight short chapters about eight Roman poets, the author describes their home towns, their lives in Rome and in the country, the atmosphere in Rome during the height of the empire, and also presents highlights from their poetry. It was very cool to hear men who lived two thousand years ago talk about cheating girlfriends, love, complain of traffic and noise in the city ...more
Lauren Albert
The title describes the book pretty accurately. Highet places the individual classical poets into their landscape. Now, I'm not very good at visualizing things I haven't seen so the long descriptive passages didn't do much for me. But I learned a lot about the classical poets he discusses--of whom I knew, sadly, little. Here are the poets he discusses: Catullus, Vergil, Propertius, Horace, Tibullus, Ovid, and Juvenal.
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book, superbly written and very enjoyable. Highet's passion for his subject is infectious and makes for an illuminating introduction to these great Roman poets and the world they lived in. Catullus, Horace, Ovid etc were just names, but, Highet has shed a new light upon them and has made me want to discover more of their works. It's part history and poetry lesson, mixed with what he did on his holidays! excellent. Highly recommend.
Shirley Plummer
Jul 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shirley by: no one
This is my book so I am neither rushing to return it to the library nor, since I am only marginally interested in Latin poets, do I feel compelled to make a steady attack on it.Dipping into it here and there I am not attracted by the decadence.
However, Gilbert Highet writes so well that it is a pleasure to read; his prose landscapes are a near approach to poetry themselves.
Gilbert Wesley Purdy
I can't imagine a better introduction to the lives and works of Catullus, Virgil, Tibullus, Horace, Ovid and Juvenal. Includes solid English translations interspersed throughout the text and many b&w photos.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a small gem of a book. One to keep by the bediside table and dip into now and again for a
pleasant injection of erudition on the Roman poets and their background, literary context and influence on latter-day literature and poetry.
Douglas Dalrymple
Highet’s book is a charming and very readable introduction to the Latin poets of (roughly) the Augustan era – notably, Catullus, Virgil, Tibullus, Horace, Ovid and Juvenal. When my kids are a bit older (high school age would be about right) I plan to make them read this one.
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: musings
I thought it was nicely written in prose that seems classical and clear. I haven't read much of the Latin poets, but this made me want to explore them.
Frederick Gault
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, poetry
Discussion of the poets of Augustan Rome, a nice overview.
Luther Obrock
I want to reread Horace now
rated it really liked it
Aug 31, 2013
Amanda Patchin
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Where it is good (appreciative criticism of the Latin greats, informed observation of the Italian countryside and the city of Rome) it is very good. Where it is bad (a classicist's rejection of the glories of the middle ages, primness about naughty words) it is not very bad.

Worthwhile reading for teachers of the Latin poets (there are dozens of us!) to stimulate the appreciative gene.
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NYRB Classics: Poets in a Landscape, by Gilbert Highet 1 3 Oct 29, 2013 04:49PM  
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Critic and classical scholar, Gilbert Highet was born in Scotland, educated at Oxford, and taught at Oxford and Columbia for forty years. Married to novelist Helen MacInnes. Best known for teaching in the humanities in the UK and USA.
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