« PoprzedniaDalej »
When Augustus returned from Asia, in B. C. 29, and closed the gates of Janus, being the acknowledged head of the republic, Horace appeared among his most hearty adherents. He wrote on this occasion one of his best Odes (i. 2), and employed his pen in forwarding those reforms which it was the first object of Augustus to effect. (See Introduction to C. ii. 15.) His most striking Odes appear, for the most part, to have been written after the establishment of peace. Some may have been written before, and probably were. But for some reason it would seem that he gave himself more to lyric poetry after his thirty-fifth year than he had done before. He had most likely studied the Greek poets while he was at Athens, and some of his imitations may have been written early. If so, they were most probably improved and polished, from time to time, (for he must have had them by him, known perhaps only to a few friends, for many years,) till they became the graceful specimens of artificial composition that they Horace continued to employ himself in this kind of writing (on a variety of subjects, convivial, amatory, political, moral,some original, many no doubt suggested by Greek poems) till B. C. 24, when there are reasons for thinking the first three books of the Odes were published. During this period, Horace appears to have passed his time at Rome, among the most distinguished men of the day, or at his house in the country, paying occasional visits to Tibur, Præneste, and Baix, with indifferent health, which required change of air. About the year B. C. 26 he was nearly killed by the falling of a tree, on his own estate, which accident he has recorded in one of his Odes (ii. 13), and occasionally refers to; once in the same stanza with a storm in which he was nearly lost off Cape Palinurus,* on the western coast of Italy. When this happened, nobody knows. After the publication of the three books of Odes, Horace seems to have ceased from that style of writing, or nearly so; and the only other compositions we know of his having produced in the next few years are metrical Epistles to different friends, of which he published a volume probably in B. C. 20 or 19. He seems to have taken
*C. iii. 4. 28.
up the study of the Greek philosophical writers, and to have become a good deal interested in them, and also to have been a little tired of the world, and disgusted with the jealousies his reputation created. His health did not improve as he grew older, and he put himself under the care of Antonius Musa, the emperor's new physician.* By his advice he gave up, for a time at least, his favorite Baiæ. But he found it necessary to be a good deal away from Rome, especially in the autumn and winter.†
In B. c. 17, Augustus celebrated the Ludi Seculares, and Horace was required to write an Ode for the occasion, which he did, and it has been preserved. This circumstance, and the credit it brought him, may have given his mind another leaning to Ode-writing, and have helped him to produce the fourth book, a few pieces in which may have been written at any time. It is said that Augustus particularly desired Horace to publish another book of Odes, in order that those he wrote upon the victories of Drusus and Tiberius (4 and 14) might appear in it. The latter of these Odes was not written, probably, till B. C. 13, when Augustus returned from Gaul. If so, the book was probably published in that year, when Horace was fifty-two. The Odes of the fourth book show no diminution of power, but the reverse. There are none in the first three books that surpass, or perhaps equal, the Ode in honor of Drusus, and few superior to that which is addressed to Lollius. The success of the first three books, and the honor of being chosen to compose the Ode at the Ludi Seculares, seem to have given him encouragement. There are no incidents in his life during the above period recorded or alluded to in his poems. He lived five years after the publication of the fourth book of Odes, if the above date be correct, and during that time, I think it probable, he wrote the Epistles to Augustus and Florus which form the second book; and having conceived the intention of writing a poem on the art and progress of poetry, he wrote as much of it as appears in the Epistle to the Pisones which has been preserved among his works. It seems,
* Epp. i. 15.
† Epp. i. 7. 1-13.
from the Epistle to Florus, that Horace at this time had to resist the urgency of friends begging him to write, one in this style and another in that, and that he had no desire to gratify them and to sacrifice his own ease to a pursuit in which it is plain ho never took any great delight. He was likely to bring to it less energy as his life was drawing prematurely to a close, througl infirmities either contracted or aggravated during his irrationa campaigning with Brutus, his inaptitude for which he appear afterwards to have been perfectly aware of. He continued to apply himself to the study of moral philosophy till his death which took place, according to Eusebius, on the 27th of Novem ber, B. C. 8, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, and within few days of its completion. Maecenas died the same year, als towards the close of it; a coincidence that has led some to th notion, that Horace hastened his own death that he might no have the pain of surviving his patron. According to Suetonius his death (which he places after his fifty-ninth year) was s sudden, that he had not time to execute his will, which is oppose to the notion of suicide. The two friends were buried near on another "in extremis Esquiliis," in the farthest part of the Es quiliæ, that is, probably, without the city walls, on the groun drained and laid out in gardens by Maecenas. (See S. i. 8, In troduction.)
MAECENAS atavis edite regibus
O et praesidium et dulce decus meum,
Nunquam dimoveas, ut trabe Cypria