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Seeing that the republican cause was irretrievably lost, Horace accepted the proffered amnesty, and returned to Italy B. C. 41. His father's estate had either been sold before they first went to Rome, or, as is perhaps more probable, it was confiscated in the war; but he purchased a sort of sinecure clerkship in the Treasury, which gave him a modest support. He now began to write satires, and perhaps other verses, which at once attracted attention, while his own winning personality, his generous culture, his experience of life, already wide, and his warm heart made him friends in the brilliant literary circle at Rome. Vergil and Varius, who had the same ambition as he to make Latin letters illustrious, became his fast friends; they introduced him to Maecenas, the great patron of art and literature, who held the highest social position in the city; and Maecenas procured him the friendship and favor of Octavianus * himself. He was intimate also with Pollio, Plotius, and Tibullus.
In the year 33 B.C. Maecenas gave him a small farm in a deep and romantic valley among the Sabine Hills, about fifteen miles from Tibur (the modern Tivoli). It produced wheat, olives, and vines; it was surrounded by pleasant and shady woods, and had abundance of the purest water; it was superintended by a steward, and Horace employed about eight slaves. Horace pictures himself reading here the books of the ancients, or sleeping on the turf after dinner near his brook, or provoking the good-natured smiles of his neighbors as he awkwardly drives the harrow or plies the spade, or in nights and informal suppers fit for gods discoursing with his friends, not on the petty gossip of the city, but on such themes as the sources of true happiness and friendship, the nature of moral goodness, and the summum bonum.
The poet tells us that it was “bold poverty” that on his return to Rome from Athens drove him to write verses. It is not unlikely that his first productions were in various kinds of verse, and that they had some private circulation before he came before the general public; but his first publications were his Satires, the first book of which appeared in the year B. C. 34 or 35;* the second book in 30 or 29; the Epodes in the year 30; the first three books of Odes in 24 or 23; the Sæcular Hymn in 17; the fourth book of Odes in 12; the first book of Epistles in 20; the second book and the Ars Poetica after 17, and probably some time in the last four years of his life.
* Afterwards Augustus.
Among these works Horace himself preferred the Odes, and rested on them his hopes of lasting fame. He prided himself on being the first to mould Latin verse to the Greek lyric measures; for Catullus had done comparatively little in this way. In grace and ease, in happy epithets, in variety of imagery and exquisite felicity of expression they are still unsurpassed. The Satires and Epistles display conspicuously his knowledge of men and manners, his power of graphic delineation, his genial humor, and his practical wisdom and good sense; the Epistles bearing the palm for urbanity and finished grace of style. In the Epistle to the Pisos (or Art of Poetry) and some of his other Epistles he appears as a sound and sensible literary critic. No author is more often quoted, for none has put thoughts and images into more graceful forms or uttered more maxims“which come home to men's business and bosoms."
In patronizing such men as Horace, Augustus and his favorite counsellor Maecenas were influenced not only by their love of letters, but also by their desire to withdraw the minds of the Roman people from politics and civil strife, and interest them in the arts of peace. Growing more and more reconciled to the rule of Augustus as time went on, Horace gladly used his verse in support of the reforms in public morals which the monarch had at heart, and celebrates him in terms of higher and higher praise, till, in the courtly language of the times, he attributes to him divine honors; yet he is never the abject flatterer, and in all his intercourse with the emperor he maintains his manly independence. Augustus offered him a position as his private secretary, with a seat at his own table; but Horace declined this office of great dignity and influence, on account of his ill-health, as he alleged, yet probably also from a dread of sacrificing any part of his freedom. Letters from the monarch to the poet are
* Some of these dates are approximate.
extant, which, as well as the first epistle of the second book, illustrate the familiar terms of friendship on which they stood. In one of these letters, while regretting that Horace will not accept the private secretaryship, the emperor says, “If you are so proud as to disdain my friendship, I will not be haughty in
Horace was short in stature and somewhat corpulent, on which Augustus rallies him in one of his letters. His eyes and hair were dark, but he grew gray early. He suffered at one time with an affection of the eyes, and was of a somewhat delicate constitution. His habits were, as a rule, temperate and frugal, although he was not insensible to the pleasures of the table. In his latter years he sought shelter from inclement seasons on the genial shore of Baiae, or at Tibur more comfortable than his Sabine farm. He was never married, but congenial friends were never wanting. Favor did not spoil him. Simple, manly, unaffected, as well as kindly and urbane, he treated high and low alike, and was a favorite in all circles. Declining health and the loss of friends saddened his later years. He died just before completing his fifty-seventh year, B. C. 8, on the 27th of November, a few weeks after Maecenas,* of an illness so short and sudden that he was unable to stamp his seal on the will in which he left to Augustus his small estate. He was buried by the side of Maecenas on the Esquiline Hill.
Non omnis mortuus est. Perhaps no other author among the ancient Greeks and Romans has been and is more generally read. “No other Roman rated deeply into the very essence of the old Greek pre-Alexandrian poets, or appropriated to himself so fully the Grecian culture. Therefore he is the poet who freed himself most completely from the narrow views of the old Romans, and his best poems bear a cosmopolitan character which has won him friends and admirers in all times and among all peoples.” Above all, he was a most observant and intelligent student of life and manners, for which study he had rare opportunities in his varied experience—for he had touched life at many
* In almost his last words Maecenas committed his friend of more than thirty years to the care of Augustus : Horati Flacci, ut mei, esto memor.
points—in the university and the field, in the city and the country, among all ranks and conditions of men. No man knows the history of Rome in the Augustan age who is not familiar with Horace's writings. “Through them,” says an eminent authority,“ we are able to form a clearer idea, in all probability, of the state of Roman society at that period than of any other phase of social development in the history of nations.” But it is not his own countrymen only that he depicts : he is one of the best painters of that human nature which is the same in every age and clime. He is a favorite of the young in his gayer strains, and the young enjoy too the genial tone in which he conveys his practical moral lessons ; he is no less the favorite of men grown old in experience and wisdom, who alone can fully appreciate the depth of his observation and the reach of his good sense.
His religion is simply the formal religion of the state, yet he manifests sensibilities which might make him capable of a more spiritual and purer faith. He has some conception of an overruling Providence, and says that the neglect of the gods is both the cause and the consequence of degraded morals. While in his younger years a follower of Epicurus, who placed the ideal of human happiness in the moderate enjoyment of life, he inclined later to the strenuous principles of the Stoics, who deemed virtue the greatest and the only good. His moral standard, although not without the deficiencies we should expect to find in heathen Rome, was a high one for the times, and shows a genuine love for moral excellence.
To whom shall we liken him in the great congregation of bards ? Shall we call him a Burns, who had lived with gentlemen and scholars and been trained in a great university,—a Béranger, capable of more earnest themes and loftier flights, a Heine, without his drop of gall,—a Pope, without mannerism, -a larger Cowley, Dobson, or Lang? Such comparisons but suggest some of his qualities; they do not give us the man. Enough to say, he is HORACE—the charmer of youth, the counsellor of manhood, the delight and refreshment of old age.
THE METRES OF HORACE.
In the Satires and Epistles, Horace uses the dactylic hexameter; yet, in the Satires, his Musa pedestris purposely assumes a careless and easy tone. This is seen, for instance, in his freedom with regard to elision, particularly that of the monosyllabic particles nam, dum, cum, si, which is contrary to the epic usage; in some cases of synaeresis, as prout, quoad, vindemiator ; in syncopes, as caldior, soldum ; and contractions, as divisse, surrexe. In the construction of the verse, also, we observe an intentional accumulation of spondees. There is a peculiar grace in the skill with which Horace makes his pauses of sense sometimes coincident with the metrical caesuras, sometimes remote from them.
In the Odes and Epodes nineteen metres or systems of verse are recognized, a list of which here follows. Further details may be obtained from any grammar.
Horaces verses are often capable of more than one mode of metrical division, and between these modes scholars differ in their preferences. But as the rhythm depends upon the alternation of the long and short syllables,—undisputed facts in any verse, unless sometimes in the last syllable,—there is not room for much difference in the actual reading. But the slightest possible pause, or no pause at all, should be made at the end of the several feet, unless in case of diaeresis, or of a pause of sense. The caesura should be marked of course. Full justice should be given to the quantity of the long syllables as distinguished from the short. Moreover, he that reads an Ode metrically should feel all the music of the verse, in its march or flight or swing.
I. The minor Asclepiadēan system, each stanza consisting of four minor Asclepiadēan verses :
10,This verse can also be so scanned as to end with a dactyle.