« PoprzedniaDalej »
two books of Satires, two books of Epistles, and the Ars Poetica. The odes were the result of great labor and pains, and yet they are noted for the simplicity and ease of their style. There is through. out them a prevailing vein of sober wisdom and practical common sense, which, combined with a happy method of expression, excites the wonder and delight of both the educated and the untutored. Horace considered the odes to be of all his writings the most deserving of merit, and on them alone rests his claim to fame as a writer of verse. The first three books were published together, and the first ode serves as a dedication to the author's friend and patron Mæcenas. The fourth book, it is said, was written by the special request of the Emperor Augustus. Carmen Sæcu lare was written for the great festival called Ludi Sæculares, held in honor of the successes of Augustus at home and abroad, Horace being the poet laureate for the occasion. The hymn was sung by a chorus consisting of fifty-four boys and girls of noble birth, at a very solemn part of the festival, when the emperor was personally engaged in offering sacrifices to the gods. The Epodes are among the poet's earlier productions and most of them are of a satirical character. These writings are called Epodes, the meaning of the term being a poem in which the even verses are shorter than the odd ones, or in which one of
the verses is made up of two metres of distinct character. The Satires and Epistles are in the main humorous pictures of the times and manners of the Romans, and possess great historical value as correctly depicting the state of society in Rome in the Augustan age. Ars Poetica is an epistle in which Horace lays down some of the primary laws of good composition, which thoughtful students consider among their best instructions in rhetoric. Quintilian speaks of this poem as a "treatise on the art of poetry" (liber de arte poetica); but it is probable that Horace, always modest, never gave to this letter so pretentious a title.
As there are no authentic busts or medallions of Horace, we are relegated to the poets own descriptions of himself to form an idea of his appearance. These descriptions are meagre and vague, but · judging from them it would seem that he was short in stature and that his eyes and hair were dark. His constitution was by no means robust, and he seems to have been affected with weak eyes. In his habits he was temperate and frugal, but, nevertheless, not without appreciation of a good dinner and a good bottle of wine. In his later years he became quite corpulent, and was so sensitive to changes in the weather that he was forced to spend most of his time at Baiæ and Tibur, where he found the climate more suitable to his delicate constitution.
Horace was a great philosopher and moralist. He regarded the follies and vices of his fellow men as weaknesses to be regretted rather than as faults to be censured. Exactly what his religious views were it is impossible to tell, but judging from the general tone of his writings they were very vague and undefined. He seems to have believed chiefly in the existence of a great moral law, for infringements of which, the transgressor would surely be punished during his lifetime. It is doubtful whether Horace believed in future punishment, although there are to be found in his writings allusions to the "gloomy abodes of Pluto" and the "dark regions of Proserpina."
His words are greatly admired by both young and old. They appeal especially to the young, because they abound in applications of sound and sober wisdom to familiar and commonplace incidents within the daily experience of every one, while minds more mature not only admire the poet's grace and simplicity of expression, but take wise counsel from the depth and fullness of his philosophy.
THE FIRST BOOK
ODES OF HORACE.
MACENAS, descended from royal ancestors, O both my protection and my darling honor! There are those whom it delights to have collected Olympic dust in the chariot race; and [whom] the goal nicely avoided by the glowing wheels, and the noble palm, exalts, lords of the earth, to the gods.
This man, if a crowd of the capricious Quirites strive to raise him to the highest dignities; another, if he has stored up in his own granary whatsoever is swept from the Libyan threshing floors: him who delights to cut with the hoe his patrimonial fields, you could never tempt, for all the wealth of Attalus, [to become] a timorous sailor and cross the Myrtoan sea in a Cyprian bark. The merchant, dreading the south-west wind contending with the Icarian waves, commends tranquillity and the rural retirement of his village; but soon after, incapable of being taught to bear poverty, he refits his shattered vessel. There is another, who despises not cups of old Massic, taking a part from the entire day, one while stretched under the green arbute, another at the placid head of some sacred stream. The camp, and the sound of the trumpet mingled with that of the clarion, and wars detested by mothers, rejoice many.
The huntsman, unmindful of his tender spouse, remains in the cold air, whether a hart is held in view by his faithful hounds, or a Marsian boar has broken the fine-wrought toils.
Ivy, the reward of learned brows, equals me with the gods above: the cool grove, and the light dances of nymphs and satyrs, distinguish me from the crowd; if either Euterpe withholds her pipe, nor Polyhymnia disdains to tune the Lesbian lyre. But, if you rank me among the lyric poets, I shall tower to the stars with my exalted head.
TO AUGUSTUS CÆSAR.
Enough of snow and dreadful hail has the Sire now sent upon the earth, and having hurled [his thunderbolts] with his red right hand against the sacred towers, he has terrified the city: he has terrified the nations, lest the grievous age of Pyrrha, complaining of prodigies till then unheard of, should return, when Proteus drove all his [marine] herd to visit the lofty mountains and the fishy race were entangled in the elm top, which before was the frequented seat of doves; and the timorous deer swam in the overwhelming flood. We have seen the yellow Tiber, with his waves forced back with violence from the Tus can shore, proceed to demolish the monuments of king [Numa], and the temples of Vesta; while he vaunts him. self the avenger of the too disconsolate Ilia, and the uxorious river, leaving his channel, overflows his left bank, notwithstanding the disapprobation of Jupiter.
Our youth, less numerous by the vices of their fathers, shall hear of the citizens having whetted that sword [against themselves], with which it had been better that the formidable Persians had fallen; they shall hear of [actual] engagements. Whom of the gods shall the people invoke to the affairs of the sinking empire? With what prayer shall the sacred virgins importune Vesta, who is now inattentive to their hymns? To whom shall Jupiter assign the task of expiating our wickedness? Do thou at length, prophetic Apollo, (we pray thee!) come, veiling thy radiant shoulders with a cloud: or then, if it be more agreeable to thee, smiling Venus, about whom hover the gods of mirth and love: or thou, if thou regard thy neglected race and descendants our founder Mars, whom