Obrazy na stronie


that you will be squeezed into small compass, as soon as the eager reader is satiated." But, if the augur be not prejudiced by resentment of your error, you shall be caressed at Rome [only] till your youth be passed." When, thumbed by the hands of the vulgar, you begin to grow dirty; either you shall in silence feed the grovelling book-worms, or you shall make your escape to Utica, or shall be sent bound to Ilerda. Your disregarded adviser shall then laugh [at you]: as he, who in a passion pushed his refractory ass over the precipice. For who would save [an ass] against his will? This too awaits you, that faltering dotage shall seize on you, to teach boys their rudiments in the skirts of the city." But when the abating warmth of the sun shall attract more ears, you shall tell them, that I was the son of a freedman, and extended my wings beyond my nest; so that, as much as you take away from my family," you may add to my merit: that I was in favor with the first men in the state, both in war and peace; of a short stature, gray before my time, calculated for


36 In breve to cogi. In arctum volumen contrahi. The poet threatens his book, that it shall be rolled up as if condemned never to be read again. The books of the ancients were written on skins of parchment, which they were obliged to unfold and extend when they designed to read. TORR.

37 The lover here signifies a passionate reader; he seizes a book with rapture; runs it over in haste; his curiosity begins to be satisfied; his appetite is cloyed; he throws it away, and never opens it again. FRAN.

33 Novelty is a kind of youth, which gives to every thing a certain grace and value. Few books have a privilege of not growing old. In general, their youth is extremely short, and scarce divided from their age. SAN.

39 There were schools in the most frequented parts of the city, where professors of abilities and reputation explained the best Greek and Latin authors. Children were taught to read in the suburbs, whither Horace presages his book should be banished in its old age. This prediction should be considered as a modest pleasantry, for our poet knew too well the value of his works to be afraid of such a destiny. TORR. SAN.

40 Sol tepidus. M. Dacier and the rest of the commentators understand the middle of the day, when the sun is most violent; but this was a time when people usually retired into their houses to avoid the heat. Sol tepidus may therefore mean the mildness and moderate warmth of evening, when men of letters assembled, either in the public walks or shops of booksellers, to read any works lately published. SAN.

41 Nature made Horace the son of a public crier, but his own merit made him the companion of an emperor, and gained him the friendship of the greatest, as well as most ingenious men of the Augustan age. FRAN

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

sustaining heat," prone to passion, yet so as to be soon appeased. If any one should chance to inquire my age; let him know that I had completed four times eleven Decembers, in the year in which Lollius admitted Lepidus" as his colleague.

42 We may remark, in many places of his works, that our poet was very sensible to cold; that in winter he went to the sea-coast, and that he was particularly fond of Tarentum in that season, because it was milder there. We may likewise understand the words of his exercises in the Campus Martius, as in his Odes patiens pulveris atque solis, but the former sense is more natural. SAN.

43 Augustus being in the year 733 in Sicily, the senate made him an offer of the consulship, which he refused. This refusal and his absence occasioned a very strongly disputed election between Lepidus and Silanus, who pretended to fill his place. Augustus sent for them into Sicily, and forbade them to return to Rome until the election was ended. By this means Lollius, who had been appointed colleague with Augustus, easily carried the votes in favor of Lepidus, which Horace means by the word duxit. Our poet was born on the 8th of December, 689, and consequently his forty-fourth year ended 733. SAN.






He honors him with the highest compliments; then treats copiously of poetry, its origin, character, and excellence.

SINCE you alone support so many and such weighty concerns, defend Italy with your arms, adorn it by your virtue, reform

1 Augustus had written to Horace to reproach him for not having addressed any part of his works to him. Know, says he, that I am angry with you; or are you apprehensive it shall injure your reputation with posterity, that you have been one of my friends? These reproaches, probably, occasioned this Epistle, which is justly ranked among the best performances of our author, and not unworthy of a prince of superior genius, delicate taste, and more than common erudition. It may be divided into four parts. In the first, the poet examines the comparison between ancients and moderns, which had been a matter of dispute in almost all ages. He then shows, that novelty is the mother of all polite arts, especially of poetry, that divine art, which deserves the greatest praises and greatest rewards. In the third part he treats of the theater, and the difficulty of succeeding there. In the last, he would inform princes how much they are interested to animate an emulation among Epic and Lyric poets, who have it in their power to make them immortal. These different parts are enlivened by a continual criticism upon the manner in which the Romans judged of poets, and by many reflections, equally useful and agreeable, upon the origin and progress of poetry.

The date of this Epistle is determined by so many facts, and so strongly marked, that it is unaccountable how it hath been mistaken. It mentions the divine honors paid to Augustus in 726: the sovereign authority which he received from the senate in 727: the reduction of the Parthians in 734: the laws which he made for the reformation of manners in 737: the conquests of Tiberius and Drusus in 739, 742, 743, and shutting the temple of Janus in 744, when this letter was written, and when Horace was in his fifty-second year, about two years before his death. FRAN.

it by your laws; I should offend, O Cæsar, against the public interests, if I were to trespass upon your time with a long discourse."

Romulus, and father Bacchus, and Castor and Pollux, after great achievements, received into the temples of the gods, while they were improving the world and human nature, composing fierce dissensions, settling property, building cities, lamented that the esteem which they expected was not paid in proportion to their merits. He who crushed the dire Hydra, and subdued the renowned monsters by his forefated labor, found envy was to be tamed by death [alone]. For he burns by his very splendor, whose superiority is oppressive to the arts beneath him: after his decease, he shall be had in hon

2 The poet is thought to begin with apologizing for the shortness of this Epistle. And yet it is one of the longest he ever wrote. How is this inconsistency to be reconciled? The case, I believe, was this. The genius of epistolary writing demands, that the subject-matter be not abruptly delivered, or hastily obtruded on the person addressed; but, as the law of decorum prescribes (for the rule holds in writing, as in conversation), be gradually and respectfully introduced to him. This obtains more particularly in applications to the great, and on important subjects. But now the poet, being to address his prince on a point of no small delicacy, and on which he foresaw he should have occasion to hold him pretty long, prudently contrives to get as soon as possible into his subject; and, to that end, hath the art to convert the very transgression of this rule into the justest and most beautiful compliment.

That cautious preparation, which is ordinarily requisite in our approaches to greatness, had been, the poet observes, in the present case, highly unseasonable, as the business and interests of the empire must, in the mean time, have stood still and been suspended. By sermone, then, we are to understand, not the body of the Epistle, but the proem or introduction only. The body, as of public concern, might be allowed to engage, at full length, the emperor's attention; but the introduction, consisting of ceremonial only, the common good required him to shorten as much as possible. It was no time for using an insignificant preamble, or, in our English phrase, of making long speeches. This reason, too, is founded, not merely in the elevated rank of the emperor, but in the peculiar diligence and solicitude with which, history tells us, he endeavored to promote, by various ways, the interests of his country. So that the compliment is as just as it is polite. It may be further observed, that sermo is used in Horace to signify the ordinary style of conversation (see 1 Sat. 3. 65, and 4, 42), and therefore not improperly denotes the familiarity of the epistolary address, which, in its easy expression, so nearly approaches to it. HURD.

3 I have partly followed Anthon, but the variety of interpretations in this passage is most perplexing. See M'Caul's notes.

or. On you, while present among us, we confer mature honors, and rear altars where your name is to be sworn by; confessing that nothing equal to you has hitherto risen, or will hereafter rise. But this your people, wise and just in one point (for preferring you to our own, you to the Grecian heroes), by no means estimate other things with like proportion and measure and disdain and detest every thing, but what they see removed from earth and already gone by; such favorers are they of antiquity, as to assert that the Muses [themselves] upon Mount Alba, dictated the twelve tables, forbidding to transgress, which the decemviri ratified; the leagues of our kings concluded with the Gabii, or the rigid Sabines; the records of the pontifices, and the ancient volumes of the



If, because the most ancient writings of the Greeks are also the best, Roman authors are to be weighed in the same scale,


4 We are not to wonder at this and the like extravagances of adulation in the Augustan poets. They had ample authority for what they did of this sort. We know that altars were decreed and erected to the emperor by the command of the senate, and that he was publicly invoked, as an established tutelary divinity. But the seeds of the corruption had been sown much earlier. For we find it sprung up, or rather (as of all the ill weeds, which the teeming soil of human depravity throws forth, none is more thriving and grows faster than this of flattery) flourishing at its height, in the tyranny of J. Cæsar. Balbus, in a letter to Cicero (Ep. ad Att. 1, ix.) "swears by the health and safety of Cæsar:" "ita, incolumi Cæsare, moriar." And Dio tells us (L. xliv.) that it was, by the express injunction of the senate, decreed, even in Cæsar's life-time, that the Romans should bind themselves by this oath. The senate also (as we learn from the same writer, L. xliii.) upon the receiving the news of his defeat of Pompey's sons, caused his statue to be set up, in the temple of Romulus, with this inscription, DEO INVICTO. HURD.

5 The laws of the twelve tables, which Horace here means, might not want elegance of expression, with regard to the time when they were written. The treaty of peace between Tarquinius Superbus and the Gabii was recorded on a bull's hide stretched upon a piece of wood called Clypeum, and we may believe the style was answerable to the paper. The Sibylline books, which regulated all the ceremonies of religion; and the works of poets in the first infancy of the Latin tongue, might have been venerable for their antiquity, but could not be models of good writing. FRAN.

• The common interpretation of this place supposes the poet to admit the most ancient of the Greek writings to be the best-which were even contrary to all experience and common sense, and is directly confuted by the history of the Greek learning. What he allows is, the superiority of the oldest Greek writings extant, which is a very different thing The

« PoprzedniaDalej »