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BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDINGS IN HORACE' S ODES
KATHLEEN R. BURT
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A B S T R A C T ............ i.......................................................... iii
1 INTRODUCTION ..................................... ...................... ... ...... 1
2 M EET THE LYRIC POET .................. .................. .................. .......... 4
3 LOVE AND WINE: A POET'S TWO BEST FRIENDS..........................17
4 THE POET'S JOURNEY TO IMMORTALITY ........................................31
5 CANEMUS: THE POET'S FINAL INVITATION................................... 41
6 CONCLUSION ............ ..... ......................................... ...... .. 51
W ORKS CITED .................................. ................... ...... ......... 52
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ......... ........................................55
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES, AND ENDINGS IN HORACE'S ODES
Kathleen R. Burt
Chair: Timothy S. Johnson
Major Department: Classics
As a skilled lyric poet, Horace wrote poems that not only entertain, but also teach
a lesson. Horace's major themes in the Odes consider how the poet and his poetry allow
the poet and humanity to overcome their mortal limitations, especially death. Horace's
use of imagery in the poems in the prominent places (beginning, middle, and end poems)
in each of the first three books of his Odes develops into a sequence revealing some of
his most important themes and how the poems interact to reinforce each other. The
beginning poems define the power of the poet and his poetry. The poems in the center set
forth Horace's advice on how to live well with the burden of mortality. The end poems
follow the poet on his transformation from mortal poet to immortal bard. Book 4 presents
a review of each of these major themes of the first three books.
Horace is a multifaceted writer. He is a satirist, iambist, lyricist, and literary critic.
Despite such versatility, Horace maintains one constant characteristic upon which he
bases his entire literary persona; through all the genres, Horace is metapoetic. His poetic
vocation is never far from his mind and it permeates his writings. In Horace's two lyric
collections, which together make up the four books of the Odes, he pays close attention to
the topic of poetry and its uses. Horace bases his lyrics on such past great lyricists as
Alcaeus, Sappho, and Pindar, but as Conte points out, never hesitates to proclaim his own
originality and creativity.1
Horace combines a few central themes including the brevity of life and the
achievements of poetic wisdom with a variety of lyric categories, which include love
poetry and hymns.2 Many scholars of Horatian lyric have noted the presence of these
thematic patterns that run throughout his works. However, scholarly opinions diverge
when they address the sequential nature of these patterns. For example, Fraenkel and
Nisbet and Hubbard treat the individual odes as essentially self-contained units.3 Others
have sought out ways in which to read either of the lyric collections as cohesive units by
1 Conte (1994: 303-306).
2 Conte (1994: 306-312).
3 Fraenkel (1957); Nisbet and Hubbard (1968: xi-xxvi). Even Fraenkel (1957) must admit to some overall
organization. He divides Odes 1-3 into poems that relate to Alcaeus or other Greek lyricists, Maecenas,
Agrippa and Pollio, Agustus, the epilogue odes; then Book 4.
examining narrative structure or arrangement.4 Besides the coherence of entire sections
or runs of poems, Moritz has marked out how Horace attaches significance to certain
locations in his poetry, namely the center.
Although scholars have examined potential unity within the Odes and the
importance Horace places on certain locations in his poetry, very little has been said on
the possibility of using thematic unity and programmatic locations to look at all four
books of Horace's Odes. In a book of poetry, special attention is generally given to the
poems in three locations in a book: the beginning, middle and end. In this respect, Horace
is no different. Further, what has not been given nearly enough consideration is how
Horace might use a sequence of images spread over multiple poems across several books.
Since Horace undeniably wrote intricate poetry, it is not unreasonable to investigate how
Horace might expand not only themes but also imagery in sequences spanning several
Some attention has also been given to investigating the imagery that Horace uses.
Scholars' efforts range from studies of specific odes, to tracing a single image throughout
an entire book or collection, to how the poet in general used imagery in his works.7
Horace's use of imagery in the poems in the prominent places in each book of his two
4 See Santirocco (1986) and Porter (1987) on arrangement; Lowrie (1997) on narrative. The most detailed
(and in some ways extreme) analysis of Horace's structure remains Dettmer (1983).
5 Moritz (1968); Fraenkel (1957: 297-307) treats specially the epilogues to Books 1-3.
6 Collinge (1961: 4-18) investigates how Horace uses verbal echoes between multiple odes and within a
single ode, but does not extend his analysis to trace patterns that run through all four books.
7 Specific odes: for example, Tatum (1973) on Ode 2.20, and Pomeroy (1999) on Ode 1.1; a simple image
in an entire collection: Commager (1957) on wine, Blaiklock (1959) on storms, and Porter (1975) on
certain themes and images in Book 4; general considerations of Horatian imagery: Andrewes (1950). Lee
(1969) discusses Horace's imagery and his use of language for effect.
lyric collections develops into a sequence revealing some of his most important themes
and how the poems interact to reinforce the themes of human mortality and the lyric
poet's triumph over death. These themes and the accompanying images at the beginning,
middle, and end of Horace's lyrics affirm the poet's identity as Rome's immortal bard.
MEET THE LYRIC POET
The lead odes to each of the three books of Horace's first lyric collection present
a thematic course maintained by consistent imagery defining the character of the poet and
his poetry. This linear progression develops into a sequence defining the supremacy of
lyric poetry and asserting the poet's power. Ode 1.1 privileges the poet's vocation above
all human endeavors, while Ode 2.1 declares the primacy of Horace's specific genre,
lyric. Ode 3.1 envisions the poet as the special favorite of the divine, proclaiming him a
priest of the Muses.
Anticipating the rewards for his poetic labors, Horace claims at the end of Ode 1.1
that he will become immortal, although he realizes that even as the lyric bard his
immortality will be dependant upon the appreciation and applause of his patron,
Maecenas. Horace indicates reliance upon Maecenas at the beginning and end of the ode,
which makes the first song a dedication to his friend and patron. The extent of Horace's
acknowledgement is not immediately apparent, since after the ardent praise for Maecenas
in the first two lines of the poem (Maecenas, atavis edite regibus, /o etpraesidium et
dulce decus meum, 1.1.1-2) Maecenas all but disappears.1 Instead, the body of the ode
rolls through a list of traditional Roman occupations, which each practitioner prefers
above any other, capped by the poet's conclusion that poetry is the best of all possible
human activities. Maecenas reappears in the last two lines as the purveyor of the poet's
1 All quotations of Horace are taken from Shackleton Bailey's Teubner edition (1985).
fame (quodsi me lyrics vatibus inseres, 1.1.35), indicating that even Horace is not
immune from the need of some support.2
The list of professions begins with what appears to be an idyllic, positive view of
employment all engaged in a quest for fame, but as Horace lists occupations, he
becomes increasingly pessimistic, pointing out the problems inherent in each line of
work. The athlete, the politician, and someone in the grain trade3 form a group that is
connected by one lengthy relative clause (sunt quos. .. iuvat, 1.3-4) and a pair of
demonstratives (hunc, 1.1.7; illum, 1.1.9). Each participates in a profession regarded as
an honorable pursuit through which to gain renown. Athletic glory is represented by the
palma nobilis, which raises the winners as masters of the lands up to the gods (1.1.6).4
The politician also seeks to gain recognition from the citizens of Rome in order to be
exalted (1.1.7-8). The unspoken problem with these pursuits is that they are dependent
upon the fickle mob (mobilium turba Quiritium, 1.1.7). The final member of this group,
the grain trader, also seeks power over the Roman populace, although his chosen method
is the manipulation of the grain supply.5 The more selfish motives of the grain trader
2 One explanation for Maecenas' relative scarcity in the Odes can be attributed to the poet's quest for
obtaining greater fame by appealing to the Roman people at large for approval. For more on this
interpretation, see Oliensis (1998: 152, 156, 180, 227); Johnson (2 "14 xiii, 67-68). Pomeroy (1980:5-6)
proposes that Maecenas is gradually transformed into a general reader to whom Horace makes his appeal.
A second explanation could be the theory that Maecenas fell out of favor with Augustus, and accordingly
lost control over the literary group he had founded. For discussion and refutation of this idea, see White
3 The illum could be either a large landowner or a grain trader (See Nisbet and Hubbard [hereafter referred
to as NH] 1970: 8).
4 The dominos in line 6 is strategically placed to refer to the quos in apposition as well as to the deos. In
agreement with NH (1970: 6), I have to chosen to accept the reading of dominos primarily modifying quos
(the athletes), which balances the later relationship between the poet and the divine.
5 During his reign Augustus made considerable contributions to improving Rome's grain supply by
streamlining the distribution system and personally directing disbursements (See Suet. Div. Aug. 40-41;
Augustus R.G. 5, 18).
mark a more pessimistic turning point in the list of occupations that Horace develops in
the next group of careers.
The next series of jobs takes on an even darker tone as Horace pays tribute to the
honorable farmer (gaudentem patriosfindere sarculo / agros, 1.1.11-12) but makes no
effort to hide the difficulty of the job through the symbolism of the splitting of unfriendly
fields with nothing but the sarculum.6 Horace's analysis bypasses any mention of the
fruits of successful labor. The mercator, forced by greed to risk the dangers of sailing
(mercator metuens otium et oppidi /laudat rura sui, mox reficit rates /quassas, indocilis
pauperiem pati, 1.1.16-18), parallels the very unhappy sailor (Myrtoum pavidus nauta
secet mare, 1.1.14) pictured just before him. Both must risk life and limb for the sake of
profit. The soldier and hunter, their occupations being even more dangerous, are
chastised for disrupting their family life. The hunter's disregard for his wife (venator
tenerae coniungis immemor, 1.1.26) and the soldier's for his mother (castra
iuvant... bellaque matribus detestata, 1.1.23-25) emphasize the pains of their jobs.7 Each
of these professional choices serves to enhance the idealization of the poet that Horace
will finally introduce at the close of the poem.
When readers reach the description of the poet at the conclusion of the poem
(1.1.29-36), they are reminded of a mysterious individual who already appeared at the
center of Ode 1.1. This idyllic character (1.1.19-22) creates a break in the increasingly
pessimistic view of human aspirations. The mystery man at the center is not easily
separated out from the preceding pursuits since he is linked grammatically to the list of
6 The sarculum was a tool used to till rocky difficult soil, a labor intensive, difficult activity (See Cato
Agr.155; Pliny Nat. 18.178; NH 1970: 9).
7 Pomeroy (1980: 9-10).
occupations, but the similarities end there.8 Instead of striving for fame and/or fortune,
this man prefers simply to lie back and enjoy himself. The poet describes this person as a
man who likes to enjoy a cup of wine, while reclining under a shady tree or resting by a
sacred brook (nec veteris pocula Massici /nec partem solido demere de die /spernit,
nunc viridi membra sub arbuto /stratus, nunc ad aquae lene caput sacrae, 1.1.19-22).
Because he is not defined by a particular occupation as the others, the reader is left to
wonder what sort of professional label to apply. Now, when the poet appears as a definite
character, the reader is reminded of the previously unspecified figure by similarities in
imagery. The mystery man is surrounded by sympotic symbols including wine, green
leaves, and a sacred spring (pocula Massici, viridus arbutus, and aqua sacra), which
parallels the poet's Satyr-companions, ivy crown and cool grove, and the nymphs (chorus
Satyri, docta hedera/ gelidum nemus, and nymphae, 1.1.29-31). By placing this generic
embodiment of carefree living in the middle of the parade of ordinary jobs, Horace
prepares the reader for the appearance of the blissful poet at the end of the poem.9 In the
poem's conclusion the singer distinguishes his own vocation and signals that it alone
offers idyllic relief from the problems of everyday life.
Whether or not the reader identifies the poet with the idealized escapist at the
center of the poem, 10 the imagery Horace uses in the last stanza, when the poet makes an
appearance, demonstrates how poetry allows the poet to escape the dangers of the earthly
realm. The poet's reward, the crown of ivy, will associate the lyric poet with the gods (me
8 The first set of occupations is introduced by sunt quos (1.1.3), which is paralleled by est qui (1.1.19)
introducing the mystery man.
9 See West (1995: 4) on the elements of the absurd in the descriptions of occupations.
10 The ambiguous aspect of this character makes the question of who he might be difficult to answer. In
their commentaries both Garrison (1991: 201) and West (1995: 6) point out the ambiguity, while Johnson
_'i" 14 66) considers this person to be the poet.
doctarum hederae praemia frontium /dis miscent superis, 1.1.29-30). This glory is better
than what athletes and politicians strive after (evehit addeos, 1.1.6), because the poet
actually reaches his goal of mingling with the immortals (dis miscent superis, 1.1.30).
Likewise, the companionship of nymphs and Satyrs in groves separates the poet from the
rest of humanity (1.1.31-32), 1 as long as the Muses, who favor the poet, continue to
bless him (1.1.33-34). Horace concludes that when he reaches the ranks of the lyric vates,
he will reside with the stars in the sky (1.1.35-6), a common depiction of apotheosis. This
eternal glory cannot be achieved without the approval of the poet's patron Maecenas, a
fact that the poet acknowledges with the return of Maecenas at the conclusion of the
poem (quod si me lyrics vatibus inseres, /sublimiferiam sidera vertice, 1.1.35-6).
Horace must look for applause from Maecenas to achieve his goal, even at the risk of
struggling with the same shortcoming the poet associates with the previously cataloged
professions: the need for human approval. 12
After declaring the preeminence of his poetic vocation in Ode 1.1, the
introduction to Book 2 (Ode 2.1) specifically privileges Horace's chosen genre of lyric by
comparing his (lyric) poetry to the writings and career of Gaius Asinius Pollio.13 The
poet sets up the comparison of his own works and Pollio's by examining everything that
Pollio has done to make a name for himself, beginning with a celebration of Pollio's
1 This separation can refer to either the peace of the countryside away from the crowded city or the
rejection of popular approval, a sentiment Horace will repeat in Ode 3.1 (cf. NH 1970: 14).
12 Cp. S. 1.9.43-59. Horace shows that there is a difference between the turba Quiritium and Maecenas,
since the pest still decides to try to bribe Maecenas after Horace tells him that Maecenas admits people to
the circle based on merit.
13 Pollio's topics include such serious subjects as civil disturbance, war, and alliances (Motum exMetello
consule civicum /bellique causes et vitia et modos / ludumque Fortunae gravisque /principum amicitias,
2.1.1-4) as opposed to Horace's lighter lyrics.
now-lost history and his other accomplishments. 14 Pollio's list of achievements, including
his work as a tragic playwright, legal prowess, and military skills, recognizes the power
of Pollio's writing and fame (2.1.1-16). The Civil War and its politics that Pollio claimed
as the subject of his history are described as risky topics (periculosae plenum opus aleae,
2.1.6). The dangers could refer either to the perils the men in his writings faced or the
treacherous political intricacies of writing contemporary history under the principate. By
reviewing Pollio's role in Rome's illustrious history, Horace sets the stage for his own
foray into the genre of history, in spite of his recognition of the risks (2.1.1-8).
Despite the dangers, Horace finds himself drawn by the allure of an historical
project (audire magnos iam videor duces, 2.1.21), and in the following three stanzas
Horace turns suddenly from describing Pollio's historical work to imitating them. But
before Horace broaches history, he lends an ironic tone to his surrender to history by
borrowing an image from a previous poem on the subject of writing as a way of
achieving fame. The imagery of the wreath of leaves (the laurus of 2.1.15) bestowing
eternal honor recalls the lyric poet's reward from Ode 1.1 (hederae praemia, 1.1.29). The
fame granted by the leafy wreath has a double beneficiary in Ode 2.1: Pollio for his
literary and other historical accomplishments and the lyric poet for recording them. This
allusion to the poet and the delay of Pollio's name until the fourth stanza foreshadow the
poet's ultimate assertion of lyric over history.
When Horace writes history (2.1.16-36), he uses the lyric present to enliven the
historical past as well as dramatize the loss of Roman life in the hostilities that occurred
in both the poet's own generation and those previous. Horace's version of history begins
14 Cf. West (1998: 5-8); NH (1978: 8-9).
in the past (Iuno et deorum quisquis ... cesserat ... rettulit, 2.1.25-7) but quickly
transitions to similar horrific events in the present (quis non testatur, 2.1.29-31).
Horace repeats this pattern of comparison between past and present in the rest of his
historical account (Qui gurges .. ignara belli, 2.1.33-4; quae caret ora, 2.1.36). For the
lyric poet, time moves backwards from the present to the past, and then returns back to
the present. Horace first refers to the Civil Wars (2.1.19-23) within living memory of the
poet's generation. 15 Next, he wonders whether the gods who fled Carthage for Rome are
sacrificing Roman lives to avenge or appease lugurtha (2.1.26-8), events which occurred
a generation before (146-104 B.C.). The poet ends the list of violent encounters with the
even more recent Parthian invasion (2.1.31-2). The high death rate in these conflicts is
represented by the streams and rivers and oceans and shores all facing an overwhelming
loss of life. In Horace's lyric history, the singer personifies the field of battle, the rivers
and streams, the oceans, and the shores as the witnesses of the slaughter (2.1.29-36).
Horace emphasizes the breadth of the loss by wondering if any water or land has not
experienced Roman deaths (2.1.33-36). The poet increases the drama by recounting
events starting in the present and moving towards the past, and enhances the effects by
employing dramatic metaphors.
Suddenly the poet comes to his senses and returns to the point at which he began.
He advises Pollio to set aside serious genres for lighter lyric (sedne retractes ...
quaere, 2.1.37-40). 16 Horace's version of events and the suddenness of the shift
illustrates how the poet's genre can do what Pollio would attempt, but with an extra
15 West (1998: 7-13) discusses the specific instances of allusions to various battles that took place in this
time period, including those at Pharsalus (48 B.C.) and Thapsus (46 B.C.).
16 Horace's attempt to imitate and outperform Pollio is discussed in depth by Lowrie (1997: 180-185). See
Henderson (1996) for a detailed analysis of Horace's treatment of Pollio's life and works in Ode 2.1.
attraction. Horace can write about the same serious subjects but actually make them come
alive in the lyrical present time. Horace recreates the sounds and sights of battle for his
reader (iam nunc ... iam iam iam):
iam nunc minaci murmure cornuum
perstringis auris, iam litui strepunt,
iam fulgor armorum fugacis
terret equos equitumque vultus.
audire magnos iam videor duces
non indecoro pulvere sordidos
et cuncta terrarum subacta
praeter atrocem animum Catonis.
[Right now you deaden your ears with the menacing roar of horns, now
trumpets blare, now the flash of weapons puts fear into the fleeing
horses and the faces of the riders. Now I seem to hear the great leaders
dirtied with no inglorious dust, and all of the lands subdued, except the
fierce spirit of Cato].
Horace increases the drama of the historical account by involving multiple senses within
a series of dramatic metaphors (2.1.25-36): the personification of the trumpets and
flashing weapons; the audience listening to the battle as if it were a dramatic production
set on stage; the metonymy of Cato for the brave resistance to a dictator; the zeugma of
hearing the dirtied generals."
Following the gloomy depiction of war, Horace ends on a more cheerful note in
the conclusion of the poem by visualizing the lyric poet and his Muse collaborating to
escape the chaos of warfare. After bringing history to life, as he envisioned it, Horace
abruptly turns back to lighter lyric, and ends the ode with a final appeal to his own
playful Muse. The poet asks that the Muse not start up with dirges but accompany him
on a quest for lighter verses (2.1.37-40). The final stanza of Ode 2.1 consists of two
representations of poetic creativity that join forces to form a merry foil to the depressing
1 Shackleton Bailey removes the zeugma and replaces audire with videre.
and violent images of the rest of the poem. 18 The first is the Musa procax whom the poet
asks to put away the more serious songs of mourning. The second is the poet in a grotto
writing lighter verses. Horace combines the two by asking the Muse to join forces with
the poet in the grove for the composition of lyric verses. By the end of the poem, lyric
prevails through history and over history.
In Ode 2.1 Horace illustrates that his genre of lyric can encompass the supposedly
more elevated genres of history and tragedy. He reasserts the power of lyric by seemingly
allowing himself to be taken in by serious topics (2.1.16-36), and then performing them
in a lyric manner. The victory of lyric at the end of the poem recalls the previous
introductory ode (1.1) in which Horace uses the same tactic of saving the triumphal poet
for the end. He chooses imagery for the representation of lyric that is remarkably similar
to the scene he used for the triumph of the poet's calling at the end of Ode 1.1. In Ode 2.1
Horace shows the poet performing his craft in a grotto mecumm Dionaeo sub antro /
quaere modos leviore plectro, 2.1.39-40), which closely recalls the corresponding scene
in Ode 1.1 in which the poet composes his verses in leafy, sympotic surroundings (me
gelidum nemus ... quodsi me lyrics vatibus inseres, 1.1.30-36). By linking the first two
beginning odes,19 Horace creates a thematic progression that will be maintained in the
introductory odes of his first collection. In Ode 1.1 Horace predicts that he will rise to
meet the gods; in Ode 2.1 he requests a meeting with his Muse. The next ode in the
sequence reveals what will come of this meeting.
In Ode 3.1 the poet returns to earth from his heavenly get-together in the mystic
grotto in order to provide direction and instruction to a floundering race of mortals as the
18 Syndikus (1995: 18).
19 Ode 2.1 contains references to Ode 1.38 as well as Ode 1.1 (cf. Lowrie, 1997: 168-171).
priest of the Muse. Horace begins the ode by casting himself in the part of the priest of
the Muse, a role traditionally reserved for those with a special connection to the divine.
Horace uses the separation of the poet from ordinary mortals (Odiprofanum et vulgus et
arceo, 3.1.1) as a platform from which to speak. This separation has opened a debate
because although the poet separates himself from the general public, he takes on the role
of a priest preparing to sing a hymn (favete linguis: carmina non prius audita Musarum
sacerdos /virginibuspuerisque canto, 3.1.2-4), which is a distinctly public role.20
Horace creates a balance between the public and private spheres of his poetry by
presenting public and private aspects in combination. The very first words of Ode 3.1
proclaim a dislike for the general public (Odiprofanum vulgus arceo, 3.1.1), and the
poem ends with the poet enjoying the solitude of his (private) Sabine estate (3.1.45-8).
The private aspect at the end of the poem demonstrates that the poet is not in the same
league as the rest of the world. In contrast, the poem introduces the poet in a grand public
role of a priest (3.1.2-3). The poetic role as a priest accounts for the very philosophical
tone of the poem as well as justifies the advice the poet gives on how to live well. Since
the poet-priest inhabits both the worlds of the divine and mortal, he can give advice to
humanity on how to live in a way that is agreeable to them and the gods.21
Once the poet-priest has established his authority at the opening of the song, he
reveals his life-philosophy by stating the problem with the typical human notion that
wealth solves problems. The poet-priest then proposes his solution. Since even the most
20 Both Fraenkel (1957: 263-265) and Reckford (1969: 73-74) offer full discussions on the public and
private aspects of Ode 3.1.
21 Horace identifies himself as a vates in 1.1.35, a term which appears frequently in the Odes (in poems
1.31.2; 2.20.3; 3.19.15; 2.6.24; 4.6.44; 4.3.15; 4.8.27) referring to the prophet/poet. The term is quite
appropriate for the context of the human poet with the authority to grant divine dispensation. See Newman
(1967: 43-74) for a thorough discussion of Horace and the concept of vates.
powerful kings on Earth have to answer to the gods (3.1.5-8), clearly Fate does not care
in what way or how much someone is successful (omne capax movet urna nomen,
3.1.16), and this overshadowing indiscriminant threat (destrictus ensis, 3.1.17) is what
keeps men up at night. Before observing that no amount of wealth can bring peace of
mind (non Siculae dapes / dulcem elaborabunt saporem, /non avium citharaeque cantus
/somnum reducent, 3.1.18-21), Horace clearly states that Fate does not play favorites
(aequa lege Necessitas /sortitur insignis et imos, 3.1.14-15). This reflection leads into
the first central stanza (3.1.21-24) that states the poet's perspective on how to live
properly. Sleep, the ode's symbol for peace of mind, does not shun the homes of the
humble farmer or the shady riverbank of the poet. As opposed to those overshadowed by
wealth (3.1.17-21), neither farmer nor poet carry the burden that would deprive them of
sleep. The differentiation between those who suffer the loss of sleep, because of their
false trust in wealth, and those who do not foreshadows the specific criteria for living the
good life that the poet sets forth in the following stanza.22
The second central stanza (3.1.25-8) turns towards the final message of the
poem,23 which proposes a method for avoiding the worries humanity brings upon itself
by trying to achieve more than the necessities for survival. The poet illustrates his
teaching by praising the example of those who only seek enough to be comfortable.
These people do not share in ordinary human worries (desiderantem quodsatis est neque
... sollicitat 3.1.25-6). Horace elaborates his description of good living with a list of
22 The shady riverbank provides the pastoral link in 3.1 to the other introductory odes.
23 The ode consists of 12 stanzas, which places the center of the poem at stanzas 5 and 6. Stanza 5 is end-
stopped, which allows the second central stanza (stanza 6) to begin a new thought. The two stanzas neatly
divide the poem into two halves; the first half describes the problem humanity faces in attempting to avoid
Fate, while the second half gives advice on what to do and not do to achieve peace of mind.
things such a person does not need to worry about, including storms or bad weather that
damage crops. By seeking only what is needed for survival, humankind need not fear the
destructive forces of nature (3.1.27-32). The examples from nature continue in the
following stanzas, but now it is nature that is threatened by humanity. The fish are
displaced by a building project on the water's edge, an act of human progress that
symbolizes humanity's disregard for the boundaries set by nature.24 The punishment for
this violation of natural order is clear. The one who invites trouble and pushes beyond
nature's boundaries will be haunted by Timor etMinae ... et atra Cura (3.1.37-40).
Horace links Ode 3.1 to the previous introductory odes by ending with the lyric
poet as the ultimate example for the good life. Odes 1.1 and 2.1 both end with the poet as
the picture of contentment in a pastoral scene, while Ode 3.1 concludes with the poet
proclaiming his enduring preference for where he is: his Sabine villa on his country
estate.25 The poet uses himself as an example (cur valle permutem Sabina /divitias
operosiores?, 3.1.47-8) to sum up his point that with specters such as Fear, Threat, and
Worry waiting as the reward for greed and ambition, he recommends retreat to a more
The imagery of the sympotic/pastoral poet holds together the three introductory
odes, and provides a consistent means for the lyric poet's unfolding message. In each of
these odes, the poet is always shown in an idyllic pastoral/sympotic scene immune to the
uncertainty and violence that disturbs the rest of the world. Ode 1.1 establishes the poet
as the ideal occupation and Ode 2.1 proves that lyric is the best genre. Ode 3.1 presents a
24 See Whitehorne (1969) for the metaphoric use of building over nature in early Imperial Latin poetry.
25 Compared to Tibur, the Sabine region was not the most fashionable, which allows the poet again to
emphasize his moderation. Horace himself admits that his farm may not be the richest but it gives him
enough (3.16.29-44). For a discussion of Horace's real estate holdings, see Lyne (1995: 6-10).
didactic portrait about the poet's unostentatious way of living as the only means to have a
carefree life. By proceeding from vocation to genre to way of life, Horace declares the
poet's preeminence while he moves in a practical way from heaven to earth. Horace also
neatly provides for the reader three major themes of his poetry in the introductory odes of
his first lyric collection. The poet continues to develop aspirations of the vates, the
supremacy of lyric, and living the simple life throughout the rest of the Odes.26
26 E.g. Odes 1.1; 1.6; 1.7; 1.11; 1.17; 1.22; 1.26; 1.31; 1.38; 2.18; 2.20; 3.1; 3.16; 3.24; 3.30.
LOVE AND WINE: A POET'S TWO BEST FRIENDS
In Books 1-3 of Horace's Odes, the odes in the central positions within their
respective books present a thematic sequence on how to live. In this sequence the poet
demonstrates humanity's futile struggle to obtain control of its destiny by using wealth
(3.16) or by simply refusing to accept fate (3.15). Horace reveals the two main elements
of the lyric poet's strategy for good living, aurea mediocritas (2.10) and carpe diem
(2.11), which can end these struggles. Horace's specific remedies for the pains of the
human condition are love (1.18) and wine (1.19), as long as they are used in a manner
compatible with both elements of his life-strategy. Together these central poems express
the idea that only the poet, by using his lyric powers, can rise above the limitations of
The central pair of odes in Book 3 illustrates both that the human struggle against
its mortal fate is destined to fail and that the poet is exempt from such worries because of
his poetic skill. The first of the two poems (3.15) gives an example of what not to do in
order to preserve youthfulness. The second (3.16) broadens the discussion to how
humanity in general attempts to use wealth to gain control over its destiny. While 3.16
presents a more general human problem and the poet's solution, 3.15 gives an
introduction to humanity's foolishness through a specific example of the matron Chloris
who refuses to grow old.1
1 Nisbet and Rudd (2'1 1'4 194-195) and West (2I" 14 132-133) both offer an analysis of the name 'Chloris'.
In Ode 3.15 the poet first presents the correct way for Chloris' young daughter,
Phloe, to act (filia rectius /.. lascivae similiem ludere capreae, 3.15.8-12), and then
parallels it with the description of proper behavior for her mother, Chloris. Horace's
description of the wild, barely controlled lifestyle of the younger woman is concise and
pointed. The daughter assails her beloved at his home (expugnat iuvenum domos, 3.15.9)
like a Bacchant (pulso Thyias uti concita tympano, 3.15.10). Phloe is forced by lust to act
like a she-goat in heat (illam cogat amor Nothi / lascivae similem ludere capreae,
3.15.11-12). The imagery of the Bacchant and the she-goat both set up parallels to the
following description of how the mother should behave. The mother should avoid
sympotic behavior: no music, wine and flowers (non citharae decent /necflospurpureus
rosae /nec poti vetulamfaece tenus cadi, 3.15.14-16). While the young daughter Phloe
plays like a goat (lasciva caprea), the old mother Chloris ought to stay home and spin
wool (te lanae prope nobilem / tonsae Luceriam, 3.15.13-14). Both times the young
woman is compared with the old, the poet directly tells the older woman that what is
expected of the daughter is not appropriate for her (non decet, 3.15.7-8; non decent,
3.15.14). The poet's disapproval of Chloris' behavior points out that what is permissible
for her daughter Phloe is no longer appropriate for the mother (3.15.7-8; 14-16).
When the poet first introduces this Roman matron, she is engaged in behavior
unbecoming to her age, and the poet commands her to stop with a pair of imperatives:
nequitiaefige modum tuae (3.15.2) and mature propior desinefuneri / inter ludere
virgines (3.15.4-5). The poet tells Chloris that she should present herself as an honorable
Lucretia-like character, 2 spending her time at the loom (3.15.13-14) instead of with
music, flowers, and wine (3.15.15-16), which are emblematic of the symposion and
young lovers. Ode 3.15 contains poetic advice on proper behavior in the face of human
destiny but offers no positive model for those confronting the human dilemma. Horace
delays such a positive model until Ode 3.16, when he presents the poet himself as the
model for correct behavior and broadens the struggle against fate to humanity in general.
In Ode 3.16 divine laughter at the human attempt to defy fate defines the futility
of humankind's struggle before the poet ever presents the human race's flawed solution
of using wealth to control their lives. The gods laugh at King Acrisius' attempt to avoid
the fulfillment of an oracle that his daughter Danae would bear a son who would kill him
(si non Acrisium virginis abditae /custodem pavidum luppiter et Venus / rissent, 3.16.5-
7). The tower with its walls, dogs, and watchmen that the king thought would keep lovers
out (3.16.1-4) is ineffective because the gods know the secret to overcome any human
barrier, gold (fore enim tutum iter etpatens converseo inpretium deo, 3.16.7-8). The
image of the shower of gold does double duty because a metaphoric interpretation shows
the futility of trying to outrun the powers that govern human life, while a literal
interpretation provides the first example of humanity's misguided love for money aurumm
per medios ire satellites /et perrumpere amat saxa, 3.16.9-10).3
The poet continues to combine the literal and symbolic by introducing both
historic and mythological examples of how gold can lead to destruction. An entire
2 Chloris as the uxor pauperis Ibyci (3.15.1) refuses to accept both her status as a poor man's wife and an
aging matron. Garrison (1990: 317), West (2002: 132), and Nisbet and Rudd (2i" 14 192) briefly examine
the exact connotation of the name and description of the husband as 'poor Ibycus.'
3 Lowrie (1997: 46) notes that the story of Danae is a crucial part of the argument of the poem and not
merely a convenient exemplum.
household destroyed by money (concidit auguris /Argivi domus ob lucrum / demersa
exitio, 3.16.11-13) illustrates the disastrous affects of the human weakness for profit.
Polyneices bribed Amphiaraus' wife Eriphyle with Harmonia's necklace to ensure that
her husband would join the seige of Thebes. This act of bribery resulted in Amphiaraus'
death, as well as Eriphyle's at the hands of her son Alcmaeon who avenged his father.
Alcmaeon also died, when he tried to secure the necklace for his own wife. Phillip of
Macedon's exploitation of the same weakness to the detriment of rival leaders (diffidit
urbium /portas vir Macedo et subruit aemulos / reges muneribus, 3.13-15) provides an
example of the destructive nature of wealth from Greek history. Horace's examples of
human greed also demonstrate that money is capable of destruction at sea as well as on
land (munera navium / saevos illaqueant duces, 3.16.15-16).4
After listing a series of negative examples, Horace provides the positive examples
of good living, which include both the poet and his patron Maecenas. Horace presents his
patron and himself side-by-side (iure perhorrui /late conspicuum tollere verticem,
Maecenas, equitum decus, 3.16.18-20).5 Horace refuses to make more of a spectacle of
himself than he should, and praises Maecenas for doing the same. By addressing
Maecenas specifically as an equites, the poet implies that Maecenas also avoids the
spotlight because Maecenas refused elevation to the patrician ranks as a senator. The
noun decus, which invites comparison to Ode 1.1, where Horace addresses Maecenas'
4 Do these verses a reference the Roman admiral Menas who switched sides three times in four years during
the war between Pompey and Octavian? See West (1998: 154) in support of the Menas reading; Lowrie
(1997: 33) considers the sea captain a generalization.
5 Fraenkel (1957: 229-230) explains the importance of Horace's address to Maecenas in the middle of Book
3 as a dedication.
royal ancestry (Maecenas, atavis edite regibus, /o etpraesidium et dulce decus meum,
1.1.1-2), emphasizes the magnitude of Maecenas' choice, as well as the poet's approval.
Horace surrounds the positive examples of himself and his patron with a pointed
gnomic pronouncement against wealth and in favor of the benefits of moderation. Horace
states that the problem with profit is that more money only means more worries
(crescentem sequitur curapecuniam / maiorumque fames, 3.16.17-18). Then the lyric
poet moves on to the benefits that accompany his and Maecenas' lifestyle, especially the
heavenly favors that result from moderation (quanto quisque sibiplura negaverit, /ab dis
pluraferet, 3.16.21-22). After securing divine blessing, Horace separates himself from
the majority of humanity who subscribe to the use of wealth for a better life (nil
cupientium /nudus castrapeto et transfuga divitum partiess linquere gestio, 3.16.22-24).
Horace ends Ode 3.16 by contrasting the example of someone who does not
follow his advice (multapetentibus desunt multa, 3.16.42-43) with someone who does
(bene est cui deus obtulit /parca quod satis est manu, 3.16.43-44) and thereby succeeds
in escaping from the trap of trying to avoid fate. Likewise, the poet himself has wisely
kept a low profile (iure perhorrui /late conspicuum tollere verticem, 3.16.18-19). Horace
goes on to claim that he is proud that his own possessions seem inconsequential to the
rest of the world (3.25-28).6 Horace acknowledges that he has some wealth but
emphasizes that it is only enough to be comfortable (quamquam nec Calabrae mella
ferunt apes /. .. importuna tamen pauperies abest, 3.16.33-37). The lyric poet defines
what is necessary as some water, trees and dependable crop (purae rivus aquae silvaque
iugerum /paucorum et segetis certa fides meae, 3.16.29-30). The comfortable but not
6 3.16.18-19 contain two references back to Ode 1.1: the image of the poet raising his head (sublimiferiam
sidera vertice, 1.1.36) and the address to Maecenas (dulce decus, 1.1.2).
excessive yield of the poet's holdings provides an example of what is enough. He may
not have the best honey, wine, or wool (3.16.33-36) but Horace makes clear he has
enough to live well (importuna tamen pauperies abest, 3.16.37). Horace knows that the
gods will provide everything necessary to those who accept the poet's advice (3.16.43-
Humanity's rebellion against its mortal destiny and the poet's ability to avoid this
battle is a primary link between Book 3 and Book 2. Ode 3.16 investigates wealth as one
of ways most people attempt to influence destiny, while Ode 2.11 specifically defines the
poet's strategy for coping with a fixed destiny through the carpe diem outlook. Ode 3.15
admonishes the aging Chloris to stop acting like her daughter Phloe, while Ode 2.11
exhorts Hirpinus Quintius to have fun while he is still young enough to do so. Horace's
advice to Quintius parallels his description of the youthful Phloe. The lyric poet balances
the exuberance of his carpe diem attitude (2.11) with the principle of mediocritas (2.10).
This balance allows the poet to live well, perhaps even beyond the limitations of his
mortality. Together Odes 2.10 and 2.11 advocate both aurea mediocritas and carpe diem,
which are the poet's essential components for a good life.
Ode 2.11 again consists of two contrasting sections: one describing what not to
do, while the second part of the poem describes how life ought to be lived. Horace sets
out what not to do in a pair of commands to Quintius that he should not worry about what
foreign nations are plotting (Quid bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes, /Hirpine Quinti,
cogitet... remittas / quaerere, 2.11.1-4) and not worry about the future (nec trepides in
usum /poscentis aevipauca, 2.11.4-5). Horace uses the question "why worry about
7 The poet makes clear the divine favor for those who use moderation by using a relative pronoun (cui) in
reference to the man who decides to live according to the poet's recommendation.
what's going to happen?" (quid aeternis minorem / consilis animum fatigas?, 2.11.11-
12) to transition into his advice on how to counter the potentially debilitating effects of
worrying about what the future might bring. Horace's answer to the problem of worrying
about what cannot be changed is carpe diem.8 The setting is a sympotic scene similar to
the one that the poet used when describing the superiority of his vocation and ideal
lifestyle (cp. Ode 1.1).9 The scene sets the idyllic atmosphere of lying under trees,
drinking, and adorning graying hair with roses and perfume (cur non sub alta velplatano
vel hac /pinu iacentes sic temere et rosa / canos odorati capillos, / dum licet, Assyriaque
nardo potamus uncti, 2.11.13-17). This brief allusion to the gray head makes the point
that youth and beauty are short-lived for everyone, including the poet. Therefore, Horace
includes himself as well as his audience in his invitation to enjoy life: "why do we not
drink" (cur non potamus, 2.11.14-7).
The poet is quite blunt with his imagery that youth and beauty will not only
shortly be lost but will be accompanied by the absence of pleasurable love and sleep
(2.11.5-9). The spring beauty of flowers and the blushing moon, symbols of youth, are
doomed to fade (2.11.9-11). The switch from the second person (remittas /quaerere, nec
trepides in usum /poscentis aevipauca, 2.11.3-5) to the third person (fugit retro levis
iuventas et decor, 2.11.5-6; non semper idem floribus est honor / vernis, neque uno luna
rubens nitet / vultu, 2.11.9-11) and back to the second (quid aeternis minorem /consiliis
animumfatigas?, 2.11.11-12) gives Horace's instructions to Quintius a very personal
edge that Quintius should not ignore. Carpe diem is not a luxury but a necessity.
8 Harrison offers two possible interpretations: the poet may be attempting to cheer up a friend or simply
describing an ideal retirement (1995: 23, 256).
9 For the discussion on how Odes 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 present sympotic imagery, see the previous chapter.
Horace, through sympotic scenery, proposes the appropriate reaction to human
mortality. Once the poet has crowned old men with roses and anointed them with
perfume (rosa / canos odorati capillos, /dum licet, Assyriaque nardo /potamus uncti?,
2.11.14-17), he introduces his answer to the problems of aging: wine and women
(dissipat Euhius curas edacis .. / quis devium scortum eliciet domo /Lyden?, 2.11.17-
22). Wine and love complete the sympotic atmosphere and provide a way to regain some
of what was lost with age.10
Horace asks two general questions about his proposed solution, both directed as if
to a larger audience, indicating their universality. Horace first asks which slave more
quickly will quench the cups of burning Falernian wine with water flowing nearby (quis
puer ocius / restinguet ardentis Falerni /pocula praetereunte lympha, 2.11.18-20). The
second question sets up the hopeful conclusion that the poem reaches: "Who will go and
bring Lyde?" The poet suggests that someone should go get the girl (quis devium scortum
eliciet domo /Lyden?, 1.11.21-22). The girl should make herself pretty, bring her lyre,
and come over as soon as she can (eburna die, age, cum lyra maturet incomptam
Lacaenae /more comam religata nodo, 2.11.22-4). 1 The imperatives suggest not only
eagerness but also a certainty that the request will be honored, thus ending the ode with
the idea that with the carpe diem outlook even the worries of old age can be avoided. 12
The carpe diem invitation and pleasures of the party in Ode 2.11 are balanced by
the mediocritas of Ode 2.10. Ode 2.11 suggests putting aside worries about life in favor
10 For more on sympotic elements combined with the carpe diem motif, see Johnson (p2" 14 11).
11 The knot in Lyde's hair can represent the perfection and closure of Horace's poetry (Oliensis, 1998: 123;
Reckford, 1969: 97-8); cf. Putnam 's discussion on Phyllis and the garlands woven for her hair (1986: 186-
12 The movement from pastoral serenity to sympotic carousal involved in the carpe diem advice of the
poem is discussed by Reckford (1969: 96-97).
of a symposium (cur non sub alta velplatano...potamus uncti?, 2.11.13-17). Ode 2.10
takes a less idyllic approach and recommends that through the adherence to moderation
and the poet's proposal to face life as it comes (sperat infestis, metuit secundis / alteram
sortem bene preparatum /pectus, 2.10.13-15), humanity can at least find sanity in life.
The golden mean rests on the acceptance of the belief that whatever one's current
fortunes, they will soon change. Horace advocates that the simple sympotic outlook is the
way to obtain a life based on auream mediocritatem. The poet tells his addressee,
Licinius, that the right way to live is not always to sail far out to sea at the mercy of
strong storms (Rectius vives, Licini, neque altum /semper urgendo, 2.10.1-2), but neither
should Licinius stay too close to shore (2.10.3-4). The lyric poet's advice is simple: stay
in the middle (auream quisquis mediocritatem /diligit, 2.10.5-6). Horace defines such
balance as neither living in squalor nor so richly as to arouse envy (tutus caret obsoleti/
sordibus tecti, caret invidenda /sobrius aula, 2.10.6-8).
To drive home his point of mediocritas, the poet resorts to the power of the
natural versus manmade objects. Nature, the simple and pure, is stronger than what
people can construct. After presenting the image of a pine tree withstanding blustery
weather (saepius ventis agitatur ingens /pinus, 2.10.9-10), the poet describes a manmade
structure (celsae graviore casu /decidunt turres, 2.10.10-11) that cannot withstand the
same natural forces. Towers fall, but the towering mountains withstand a lighting strike
(feriuntque summos /fulgura months, 2.10.11-12), and trees stand up to the wind that
whirls around the towers. The lighting strike brings to the reader's mind the crash of the
falling towers (graviore casu). References to height also help set up the theme of
moderation. The first and third stanzas reference tallness (altum, 2.10.1; summos,
2.10.11). These stanzas stand on either side of moderation (mediocritatem, 2.10.5) in the
second stanza. By placing moderation between the high seas and tall mountains, Horace
foreshadows his advice about staying in the middle.
After Horace declares that it is best to simply accept that life has its ups and
downs, the poet adds two divine examples of balance in contrast to the natural and human
examples of the first three stanzas. The king of the gods, Jupiter, is responsible for both
good and bad weather (informis hiemes reducit / uppiter, idem /summovet, 2.10.15-17),
while Apollo sometimes leads the Muses' choir and other times has his bow in hand
quondamm cithara tacentem / suscitat Musam neque semper arcum / tendit Apollo,
2.10.18-20). Once again for emphasis, Horace places between these two divine exempla a
balanced gnomic principle: "If things are bad now, they will get better" (non, si male
nunc, et olim /sic erit, 2.10.17-18).
Horace achieves closure in his argument by repeating the nautical imagery from
the beginning of the poem (sapienter idem / contrahes vento nimium secundo / turgida
vela, 2.10.22-25). The poet's advice to pull in swollen sails brings to mind the warning at
the opening of the poem not to sail out too far or stay too close to shore (neque altum /
semper urgendo neque, dum procellas / cautus horrescis, nimium premendo / litus
iniquum, 2.10.1-4). Horace nevertheless has subtly shifted the meaning in the two
images. Ode 2.10 begins with advice to stay the middle course, while it ends with the
more positive encouragement to remain strong whatever difficulties fate brings (rebus
angustis animosus atque fortiss appare, 2.10.21-22).
According to the central poems of Horace's first book of Odes, love and wine can
be the pleasures that offset the pains of the human condition, as long as they are used in
accordance with the principle of aurea mediocritas described in the central odes of the
second book. Horace portrays Bacchus and Venus as allies. In Ode 1.19 Venus,
accompanied by Bacchus, commands the poet to accept love (Mater saeva Cupidinum /
Thebanaeque iubet me Semelae puer, 1.19.1-2). Ode 1.18 also pairs the two deities when
Horace mentions the positive relief that wine and love have to offer (quispost vina
gravem militia autpauperiem crepat? / quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque decens
Venus?, 1.18.5-6), if used in the proper manner. Ode 1.18 concentrates on the description
of the correct use of wine,13 while Ode 1.19 focuses on moderation in love. Both odes
include examples of the negative affects of wine or love, and end with the poet declaring
his plan to achieve enjoyment with moderation.
In Ode 1.19, Horace demonstrates his desire to keep Venus under control by
offering sacrifices. Venus, aided by Bacchus and Dissolution, has caused the poet pain
(urit me Glycerae nitor /. urit grata protervitas /. in me tota ruens Venus / Cyprum
deseruit, 1.19.5-10), and Venus will not allow the poet to write about anything but herself
(nec patitur Scythas / et versis animosum equis / Parthum dicere nec quae nihil attinent,
1.19.10-12). The recommended sacrifices to appease Venus are plants to garland the turf
altar, incense, and wine (hic vivum mihi caespitem, hic / verbenas, pueri, ponite turaque /
bimi cumpatera meri, 1.19.13-15), which all are representations that Horace uses for his
poetry. 14 Horace suggests sacrifices (lyric poetry) in order to bring love's excessive
13 See Kiessling (1958: 90) on various uses of the term merum in the Odes.
14 Ode 1.1 uses images of plants to represent the poet or his works (1.1.29-30) as do Odes 1.38, 3.4.19,
3.30, and 4.11.4. The wine and incense are both sympotic elements that the poet uses elsewhere in his
poetry (tura: 4.1.22, 4.2.52; vinum: 1.4.18, 1.7.31, 1.27.5, 2.19.10, 3.12.2). For the use of wine in Horace,
see Commager (1957).
influence down to a level compatible with aurea mediocritas (mactata veniet lenior
Ode 1.18 reveals how to use wine in accordance with aurea mediocritas.
According to Horace, wine is a blessing. The poet admonishes Varus that he must not
plant anything before he plants his sacred grape vines (Nullam, Vare, sacra vite prius
severis arborem, 1.18.1). Wine is helpful in relieving the stress of daily life (quispost
vina gravem militia autpauperiem crepat?, 1.18.5), but must be used with care.
Horace first offers the cautionary example of the Centaurs and Lapiths (ac ne quis modici
transiliat munera Liberi / Centaurea monet cum Lapithis rixa super mero /debellata,
1.18.7-9). Because the Centaurs abused the wine at the wedding of Pirithous and
Hippodamia and tried to carry off the bride, they were slaughtered by the Lapith people.
The next example alludes to an unspecified Sithonian scandal (monet Siitl,ii\ non levis
Euhius, /cum fas atque nefas exiguofine libidinum / discernunt avidi, 1.18.9-11),15
which resulted in the god of wine taking away the ability to tell right from wrong.
Because wine has a split personality that must be balanced, the wine god is
addressed by four different titles in three different roles representing various affects of
wine. As the dangers of wine increase, the titles of the god become progressively hostile,
moving from the friendly Bacchus and Liber to titles associated with orgiastic worship,
Euhius and Bassareus. 16 Benevolent Bacchus pater (1.18.6) banishes worries (siccis
omnia nam dura deus proposuit, neque /mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitudines, 1.18.3-
4). Because the Centaurs went overboard and did not stay with moderate Liber (modici
15 Two of the most likely instances that Horace had in mind could be Lycurgus' drunken rape of his mother,
or Sithon's incest with his own daughter and subsequent death at the wine god's hands (NH 1970: 233;
16 Cf. NH (1970: 234).
Liber, 1.18.7), they were punished (1.18.7-9). Euhius causes men to forget the difference
between right and wrong (1.18.9-11), and therefore the poet proposes an agreement with
Bassareus: Horace promises that he at least will observe limitations in drinking as long as
the god of wine promises to behave as well (non ego te, candide Bassareu, /invitum
quatiam... saeve tene cum Berecyntio / cornu tympana, 1.18.11-14).
The wine and women of carpe diem provide relief from humanity's immutable
sentence of death, while aurea mediocritas prevents the disasters that can result from
misuse. Horace uses wine as a symbol for the pleasures of a carpe diem lifestyle when he
points out wine's ability to remove worries (quispost vina gravem militia aut
pauperiem crepat?/quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque decens Venus?, 1.18.5-6).
After the warnings regarding the use of wine, depicted by the wine god in a variety of
roles, Horace promises that he will follow the principle of aurea mediocritas, thereby
avoiding the harsh consequences that carpe diem can precipitate (non ego te, candide
Bassareu, / invitum quatiam, nec variis obsitafrondibus, 1.18.11-12).
The central poems of Horace's first three books of Odes all revolve around aurea
mediocritas and carpe diem as dual principles that can offer some comfort to the anguish
of mortal existence. The poet defines both the Golden Mean and the carpe diem outlook
in the middle of Book 2. Ode 2.10 considers aurea mediocritas by comparing human,
natural and divine examples, while a sympotic scene in Ode 2.11 is the setting for
observance of the carpe diem theme. The proper use of wine and pacification of Venus in
Odes 1.18 and 1.19 demonstrate the Horatian strategy to live a good life in observance of
the Golden Mean. The thematic continuity of carpe diem and aurea mediocritas that runs
through all of the central odes of Horace's first lyric collection serves to highlight the
poet's advice on how to avoid the disasters that result from attempting to circumvent
mortality and the Fates. Humanity's failed attempts to regain power over its destiny with
money in Ode 3.16 highlights the simplicity of Horace's lifestyle. Ode 3.15 exemplifies
the grace of accepting the inevitable. The expressions of carpe diem and aurea
mediocritas in the central odes of each book provide guiding examples for the race of
mortals through which Horace asserts that his lyric has the power to teach, not just
THE POET'S JOURNEY TO IMMORTALITY
The epilogue of each book of Horace's first collection (1.38; 2.20; 3.30)
represents a step in the transformation of the poet as he rises above all the worries and
difficulties of human life through his poetry. Each one of the odes concluding the first
three books uses unique symbols to reinforce the theme of each poem. Each step in the
poet's journey to overcome the difficulties of human existence and finally succeed in his
quest for poetic immortality is represented by a different symbol for poetry: sympotic
moderation and the late blooming rose (1.38), the soaring swan (2.20), and the lofty
pyramids (3.30). From the sympotic yet moderate essence of the poet's being in Ode
1.38, Horace rises above mortality on his poetic wings in Ode 2.20. The lyric poet's
triumphant monuments destined to last for eternity in Ode 3.30 complete the summary of
the poetic journey to immortality.
The final ode of Book 1, Ode 1.38, envisions a semi-private symposion, which
allows the poet to show himself in a familiar setting that he uses to represent the
pleasures of his poetry while including the principle of moderation. The essential
elements of the typical symposion are present: the wine, leafy garland, and
companionship (neque te ministrum / dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta /vite bibentem,
1 Woodman (1999: 205-207) mentions Horace's use of a sphragis in the epilogue odes of Books 1-3.
1.38.6-8). Such imagery is standard for Horace in representations of the idyllic poet.2 The
brevity of the poetic portrait (only eight lines of verse), along with the advice on
simplicity it contains, emphasizes the theme of moderation. Within the compass of this
abbreviated symposion, Horace includes the contrast between the rose and the myrtle that
represents the worries about aging that the poet avoids by following his own advice on
The two symbols of the rose and myrtle combine in Ode 1.38 to emphasize
Horace's poetic principle of maintaining balance. The poet declares to the servant that
Persian luxuries and fancy garlands ought to be avoided (Persicos odi, puer, apparatus.
displicent nexae philyra coronae, 1.38.1-2), as should chasing the rose which is already
beginning and will soon completely fade (mitte sectari, /rosa quo locorum seraa
moretur, 1.38.3-4). The rose is used elsewhere by Horace as a symbol of luxury and
youth, while the myrtle is used as a symbol of advancing age.3 The poet tells his servant
that common simple myrtle will be good enough for both of them (neque te ministrum /
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta/vite bibentem, 1.38.6-8).4 The contrast between the
simple and the exotic portrayed by the myrtle and the rose represent corresponding
lifestyles.5 After the grand imagery and 32 lines of the preceding Ode 1.37 in celebration
2 For example, see Odes 1.1, 1.18, 1.19, and 2.11.
3 For example, Odes 2.3, 2.11, 3.15, 4.10. See also Ode 3.19 and 3.29 for the rose as a symbol of luxury.
Gold (1993: 16) provides specific discussion of Horace's use of the rose in Ode 1.38: "This flower is often
linked to other sympotic elements in Horace's poetry, but Horace embeds the rose in a larger imaginative
context by making it a symbol of human interchange and by adding references to death, the passage of
time, and seasonal cycles." See Ode 1.25.17-20 for another example of myrtle symbolizing age.
4 See NH (1970) ad loc.
5 Ode 1.38 has been read as a seduction ode. West contends that "there is more to this poem than meets the
eye" and sees "adumbrations of homosexual love in this poem" (West 1995: 192). This interpretation
likewise depends upon the comparison of the rose and myrtle. This reading centers on the implied
invitation expressed in the final lines of the ode (neque te ministrum / dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta /
of Augustus' victory over Cleopatra, the mere eight lines concentrating on the
comparison between the luxurious rose and the plain myrtle exhibit the poet's preference
for a simple life style.6
In this deceptively simple poem, Horace, in a quick moment, infuses the sympotic
with the carpe diem theme (mitte sectari, rosa quo locorum seraa moretur. /simplici
myrto nihil allabores /sedulus curo, 1.38.3-6). The words sera and moretur imply the
passage of time, and first two lines of the ode ally the rose with persicos apparatus and
philyra nexae coronae, attributing to the rose the characteristics of exotic beauty. This
single rose embodies the entire message of the ode's lesson by infusing a single flower
with aspects of both life and death, which together make up the carpe diem motif: life
must be lived in the present because death is always lurking nearby. Being content with
myrtle, then, represents the simplicity of living only in the present time, a choice that the
poet makes for himself and recommends to the servant (neque te ministrum /dedecet
myrtus neque me, 1.38.6-7).
Horace turns from overcoming fears about mortality through simple living in Ode
1.38 to his transformation into the immortal poet in Ode 2.20, an apotheosis (of a
different sort) that he envisioned in Ode 1.1.7 Horace first states with humility who he
has been as a mortal (non ego pauperum / sanguisparentum, non ego quem vocas, /
dilecte Maecenas, 2.20.5-7). Yet even in this statement of his relatively low hereditary
vite bibentem 1.38.7-8). The speaker (me), while acknowledging his target's status as ministrum, makes the
two characters equal by saying that the myrtle is suitable for them both. The master tells the servant to take
a break and then invites his possibly young and attractive servant to join him.
6 "Simplicity," but to what degree? For simplicity of style as a possible reading, see Fraenkel (1957: 297-
298); "The first thing we notice that this short poem is simplex munditiis to an uncommon degree ... We
must assume that Horace intended the ode, besides its surface value, to refer in some way to the new kind
of poetry contained in this book." For simplicity in life, see Lee (1969: 90) and West (1995: 190-191).
7 See Ode 3.1 for the completion of the poet's quest for immortality.
social status and reliance upon his patron, the poet begins to separate himself from the
ordinary by using the pair of negatives (non). The poet completes his ascent from mere
mortal by saying that even though he recognizes his humanity, he will overcome death
(non ego ... obibo /nec Stygia cohibebor unda, 2.20.5-8).
After distinguishing himself from the rest of humankind, Horace ends the first
half of the ode by detailing the transformation that he predicts at the beginning of the
poem. Horace proclaims that he will be carried all over the world on the powerful wings
of his poetry as a lyric bard (non usitata nec tenuiferar /penna biformis per liquidam
aethera / vates, neque in terris morabor / longius invidiaque maior, 2.20.1-4). After he
leaves his mortality behind, the poet then graphically describes himself morphing into a
swan, a type of lyric bird, which becomes the incarnation of the poet made immortal
through his poetry.
iam iam resident cruribus asperae
pelles et album mutor in alitem
superne, nascunturque leves
per digitos umerosque plumae.
iam Daedalo notior Icaro
visam gementis litora Bosphori
Syrtisque Gaetulas canorus
ales Hyperboreosque campos.
[Right now rough skins settle on my shins and I am changed into a white bird from top to
bottom, and light feathers arise over my fingers and shoulders. Now I, more infamous
than Icarus, Daedalus' son, as melodious bird, will see the shores of groaning Bosphorus
and Gaetulian Syrtis and the Hyperborean fields.]
The birdman that Horace claims he will become is the central symbol of the
poem, and it unites the poet's present with his future. The avian imagery is reflected in
both halves of the poem, and provides the transition from the beginning to the end of the
poem. Overall, the symbol serves as a reminder of the final goal of eternal fame at each
stage of the poet's journey. In the ode's opening strophe, the poet claims that his wings
will be strong enough to carry him into eternity (Non usitata nec tenuiferar /penna
biformis per liquidum aethera / vates, neque in terris morabor obibo /nec Stygia
cohibeor unda, 2.20.1-8). The second half of the poem continues the bird imagery by
describing the poet as a songbird on the wing (iam Daedalo notior Icaro / visam ...
canorus /ales, 2.20.13-16). The transition between the two sections is provided by the
transformation of the poet into the bird at the center of the ode (album mutor in alitem /
superne, nascunturque leves /per digitos umerosque plumae, 2.20.10-12). The central
third stanza of Ode 2.20 vividly reflects the change from the poet's predictions of the
future at the beginning of the ode (2.20.1-8) to Horace's certainty about the present.
Many commentaries on this ode remark in some way about the outlandish extremes of
Horace's metamorphosis because it appears so incongruous with the moderate conclusion
of the first book. 8 A key factor in the reading of Ode 2.20 is how iam iam at the
beginning of the stanza along with the present tense resident merge together to shown an
'imaginary' or 'imminent' present.9 Considered with the previous future tensesferar,
morabor, reliquam, obibo, and cohibebor, this construction suggests that Horace is
preparing for his immediate transformation; a transformation which Horace himself
8 Two sides emerge in the discussion of the third stanza of Ode 2.20: one rejecting the stanza as bad poetry
and the whole ode as poor quality, and the other defending Horace's art. Detractors reserve special bile for
the lines, iam iam resident cruribus asperae /pelles et album mutor in alitem /superne, nascunturque levels
/per digitos umerosque plumae (2.20.9-12). Horace's defenders cite numerous illustrious precedents
including Plato (Phaedrus 251B, 251A), Pindar (Isthmian 7.39-48), and Theognis (237-254) who also
used the metaphor of flight to express reaching for eternity. Kiessling simply lists off the literary precedents
(1958: 245-246). Fraenkel calls the stanza, "repulsive, ridiculous, or both" (1957: 301) and notes with a
degree of regret that he cannot simply remove the offending verse. Objectors, most notably Fraenkel (1957:
299-302), do not like the contrast of the illustrious vates undergoing such a graphic, grotesque
transfiguration. Defenders of the stanza include Hendrickson (1949), Tatum (1973), and Williams (1968:
567-574). See also Fraenkel (1957: 299-302), NH (1978: 332-348), Garrison (1990: 289-290), West (1998:
144-148) for overviews of the debate.
9 Hendrickson (1949: 31).
predicted at the very beginning of the Odes (quod si me lyrics vatibus inseres, /sublimi
feriam sidera vertice, 1.1.36-37).
After the grand proclamation and graphic transformation of the poet, Horace
envisions the fame that will enable him to achieve eternity. 10 The poet imagines himself
traveling past the straits of Bosphorus, Gaetulia, the Hyperborean fields, and gaining
recognition from Colchians, Dacians, Gelonians, Hiberians, and Rhodians (2.20.14-20).
Some subtle wordplay allows Horace to maintain the atmosphere of expectation for glory
while using humor to soften the magnitude of his claims. He has not yet become the vates
biformis, although he soon expects to. Horace recounts the whole expected
transformation to Maecenas, whom at the end of the ode he instructs to dismiss any of the
traditional mourning at the poet's funeral (absint inanifunere neniae /luctusque turpes et
querimoniae; / compesce clamorem ac sepulchri / mitte supervacuos honors, 2.20.23-4).
This reference to the poet's patron again emphasizes that Horace's fame is at least
partially dependent upon his patron, a sentiment borrowed from Ode 1.1.11 Horace also
cites the Icarus myth (iam Daedalo notior Icaro /visam, 2.20.13-14). 12 The poet is aware
of the risks of his claims and knows that in the end he will die, at least physically. The
humor in the word play comes out in how literally or metaphorically inani andfunere are
taken. Horace could be metaphorical, talking about inani as "meaningless," or literal,
taking the same word as "empty." Likewise, fiunere could mean death or the dead body or
10 A reason for the over-the-top imagery in the third stanza is that, grand though his claims are, Horace may
not be entirely serious. The move to lighten his claims a little may be linked to his discussion of fame
seeking in Ode 1.1 in which Horace points out potential problems with this natural human character trait.
1 See the discussion of Ode 1.1 in Chapter 1.
12 Horace uses the adjective daedaleus,a,um in one other place in the Odes. Ode 4.2 also uses the term to
warn against lullus Antonius' overly Pindaric poetry (Pindarum quisquis student aemulari, /Iulle, ceratis
ope Daedala / nititur pennis vitreo daturus / nomina ponto, 4.2.1-4).
the funeral itself. The poet's death is made a joke because it holds none of the serious
implications that death carries for ordinary mortals. Horace's funeral could be missing his
body. The possibilities for any number of combined meanings show Horace "looking at
the fame of his future works, but also deflating his own boastfulness" in a serious but
cleverly amusing way.13
There is no hint of amusing self-doubt in the poet's claim to immortality at the
end of Horace's first lyric collection (Ode 3.30), when he confidently predicts his
immortality. Ode 2.20 ends with the poet's commands for his funeral to Maecenas (absint
inanifunere neniae /. mitte supervacuos honors 2.20.21-24), while Ode 3.30 ends
with the poet's command to the Muse for his reception in eternity (sume superbiam /
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica / lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam, 3.30.14-
16). 14 While Ode 2.20 looks forwards to the poet's future as a winged poet, Ode 3.30
shows the completion of the poet's desire to render himself immortal through the poetry
that is the poet's monument, towering over the pyramids of Egypt. Horace rejects
ordinary conceptions of death and states that whatever death he will face ultimately has
no meaning for him as vates because his name will always be kept alive through his
poetry (non omnis moriar multaque pars mei / vitabit Libitinam. usque ego poster /
crescam laude recens, 3.30.6-8). Horace also recalls the very beginning (Ode 1.1) at the
end (Ode 3.30), and brings the first lyric collection full circle. After stating his claim to
fame, Horace ends 3.30 with a demand for his reward. Horace tells his Muse that she
owes him the fame he requests, presented to him in the form of a wreath of laurel (sume
superbiam / quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica / lauro cinge volens, Melpomene,
13 West (1998: 147).
14 Woodman (1999: 205-207) discusses the aspects of an epitaph in Ode 3.30.
comam, 3.30.14-16). This demand for his immortality is again reminiscent of the
apotheosis that Horace predicted for himself in Ode 1.1 (Me doctarum hederae praemia
frontium /. si neque tibias /Euterpe cohibet nec Polyhymnia /Lesboum refugit tender
Ode 3.30 itself can be divided into four sections, each part bringing the poet
closer to immortality.15 After predicting his transformation in Ode 2.20, Horace first
proclaims that he has succeeded in contriving a product that will be eternal:
Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum
[I have built a monument more lasting than bronze and higher than the royal building of
the pyramids, which neither a destructive rainstorm nor raging north wind is able to
demolish nor the infinite succession of years and flight of ages.]
The second part of the ode is a declaration that not only the poet's lyric achievements but
the poet himself, or at least part of him, will prove immortal (non omnis moriar multaque
pars mei / vitabit Libitinam, 3.30.6-7). The third section consists of an explanation of
how this eternity will be realized, including a list of places the poet will see as he is
constantly reread (usque ego poster / crescam laude recens, princeps Aeolium
carmen adltalos /deduxisse modos, 3.30.7-14). The final section of the ode is a request
to the Muse Melpomene to accept the poet (sume superbiam /quaesitam meritis et mihi
Delphica / lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam, 3.30.14-16) and recognize him as a
15 have used Woodman's (1999: 207-216) divisions of the poem, but added the idea of the poet's
progression towards immortality.
lyric vates by crowning him with the prized wreath. 16 The poet thus completes his rise
from earth to heaven.
The monumentum of the poet is the paramount image of 3.30 (Exegi monumentum
aere perennius / regalique situ pyramidum altius, 3.30.1-2), and Horace makes two
claims about his poetic monument: natural forces do not have the power to erode what he
will leave behind (quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens /possit diruere aut
innumerabilis / annorum series etfuga temporum, 3.30.3-5) and Horace's
accomplishments will always keep his name alive. 17 The monument described in Ode
3.30 is what will allow him to escape death and continue to grow in fame. Horace shifts
into the future tense to deny death (non omnis moriar multaque pars mei / vitabit
Libitinam, 3.30.6-7). Horace also uses his poetic monument to return to the images he
started with at the beginning of his lyric career. After the prologue to Maecenas (Ode
1.1), the second (Ode 1.2) and last odes (Ode 3.30) of the first three books mention
monument. 18 These are the only instances of the word monumentum in the Odes, and
two of three times the word occurs in Horace's writings.19 The sparing use of the term,
and the context in which it is used indicate the importance of his monuments to the poet.
Ode 2.1 speaks of waves rushing to erode royal monuments and temples of the gods
(vidimusflavum Tiberim retortis / litore Etrusco violenter undis / ire deiectum
monument regis / templaque Vestae, 1.2.13-16), while Ode 3.30 proclaims the
16 The leafy crown as a symbol of the lyric vates appears also in Ode 1.1 (Me doctarum hederae praemia
frontium /dis miscent superis, 1. 1.29-30).
17 West (2002: 360-362) examines Horace's po c iflul music" in the first five lines of Ode 3.30.
18 violenter undis / ire deiectum monument regis, 1.2.14-15; Exegi monumentum aere perennius /
regalique situ pyramidum altius, 3.30.1-2.
19 The third use occurs in Sermones 1.8.13.
supremacy of Horace's poetic monuments over both royal tombs and nature (3.30.1-5).
The poet's lyric monuments are what guarantee the immortality that Horace claims from
the Muse at the end of Ode 3.30.
The concluding poems of Books 1-3 chronicle the poet's journey to achieve the
immortal status he envisions in the introductory poems by overcoming the human
limitations presented in the central poems.20 Each concluding ode relies upon specific
imagery to project the main theme. Ode 1.38 uses the rose and myrtle to highlight the
sympotic poet's carpe diem theme, Ode 2.20 uses the biformis vates to reveal the poet
beginning to overcome his mortality, and Ode 3.30 uses the image of the lyric poet's
monuments to declare the poet's success in achieving his goal of immortality. These three
images show Horace moving through his poetic journey on the way to reaching the poet's
final goal of undying fame.
20 Cf. Porter (1987: 240-253; 270-273) who turns Horace's metaphor of journey into the title for his
CANEMUS: THE POET'S FINAL INVITATION
The odes at the beginning, middle and end of Horace's second collection of Odes
(Book 4) form the same thematic sequence as the introductory, central, and concluding
odes of his first collection: the symposion and mortality (4.1); lyric's power to preserve
memory (4.8); and the lyric poet's immortalizing triumph (4.15). Ode 4.1, like Odes 1.8-
9, 2.10-11, and 3.15-16, examines the intransigence of human existence. Ode 4.8, at the
center of the Book, defines Horatian lyric poetry and its power in a manner similar to
Odes 1.1, 2.1, and 3.1. In Ode 4.15, Horace constructs his final lyric triumph. Odes 1.38,
2.20, and 3.30 also summarize the poet's expedition towards eternity, but Ode 4.15
pushes even further and invites the reader to join Horace in his immortalizing song.
In the first poem of Book 4, Horace reintroduces the concept of the sympotic
lifestyle as a remedy for the human problem of mortality. Ode 4.1 opens with a plea to
Venus on behalf of the poet, unwillingly (so he says) recalled into Venus' service
(Intermissa, Venus, diu / rursus bella moves? parce precor, precor. / non sum qualis
eram bonae /sub regno Cinarae, 4.1.1-4). 2 Horace instructs Venus that the youthful
Paullus is better able to live the sympotic lifestyle than the now fifty-year-old poet in Ode
4.1. The center of Ode 4.1 reminds the reader what sort of man is suited for the sympotic
1 The same principle is also found in the odes at the center of Books 1-3 (1.18-19; 2.10-11; 3.15-16).
2 Ode 1.19 also depicts the poet struggling against powerful Venus (Mater saeva Cupidinum / Thebanaeque
iubet me Semelae puer /. finitis animum reddere amoribus, 1.19.1-4; hic vivum mihi caespitem ...
mactata veniet lenior hostia, 1.19.13-16).
life: the young Roman nobleman who is skilled in the courts and fit for military service
(namque et nobilis et decens / etpro sollicitis non tacitus reis / et centum puer artium /
late signaferet militia tuae, 4.1.13-16). Horace visualizes the sympotic context of young
Paullus' surroundings. The presence of incense, lyres, flutes, and songs (4.1.21-24) all
add to the sympotic scene, where the boys and girls with Paullus dance in praise of Venus
(bis pueri die / numen cum teneris virginibus tuum / laudantes pede candido / in morem
Salium ter quatient humum, 4.1.25-28).
The uninhibited party atmosphere pictured in Ode 4.1 and the lack of sympotic
restraint contrasts to Ode 1.18 where wine is useful, but only in moderation (quis post
vina gravem militia autpauperiem crepat? / quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque
decens Venus? /ac ne quis modici transiliat munera Liberi ., 1.18.5-7). Horace
affirms the importance of moderation in Ode 2.10 when he clearly states that moderation
is key for a happy life (auream quisquis mediocritatem /diligit, tutus caret obsoleti /
sordibus tecti, caret invidenda /sobrius aula, 2.10.5-8). Now Horace uses the same
comparison between restraint and sympotic revelry when he describes himself as an
aging poet. By the time Horace (and the reader) reaches Ode 4.1, approximately 10 years
has passed after the publication of the first lyric collection.3 Horace's use of the same
themes and images puts into play the question of how time effects the lyric poet,4 and he
acknowledges that time appears to have some form of power over the poet.
Horace uses the unrestrained and exuberant sympotic atmosphere that surrounds
Paullus to demonstrate conclusively the difference between the young partygoers and the
3 See Commager's discussion of Book 4 (1962: 291-306); Johnson ( l 14 152-153) on the movement of
time for the poet.
4 Ancona (1994:95) notes that time fails to diminish the poet's desire.
old poet. The comparison between the younger Paullus and the older poet repeats the
same discussion of youth and age that appears in Odes 2.11, 3.15, and 3.16. Horace does
allow that the elderly can enjoy themselves in Ode 2.11 (cur non sub alta velplatano vel
hac /pinu iacentes sic temere et rosa / canos odorati capillos, / dum licet, Assyrique
nardo /potamus uncti?, 2.11.13-17), but points out in Ode 3.16 that most people can
neither gracefully accept their mortal destiny nor understand that moderation is the key to
happiness (custodem pavidum luppiter et Venus /rissent: fore enim tutum iter etpatens /
converse in pretium deo, 3.16.6-8; crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam / maiorumque
fames, 3.16.17-18; bene est, cui deus obtulit /parca quod satis est manu, 3.16.43-44). In
Ode 4.1 the young people with Paullus gather for a party, while Horace claims to enjoy
none of the sympotic elements that Paullus' youth represents:
me nec femina nec puer
iam nec spes animi credula mutui
nec certare iuvat mero
nec vincire novis tempora floribus,
[Neither maid nor youth pleases me
nor does the gullible hope of a reciprocal spirit please me now,
neither does it please me to enjoy wine
nor to wreath my temples with fresh flowers.]
In reference to the speaker, the negative nec marks each of the sympotic elements.5 The
poet's renunciation of a symposion and his pleas to Venus that he is no longer fit to serve
her insinuate that the poet's years make it too difficult for him to participate properly.
The aging matron Chloris of Ode 3.15 is in the same position that the poet claims
in 4.1, and like Chloris, who has difficulty accepting her destiny (Uxorpauperis Ibyci, /
tandem nequitiaefige modum tuae /famosisque laboribus; / mature propior desinefuneri
5 Oliensis offers the interpretation of the sympotic garland as a symbol that binds lyric poems (1998:119).
/inter ludere vigines /et stellis nebulam spargere candidis, 3.15.1-6), Horace cannot
escape the passions of Venus. Even the lyric poet is still vulnerable to the allurements of
youth, and at the end of Ode 4.1, Horace admits to his beloved Ligurinus that he suffers
from the two symptoms most emblematic of lovers: tears and the loss of his powers of
speech.6 The loss of words is especially critical for any poet, and Horace draws attention
to the calamity by enjambing a hypermetric line (curfacunda parum decoro /inter verba
cadit lingua silentio?, 4.1.3 5-36).7 This run-on verse highlights Horace's failure to resist
Venus as he attempts to refuse love in the opening of the poem (Intermissa, Venus, diu
rursus bella moves?, 4.1.1-2). Horace uses the claim that he too old and unwilling, but
nevertheless unable to resist passion, to create tension which he resolves in the final
While Horace admits in Ode 4.1 that he may be too old to continue living like a
young man, at the end of the poem he reveals that there is a final proper refuge for those
who are too stricken in years to participate in the pleasures of youth: dreams (nocturnis
ego somniis / iam captum teneo, 4.1.37-38).9 The placement of himself between
nighttime and dreams (nocturnis ego somnis) emphasizes the entrapment of the poet
inside his dreams. The poet's reference to his young, fancy-free love interest at the
beginning of the line (iam volucrem sequor /te per gramina Martii, 4.1.38-39) similarly
6 Horace borrows these images from Sappho 31 and Catullus 51. Putnam (1986: 39) examines Horace's
poem specifically in relation to Sappho. Oliensis (1998:120-121) notes that 4.1.33-40 also references
SHorace cleverly uses irony by rambling on about the loss of speech.
8 Reckford (1969: 124-126) discusses the struggle between love and reason in Ode 4.1.
9 West (1967: 135) questions the reality of Horace's dream about Ligurinus. West's point that Horace may
never have had such a dream emphasizes the imaginary and escapist nature of dreams.
accentuates the freedom of youth (sequor /te per gramina Martii). However, Horace as a
lyric poet has one further recourse against growing old that Chloris lacks: his lyric poetry.
Ode 4.8 defines the value and power of lyric poetry to preserve names and
deeds. 10 Because monuments of stone cannot record the vibrant essence of the
meritorious as well as poetry can (non incisa notis marmorapublicis, /per quae spirits
et vita redit bonis /post mortem ducibus... clarius indicant / laudes quam Calabrae
Pierides, 4.8.13-20), inscriptions on public monuments, mostly military
accomplishments, are inferior to poetry. Ennius' Muses (Calabrae Pierides), in contrast,
will never die. Poetry is simply superior at proclaiming fame (neque /si chartae silent
quod benefeceris, /mercedem tuleris. quidforet Iliae /Mavortisque puer, si taciturnitas /
obstaret meritis invida Romuli?, 4.8.20-24). Horace claims that even Romulus needs
poetry to keep his name alive. Even Aeacus owes his fame to the poets (ereptum Stygiis
fluctibus Aeacum /virtus etfavor et lingua potentium /vatum divitibus consecrat insulis,
Horace inserts references to each of the introductory odes of his first collection
(1.1; 2.1; 3.1) into Ode 4.8. Ode 4.8 demonstrates poetry's role in recording and
preserving history (non incisa notis marmorapublicis /. non celeresfugae /
reiectaeque retrorsum Hannibalis minae, /non incendia Karthaginis impiae /eius,
4.8.13-18). Horace examines poetry and history in Ode 2.1, when Horace proves the
ability of lyric poetry to encompass historical writing (mox, ubipublicas /res ordinaris,
grande munus / Cecropio repetes cothurno, / insigne maestis praesidium reis / et
consulenti, Pollio, Curiae, 2.1.10-14; sed ne relictis, Musaprocax, iocis / Ceae retractes
10 The text of Ode 4.8 remains disputed. I have chosen to follow Wickham (1896: 314) who argues for
retaining all the verses in spite of Meineke's law. For a detailed description of the textual difficulties and
various solutions, see Harrison, 1990.
munera neniae, / mecum Dionaeo sub antro /quaere modos leviore plectro, 2.1.37-40).
Hercules, Castor and Pollux, and Bacchus are also deified through the poet's art (sic lovis
interest / optatis epulis impiger Hercules/... Liber vota bonos ducit ad exitus, 4.8.29-
34). This allusion implies that the poet, who bestows immortality upon the likes of
Hercules and Bacchus, deserves to be remembered for all eternity, as Horace predicted
his own apotheosis among the stars at the end of Ode 1.1 (Me doctarum hederae praemia
frontium /dis miscent superis, 1.1.29-30; quod si me lyrics vatibus inseres, /sublimi
feriam sidera vertice, 1.1.35-36). 1 This special relationship with the divine that appears
in Odes 1.1 and 4.8 is also found in Ode 3.1, when Horace envisions himself as the priest
of the Muses (Odi profanum vulgus et arceo. /favete linguis: carmina non prius / audit
Musarum sacerdos / virginibus puerisque canto, 3.1.1-4).
Despite the recognition of his aging in Ode 4.1, Horace demonstrates in Odes 4.8
and 4.15 that as a lyric poet, he remains strong. 12 Ode 4.15 begins with a command from
Apollo that Horace must write lyric (Phoebus volentem proelia me loqui /victas et urbis
increpuit lyra, 4.15.1-2). As in Ode 2.1, Horace addresses current history with his lyric,
and takes as his topic in Ode 4.15 thepax Augusti. Unlike Ode 2.1, the history recounted
in Ode 4.15 has a happy outcome (tua, Caesar, aetas /fruges et agris rettulit uberes /et
signa nostro restituitlovi, 4.15.4-6). The list of Augustus' accomplishments includes
ending the civil war (4.15.17-20) and bringing back ancestral morality and customs
11 Reckford (1969: 130-132) considers Horace's praise of poetry a response to excellence that bestows life
12 Cp. Putnam's investigation of the relationship between Odes 4.1 and 4.15 (1986: 24-6), and the
interactions between Odes 3.30, 4.8, and 4.15 (1986: 300-302).
(ordinem /rectum evagantifrena licentiae /iniecit emovitque culpas /et veteres
revocavit artis, /per quas Latinum nomen et Italae crevere vires, 4.15.9-14).
Ode 4.15 also demonstrates lyric poetry's power by reiterating the poet's ability
to immortalize famous men. By opening and closing the ode with the poet, but spending
the whole body of the ode on Augustus' deeds, Horace showcases his own poetic
power.13 In Ode 4.8 Horace established that poetry was the only truly lasting monument
that a hero or even god could earn (non incisa notis marmorapublicis, /... neque / si
chartae silent quod bene feceris, /mercedem tuleris, 4.8.13-22; dignum laude virum
Musa vetat mori /caelo Musa beat ..., 4.8.28-29). Then Horace, in the concluding lines
of Ode 4.15, gives an exemplum of the poet's power to create immortality:
cum prole matronisque nostris
rite deos prius apprecati
virtute functos more patrum duces
Lydis remixto carmine tibiis
Troiamque et Anchisen et almae
progeniem Veneri canemus
[with our children and wives first rightly praying to the gods
let us sing about leaders who died with virtue according to the custom of our
fathers with song mingled with Lydian flutes and let us sing of Troy and Anchises
and the descendant of kind Venus]. 14
Horace provides a substantial amount of praise for Augustus in his poem as the doer of
great deeds, but by ending the ode, and the lyric collection, with himself, Horace reminds
the reader that the lyric poet's leading role as the creator of immortality remains the most
powerful of all.
13 Cp. Lowrie on Augustus and the poet in Ode 4.15 (1997: 338-347).
14 Augustus had been adopted by Julius Caesar, whose family claimed descent from Venus, and therefore
Augustus would be a logical interpretation for progeniem Veneris (4.15.32).
Horace proclaims the same power of poetry to assure immortality in Odes 4.8 and
4.15 that he previously announced in Ode 3.30 (Exegi monumentum aere perennius/
regalique situ pyramidum altius /. non omnis moriar multaque pars mei / vitabit
Libitinam, 3.30.1-7). Ode 3.30 claims the immortality of both the poet and his poetry
which even nature cannot destroy (quod non imber edax, non Aquilo ompotens /possit
diruere aut innumerabilis /annorum series etfuga temporum, 3.30.3-5), and Horace cites
his poetic genius as the reason for his fame and immortality princepss Aeolium carmen ad
Italos / deduxisse modos. sume superbiam / quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica / lauro
cinge volens, Melpomene, comam, 3.30.13-16). Ode 4.15 announces again the triumph of
the poet's immortalizing powers, which Horace previously gradually unfolded in Odes
1.38 and 2.20, and fully realized in Ode 3.30. The poet's immortality in Ode 3.30
depends largely upon local memory kept alive by retelling ancestral stories (dicar, qua
violens obstrepit Aufidus / et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium / regnavitpopulorum,
3.30.10-12), and Apollo in the opening of Ode 4.15 essentially forbids Horace to write an
Augustan epic (Phoebus volentem proelia me loqui / victas et urbes increpuit lyra / ne
parva Tyrrhenum per aequor / vela darem, 4.15.1-4). 15 After being prohibited from
writing a poem in celebration of Augustus' military victories, Horace must find another
broader method in his poetry to celebrate hereditary memory with the people of Rome.
Horace reconnects to his readers in Ode 4.15 by staging a festival and inviting the
citizens of Rome to join him. The last two stanzas of Ode 4.15 show the poet once again
surrounded by wine and music (nosque etprofestis lucibus et sacris / inter iocosi munera
Liberi, 4.15.25-26; Lydis remixto carmine tibias /... canemus, 4.15.30-32), a scene that
15 Cf. Putnam's analysis of Ode 4.15 (1986: 263-306) as it relates to Virgil and Propertius book 4; Johnson
(2' 114 198-213) and Levi (1997: 224-225) also examine Horace's final lyric poem in relation to Virgil.
recalls the setting of Ode 1.38. Ode 1.38 shows the poet at peace with the world in a
sympotic setting that becomes emblematic of Horatian lyric (simplici myrto nihil
allabores /sedulus curo. neque te ministrum /dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta /vite
bibentem, 1.38.5-8). Thus in the final stanzas of Ode 4.15, the sympotic poet has returned
in the company of citizen singers ready to immortalize Rome's heroes.
Despite all of the references to previous poems, Ode 4.15 is much more than a
simple summary of the concluding odes of Books 1-3. In Horace's first lyric collection,
the poet's rise to immortality is chronicled in the odes at the end of Books 1-3.16 Once
Horace establishes that he can make himself immortal in his first lyric collection, he
begins throughout Book 4 to bestow immortality on those who have earned the reward.
Ode 4.15 presents the lyric poet in one of his most powerful roles as the giver of
immortality, and completes Horace's lyric collections with an invitation to the reader to
join him in his immortalizing song. The last word of the ode, and the lyric collection, is
canemus.n The inclusion of the reader as a participant in the poet's song implies that the
poet has succeeded in educating his reader sufficiently that Horace is confident enough to
invite the reader to join him.18 Horace includes his readers in a vision of Romans
embracing their ancestral tradition of celebrating their heroes (nosque cum prole
matronisque nostris / rite deos prius apprecati / virtute functos more patrum duces,
16 First, Ode 1.38 establishes the peace of mind that the lyric poet enjoys in his world. Next, Ode 2.20
declares that even in death the spirit of the poet will remain alive, and finally Ode 3.30 demonstrates the
permanence of the poet's legacy (3.30.1-5) which merits the poet's reward from the Muse (3.30.14-16).
17 See Johnson (' i 14 210-213) for echoes of the opening of the Aeneid in Horace's Ode 4.15.
18 The education of the reader by the poet is made explicit in Ode 3.1 when the poet presents himself as the
priest of the Muse preparing to pray (Odi profanum vulgus et arceo. /favete linguis: carmina non prius /
audita Musarum sacerdos /virginibus puerisque canto, 3.1.1-4). Lowrie (1997: 349) examines the
invitation to the reader and the final statement of immortality in comparison to Ode 3.30.
4.15.25-29).19 The picture of the poet as preacher in Ode 3.1 has broadened in Ode 4.15
to poet as choirmaster.
The introductory, central and final odes of Book 4 present variations of the same
major themes that occupy the introductory, central, and end odes of the first collection.
Ode 4.1 examines the theme of humanity attempting to gain control over their lives (Odes
1.8-9; 2.10-11; 3.15-16). Ode 4.8 considers the value of poetry and the eternal reward
that awaits the poet, themes which also appear in both the introductory and central odes
of the first collection (Odes 1.1; 2.1; 3.1). Ode 4.15 depicts the immortal poet directing
national song. While the final odes of the first collection consider the poet's own
immortality (Odes 1.38; 2.20; 3.30), the final ode of the second collection (4.15) goes
further to consider not only the poet's immortalizing power but his power to invite the
reader to join forces with him to preserve Roman traditions.
19 See McNeill on the poet's role of bestowing immortality to the deserving combined with the vates' role
as moral tutor (2001:81-82).
One of Horace's strengths as a poet is his ability to combine successfully
seemingly incompatible themes and images. But, nevertheless, Horace keeps returning to
certain themes and images. There is a consistency. Horace has three favorite themes that
he places in the prominent beginning, middle, and end poems of each book of the Odes:
the immortalizing powers of poetry, the endurance of poetry, and the combination carpe
diem-aurea mediocritas strategy for good living. Horace describes each of these themes
with multiple images, but certain images emerge as the poet's favorites: sympotic love
and wine, garlands (indicative of both the symposion and victory), and lyric monument.
By closely looking at the interplay between beginnings, middles, and ends in the
Odes of Horace, some clear thematic patterns are evident. Horace places front and center
in his lyrics humanity's failed attempts to overcome the limits of its mortality. The lyric
poet, on the other hand, lives not only in harmony with nature through a life-style based
on equilibrium between carpe diem and aurea mediocritas, but by the immortality of his
poetry proves immune to death itself. As the immortal vates, Horace is able to pass on his
knowledge to the Roman people, so that by the end of his lyrics, Horace's readers are
equipped to join the poet in song. Horace's lyrics prove didactic.
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Kathleen Burt was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 29, 1982. She attended
school in St. Paul and graduated from Roseville Area High School in 2000. She
graduated from St. Olaf College in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in classics and English.
She will receive a Master of Arts in Latin from the University of Florida in 2006.