Horace and His Influence
by Grant Showerman
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Our Debt to Greece and Rome


George Depue Hadzsits, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania

David Moore Robinson, Ph.D., Ll.D. The Johns Hopkins University

Contributors to the "Our Debt to Greece and Rome Fund," Whose Generosity Has Made Possible the Library

Our Debt to Greece and Rome













Doylestown, Pennsylvania


New York

JOHN JAY CHAPMAN WILLARD V. KING THOMAS W. LAMONT DWIGHT W. MORROW MRS. D.W. MORROW Senatori Societatis Philosophiae, [Greek: PhBK], gratias maximas agimus ELIHU ROOT MORTIMER L. SCHIFF WILLIAM SLOANE GEORGE W. WICKERSHAM And one contributor, who has asked to have his name withheld: Maecenas atavis edite regibus, O et praesidium et dulce decus meum.


The Greek Embassy at Washington, for the Greek Government.

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Professor of Classics The University of Wisconsin

George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd. London Calcutta Sydney

The Plimpton Press Norwood Massachusetts




On Sabine hills when melt the snows, Still level-full His river flows; Each April now His valley fills With cyclamen and daffodils; And summers wither with the rose.

Swift-waning moons the cycle close: Birth,—toil,—mirth,—death; life onward goes Through harvest heat or winter chills On Sabine hills.

Yet One breaks not His long repose, Nor hither comes when Zephyr blows; In vain the spring's first swallow trills; Never again that Presence thrills; One charm no circling season knows On Sabine hills.



The volume on Horace and His Influence by Doctor Showerman is the second to appear in the Series, known as "Our Debt to Greece and Rome."

Doctor Showerman has told the story of this influence in what seems to us the most effective manner possible, by revealing the spiritual qualities of Horace and the reasons for their appeal to many generations of men. These were the crown of the personality and work of the ancient poet, and admiration of them has through successive ages always been a token of aspiration and of a striving for better things.

The purpose of the volumes in this Series will be to show the influence of virtually all of the great forces of the Greek and Roman civilizations upon subsequent life and thought and the extent to which these are interwoven into the fabric of our own life of to-day. Thereby we shall all know more clearly the nature of our inheritance from the past and shall comprehend more steadily the currents of our own life, their direction and their value. This is, we take it, of considerable importance for life as a whole, whether for correct thinking or for true idealism.

The supremacy of Horace within the limits that he set for himself is no fortuity, and the miracle of his achievement will always remain an inspiration for some. But it is not as a distant ideal for a few, but as a living and vital force for all, that we should approach him; and to assist in this is the aim of our little volume.

The significance of Horace to the twentieth century will gain in clarity from an understanding of his meaning to other days. We shall discover that the eternal verity of his message, whether in ethics or in art, comes to us with a very particular challenge, warning and cry.




I. HORACE INTERPRETED The Appeal of Horace 3 1. Horace the Person 6 2. Horace the Poet 9 3. Horace the Interpreter of His Times Horace the Duality 23 i. The Interpreter of Italian Landscape 25 ii. The Interpreter of Italian Living 28 iii. The Interpreter of Roman Religion 31 iv. The Interpreter of the Popular Wisdom 35 Horace and Hellenism 38 4. Horace the Philosopher of Life Horace the Spectator and Essayist 39 i. The Vanity of Human Wishes 44 ii. The Pleasures of this World 49 iii. Life and Morality 54 iv. Life and Purpose 59 v. The Sources of Happiness 62 II. HORACE THROUGH THE AGES Introductory 69 1. Horace the Prophet 70 2. Horace and Ancient Rome 75 3. Horace and the Middle Age 87 4. Horace and Modern Times The Rebirth of Horace 104 i. In Italy 106 ii. In France 114 iii. In Germany 115 iv. In Spain 118 v. In England 121 vi. In the Schools 126 III. HORACE THE DYNAMIC The Cultivated Few 127 1. Horace and the Literary Ideal 131 2. Horace and Literary Creation i. The Translator's Ideal 136 ii. Creation 143 3. Horace in the Living of Men 152 IV. CONCLUSION 168 NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY 171


To those who stand in the midst of times and attempt to grasp their meaning, civilization often seems hopelessly complicated. The myriad and mysterious interthreading of motive and action, of cause and effect, presents to the near vision no semblance of a pattern, and the whole web is so confused and meaningless that the mind grows to doubt the presence of design, and becomes skeptical of the necessity, or even the importance, of any single strand.

Yet civilization is on the whole a simple and easily understood phenomenon. This is true most apparently of that part of the human family of which Europe and the Americas form the principal portion, and whose influences have made themselves felt also in remote continents. If to us it is less apparently true of the world outside our western civilization, the reason lies in the fact that we are not in possession of equal facilities for the exercise of judgment.

We are all members one of another, and the body which we form is a consistent and more or less unchanging whole. There are certain elemental facts which underlie human society wherever it has advanced to a stage deserving the name of civilization. There is the intellectual impulse, with the restraining influence of reason upon the relations of men. There is the active desire to be in right relation with the unknown, which we call religion. There is the attempt at the beautification of life, which we call art. There is the institution of property. There is the institution of marriage. There is the demand for the purity of woman. There is the insistence upon certain decencies and certain conformities which constitute what is known as morality. There is the exchange of material conveniences called commerce, with its necessary adjunct, the sanctity of obligation. In a word, there are the universal and eternal verities.

Farther, if what we may call the constitution of civilization is thus definite, its physical limits are even more clearly defined. Civilization is a matter of centers. The world is not large, and its government rests upon the shoulders of the few. The metropolis is the index of capacity for good and ill in a national civilization. Its culture is representative of the common life of town and country.

It follows that the history of civilization is a history of the famous gathering-places of men. The story of human progress in the West is the story of Memphis, Thebes, Babylon, Nineveh, Cnossus, Athens, Alexandria, Rome, and of medieval, Renaissance, and modern capitals. History is a stream, in the remoter antiquity of Egypt and Mesopotamia confined within narrow and comparatively definite banks, gathering in volume and swiftness as it flows through Hellenic lands, and at last expanding into the broad and deep basin of Rome, whence its current, dividing, leads away in various channels to other ample basins, perhaps in the course of time to reunite at some great meeting of waters in the New World. To one afloat in the swirl of contradictory eddies, it may be difficult to judge of the whence and whither of the troubled current, but the ascent of the stream and the exploration of the sources of literature and the arts, of morals, politics, and religion, of commerce and mechanics, is on the whole no difficult adventure.

Finally, civilization is not only a matter of local habitation, but a matter of individual men. The great city is both determined by, and determines, its environment; the great man is the product, and in turn the producer, of the culture of his nation. The human race is gregarious and sequacious, rather than individual and adventurous. Progress depends upon the initiative of spirited and gifted men, rather than upon the tardy movement of the mass, upon idea rather than force, upon spirit rather than matter.

I preface my essay with these reflections because there may be readers at first thought skeptical of even modest statements regarding Horace as a force in the history of our culture and a contributor to our life today. It is only when the continuity of history and the essential simplicity and constancy of civilization are understood that the direct and vital connection between past and present is seen, and the mind is no longer startled and incredulous when the historian records that the Acropolis has had more to do with the career of architecture than any other group of buildings in the world, or that the most potent influence in the history of prose is the Latin of Cicero, or that poetic expression is more choice and many men appreciably saner and happier because of a Roman poet dead now one thousand nine hundred and thirty years.




In estimating the effect of Horace upon his own and later times, we must take into account two aspects of his work. These are, the forms in which he expressed himself, and the substance of which they are the garment. We shall find him distinguished in both; but in the substance of his message we shall find him distinguished by a quality which sets him apart from other poets ancient and modern.

This distinctive quality lies neither in the originality nor in the novelty of the Horatian message, which, as a matter of fact, is surprisingly familiar, and perhaps even commonplace. It lies rather in the appealing manner and mood of its communication. It is a message living and vibrant.

The reason for this is that in Horace we have, above all, a person. No poet speaks from the page with greater directness, no poet establishes so easily and so completely the personal relation with the reader, no poet is remembered so much as if he were a friend in the flesh. In this respect, Horace among poets is a parallel to Thackeray in the field of the novel. What the letters of Cicero are to the intrigue and turmoil of politics, war, and the minor joys and sorrows of private and social life in the last days of the Republic, the lyrics and "Conversations" of Horace are to the mood of the philosophic mind of the early Empire. Both are lights which afford us a clear view of interiors otherwise but faintly illuminated. They are priceless interpreters of their times. In modern times, we make environment interpret the poet. We understand a Tennyson, a Milton, or even a Shakespeare, from our knowledge of the world in which he lived. In the case of antiquity, the process is reversed. We reconstruct the times of Caesar and Augustus from fortunate acquaintance with two of the most representative men who ever possessed the gift of literary genius.

It is because Horace's appeal depends so largely upon his qualities as a person that our interpretation of him must center about his personal traits. We shall re-present to the imagination his personal appearance. We shall account for the personal qualities which contributed to the poetic gift that set him apart as the interpreter of the age to his own and succeeding generations. We shall observe the natural sympathy with men and things by reason of which he reflects with peculiar faithfulness the life of city and country. We shall become acquainted with the thoughts and the moods of a mind and heart that were nicely sensitive to sight and sound and personal contact. We shall hear what the poet has to say of himself not only as a member of the human family, but as the user of the pen.

This interpretation of Horace as person and poet will be best attempted from his own work, and best expressed in his own phrase. The pages which follow are a manner of Horatian mosaic. They contain little not said or suggested by the poet himself.


Horace was of slight stature among even a slight-statured race. At the period when we like him best, when he was growing mellower and better with advancing years, his black hair was more than evenly mingled with grey. The naturally dark and probably not too finely-textured skin of face and expansive forehead was deepened by the friendly breezes of both city and country to the vigorous golden brown of the Italian. Feature and eye held the mirror up to a spirit quick to anger but plenteous in good-nature. Altogether, Horace was a short, rotund man, smiling but serious, of nothing very remarkable either in appearance or in manner, and with a look of the plain citizen. Of all the ancients who have left no material likeness, he is the least difficult to know in person.

We see him in a carriage or at the shows with Maecenas, the Emperor's fastidious counsellor. We have charming glimpses of him enjoying in company the hospitable shade of huge pine and white poplar on the grassy terrace of some rose-perfumed Italian garden with noisy fountain and hurrying stream. He loiters, with eyes bent on the pavement, along the winding Sacred Way that leads to the Forum, or on his way home struggles against the crowd as it pushes its way down town amid the dust and din of the busy city. He shrugs his shoulders in good-humored despair as the sirocco brings lassitude and irritation from beyond the Mediterranean, or he sits huddled up in some village by the sea, shivering with the winds from the Alps, reading, and waiting for the first swallow to herald the spring.

We see him at a mild game of tennis in the broad grounds of the Campus Martius. We see him of an evening vagabonding among the nameless common folk of Rome, engaging in small talk with dealers in small merchandise. He may look in upon a party of carousing friends, with banter that is not without reproof. We find him lionized in the homes of the first men of the city in peace and war, where he mystifies the not too intellectual fair guests with graceful and provokingly passionless gallantry. He sits at ease with greater enjoyment under the opaque vine and trellis of his own garden. He appears in the midst of his household as it bustles with preparation for the birthday feast of a friend, or he welcomes at a less formal board and with more unrestrained joy the beloved comrade-in-arms of Philippi, prolonging the genial intercourse

"Till Phoebus the red East unbars And puts to rout the trembling stars."

Or we see him bestride an indifferent nag, cantering down the Appian Way, with its border of tombs, toward the towering dark-green summits of the Alban Mount, twenty miles away, or climbing the winding white road to Tivoli where it reclines on the nearest slope of the Sabines, and pursuing the way beyond it along the banks of headlong Anio where it rushes from the mountains to join the Tiber. We see him finally arrived at his Sabine farm, the gift of Maecenas, standing in tunic-sleeves at his doorway in the morning sun, and contemplating with thankful heart valley and hill-side opposite, and the cold stream of Digentia in the valley-bottom below. We see him rambling about the wooded uplands of his little estate, and resting in the shade of a decaying rustic temple to indite a letter to the friend whose not being present is all that keeps him from perfect happiness. He participates with the near-by villagers in the joys of the rural holiday. He mingles homely philosophy and fiction with country neighbors before his own hearth in the big living-room of the farm-house.

Horace's place is not among the dim and uncertain figures of a hoary antiquity. Only give him modern shoes, an Italian cloak, and a walking-stick, instead of sandals and toga, and he may be seen on the streets of Rome today. Nor is he less modern in character and bearing than in appearance. We discern in his composition the same strange and seemingly contradictory blend of the grave and gay, the lively and severe, the constant and the mercurial, the austere and the trivial, the dignified and the careless, that is so baffling to the observer of Italian character and conduct today.


To understand how Horace came to be a great poet as well as an engaging person, it is necessary to look beneath this somewhat commonplace exterior, and to discern the spiritual man.

The foundations of literature are laid in life. For the production of great poetry two conditions are necessary. There must be, first, an age pregnant with the celestial fires of deep emotion. Second, there must be in its midst one of the rare men whom we call inspired. He must be of such sensitive spiritual fiber as to vibrate to every breeze of the national passion, of such spiritual capacity as to assimilate the common thoughts and moods of the time, of such fine perception and of such sureness of command over word, phrase, and rhythm, as to give crowning expression to what his soul has made its own.

For abundance of stirring and fertilizing experience, history presents few equals of the times when Horace lived. His lifetime fell in an age which was in continual travail with great and uncertain movement. Never has Fortune taken greater delight in her bitter and insolent game, never displayed a greater pertinacity in the derision of men. In the period from Horace's birth at Venusia in southeastern Italy, on December 8, B.C. 65, to November 27, B.C. 8, when

"Mourned of men and Muses nine, They laid him on the Esquiline,"

there occurred the series of great events, to men in their midst incomprehensible, bewildering, and disheartening, which after times could readily interpret as the inevitable change from the ancient and decaying Republic to the better knit if less free life of the Empire.

We are at an immense distance, and the differences have long since been composed. The menacing murmur of trumpets is no longer audible, and the seas are no longer red with blood. The picture is old, and faded, and darkened, and leaves us cold, until we illuminate it with the light of imagination. Then first we see, or rather feel, the magnitude of the time: its hatreds and its selfishness; its differences of opinion, sometimes honest and sometimes disingenuous, but always maintained with the heat of passion; its divisions of friends and families; its lawlessness and violence; its terrifying uncertainties and adventurous plunges; its tragedies of confiscation, murder, fire, proscription, feud, insurrection, riot, war; the dramatic exits of the leading actors in the great play,—of Catiline at Pistoria, of Crassus in the eastern deserts, of Clodius at Bovillae within sight of the gates of Rome, of Pompey in Egypt, of Cato in Africa, of Caesar, Servius Sulpicius, Marcellus, Trebonius and Dolabella, Hirtius and Pansa, Decimus Brutus, the Ciceros, Marcus Brutus and Cassius, Sextus the son of Pompey, Antony and Cleopatra,—as one after another

"Strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage, And then was heard no more."

It is in relief against a background such as this that Horace's works should be read,—the Satires, published in 35 and 30, which the poet himself calls Sermones, "Conversations," "Talks," or Causeries; the collection of lyrics called Epodes, in 29; three books of Odes in 23; a book of Epistles, or further Causeries, in 20; the Secular Hymn in 17; a second book of Epistles in 14; a fourth book of Odes in 13; and a final Epistle, On the Art of Poetry, at a later and uncertain date.

It is above all against such a background that Horace's invocation to Fortune should be read:

Goddess, at lovely Antium is thy shrine: Ready art thou to raise with grace divine Our mortal frame from lowliest dust of earth, Or turn triumph to funeral for thy mirth;

or that other expression of the inscrutable uncertainty of the human lot:

Fortune, whose joy is e'er our woe and shame, With hard persistence plays her mocking game; Bestowing favors all inconstantly, Kindly to others now, and now to me. With me, I praise her; if her wings she lift To leave me, I resign her every gift, And, cloaked about in my own virtue's pride, Wed honest poverty, the dowerless bride.

Horace is not here the idle singer of an empty day. His utterance may be a universal, but in the light of history it is no commonplace. It is the eloquent record of the life of Rome in an age which for intensity is unparalleled in the annals of the ancient world.

And yet men may live a longer span of years than fell to the lot of Horace, and in times no less pregnant with event, and still fail to come into really close contact with life. Horace's experience was comprehensive, and touched the life of his generation at many points. He was born in a little country town in a province distant from the capital. His father, at one time a slave, and always of humble calling, was a man of independent spirit, robust sense, and excellent character, whose constant and intimate companionship left everlasting gratitude in the heart of the son. He provided for the little Horace's education at first among the sons of the "great" centurions who constituted the society of the garrison-town of Venusia, afterwards ambitiously took him to Rome to acquire even the accomplishments usual among the sons of senators, and finally sent him to Athens, garner of wisdom of the ages, where the learning of the past was constantly made to live again by masters with the quick Athenian spirit of telling or hearing new things.

The intellectual experience of Horace's younger days was thus of the broadest character. Into it there entered and were blended the shrewd practical understanding of the Italian provincial; the ornamental accomplishments of the upper classes; the inspiration of Rome's history, with the long line of heroic figures that appear in the twelfth Ode of the first book like a gallery of magnificent portraits; first-hand knowledge of prominent men of action and letters; unceasing discussion of questions of the day which could be avoided by none; and, finally, humanizing contact on their own soil with Greek philosophy and poetry, Greek monuments and history, and teachers of racial as well as intellectual descent from the greatest people of the past.

But Horace's experience assumed still greater proportions. He passed from the university of Athens to the larger university of life. The news of Caesar's death at the hands of the "Liberators," which reached him as a student there at the age of twenty-one, and the arrival of Brutus some months after, stirred his young blood. As an officer in the army of Brutus, he underwent the hardships of the long campaign, enriching life with new friendships formed in circumstances that have always tightened the friendly bond. He saw the disastrous day of Philippi, narrowly escaped death by shipwreck, and on his return to Italy and Rome found himself without father or fortune.

Nor was the return to Rome the end of his education. In the interval which followed, Horace's mind, always of philosophic bent, was no doubt busy with reflection upon the disparity between the ideals of the liberators and the practical results of their actions, upon the difference between the disorganized, anarchical Rome of the civil war and the gradually knitting Rome of Augustus, and upon the futility of presuming to judge the righteousness either of motives or means in a world where men, to say nothing of understanding each other, could not understand themselves. In the end, he accepted what was not to be avoided. He went farther than acquiescence. The growing conviction among thoughtful men that Augustus was the hope of Rome found lodgment also in his mind. He gravitated from negative to positive. His value as an educated man was recognized, and he found himself at twenty-four in possession of the always coveted boon of the young Italian, a place in the government employ. A clerkship in the treasury gave him salary, safety, respectability, a considerable dignity, and a degree of leisure.

Of the leisure he made wise use. Still in the afterglow of his Athenian experience, he began to write. He attracted the attention of a limited circle of associates. The personal qualities which made him a favorite with the leaders of the Republican army again served him well. He won the recognition and the favor of men who had the ear of the ruling few. In about 33, when he was thirty-two years old, Maecenas, the appreciative counsellor, prompted by Augustus, the politic ruler, who recognized the value of talent in every field for his plans of reconstruction, made him independent of money-getting, and gave him currency among the foremost literary men of the city. He triumphed over the social prejudice against the son of a freedman, disarmed the jealousy of literary rivals, and was assured of fame as well as favor.

Nor was even this the end of Horace's experience with the world of action. It may be that his actual participation in affairs did cease with Maecenas's gift of the Sabine farm, and it is true that he never pretended to live on their own ground the life of the high-born and rich, but he nevertheless associated on sympathetic terms with men through whom he felt all the activities and ideals of the class most representative of the national life, and past experiences and natural adaptability enabled him to assimilate their thoughts and emotions.

Thanks to the glowing personal nature of Horace's works, we know who many of these friends and patrons were who so enlarged his vision and deepened his inspiration. Almost without exception his poems are addressed or dedicated to men with whom he was on terms of more than ordinary friendship. They were rare men,—fit audience, though few; men of experience in affairs at home and in the field, men of natural taste and real cultivation, of broad and sane outlook, of warm heart and deep sympathies. There was Virgil, whom he calls the half of his own being. There was Plotius, and there was Varius, bird of Maeonian song, whom he ranks with the singer of the Aeneid himself as the most luminously pure of souls on earth. There was Quintilius, whose death was bewailed by many good men;—when would incorruptible Faith and Truth find his equal? There was Maecenas, well-bred and worldly-wise, the pillar and ornament of his fortunes. There was Septimius, the hoped-for companion of his mellow old age in the little corner of earth that smiled on him beyond all others. There was Iccius, procurator of Agrippa's estates in Sicily, sharing Horace's delight in philosophy. There was Agrippa himself, son-in-law of Augustus, grave hero of battles and diplomacy. There was elderly Trebatius, sometime friend of Cicero and Caesar, with dry legal humor early seasoned in the wilds of Gaul. There were Pompeius and Corvinus, old-soldier friends with whom he exchanged reminiscences of the hard campaign. There was Messalla, a fellow-student at Athens, and Pollio, soldier, orator, and poet. There were Julius Florus and other members of the ambitious literary cohort in the train of Tiberius. There was Aristius Fuscus, the watch of whose wit was ever wound and ready to strike. There was Augustus himself, busy administrator of a world, who still found time for letters.

It is through the medium of personalities like these that Horace's message was delivered to the world of his time and to later generations. How far the finished elegance of his expression is due to their discriminating taste, and how much of the breadth and sanity of his content is due to their vigor of character and cosmopolitan culture, we may only conjecture. Literature is not the product of a single individual. The responsive and stimulating audience is hardly less needful than the poet's inspiration.

Such were the variety and abundance of Horace's experience. It was large and human. He had touched life high and low, bond and free, public and private, military and civil, provincial and urban, Hellenic, Asiatic, and Italian, urban and rustic, ideal and practical, at the cultured court and among the ignorant, but not always unwise, common people.

And yet, numbers of men possessed of experience as abundant have died without being poets, or even wise men. Their experience was held in solution, so to speak, and failed to precipitate. Horace's experience did precipitate. Nature gave him the warm and responsive soul by reason of which he became a part of all he met. Unlike most of his associates among the upper classes to which he rose, his sympathies could include the freedman, the peasant, and the common soldier. Unlike most of the multitude from which he sprang, he could extend his sympathies to the careworn rich and the troubled statesman. He had learned from his own lot and from observation that no life was wholly happy, that the cares of the so-called fortunate were only different from, not less real than, those of the ordinary man, that every human heart had its chamber furnished for the entertainment of Black Care, and that the chamber was never without its guest.

But not even the precipitate of experience called wisdom will alone make the poet. Horace was again endowed by nature with another and rarer and equally necessary gift,—the sense of artistic expression. It would be waste of time to debate how much he owed to native genius, how much to his own laborious patience, and how much to the good fortune of generous human contact. He is surely to be classed among examples of what for want of a better term we call inspiration. The poet is born. We may account for the inspiration of Horace by supposing him of Greek descent (as if Italy had never begotten poets of her own), but the mystery remains. In the case of any poet, after everything has been said of the usual influences, there is always something left to be accounted for only on the ground of genius. It was the possession of this that set Horace apart from other men of similar experience.

The poet, however, is not the mere accident of birth. Horace is aware of a power not himself that makes for poetic righteousness, and realizes the mystery of inspiration. The Muse cast upon him at birth her placid glance. He expects glory neither on the field nor in the course, but looks to song for his triumphs. To Apollo,

"Lord of the enchanting shell, Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs,"

who can give power of song even unto the mute, he owes all his power and all his fame. It is the gift of Heaven that he is pointed out by the finger of the passer-by as the minstrel of the Roman lyre, that he breathes the divine fire and pleases men. But he is as perfectly appreciative of the fact that poets are born and also made, and condemns the folly of depending upon inspiration unsupported by effort. He calls himself the bee of Matinum, industriously flitting with honeyed thigh about the banks of humid Tibur. What nature begins, cultivation must develop. Neither training without the rich vein of native endowment, nor natural talent without cultivation, will suffice; both must be friendly conspirators in the process of forming the poet. Wisdom is the beginning and source of writing well. He who would run with success the race that is set before him must endure from boyhood the hardships of heat and cold, and abstain from women and wine. The gift of God must be made perfect by the use of the file, by long waiting, and by conscious intellectual discipline.



Varied as were Horace's experiences, they were mainly of two kinds, and there are two Horaces who reflect them. There is a more natural Horace, simple and direct, of ordinary Italian manners and ideals, and a less natural Horace, finished in the culture of Greece and the artificialities of life in the capital. They might be called the unconventional and the conventional Horace.

This duality is only the reflection of the two-fold experience of Horace as the provincial village boy and as the successful literary man of the city. The impressions received from Venusia and its simple population of hard-working, plain-speaking folk, from the roaring Aufidus and the landscape of Apulia, from the freedman father's common-sense instruction as he walked about in affectionate companionship with his son, never faded from Horace's mind. The ways of the city were superimposed upon the ways of the country, but never displaced nor even covered them. They were a garment put on and off, sometimes partly hiding, but never for long, the original cloak of simplicity. It is not necessary to think its wearer insincere when, constrained by social circumstance, he put it on. As in most dualities not consciously assumed, both Horaces were genuine. When Davus the slave reproaches his master for longing, while at Rome, to be back in the country, and for praising the attractions of the city, while in the country, it is not mere discontent or inconsistency in Horace which he is attacking. Horace loved both city and country.

And yet, whatever the appeal of the city and its artificialities, Horace's real nature called for the country and its simple ways. It is the Horace of Venusia and the Sabines who is the more genuine of the two. The more formal poems addressed to Augustus and his house-hold sometimes sound the note of affectation, but the most exacting critic will hesitate to bring a like charge against the odes which celebrate the fields and hamlets of Italy and the prowess of her citizen-soldiers of time gone by, or against the mellow epistles and lyrics in which the poet philosophizes upon the spectacle of human life.


The real Horace is to be found first of all as the interpreter of the beauty and fruitfulness of Italy. It is no land of mere literary imagination which he makes us see with such clear-cut distinctness. It is not an Italy in Theocritean colors, like the Italy of Virgil's Bucolics, but the Italy of Horace's own time, the Italy of his own birth and experience, and the Italy of today. Horace is not a descriptive poet. The reader will look in vain for nature-poems in the modern sense. With a word or a phrase only, he flashes upon our vision the beautiful, the significant, the permanent in the scenery of Italy. The features which he loved best, or which for other reasons caught his eye, are those that we still see. There are the oak and the opaque ilex, the pine and the poplar, the dark, funereal cypress, the bright flower of the too-short-lived rose, and the sweet-scented bed of violets. There are the olive groves of Venafrum. Most lovely of sights and most beautiful of figures, there is the purple-clustered vine of vari-colored autumn wedded to the elm. There is the bachelor plane-tree. There are the long-horned, grey-flanked, dark-muzzled, liquid-eyed cattle, grazing under the peaceful skies of the Campagna or enjoying in the meadow their holiday freedom from the plow; the same cattle that Carducci sings—

"In the grave sweetness of whose tranquil eyes Of emerald, broad and still reflected, dwells All the divine green silence of the plain."

We are made to see the sterile rust on the corn, and to feel the blazing heat of dog-days, when not a breath stirs as the languid shepherd leads his flock to the banks of the stream. The sunny pastures of Calabria lie spread before us, we see the yellow Tiber at flood, the rushing Anio, the deep eddyings of Liris' taciturn stream, the secluded valleys of the Apennines, the leaves flying before the wind at the coming of winter, the snow-covered uplands of the Alban hills, the mead sparkling with hoar-frost at the approach of spring, autumn rearing from the fields her head decorous with mellow fruits, and golden abundance pouring forth from a full horn her treasures upon the land. It is real Italy which Horace cuts on his cameos,—real landscape, real flowers and fruits, real men.

"What joy there is in these songs!"

writes Andrew Lang, in Letters to Dead Authors, "what delight of life, what an exquisite Hellenic grace of art, what a manly nature to endure, what tenderness and constancy of friendship, what a sense of all that is fair in the glittering stream, the music of the water-fall, the hum of bees, the silvery gray of the olive woods on the hillside! How human are all your verses, Horace! What a pleasure is yours in the straining poplars, swaying in the wind! What gladness you gain from the white crest of Soracte, beheld through the fluttering snowflakes while the logs are being piled higher on the hearth!... None of the Latin poets your fellows, or none but Virgil, seem to me to have known as well as you, Horace, how happy and fortunate a thing it was to be born in Italy. You do not say so, like your Virgil, in one splendid passage, numbering the glories of the land as a lover might count the perfections of his mistress. But the sentiment is ever in your heart, and often on your lips. 'Me neither resolute Sparta nor the rich Larissaean plain so enraptures as the fane of echoing Albunea, the headlong Anio, the grove of Tibur, the orchards watered by the wandering rills.' So a poet should speak, and to every singer his own land should be dearest. Beautiful is Italy, with the grave and delicate outlines of her sacred hills, her dark groves, her little cities perched like eyries on the crags, her rivers gliding under ancient walls: beautiful is Italy, her seas and her suns."


Again, in its visualization of the life of Italy, Horace's art is no less clear than in the presentation of her scenery. Where else may be seen so many vivid incidental pictures of men at their daily occupations of work or play? In Satire and Epistle this is to be expected, though there are satirists and writers of letters who never transfer the colors of life to their canvas; but the lyrics, too, are kaleidoscopic with scenes from the daily round of human life. We are given fleeting but vivid glimpses into the career of merchant and sailor. We see the sportsman in chase of the boar, the rustic setting snares for the greedy thrush, the serenader under the casement, the plowman at his ingleside, the anxious mother at the window on the cliff, never taking her eyes from the curved shore, the husbandman passing industrious days on his own hillside, tilling his own acres with his own oxen, and training the vine to the unwedded tree, the young men of the hill-towns carrying bundles of fagots along rocky slopes, the rural holiday and its festivities, the sun-browned wife making ready the evening meal against the coming of the tired peasant. We are shown all the quaint and quiet life of the countryside.

The page is often golden with homely precept or tale of the sort which for all time has been natural to farmer folk. There is the story of the country mouse and the town mouse, the fox and the greedy weasel that ate until he could not pass through the crack by which he came, the rustic who sat and waited for the river to get by, the horse that called man to aid him against the stag, and received the bit forever. The most formal and dignified of the Odes are not without the mellow charm of Italian landscape and the genial warmth of Italian life. Even in the first six Odes of the third book, often called the Inaugural Odes, we get such glimpses as the vineyard and the hailstorm, the Campus Martius on election day, the soldier knowing no fear, cheerful amid hardships under the open sky, the restless Adriatic, the Bantine headlands and the low-lying Forentum of the poet's infancy, the babe in the wood of Voltur, the Latin hill-towns, the craven soldier of Crassus, and the stern patriotism of Regulus. Without these the Inaugurals would be but barren and cold, to say nothing of the splendid outburst against the domestic degradation of the time, so full of color and heat and picturesqueness:

'Twas not the sons of parents such as these That tinged with Punic blood the rolling seas, Laid low the cruel Hannibal, and brought Great Pyrrhus and Antiochus to naught;

But the manly brood of rustic soldier folk, Taught, when the mother or the father spoke The word austere, obediently to wield The heavy mattock in the Sabine field,

Or cut and bear home fagots from the height, As mountain shadows deepened into night, And the sun's car, departing down the west, Brought to the wearied steer the friendly rest.


Still farther, Horace is an eloquent interpreter of the religion of the countryside. He knows, of course, the gods of Greece and the East,—Venus of Cythera and Paphos, of Eryx and Cnidus, Mercury, deity of gain and benefactor of men, Diana, Lady of the mountain and the glade, Delian Apollo, who bathes his unbound locks in the pure waters of Castalia, and Juno, sister and consort of fulminating Jove. He is impressed by the glittering pomp of religious processions winding their way to the summit of the Capitol. In all this, and even in the emperor-worship, now in its first stages at Rome and more political than religious, he acquiesces, though he may himself be a sparing frequenter of the abodes of worship. For him, as for Cicero, religion is one of the social and civic proprieties, a necessary part of the national mechanism.

But the great Olympic deities do not really stir Horace's enthusiasm, or even evoke his warm sympathy. The only Ode in which he prays to one of them with really fervent heart stands alone among all the odes to the national gods. He petitions the great deity of healing and poetry for what we know is most precious to him:

"When, kneeling at Apollo's shrine, The bard from silver goblet pours Libations due of votive wine, What seeks he, what implores?

"Not harvests from Sardinia's shore; Not grateful herds that crop the lea In hot Calabria; not a store Of gold, and ivory;

"Not those fair lands where slow and deep Thro' meadows rich and pastures gay Thy silent waters, Liris, creep, Eating the marge away.

"Let him to whom the gods award Calenian vineyards prune the vine; The merchant sell his balms and nard, And drain the precious wine

"From cups of gold—to Fortune dear Because his laden argosy Crosses, unshattered, thrice a year The storm-vexed Midland sea.

"Ripe berries from the olive bough, Mallows and endives, be my fare. Son of Latona, hear my vow! Apollo, grant my prayer!

"Health to enjoy the blessings sent From heaven; a mind unclouded, strong; A cheerful heart; a wise content; An honored age; and song."

This is not the prayer of the city-bred formalist. It reflects the heart of humble breeding and sympathies. For the faith which really sets the poet aglow we must go into the fields and hamlets of Italy, among the householders who were the descendants of the long line of Italian forefathers that had worshiped from time immemorial the same gods at the same altars in the same way. They were not the gods of yesterday, imported from Greece and Egypt, and splendid with display, but the simple gods of farm and fold native to the soil of Italy. Whatever his conception of the logic of it all, Horace felt a powerful appeal as he contemplated the picturesqueness of the worship and the simplicity of the worshiper, and reflected upon its genuineness and purity as contrasted with what his worldly wisdom told him of the heart of the urban worshiper.

Horace may entertain a well-bred skepticism of Jupiter's thunderbolt, and he may pass the jest on the indifference of the Epicurean gods to the affairs of men. When he does so, it is with the gods of mythology and literature he is dealing, not with really religious gods. For the old-fashioned faith of the country he entertains only the kindliest regard. The images that rise in his mind at the mention of religion pure and undefiled are not the gaudy spectacles to be seen in the marbled streets of the capital. They are images of incense rising in autumn from the ancient altar on the home-stead, of the feast of the Terminalia with its slain lamb, of libations of ruddy wine and offerings of bright flowers on the clear waters of some ancestral spring, of the simple hearth of the farmhouse, of the family table resplendent with the silver salinum, heirloom of generations, from which the grave paterfamilias makes the pious offering of crackling salt and meal to little gods crowned with rosemary and myrtle, of the altar beneath the pine to the Virgin goddess, of Faunus the shepherd-god, in the humor of wooing, roaming the sunny farmfields in quest of retreating wood-nymphs, of Priapus the garden-god, and Silvanus, guardian of boundaries, and, most of all, and typifying all, of the faith of rustic Phidyle, with clean hands and a pure heart raising palms to heaven at the new of the moon, and praying for the full-hanging vine, thrifty fields of corn, and unblemished lambs. Of the religious life represented by these, Horace is no more tempted to make light than he is tempted to delineate the Italian rustic as De Maupassant does the French,—as an amusing animal, with just enough of the human in his composition to make him ludicrous.


Finally, in the homely, unconventional wisdom which fills Satire and Epistle and sparkles from the Odes, Horace is again the national interpreter. The masses of Rome or Italy had little consciously to do with either Stoicism or Epicureanism. Their philosophy was vigorous common sense, and was learned from living, not from conning books. Horace, too, for all his having been a student of formal philosophy in Athens, for all his professed faith in philosophy as a boon for rich and poor and old and young, and for all his inclination to yield to the natural human impulse toward system and adopt the philosophy of one of the Schools, is a consistent follower of neither Stoic nor Epicurean. Both systems attracted him by their virtues, and both repelled him because of their weaknesses. His half-humorous confession of wavering allegiance is only a reflection of the shiftings of a mind open to the appeal of both:

And, lest you inquire under what guide or to what hearth I look for safety, I will tell you that I am sworn to obedience in no master's formula, but am a guest in whatever haven the tempest sweeps me to. Now I am full of action and deep in the waves of civic life, an unswerving follower and guardian of the true virtue, now I secretly backslide to the precepts of Aristippus, and try to bend circumstance to myself, not myself to circumstance.

Horace is either Stoic or Epicurean, or neither, or both. The character of philosophy depends upon definition of terms, and Epicureanism with Horace's definitions of pleasure and duty differed little in practical working from Stoicism. In profession, he was more of the Epicurean; in practice, more of the Stoic. His philosophy occupies ground between both, or, rather, ground common to both. It admits of no name. It is not a system. It owes its resemblances to either of the Schools more to his own nature than to his familiarity with them, great as that was.

The foundations of Horace's philosophy were laid before he ever heard of the Schools. Its basis was a habit of mind acquired by association with his father and the people of Venusia, and with the ordinary people of Rome. Under the influence of reading, study, and social converse at Athens, under the stress of experience in the field, and from long contemplation of life in the large in the capital of an empire, it crystallized into a philosophy of life. The term "philosophy" is misleading in Horace's case. It suggests books and formulae and externals. What Horace read in books did not all remain for him the dead philosophy of ink and paper; what was in tune with his nature he assimilated, to become philosophy in action, philosophy which really was the guide of life. His faith in it is unfeigned:

Thus does the time move slowly and ungraciously which hinders me from the active realization of what, neglected, is a harm to young and old alike.... The envious man, the ill-tempered, the indolent, the wine-bibber, the too free lover,—no mortal, in short, is so crude that his nature cannot be made more gentle if only he will lend a willing ear to cultivation.

The occasional phraseology of the Schools which Horace employs should not mislead. It is for the most part the convenient dress for truth discovered for himself through experience; or it may be literary ornament. The humorous and not unsatiric lines to his poet-friend Albius Tibullus,—"when you want a good laugh, come and see me; you will find me fat and sleek and my skin well cared for, a pig from the sty of Epicurus,"—are as easily the jest of a Stoic as the confession of an Epicurean. Horace's philosophy is individual and natural, and representative of Roman common sense rather than any School.


A word should be said here regarding the frequent use of the word "Hellenic" in connection with Horace's genius. Among the results of his higher education, it is natural that none should be more prominent to the eye than the influence of Greek letters upon his work; but to call Horace Greek is to be blinded to the essential by the presence in his poems of Greek form and Greek allusion. It would be as little reasonable to call a Roman triumphal arch Greek because it displays column, architrave, or a facing of marble from Greece. What makes Roman architecture stand is not ornament, but Roman concrete and the Roman vault. Horace is Greek as Milton is Hebraic or Roman, or as Shakespeare is Italian.



A great source of the richness of personality which constitutes Horace's principal charm is to be found in his contemplative disposition. His attitude toward the universal drama is that of the onlooker. As we shall see, he is not without keen interest in the piece, but his prevailing mood is that of mild amusement. In time past, he has himself assumed more than one of the roles, and has known personally many of the actors. He knows perfectly well that there is a great deal of the mask and buskin on the stage of life, and that each man in his time plays many parts. Experience has begotten reflection, and reflection has contributed in turn to experience, until contemplation has passed from diversion to habit.

Horace is another Spectator, except that his "meddling with any practical part in life" has not been so slight:

Thus I live in the world rather as a Spectator of mankind than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part in life. I am very well versed in the theory of a husband, or a father, and can discern the errors in the economy, business, and diversion of others, better than those who are engaged in them: as standers-by discover blots which are apt to escape those who are in the game.

He looks down from his post upon the life of men with as clear vision as Lucretius, whom he admires:

Nothing is sweeter than to dwell in the lofty citadels secure in the wisdom of the sages, thence to look down upon the rest of mankind blindly wandering in mistaken paths in the search for the way of life, striving one with another in the contest of wits, emulous in distinction of birth, night and day straining with supreme effort at length to arrive at the heights of power and become lords of the world.

Farther, Horace is not merely the stander-by contemplating the game in which objective mankind is engaged. He is also a spectator of himself. Horace the poet-philosopher contemplates Horace the man with the same quiet amusement with which he surveys the human family of which he is an inseparable yet detachable part. It is the universal aspect of Horace which is the object of his contemplation,—Horace playing a part together with the rest of mankind in the infinitely diverting comedie humaine. He uses himself, so to speak, for illustrative purposes,—to point the moral of the genuine; to demonstrate the indispensability of hard work as well as genius; to afford concrete proof of the possibility of happiness without wealth. He is almost as objective to himself as the landscape of the Sabine farm. Horace the spectator sees Horace the man against the background of human life just as he sees snow-mantled Soracte, or the cold Digentia, or the restless Adriatic, or leafy Tarentum, or snowy Algidus, or green Venafrum. The clear-cut elegance of his miniatures of Italian scenery is not due to their individual interest, but to their connection with the universal life of man. Description for its own sake is hardly to be found in Horace. In the same way, the vivid glimpses he affords of his own life, person, and character almost never prompt the thought of egotism. The most personal of poets, his expression of self nowhere becomes selfish expression.

But there are spectators who are mere spectators. Horace is more; he is a critic and an interpreter. He looks forth upon life with a keen vision for comparative values, and gives sane and distinct expression to what he sees.

Horace must not be thought of, however, as a censorious or carping critic. His attitude is judicial, and the verdict is seldom other than lenient and kindly. He is not a wasp of Twickenham, not a Juvenal furiously laying about him with a heavy lash, not a Lucilius with the axes of Scipionic patrons to grind, having at the leaders of the people and the people themselves. He is in as little degree an Ennius, composing merely to gratify the taste for entertainment. There are some, as a matter of fact, to whom in satire he seems to go beyond the limit of good-nature. At vice in pronounced form, at all forms of unmanliness, he does indeed strike out, like Lucilius the knight of Campania, his predecessor and pattern, gracious only to virtue and to the friends of virtue; but those whose hands are clean and whose hearts are pure need fear nothing. Even those who are guilty of the ordinary frailties of human kind need fear nothing worse than being good-humoredly laughed at. The objects of Horace's smiling condemnation are not the trifling faults of the individual or the class, but the universal grosser stupidities which poison the sources of life.

The Horace of the Satires and Epistles is better called an essayist. That he is a satirist at all is less by virtue of intention than because of the mere fact that he is a spectator. To look upon life with the eye of understanding is to see men the prey to passions and delusions,—the very comment on which can be nothing else than satire.

And now, what is it that Horace sees as he sits in philosophic detachment on the serene heights of contemplation; and what are his reflections?

The great factor in the character of Horace is his philosophy of life. To define it is to give the meaning of the word Horatian as far as content is concerned, and to trace the thread which more than any other makes his works a unity.


Horace looks forth upon a world of discontented and restless humanity. The soldier, the lawyer, the farmer, the trader, swept over the earth in the passion for gain, like dust in the whirlwind,—all are dissatisfied. Choose anyone you will from the midst of the throng; either with greed for money or with miserable ambition for power, his soul is in travail. Some are dazzled by fine silver, some lose their senses over bronze. Some are ever straining after the prizes of public life. There are many who love not wisely, but too well. Most are engaged in a mad race for money, whether to assure themselves of retirement and ease in old age, or out of the sportsman's desire to outstrip their rivals in the course. As many as are mortal men, so many are the objects of their pursuit.

And, over and about all men, by reason of their bondage to avarice, ambition, appetite, and passion, hovers Black Care. It flits above their sleepless eyes in the panelled ceiling of the darkened palace, it sits behind them on the courser as they rush into battle, it dogs them as they are at the pleasures of the bronze-trimmed yacht. It pursues them everywhere, swifter than the deer, swifter than the wind that drives before it the storm-cloud. Not even those who are most happy are entirely so. No lot is wholly blest. Perfect happiness is unattainable. Tithonus, with the gift of ever-lasting life, wasted away in undying old age. Achilles, with every charm of youthful strength and gallantry, was doomed to early death. Not even the richest are content. Something is always lacking in the midst of abundance, and desire more than keeps pace with satisfaction.

Nor are the multitude less enslaved to their desires than the few. Glory drags bound to her glittering chariot-wheels the nameless as well as the nobly-born. The poor are as inconstant as the rich. What of the man who is not rich? You may well smile. He changes from garret to garret, from bed to bed, from bath to bath and barber to barber, and is just as seasick in a hired boat as the wealthy man on board his private yacht.

And not only are all men the victims of insatiable desire, but all are alike subject to the uncertainties of fate. Insolent Fortune without notice flutters her swift wings and leaves them. Friends prove faithless, once the cask is drained to the lees. Death, unforeseen and unexpected, lurks in ambush for them in a thousand places. Some are swallowed up by the greedy sea. Some the Furies give to destruction in the grim spectacle of war. Without respect of age or person, the ways of death are thronged with young and old. Cruel Proserpina passes no man by.

Even they who for the time escape the object of their dread must at last face the inevitable. Invoked or not invoked, Death comes to release the lowly from toil, and to strip the proud of power. The same night awaits all; everyone must tread once for all the path of death. The summons is delivered impartially at the hovels of the poor and the turreted palaces of the rich. The dark stream must be crossed by prince and peasant alike. Eternal exile is the lot of all, whether nameless and poor, or sprung of the line of Inachus:

Alas! my Postumus, alas! how speed The passing years: nor can devotion's deed Stay wrinkled age one moment on its way, Nor stay one moment death's appointed day;

Not though with thrice a hundred oxen slain Each day thou prayest Pluto to refrain, The unmoved by tears, who threefold Geryon drave, And Tityus, beneath the darkening wave.

The wave we all must one day surely sail Who live and breathe within this mortal vale, Whether our lot with princely rich to fare, Whether the peasant's lowly life to share.

In vain for us from murderous Mars to flee, In vain to shun the storms of Hadria's sea, In vain to fear the poison-laden breath Of Autumn's sultry south-wind, fraught with death;

Adown the wandering stream we all must go, Adown Cocytus' waters, black and slow; The ill-famed race of Danaus all must see, And Sisyphus, from labors never free.

All must be left,—lands, home, beloved wife,— All left behind when we have done with life; One tree alone, of all thou holdest dear, Shall follow thee,—the cypress, o'er thy bier!

Thy wiser heir will soon drain to their lees The casks now kept beneath a hundred keys; The proud old Caecuban will stain the floor, More fit at pontiffs' solemn feasts to pour.

Nor is there a beyond filled with brightness for the victim of fate to look to. Orcus is unpitying. Mercury's flock of souls is of sable hue, and Proserpina's realm is the hue of the dusk. Black Care clings to poor souls even beyond the grave. Dull and persistent, it is the only substantial feature of the insubstantial world of shades. Sappho still sighs there for love of her maiden companions, the plectrum of Alcaeus sounds its chords only to songs of earthly hardships by land and sea, Prometheus and Tantalus find no surcease from the pangs of torture, Sisyphus ever rolls the returning stone, and the Danaids fill the ever-emptying jars.


The picture is dark with shadow, and must be relieved with light and color. The hasty conclusion should not be drawn that this is the philosophy of gloom. The tone of Horace is neither that of the cheerless skeptic nor that of the despairing pessimist. He does not rise from his contemplation with the words or the feeling of Lucretius:

O miserable minds of men, O blind hearts! In what obscurity and in what dangers is passed this uncertain little existence of yours!

He would have agreed with the philosophy of pessimism that life contains striving and pain, but he would not have shared in the gloom of a Schopenhauer, who in all will sees action, in all action want, in all want pain, who looks upon pain as the essential condition of will, and sees no end of suffering except in the surrender of the will to live. The vanity of human wishes is no secret to Horace, but life is not to him "a soap-bubble which we blow out as long and as large as possible, though each of us knows perfectly well it must sooner or later burst."

No, life may have its inevitable pains and its inevitable end, but it is far more substantial in composition than a bubble. For those who possess the secret of detecting and enjoying them, it contains solid goods in abundance.

What is the secret?

The first step toward enjoyment of the human lot is acquiescence. Of course existence has its evils and bitter end, but these are minimized for the man who frankly faces them, and recognizes the futility of struggling against the fact. How much better to endure whatever our lot shall impose. Quintilius is dead: it is hard; but patience makes lighter the ill that fate will not suffer us to correct.

And then, when we have once yielded, and have ceased to look upon perfect happiness as a possibility, or upon any measure of happiness as a right to be demanded, we are in position to take the second step; namely, to make wise use of life's advantages:

Mid all thy hopes and all thy cares, mid all thy wraths and fears, Think every shining day that dawns the period to thy years. The hour that comes unlooked for is the hour that doubly cheers.

Because there are many things to make life a pleasure. There is the solace of literature; Black Care is lessened by song. There are the riches of philosophy, there is the diversion of moving among men. There are the delights of the country and the town. Above all, there are friends with whom to share the joy of mere living in Italy. For what purpose, if not to enjoy, are the rose, the pine, and the poplar, the gushing fountain, the generous wine of Formian hill and Massic slope, the villa by the Tiber, the peaceful and healthful seclusion of the Sabines, the pleasing change from the sharp winter to the soft zephyrs of spring, the apple-bearing autumn,—"season of mists and mellow fruitfulness"? What need to be unhappy in the midst of such a world?

And the man who is wise will not only recognize the abounding possibilities about him, but will seize upon them before they vanish. Who knows whether the gods above will add a tomorrow to the to-day? Be glad, and lay hand upon the gifts of the passing hour! Take advantage of the day, and have no silly faith in the morrow. It is as if Omar were translating Horace:

"Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit 0f This and That endeavor and dispute; Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.

"Ah! fill the Cup: what boots it to repeat How Time is slipping underneath our Feet: Unborn tomorrow, and dead yesterday, Why fret about them if today be sweet!"

The goods of existence must be enjoyed here and now, or never, for all must be left behind. What once is enjoyed is forever our very own. Happy is the man who can say, at each day's close, "I have lived!" The day is his, and cannot be recalled. Let Jove overcast with black cloud the heavens of to-morrow, or let him make it bright with clear sunshine,—as he pleases; what the flying hour of to-day has already given us he never can revoke. Life is a stream, now gliding peacefully onward in mid-channel to the Tuscan sea, now tumbling upon its swirling bosom the wreckage of flood and storm. The pitiful human being on its banks, ever looking with greedy expectation up the stream, or with vain regret at what is past, is left at last with nothing at all. The part of wisdom and of happiness is to keep eyes on that part of the stream directly before us, the only part which is ever really seen.

You see how, deep with gleaming snow, Soracte stands, and, bending low, Yon branches droop beneath their burden, And streams o'erfrozen have ceased their flow.

Away with cold! the hearth pile high With blazing logs; the goblet ply With cheering Sabine, Thaliarchus; Draw from the cask of long years gone by.

All else the gods entrust to keep, Whose nod can lull the winds to sleep, Vexing the ash and cypress aged, Or battling over the boiling deep.

Seek not to pierce the morrow's haze, But for the moment render praise; Nor spurn the dance, nor love's sweet passion, Ere age draws on with its joyless days.

Now should the campus be your joy, And whispered loves your lips employ, What time the twilight shadows gather, And tryst you keep with the maiden coy.

From near-by nook her laugh makes plain Where she had meant to hide, in vain! How arch her struggles o'er the token From yielding which she can scarce refrain!


But Horace's Epicureanism never goes to the length of Omar's. He would have shrunk from the Persian as extreme:

"YESTERDAY This Day's Madness did prepare, TOMORROW'S Silence, Triumph, or Despair, Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why: Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where."

The Epicureanism of Horace is more nearly that of Epicurus himself, the saintly recluse who taught that "to whom little is not enough, nothing is enough," and who regarded plain living as at the same time a duty and a happiness. The lives of too liberal disciples have been a slander on the name of Epicurus. Horace is not among them. With degenerate Epicureans, whose philosophy permitted them "To roll with pleasure in a sensual sty," he had little in common. The extraction from life of the honey of enjoyment was indeed the highest purpose, but the purpose could never be realized without the exercise of discrimination, moderation, and a measure of spiritual culture. Life was an art, symmetrical, unified, reposeful,—like the poem of perfect art, or the statue, or the temple. In actual conduct, the hedonist of the better type differed little from the Stoic himself.

The gracious touch and quiet humor with which Horace treats even the most serious themes are often misleading. This effect is the more possible by reason of the presence among his works of passages, not many and for the most part youthful, in which he is guilty of too great freedom.

Horace is really a serious person. He is even something of a preacher, a praiser of the time when he was a boy, a censor and corrector of his youngers. So far as popular definitions of Stoic and Epicurean are concerned, he is much more the former than the latter.

For Horace's counsel is always for moderation, and sometimes for austerity. He is not a wine-bibber, and he is not a total abstainer. To be the latter on principle would never have occurred to him. The vine was the gift of God. Prefer nothing to it for planting in the mellow soil of Tibur, Varus; it is one of the compensations of life:

"Its magic power of wit can spread The halo round a dullard's head, Can make the sage forget his care, His bosom's inmost thoughts unbare, And drown his solemn-faced pretense Beneath its blithesome influence. Bright hope it brings and vigor back To minds outworn upon the rack, And puts such courage in the brain As makes the poor be men again, Whom neither tyrants' wrath affrights, Nor all their bristling satellites."

When wine is a curse, it is not so because of itself, but because of excess in its use. The cup was made for purposes of pleasure, but to quarrel over it,—leave that to barbarians! Take warning by the Thracians, and the Centaurs and Lapiths, never to overstep the bounds of moderation. Pleasure with after-taste of bitterness is not real pleasure. Pleasure purchased with pain is an evil.

Upon women he looks with the same philosophic calm as upon wine. Love, too, was to be regarded as one of the contributions to life's pleasure. To dally with golden-haired Pyrrha, with Lyce, or with Glycera, the beauty more brilliant than Parian marble, was not in his eyes to be blamed in itself. What he felt no hesitation in committing to his poems for friends and the Emperor to read, they on their part felt as little hesitation in confessing to him. The fault of love lay not in itself, but in abuse. This is not said of adultery, which was always an offense because it disturbed the institution of marriage and rotted the foundation of society.

There is thus no inconsistency in the Horace of the love poems and the Horace of the Secular Hymn who petitions Our Lady Juno to prosper the decrees of the Senate encouraging the marriage relation and the rearing of families. Of the illicit love that looked to Roman women in the home, he emphatically declares his innocence, and against it directs the last and most powerful of the six Inaugural Odes; for this touched the family, and, through the family, the State. This, with neglect of religion, he classes together as the two great causes of national decay.

Horace is not an Ovid, with no sense of the limits of either indulgence or expression. He is not a Catullus, tormented by the furies of youthful passion. The flame never really burned him. We search his pages in vain for evidence of sincere and absorbing passion, whether of the flesh or of the spirit. He was guilty of no breach of the morals of his time, and it is likely also, in spite of Suetonius, that he was guilty of no excess. He was a supporter in good faith of the Emperor in his attempts at the moral improvement of the State. If Virgil in the writing of the Georgics or the Aeneid was conscious of a purpose to second the project of Augustus, it is just as likely that his intimate friend Horace also wrote with conscious moral intent. Nothing is more in keeping with his conception of the end and effect of literature:

It shapes the tender and hesitating speech of the child; it straight removes his ear from shameless communication; presently with friendly precepts it moulds his inner self; it is a corrector of harshness and envy and anger; it sets forth the righteous deed; it instructs the rising generations with the familiar example; it is a solace to the helpless and the sick at heart.


Horace's philosophy of life is thus based upon something deeper than the principle of seizing upon pleasure. His definition of pleasure is not without austerity; he preaches the positive virtues of performance as well as the negative virtue of moderation. He could be an unswerving follower and guardian of true virtue, and could bend self to circumstance.

He stands for domestic purity, and for patriotic devotion. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,—to die for country is a privilege and a glory. His hero is Regulus, returning steadfastly through the ranks of protesting friends to keep faith with the pitiless executioners of Carthage. Regulus, and the Scauri, and Paulus, who poured out his great spirit on the disastrous field of Cannae, and Fabricius, of simple heart and absolute integrity, he holds up as examples to his generation. In praise of the sturdy Roman qualities of courage and steadfastness he writes his most inspired lines:

The righteous man of unswerving purpose is shaken in his solid will neither by the unworthy demands of inflamed citizens, nor by the frowning face of the threatening tyrant, nor by the East-wind, turbid ruler of the restless Adriatic, nor by the great hand of fulminating Jove himself. If the heavens should fall asunder, the crashing fragments would descend upon him unterrified.

He preaches the gospel of faithfulness not only to family, country, and purpose, but to religion. He will shun the man who violates the secrets of the mysteries. The curse of the gods is upon all such, and pursues them to the day of doom.

Faithfulness to friendship stands out with no less distinctness. While Horace is in his right mind, he will value nothing so highly as a delightful friend. He is ready, whenever fate calls, to enter with Maecenas even upon the last journey. Among the blest is he who is unafraid to die for dear friends or native land.

Honor, too,—the fine spirit of old Roman times, that refused bribes, that would not take advantage of an enemy's weakness, that asked no questions save the question of what was right, that never turned its back upon duty, that swore to its own hurt and changed not; the same lofty spirit the recording of whose manifestations never fails to bring the glow to Livy's cheek and the gleam to his eye,—honor is also first and foremost in Horace's esteem. Regulus, the self-sacrificing; Curius, despising the Samnite gold; Camillus, yielding private grievance to come to his country's aid; Cato, dying for his convictions after Thapsus, are his inspirations. The hero of his ideal fears disgrace worse than death. The diadem and the laurel are for him only who can pass on without the backward glance upon stores of treasure.

Finally, not least among the qualities which enter into the ideal of Horace is the simplicity of the olden time, when the armies of Rome were made up of citizen-soldiers, and the eye of every Roman was single to the glory of the State, and the selfishness of luxury was yet unknown.

Scant were their private means, the public, great; 'Twas still a commonwealth, that State; No portico, surveyed with private rule, Assured one man the shady cool.

The laws approved the house of humble sods; 'Twas only to the homes of gods, The structures reared with earnings of the nation, They gave rich marble decoration.

The healthful repose of heart which comes from unity of purpose and simple devotion to plain duty, he sees existing still, even in his own less strenuous age, in the remote and peaceful countryside. Blessed is the man far from the busy life of affairs, like the primeval race of mortals, who tills with his own oxen the acres of his fathers! Horace covets the gift earnestly for himself, because his calm vision assures him that it, of all the virtues, lies next to happy living.


Here we have arrived at the kernel of Horace's philosophy, the key which unlocks the casket containing his message to all men of every generation. In actual life, at least, mankind storms the citadel of happiness, as if it were something material and external, to be taken by violent hands. Horace locates the citadels of happiness in his own breast. It is the heart which is the source of all joy and all sorrow, of all wealth and all poverty. Happiness is to be sought, not outside, but within. Man does not create his world; he is his world.

Men are madly chasing after peace of heart in a thousand wrong ways, all the while over-looking the right way, which is nearest at hand. To observe their feverish eagerness, the spectator might be led to think happiness identical with possession. And yet wealth and happiness are neither the same nor equivalent. They may have nothing to do one with the other. Money, indeed, is not an evil in itself, but it is not essential except so far as it is a mere means of life. Poor men may be happy, and the wealthy may be poor in the midst of their riches. A man's wealth consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth. More justly does he lay claim to the name of rich man who knows how to use the blessings of the gods wisely, who is bred to endurance of hard want, and who fears the disgraceful action worse than he fears death.

Real happiness consists in peace of mind and heart. Everyone desires it, and everyone prays for it,—the sailor caught in the storms of the Aegean, the mad Thracian, the Mede with quiver at his back. But peace is not to be purchased. Neither gems nor purple nor gold will buy it, nor favor. Not all the externals in the world can help the man who depends upon them alone.

Not treasure trove nor consul's stately train Drives wretched tumult from the troubled brain; Swarming with cares that draw unceasing sighs, The fretted ceiling hangs o'er sleepless eyes.

Nor is peace to be pursued and laid hold of, or discovered in some other clime. Of what avail to fly to lands warmed by other suns? What exile ever escaped himself? It is the soul that is at fault, that never can be freed from its own bonds. The sky is all he changes:

The heavens, not themselves, they change Who haste to cross the seas.

The happiness men seek for is in themselves, to be found at little Ulubrae in the Latin marshes as easily as in great cities, if only they have the proper attitude of mind and heart.

But how insure this peace of mind?

At the very beginning, and through to the end, the searcher after happiness must recognize that unhappiness is the result of slavery of some sort, and that slavery in turn is begotten of desire. The man who is overfond of anything will be unwilling to let go his hold upon it. Desire will curb his freedom. The only safety lies in refusing the rein to passion of any kind. "To gaze upon nothing to lust after it, Numicius, is the simple way of winning and of keeping happiness." He who lives in either desire or fear can never enjoy his possessions. He who desires will also fear; and he who fears can never be a free man. The wise man will not allow his desires to become tyrants over him. Money will be his servant, not his master. He will attain to wealth by curbing his wants. You will be monarch over broader realms by dominating your spirit than by adding Libya to far-off Gades.

The poor man, in spite of poverty, may enjoy life more than the rich. It is possible under a humble roof to excel in happiness kings and the friends of kings. Wealth depends upon what men want, not upon what men have. The more a man denies himself, the greater are the gifts of the gods to him. One may hold riches in contempt, and thus be a more splendid lord of wealth than the great landowner of Apulia. By contracting his desires he may extend his revenues until they are more than those of the gorgeous East. Many wants attend those who have many ambitions. Happy is the man to whom God has given barely enough. Let him to whom fate, fortune, or his own effort has given this enough, desire no more. If the liquid stream of Fortune should gild him, it would make his happiness nothing greater, because money cannot change his nature. To the man who has good digestion and good lungs and is free from gout, the riches of a king could add nothing. What difference does it make to him who lives within the limits of nature whether he plow a hundred acres or a thousand?

As with the passion of greed, so with anger, love, ambition for power, and all the other forms of desire which lodge in the human heart. Make them your slaves, or they will make you theirs. Like wrath, they are all forms of madness. The man who becomes avaricious has thrown away the armor of life, has abandoned the post of virtue. Once let a man submit to desire of an unworthy kind, and he will find himself in the case of the horse that called a rider to help him drive the stag from their common feeding-ground, and received the bit and rein forever.

So Horace will enter into no entangling alliances with ambition for power, wealth, or position, or with the more personal passions. By some of them he has not been altogether untouched, and he has not regret; but to continue, at forty-five, would not do. He will be content with just his home in the Sabine hills. This is what he always prayed for, a patch of ground, not so very large, with a spring of ever-flowing water, a garden, and a little timberland. He asks for nothing more, except that a kindly fate will make these beloved possessions forever his own. He will go to the ant, for she is an example, and consider her ways and be wise, and be content with what he has as soon as it is enough. He will not enter the field of public life, because it would mean the sacrifice of peace. He would have to keep open house, submit to the attentions of a body-guard of servants, keep horses and carriage and a coachman, and be the target for shafts of envy and malice; in a word, lose his freedom and become the slave of wretched and burdensome ambition.

The price is too great, the privilege not to his liking. Horace's prayer is rather to be freed from the cares of empty ambition, from the fear of death and the passion of anger, to laugh at superstition, to enjoy the happy return of his birthday, to be forgiving of his friends, to grow more gentle and better as old age draws on, to recognize the proper limit in all things:

"Health to enjoy the blessings sent From heaven; a mind unclouded, strong; A cheerful heart; a wise content; An honored age; and song."



Thus much we have had to say in the interpretation of Horace. Our interpretation has centered about his qualities as a person: his broad experience, his sensitiveness, his responsiveness, his powers of assimilation, his gift of expression, his concreteness as a representative of the world of culture, as a son of Italy, as a citizen of eternal Rome, as a member of the universal human family.

Let us now tell the story of Horace in the life of after times. It will include an account of the esteem in which he was held while still in the flesh; of the fame he enjoyed and the influence he exercised until Rome as a great empire was no more and the Roman tongue and Roman spirit alike were decayed; of the way in which his works were preserved intact through obscure centuries of ignorance and turmoil; and of their second birth when men began to delight once more in the luxuries of the mind. This will prepare the way for a final chapter, on the peculiar quality and manner of the Horatian influence.


Horace is aware of his qualities as a poet. In an interesting blend, of which the first and larger part is detached and judicial estimation of his work, a second part literary convention, and the third and least a smiling and inoffensive self-assertion, he prophesies his own immortality.

From infancy he has been set apart as the child of the Muses. At birth Melpomene marked him for her own. The doves of ancient story covered him over with the green leaves of the Apulian wood as, lost and overcome by weariness, he lay in peaceful slumber, and kept him safe from creeping and four-footed things, a babe secure in the favor of heaven. The sacred charm that rests upon him preserved him in the rout at Philippi, rescued him from the Sabine wolf, saved him from death by the falling tree and the waters of shipwreck. He will abide under its shadow wherever he may go,—to his favorite haunts in Latium, to the far north where fierce Britons offer up the stranger to their gods, to the far east and the blazing sands of the Syrian desert, to rude Spain and the streams of Scythia, to the treeless, naked fields of the frozen pole, to homeless lands under the fiery car of the too-near sun. He will rise superior to the envy of men. The pinions that bear him aloft through the clear ether will be of no usual or flagging sort. For him there shall be no death, no Stygian wave across which none returns:

Forego the dirge; let no one raise the cry, Or make unseemly show of grief and gloom, Nor think o'er me, who shall not really die, To rear the empty honor of the tomb.

His real self will remain among men, ever springing afresh in their words of praise:

Not lasting bronze nor pyramid upreared By princes shall outlive my powerful rhyme. The monument I build, to men endeared, Not biting rain, nor raging wind, nor time, Endlessly flowing through the countless years, Shall e'er destroy. I shall not wholly die; The grave shall have of me but what appears; For me fresh praise shall ever multiply. As long as priest and silent Vestal wind The Capitolian steep, tongues shall tell o'er How humble Horace rose above his kind Where Aufidus's rushing waters roar In the parched land where rustic Daunus reigned, And first taught Grecian numbers how to run In Latin measure. Muse! the honor gained Is thine, for I am thine till time is done. Gracious Melpomene, O hear me now, And with the Delphic bay gird round my brow.

Yet Horace does not always refer to his poetry in this serious vein; if indeed we are to call serious a manner of literary prophecy which has always been more or less conventional. His frequent disclaimers of the higher inspiration are well known. The Muse forbids him to attempt the epic strain or the praise of Augustus and Agrippa. In the face of grand themes like these, his genius is slight. He will not essay even the strain of Simonides in the lament for an Empire stained by land and sea with the blood of fratricidal war. His themes shall be rather the feast and the mimic battles of revelling youths and maidens, the making of love in the grots of Venus. His lyre shall be jocose, his plectrum of the lighter sort.

He not only half-humorously disclaims the capacity for lofty themes, but, especially as he grows older and more philosophic, and perhaps less lyric, half-seriously attributes whatever he does to persevering effort. He has

"Nor the pride nor ample pinion That the Theban eagle bear, Sailing with supreme dominion Through the azure deep of air;"

he is the bee, with infinite industry flitting from flower to flower, the unpretending maker of verse, fashioning his songs with only toil and patience. He believes in the file, in long delay before giving forth to the world the poem that henceforth can never be recalled. The only inspiration he claims for Satire and Epistle, which, he says, approximate the style of spoken discourse, lies in the aptness and patience with which he fashions his verses from language in ordinary use, giving to words new dignity by means of skillful combination. Let anyone who wishes to be convinced undertake to do the same; he will find himself perspiring in a vain attempt.

And if Horace did not always conceive of his inspiration as purely ethereal, neither did he always dream of the path to immortality as leading through the spacious reaches of the upper air. At forty-four, he is already aware of a more pedestrian path. He has observed the ways of the public with literature, as any writer must observe them still, and knows also of a certain use to which his poems are being put. Perhaps with some secret pride, but surely with a philosophic resignation that is like good-humored despair, he sees that the path is pedagogical. In reproachful tones, he addresses the book of Epistles that is so eager to try its fortune in the big world: But if the prophet is not blinded by disgust at your foolishness, you will be prized at Rome until the charm of youth has left you. Then, soiled and worn by much handling of the common crowd, you will either silently give food to vandal worms, or seek exile in Utica, or be tied up and sent to Ilerda. The monitor you did not heed will laugh, like the man who sent his balky ass headlong over the cliff; for who would trouble to save anyone against his will? This lot, too, you may expect: for a stammering old age to come upon you teaching children to read in the out-of-the-way parts of town.


That Horace refers to being pointed out by the passer-by as the minstrel of the Roman lyre, or, in other words, as the laureate, that his satire provokes sufficient criticism to draw from him a defense and a justification of himself against the charge of cynicism, and that he finally records a greater freedom from the tooth of envy, are all indications of the prominence to which he rose. That Virgil and Varius, poets of recognized worth, and their friend Plotius Tucca, third of the whitest souls of earth, introduced him to the attention of Maecenas, and that the discriminating lover of excellence became his patron and made him known to Augustus, are evidences of the appeal of which he was capable both as poet and man. In the many names of worthy and distinguished men of letters and affairs to whom he addresses the individual poems, and with whom he must therefore have been on terms of mutual respect, is seen a further proof. Even Virgil contains passages disclosing a more than ordinary familiarity with Horace's work, and men like Ovid and Propertius, of whose personal relations with Horace nothing is known, not only knew but absorbed his poems.

If still further evidence of Horace's worth is required, it may be seen in his being invited to commemorate the exploits of Drusus and Tiberius, the royal stepsons, against the hordes of the North, and the greatness of Augustus himself, ever-present help of Italy, and imperial Rome; and in the Emperor's expression of disappointment, sometime before the second book of Epistles was published, that he had been mentioned in none of the "Talks." And, finally, if there remained in the minds of his generation any shadow of doubt as to the esteem in which he was held by the foremost men in the State, who were in most cases men of letters as well as patrons of letters, it was dispelled when, in the year 17, Horace was chosen to write the Secular Hymn, for use in the greatest religious and patriotic festival of the times.

These facts receive greater significance from an appreciation of the poet's sincerity and independence. He will restore to Maecenas his gifts, if their possession is to mean a curb upon the freedom of living his nature calls for. He declines a secretaryship to the Emperor himself, and without offense to his imperial friend, who bids him be free of his house as if it were his own.

But Horace must submit also to the more impartial judgment of time. Of the two innovations which gave him relief against the general background, one was the amplification of the crude but vigorous satire of Lucilius into a more perfect literary character, and the other was the persuasion of the Greek lyric forms into Roman service. Both examples had their important effects within the hundred years that followed on Horace's death.

The satire and epistle, which Horace hardly distinguished, giving to both the name of Sermo, or "Talk," was the easier to imitate. Persius, dying in the year 62, at the age of twenty-eight, was steeped in Horace, but lacked the gentle spirit, the genial humor, and the suavity of expression that make Horatian satire a delight. In Juvenal, writing under Trajan and Hadrian, the tendency of satire toward consistent aggressiveness which is present in Horace and further advanced in Persius, has reached its goal. With Juvenal, satire is a matter of the lash, of vicious cut and thrust. Juvenal may tell the truth, but the smiling face of Horatian satire has disappeared. With him the line of Roman satire is extinct, but the nature of satire for all time to come is fixed. Juvenal, employing the form of Horace and substituting for his content of mellow contentment and good humor the bitterness of an outraged moral sense, is the last Roman and the first modern satirist.

The Odes found more to imitate them, but none to rival. The most pronounced example of their influence is found in the choruses of the tragic poet Seneca, where form and substance alike are constantly reminiscent of Horace. Two comments on the Odes from the second half of the first century are of even greater eloquence than Seneca's example as testimonials to the impression made by the Horatian lyric. Petronius, of Nero's time, speaks of the poet's curiosa felicitas, meaning the gift of arriving, by long and careful search, at the inevitable word or phrase. Quintilian, writing his treatise on Instruction, sums him up thus: "Of our lyric poets, Horace is about the only one worth reading; for he sometimes reaches real heights, and he is at the same time full of delightfulness and grace, and both in variety of imagery and in words is most happily daring." To these broad strokes the modern critic has added little except by way of elaboration.

The Life of Horace, written by Suetonius, the secretary of Hadrian, contains evidence of another, and perhaps a stronger, character regarding the poet's power. We see that doubtful imitations are beginning to circulate. "I possess," says the imperial secretary, "some elegies attributed to his pen, and a letter in prose, supposed to be a recommendation of himself to Maecenas, but I think that both are spurious; for the elegies are commonplace, and the letter is, besides, obscure, which was by no means one of his faults."

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