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Horace (65-8 BC) - Qintus Horatius Flaccus


Outstanding Latin lyric poet and satirist, contemporary of Virgil and Ovid. The most frequent themes in Horace's Odes and verse Epistles are love, pleasures of friendship and simple life, and the art of poetry. When writings of a number of other Roman poets disappeared after the fall of the Roman empire, Horace's oeuvre survived and influenced deeply Western literature. In his own time Horace could boast that his Ars Poetica was sold on the banks of the Bosphorus, in Spain, in Gaul, and in Africa.

" This used to be among my prayers – a piece of land not so very large, which would contain a garden, and near the house a spring of ever-flowing water, and beyond these a bit of wood."

Quintus Horatius Flaccus – known in the English-speaking world as Horace – was born at Venusia (Venosa). His father was a former slave, who had worked as a auctioneer's agent (coactor). As a businessman, who took his persentage, he earned enough money to buy a small estate and educate the future poet in Rome. Later Horace expressed his deep gratitude to his father who not only supervised his early education but also influenced his moral training. Referring to his background Horace wrote in Satires: "Now I come back to my own case, the freedman's son / whom everybody sneers at because I'm a freedman's son." When Horace about 19-years old, he continued his studies of philosophy in Athens. After Julius Caesar's murder in March 44 BC, Horace joined Marcus Brutus' army and gained the rank of military tribune.

The defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC in northern Greece, where Horace was in command of a Roman legion , bought the republic to an end. After the defeat, Horace returned to Italy sad, disillusioned, and penniless. His father had died and he sought Octavian's (later styled Augustus) favour. In this he was helped by Maecenas, Octavian's friend and political adviser, who was also known patronage of literature, supporting the poet Virgil (Vergilius).  Since Horace's property had been confiscated, he secured a position as scriba quaestorius, or clerk of the treasury. To earn extra money he began to write satires in his spare time. During these years Horace produced his earliest Epistles, which attacked social abuses. He followed the metres and the robust tone of Archilochus, the Greek poet and soldier, who had lived in the in the Archaic period. Satires, written in hexameter verse and stating poet's rejection of public life, was probably published around 35 BC.

Horace's contact with Maecenas deepened into intimate friendship. Maecenas bought him a farm in the hilly Sabine country, beyond Tibur (Tivoli). There Horace devoted himself to writing. When he needed peace, Horace escaped from Rome to his farm and expressed in several of his poems the joys of simple life. "In Rome you long for the country; in the country – oh inconstant! – you praise the distant city of stars." In 30 BC Horace published his second book of Satires and the collection of Epodes, iambic poems. The first three books of Odes, addressed to Maecenas, were completed in 23 BC; the reception was luke-warm. Horace's second poem praised Augustus' family, the third, written in a different metre, was addressed to Virgil. Three years later appeared the first book of Epistles, written in hexameters like the earlier Satires. The familiar phrase 'snatch the day' (carpe diem) occurs in Horace's Odes (I, xi):

--Dum loguimur, fugerit invida
Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

With the death of Vergil in 19 BC, Horace became the most celebrated poet of the Augustan age, although the social status of a poet was not very high. However, the court and private individuals supported arts on a grand scale. The emperor was overtly worshipped as divine not only by plebians but also by Horace and Virgil, who acted as poet laureate of the new regime. Overburdened by work, Augustus offered Horace the position of his private secretary, but the poet declined the job. Beginning to feel his age, he wrote in Epistles: "Give me back my manly vigour, my black hair and unreceeded brow." 

Augustus started a wide reform program, which aimed to restore the glory of the empire. "I found Rome brick and I left it marble," Augustus once said. Horace's Carmen Saeculare  (Secular Hymn) was commissioned by Augustus to celebrate the achievements of his regime. When Maecenas died in 8 BC, Horace himself a month or two later, on November 17. The two friends were buried close to one another on Maecenas's estate on the Esquiline Hill.

Horace's works were often autobiographical and dealt with moral and political issues. In his Epodes Horace suggest leaving Rome to find a new Golden Age in the distant islands in the Atlantic. In the Secular Hymn Horace expresses his approval of Augustus' reforms and in the fourth book of the Odes he reflects on the inevitability of death – "Time's winged chariot hurrying near," was his recurrent reverse side of poems praising simple pleasures. In the famous 'Soracte ode' he advices to defy the chill of winter by drinking good wine, and to enjoy life. 'Nunc est  bibendum' (Now is time for drinking) celebrated Cleopatra's death. Several poems dealt with with the complexities of love: "To whom now Pyrrha, art thou kind? / To what heart-ravish Lover / Dost thou thy golden Locks unbind, / Thy hidden sweet discover, / And with large bounty open set / All the bright stores of the rich Cabinet?" Suetonius claimed that Horace lined his bedroom walls with mirrors to enjoy the act of coitus from every angle.

For Horace's disappointment, the Roman public did not receive the poems as warmly as he hoped. Horace defended himself: "I don't go on the hunt for the votes of a fickle public by giving dinners…. I listen to good writers and return their compliment, but I don't canvas the tribes of literary critics."

Horace's mature works include Epistula Ad Pisones, addressed to a Roman nobleman named Piso and his sons; this poem is usually known as Ars Poetica. According to some researchers it was made 20 BC or even earlier, and it has been dated to 17-13 BC. In this guide to young poets, Horace discusses with informality and humour such topics as the unity of poem, the importance of decorum (the which is fitting in language, style and subject matter), and the necessity for a writer to have both innate ability and adequate training. More importance is attached to hard work than to natural talent.

"Think to yourself that everyday is your last; the hour to which you do not look forward will come as a welcome surprise. As for me, when you want a good laugh, you will find me, in a fine state, fat and sleek, a true of hog of Epicurus' herd"

Horace's Ars Poetica has made a powerful impact on Western poetry (see also: Alexander Pope), even some modernist poets have responded to its prescriptions. Horace's books were copied throughout the Dark Age, quoted by early Christian writers, including St. Jerome, and he was among the earliest pagan poets to be printed. His lyric meters were used by Prudentius and other hymn composers. Dante listed Horace in his Divine Comedy third among poets, after Homer and Virgil. The period from 1650 to 1725 was an era in which his work received much scholarly and literary attention. Horace's poems were read and are still read in schools and his influence is seen in the works of such authors as Montaigne, Ben Johson, Henry Fielding, John Gay, Lord Chesterfield and Horace Walpole. Alexandre Dumas has King Louis XVIII to read Horace's Odes in The Count of Monte Cristo, and Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man muses that "The pages of his timeworn Horace never felt cold to the touch even when his own fingers were cold: they were human pages." Joseph Brodsky suggests in 'A Letter to Horace' (1995), an essay he wrote the year before he died that Horace may not be dead.

For further reading: Horace and His Age by J.F. D'Alton (1917); Horace and His Influence by G. Showerman (1922); Horace: A Portrait by A. Noyes (1947); Horace and His Lyric Poetry by L.P. Wilkinson (1951); The Odes of Horace: A Critical Study by S. Commager (1962); Horace's Epistles by C. MacLeod (1979); The Profile of Horace by D.R. Shackleton Bailey, et al. (1982); Polyhymnia: The Rhetoric of Horatian Lyric Discourse by Gregson Davis (1992); The Odes of Horace: A Critical Study by Henry Steele Commager (1995); Horace: Behind the Public Poetry by R.O.A.M. Lyne (1995); Artifices of Eternity: Horace's Fourth Book of Odes by Michael C. J. Putnam (1996); Horace: A Life by Peter Levi (1998); Horace: Poetics and Politics by V. G. Kiernan (1999); The Complete Odes and Satires of Horace by Sidney Alexander et al. (1999); The Cambridge Companion to Horace, ed. Stephen Harrison (2007); A Companion to Horace, ed. Gregson Davis (2011) - Notes: Iamb is a prosodic foot of two syllabes, an unstressed followed by a stressed one: 'The cur/few tolls/ the knell/ of parting day'.  Hexameter is classical prosody, a line of six metrical feet (Greek) or six metra (Latin), usually dactyls (- u u ). The epics of Homer and Vergil are composed in dactylic hexameter. Horace's epodes were written in iambi, adapted from Greek models.  Suom: Horatiukselta on myös suomennettu Oodeja ja epooodeja (1930), valikoima Horatiuksen oodeja (1989). Runoja on myös teoksessa Maailmankannel (1908).

Selected works:

  • Sermonum liber primus / Satirae I, 35 BC
    - The First Book of the Satires of Horace (translated by Christopher Smart, 1767) / Satires (translators: H.R. Fairclough, 1929; S.P. Bovie, 1959; Niall Rudd, 1979; John Davie, 2011)
  • Sermonum liber secundus / Satirae II, 30 BC
    - The Second Book of the Satires of Horace (translated by C. Smart, 1767) / Satires (translators: H.R. Fairclough, 1929, S.P. Bovie, 1959; Niall Rudd, 1979; John Davie, 2011)
  • Epodes, c.30 BC
    - Epodes (translators: C. Smart, 1767; C.E. Bennett, 1914; J.P. Clancy, 1960; Lord Dunsay and M. Oakley, 1961;  Burton Raffel, 1984; David West, 1997)
    - Kvintus Horatius Flakkuksen teokset 1: Oodit, karmenseekulaare ja epoodit (suom. A. Leino, 1891) / Oodeja ja epoodeja (suom. Eero Kivikari, 1930)
  • Carminum Liber primus, secundus et tertius / Odes I, II, III, 23 BC
    - Odes (translators: C. Smart, 1767; Joseph P. Clancy, 1960; Basil Bunting, 1972; Ferry David, 1998; David West, 1997)
    - Kvintus Horatius Flakkuksen teokset 1: Oodit, karmenseekulaare ja epoodit (suom. A. Leino, 1891) / Oodeja ja epoodeja (suom. Eero Kivikari, 1930) / Horatiuksen oodeja (suom. Teivas Oksala, Erkki Palmén, 1989)
  • Epistularum liber primus, 20 BC
    - Epistles (translators: H.R. Fairclough, 1929; S.P. Bovie, 1959; Niall Rudd, 1979; John Davie, 2011)
  • Epistula Ad Pisones / Ars Poetica, c.19-18 BC
    - Art of Poetry (translators: Thomas Drant, 1566; Ben Jonson, 1640, Earl of Roscommon, 1680; Lord Byron, 1810, John Conington, 1870;  H.R. Fairclough, 1929; T.S. Dorch, 1965; D.A. Russell, 1972; C.H. Sisson, 1978)
    - Runoudesta (suom. K. J. Hidén, 1904) / Ars Poetica=Runotaide (suom. Teivas Oksala ja Erkki Palmén, 1978)
  • Carmen Saeculare, 17 BC
    - Carmen Saeculare (translators: John Conington, 1870; Eccleston du Faur William, 1906) / Centennial Hymn (translated by Justin Loomis Van Gundy, 1936; W.G. Shepherd, 1983) / Secular Hymn (translators: W.C. Green, 1903; Warren Handel Cudworth, 1917; David West, 1997)
    - Carmen saeculare (suom. Kaarlo Blomstedt, 1875) / Kvintus Horatius Flakkuksen teokset 1: Oodit, karmenseekulaare ja epoodit (suom. A. Leino, 1891)
  • Epistolarum, liber secundus, 14 BC
    - Epistles (translators: C. Smart, 1767; H.R. Fairclough, 1929; S.P. Bovie, 1959)
  • Carminum liber quartus / Odes IV, 13 BC
    - Odes (translators: C. Smart, 1767; Joseph P. Clancy, 1960; James Michie, 1965; Ferry David, 1998; David West, 1997)
    - Kvintus Horatius Flakkuksen teokset 1: Oodit, karmenseekulaare ja epoodit (suom. A. Leino, 1891) / Horatiuksen oodeja (suom. Teivas Oksala, Erkki Palmén, 1989)
  • Q. Horatij Flacci Venusini, poëtae lyrici opera, 1531 (Lyon: Seb. Gryphius Lugduni excud.)
  • Q. Horatij Flacci Opera, 1545 (Lugduni: Apud Seb. Gryphium)
  • A Medicinable Morall, that is, the two Bookes of Horace his Satyres Englyshed Accordyng to the Prescription of Saint Hierome, 1566 (translated by Thomas Drant)
  • Q. Horatius Flaccus; his Art of Poetry, 1640 (translated by Ben Jonson)
  • Selected Parts of Horace, Prince of Lyricks and of All the Latin Poets the Fullest Fraught with Excellent Morality, 1652
  • The Poems of Horace. Odes, Satires, and Epistles, rendered into English and paraphrased by several Hands, 1666 (edited by Alexander Brome)
  • The Odes, Satyrs, and Epistles of Horace, 1684 (translated by Thomas Creech)
  • The Odes and Satyrs of Horace, 1717 (translated by Earl of Rochester, Earl of Roscommon, Mr. Cowley, Mr. Otway, et al.)
  • The Works of Horace, in English Prose, with D'Acier's Notes, 1726 (6 vols., translated by Leonard Welsted)
  • Imitations of Horace, 1733-51 (by Alexander Pope; ed. John Butt, 1939)
  • The Works of Horace, Translated into English Prose, with the Original Latii, 1741 (2 vols., translated by David Watson)
  • The Odes, Epodes and Carmen Seculare of Horace, in Latin and English, 1742 (2 vols., translated by David Watson)
  • The Satires of Horace, 1746 (tr. Philip Francis)
  • The Works of Horace in English Verse, by Several Hands, 1959 (ed. William Duncombe)
  • The Works of Horace, 1767 (tr. Christopher Smart)
  • Select Satires of Horace, 1779 (tr. Alex. Geddes)
  • Q. Horatii Flacci epistola ad Pisones, de arte poetica. The art of poetry: an epistle to the Pisos, 1783 (translated, with notes, by George Colman)
  • The Works of Horace, 1793-98 (2 vols., translated by William Boscawen)
  • Q. Horatii Flacci Opera, 1817 (edited by Thomas Kidd)
  • Q. Horatii Flacci Opera: Containing an Ordo and Verbal Translation interlineally arranged, 1826 (4 vols., edited by P.A. Nuttall)
  • Epodes, Satires, and Epistles of Horace, 1845 (translated by Francis Howes)
  • Horace: Satires, Epistles and Art of Poetry, 1870 (translated by John Conington)
  • The Epistles of Horace, 1888 (edited by Augustus S. Wilkins)
  • Echoes from the Sabine Farm, 1892 (edited by Eugene and Roswell Martin Field)
  • Satires, Epistles, Art of Poetry, 1929 (translated by H.R. Fairclough)
  • The Complete Works of Horace, 1936 (edited by Casper J. Kraemer, Jr.)
  • The Satires and Epistles of Horace: A Modern English Verse Translation, 1959 (translated by Smith Palmer Bovie)
  • The Odes and Epodes of Horace, 1960 (translated by Joseph P. Clancy)
  • Horace: The Collected Works, 1961 (first published 1911; translated by Lord Dunsany and M. Oakley; introduction by M. Oakley)
  • The Odes of Horace, 1965 (translated by James Michie)
  • The Complete Works of Horace, 1983 (translated by Charles E. Passage)
  • Horace: Satires and Epistles; Persius: Satires, 1979 (rev. edn., translated by Niall Rudd)
  • The Essential Horace: Odes, Epodes, Satires, and Epistles, 1984 (translated by Burton Raffel and foreword and afterword by W.R. Johnson)
  • Horace in English, 1996 (edited by D.S. Carne-Ross and Kenneth Haynes)
  • The Complete Odes and Epodes, 1997 (translated by David West)  
  • The Odes of Horace, 1998 (bilingual edition and translation by Ferry David)
  • Satires and Epistles, 2011 (translated by John Davie, with an introduction and notes by Robert Cowan)  

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