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Trustees of Boston University through its publication Arion: A Journal of Humanities and

the Classics
Trustees of Boston University

Second Thoughts on Fraenkel's Horace


Author(s): David Armstrong
Source: Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring, 1964), pp.
116-128
Published by: Trustees of Boston University; Trustees of Boston University through its
publication Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics
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RECONSIDERATIONS I

SECOND THOUGHTS ON FRAENKEL'S HORACE


by David Armstrong

IN THE SEVEN YEARS SINCE IT WAS PUBLISHED, EDUARD FRAEN


kel's Horace (Oxford, 1957) has achieved a commanding posi
tion in its field. The reviews were, almost without exception,
flattering; the staid Journal of Roman Studies went so far as to
compare its immense apparatus to the drawers of a jewel cabinet
"which the connoisseur opens, one after another, with an ever
increasing sense of wonder and appreciation." An anonymous
reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement who grumbled about
"the disordered garbage which every academic mind stores up
for airing at the expense of a University Press" found himseff a
voice in the wilderness. The chorus of praise has echoed through
the prefaces of every new book on Horace?CoUinge, Brink, Com
mager. It has been caUed "an education in itself" and is said to
cumber Horatian scholars with "a debt of gratitude that can never
be repaid."
Thick, black-bound and gold-stamped, recalling the weighty
commentary on the Agamemnon, handsomely printed, bristling
with footnotes and innumerable citations in Greek, Latin, French,
German and ItaUan, Horace is clearly a late salvo of nineteenth
century Wissenschaft against what has come to be the norm of
modern scholarly research. It is not enough, Fraenkel means to
say, to ransack Marouzeau. We must go back through the decades
with Bursian, and further ("This point was righdy emphasized
by H. D?ntzer, Jahrb f. Philol, u. P?dag. ic (Fleckeisens lahrb.
xv), 1869, 316 ff., by KeissUng, Philol. Unters, ii, 1881, 112 f.,
and by F. Skutsch, Neue Jahrb. xxiii, 1909, 29 (Kl. Schripen,
370).") and further ("For a skeptical view see C. G. Zumpt in
Wiistemann's re-edition (1843) of Heindorf's commentary on the
Satires, 9.") and further ("In 1808 Philip Buttmann exclaimed"
?an exclamation forty-one words long) and further ("This sensi
ble remark of Bentley 's . . .") and further ("As Dacier saw . . .")
and further ("Lambinus . . .") and further ("Landino . .."). And
further still, for Suetonius and the Alexandrian Ubrarians come
in for their share of scholarly courtesy. Even the character of
nineteenth-century scholiasts is of interest ("Peerlkamp was a
wild critic but no fool, cf. JRS xxxv, 1945, 1 n. 2") as are their
lighter moments ("For Mommsen's clash with the sindaco, the
burgomaster, of 'la citt? di Orazio' see Wilamowtiz, Erinnerun
gen, 2nd. ed., 161, and compare Mommsen's notes on CIL ix no.
445 and especially on 604, where his burning indignation still
reverberates"). There is the usual Select List of Abbrevations;
that it is forgotten as early as p. 1, n. 1 perhaps reminds us more

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David Armstrong 117

clearly than usual that the purpose of such Usts is to start the
reader off one-down. Finally, although the book is constructed on
so confusing a plan as to make it difficult as the Pentateuch to
read straight through, the index is wholly useless, and there is no
general bibliography; if you want to know Fraenkel's view of
Horace, you have to start at the beginning and push through to
the end, and unless you have a pretty fair command of the
subtler reading skills, you will miss it then, as many of the re
viewers did.
It seems necessary, then, to begin our scrutiny of the book
with a few words about where all this apparatus leads?so per
tinent, one would have thought, in something Uke Walbank's new
commentary on Polybius, so unnecessary and even impertinent
to a lucid and elegant poet Uke Horace; especially since Fraenkel
tells us in his Preface: ". . . what induced me to write this book
was my desire to remove from the poems of Horace some of the
crusts with which the industry of many centuries has overlaid
them and to enable a sympathetic reader to Usten as often as pos
sible to the voice of the poet and as seldom as possible to the
voices of his learned patrons."
In the first place, Fraenkel's scrupulosity about referring to the
work of his predecessors is to some sUght extent qualified where
really eloquent dissents from his own view are concerned. Thus,
when he argues that Satires I, 2 and 3 are "early" and inco
herent in structure, he leaves out of account the impressive argu
ments in Lejay's commentary (1915) for a strict "conversational
logic" in their thought progression. Or, for a more general ex
ample, Fraenkel is anxious to give an attractive picture of Hor
ace's relations with Augustus, since the States Odes are here
viewed as the crown of Horace's work. Therefore, a large part
of the review of various scholarly questions about Horace's life
with which the book opens is devoted to smoothing down what
most of us will still feel to be the rather strange tone of the quota
tions from Augustus' letters in Suetonius' Ufe of Horace. The
opinions of scholars who saw this ambiguity reflected at certain
points in Horace's poetry are dismissed as cynical. "This book
does not aim at converting those who know beforehand all about
the way in which Horace, the author of several entertaining satires
and epistles and of such lovely poems as Donee gratus eram tibi,
was lured, invita Minerva, into composing patriotic lyrics. Our
sole purpose is to recover, as best we can, the meaning of the
poems before us, although most readers may prefer to have these
poems treated as part of a clever organization of opinion." (p.
240) "The critical historian," Fraenkel acidly footnotes, "need
not necessarily take a cynical view of great poetry." But all this
hardly represents what can be said on the other side; it is not
necessary to take a cynical view of great poetry to see quaUfica
tions in Horace's love for the Empire, and, as we shall see later,

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Il8 RECONSIDERATIONS I

a more intelligible meaning can be recovered even from the state


poetry by treating Horace's attitude as complex.
Secondly, the conclave of authorities Fraenkel invokes is se
verely limited to genuine scholars. No Uterary theorist who is not
also a classical scholar is discussed, nor is any poet of more recent
date than Arthur Hugh Clough. Even poets of respectable age
are only brought in for ornament. Goethe and Novalis are men
tioned with a certain fatherly sympathy for their failure (as lay
men) to understand Horace's meaning, and the respect paid
Dacier and Bentley is not matched by a single reference to Pope,
Swift, or Boileau. Their Horatian satires are a bit too brilUant
and far too disrespectful to the monarchs, Louis XIV and George
II, who take the place of Augustus, to suit Fraenkel's decorous
and patronizing view of Horace the satirist, or his picture of an
idyllic friendship between Horace and the emperor.
With poetry and criticism in the wilder sense reduced to mere
embelUshment, Horace is a book about one of the greatest stylists
of the ancient world, written largely from the point of view of
content. The most notable omission from a selection of Horace's
work which (the Preface tells us) is meant to illustrate what is
most "significant" is the Ars Po?tica. There is no more derogatory
phrase in Fraenkel's vocabulary than tour de force. Since the
elaborate and superb Damasippus satire (11,3) is such, Fraenkel
tells us, it is not worth discussion. And if we are not often pre
sented with such concentrated coarseness as this: ". . . we will
hardly be tempted to see in (Vitas hinnuleol) much more than a
pretty little artifact," it is only because our author is not often so
concise. Fraenkel's own principles of criticism are not easy to dis
cover. At one point he rejects stylistic dating in its more extreme
manifestations; but that does not mean he rejects sty Us tic dating.
We are forever running into statements like the following: "The
perfect neatness and easy poise of (Sat. I, 7) make it all but
impossible to see in it a very early satire." (p. 118). "This ode
may safely be regarded as an early one. Its general structure and
the execution of much of its detail are somewhat clumsy and so
fall short of the perfection to which we are accustomed from
Horace's maturest poetry." (p. 240). He criticises Wilamowitz
(mildly) for some violently contemptuous remarks about a minor
poem, but is very severe with Horace about Inclusam Danaen:
"It is no excuse for Horace that Hellenistic poets had apparently
employed at the tale in a similar spirit ... a very poUshed poem,
and its thoughts are not unworthy of Horace, but it has no wings."
Again, the book's attitude towards Horace's love-life is puz
zling. The Ligurinus odes are discussed honestly, and one or two
rather expUcit passages of the Satires are commended. On the
other hand, Fraenkel's tone in considering the old story that Hor
ace had obscene paintings in his bedroom is guarded, and the story
is emphatically rejected, though why anyone who has seen the

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David Armstro ng 119

sort of thing that was considered proper living-room decoration at


Pompeii would think it worth making a decision one way or the
other is hard to understand. Also, the subject of Satires I, 2 is
called "unpleasant." Unpleasant, one might ask; to whom? to
Horace, who rattles on with perfect nonchalance about even such
a subject as nocturnal emission (Sat. I, 5, 82ff.)?
Nor do the ornamental references to poets and authors of later
date promise well. Dante and Goethe and even Novalis are per
fectly appropriate references; but when we find the Journey to
Brundisium compared, evidently on equal terms, with Clough's
The Bothie, or the Epistle to Augustus with Ruhnken's 1761 in
augural address at Leyden, De doctore umbr?tico, what are we
to think? Ruhnken's address, which is certainly charming, is called
a masterpiece, a title Fraenkel evidently would not accord to
many of Horace's poems. Certainly one is entitled to wonder what
sort of literary taste considers Clough and Ruhnken entitled to a
seat at Horace's table on Parnassus.
Finally, so much of the learned footnotage is, if you look at it
closely, trivial. There was no reason to collate Heinze's successive
revisions of Keissling's commentary, or the dustier decades of the
Rheinisches Museum; what is rightly done becomes after two or
three generations common property; to give a history of every
locus communis in Horatian criticism would be an impossible
task. I have been reading Fraenkel's book with MacLeane and
Long's Opera (ed. 1869) to check references, and have found any
number of instances where MacLeane gives in a paragraph the
same view which Fraenkel takes a page or two to trace from the
seventeenth century to the present. Fraenkel's discussion of the
relicta non bene parmula question, for example, simply repro
duces MacLeane's, with the same references. (Fraenkel, 11 f.;
cf. MacLeane and Long, ?d. cit. p. 100. )
We may Ust here, with examples, some other genres of the use
less footnote.
1. Perfectly blank. "Cf. the preceding footnote." "The three
elements of his name are all attested by the poet himself; see the
'index nominum' in the Teubner editions of Horace." (p. 1, n. 5)
2. Irrelevant. "The second parabasis (of the Knights) was
written not by Eupolis, but by Aristophanes; see Pohlenz," etc.
(p. 158, n. 1.)
3. Exaggerated meum and tuum. "This type of adoption, where
only the opening words of a Greek poem are taken over, has, by a
useful term, been called the borrowing of a motto. This term
probably occurred to several scholars independently. PasquaU,
Or. Lir. 9 n. 1, refers for it to E. Norden (1909), but it had
already been used by R. Reitzenstein, Gott. gel. Anz. 1904, 959,
and Neue Jahrb. xxi, 1908, 87." (p. 159, text and n. 1)
4. Bad linguistics. "O quid agis? at the beginning of an urgent
exhortation, has, perhaps, a more emphatic sound to Roman ears

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120 RECONSIDERATIONS I

than to ours. Cf. Cic. Catil. 1. 27 si mecum patria, si cuneta Italia,


si omnis res publica loquatur: *M. Tulli, quid agis?' " (p. 157, text
and n. 4) All of us are familiar with this sort of thing, so common
in every school-text, so embarassing if one had to translate it into
EngUsh and explain it to a professor of Unguistics or indeed to a
scholar of any modem language. Those who think that I have
simply sleeted a horrible example may work their way through
the following more elaborate effort and see what sense is to be
found in it: (On Sat. I, 6, 12 f., Laevinum Valeri genus unde
Superbus/Tarquinius regno pulsus fuit, etc.) ". . . That Valeri
genus is solemn was noticed by Heinze, and the same thing, for
the period of Horace, is true of unde in the sense of a quo ( at Sat.
2.3.238 unde is local or, at any rate, halfway between the local
and the personal sense, cf. qui amant a lenone in Plautus). This
use was once common in Latin, but began to fade out, even from
technical language, by the end of the RepubUc, see my remarks
Sat;. Zeitschr. liv, 1934, 313 ff.(for quo= ad quern I ought to
have quoted the text of the lex lulia repetund., Cic. Rab. Post.
8 ff., QVO EA PECVNIA PERVENERIT). Its styUstic value in
Horace can be assessed from its occurrence in the solemn prayer
Sat. 2. 6. 21 and Odes 1. 12. 17. As for Odes 3.11. 38 f., I am not
convinced that unde is 'pers?nUch'; it seems to be stronger when
taken as neutral, 'from where you do not fear it.' " (p. 102, n. 2)
It is impossible to read five pages in Horace together without
perceiving to what extent these genres have been employed to
inflate the learned apparatus out of all proportion, and to no point
whatever. They end by swamping the author's abiUty to convey
a point; the merest commonplace sets off a string of them. A page
and a half, with four footnotes, is devoted to telUng us that Hor
ace's boast in Exegi monumentum is actually a modest one, as he
is still read even though the Pontifex Maximus now Uves in a
different part of Rome and no longer ascends the Capitol accom
panied by tacit virgins (pp. 302-304). On Odes III, 1, 54 ff.,
visere gestiens/qua parte debacchentur ignes, etc., another page
and a half quotes references, beginning with the Odyssey and
going through Herodotus, Thucydides, Cicero, Sallust, Arrian,
Norden, Marx, etc., etc., to show that the ancients enjoyed travel
(pp. 270-272). On Odes IV, 15, 15-16, ad ortus/solis ab Hes
perio cubili, instances ranging from the Sumerians to Claudian
and Menander Protector are cited in which empires have been
said to stretch from sunrise to sunset. And so it goes on.
I have not, however, gone into the matter at this length simply
to amuse myself at the expense of a respected older scholar.
Fraenkel's Horace is a book which pretends that a great deal of
Horace's poetry is not reaUy coherent; that he was a mediocre
satirist, in the strict sense of the word; that he was an insignificant
love poet; and that he only found his true voice in the odes he
wrote in honor of Augustus and the Roman State?and not aU of

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David Armstrong 121
them, either. For someone who started out to remove the schol
arly crust and find Horace underneath, this is an oddly conven
tional viewpoint; conventional, that is, in the sense that it shows
the usual philological arrogance in discovering faults that no mere
lover of Uterature would ever have seen, and using even the poems
that inspire the commentator with enthusiasm as a stick to beat
the unfortunate remnant. What has given this outlook its author
ity is the tremendous amount of labor that went into the com
pilation of learned references to support it. That these references
lead us nowhere, that they do not prove what they were intended
to prove, is what I have tried to show at the start. Let us now
inquire into the merits of the text.
The reviewers have generally assumed that by the length of the
section on the Epodes (pp. 23-75) a compliment was intended to
their poetic worth. This is not exact?y true; much about them
comes in for praise, but Fraenkel does not feel much sympathy
for the more 'improper' side of Horace, and such poems as X
and the Canidia epodes?VIII and XII are dismissed with a word
or two about Hipponax?are here mainly used to underline a
thesis which appears again and again: Greek poets had a func
tion in their community which Horace had not, so that in his
imitations of them, however feUcitous, there is always a faint feel
ing of strain and of mere artistic experimentation. Horace's prob
lem was to find a reaUy Roman voice, and the first efforts, accord
ing to Fraenkel, are seen in the Blessed Isles epode and in 'Quo,
quo scelesti ruitisT Much is made of the use of formulas that were
in fact used in the Comitia; a learned note establishes the horror
with which Romans would have received a proposal to emigrate
to the Blessed Isles rather than stick it out amid the Civil Wars;
and the immaturity of this early voice is thereby clearly demon
strated. Instead, the two Actium epodes come in for praise; an
affirmative attitude toward Maecenas and Caesar, not "the fiction
of participating in an imaginary assembly of the people," pro
vided Horace with a locus standi for the expression of "all that
he wanted to say as a Roman patriot."
It would be equally wrong to assume that pp. 76-153 are
devoted to the Satires out of any indiscriminate enthusiasm for
them; the point is rather to prove that their feUcities, when not
merely artistic, Ue largely in the region of autobiography?hom
age to Horace's father, his first meeting with Maecenas, Ufe on
the Sabine farm. An odd exception is I, 7, an anecdote from the
days of Horace's campaign with Brutus told in mock-epic style,
which seems so clever to Fraenkel that he places it late in his
treatment of Book I and impUes that its merit precludes its having
been written very early. Yet Horace was twenty-three in 42 B.C.,
the earnest date for I, 7, and most great poets have written better
stuff than Proscripti Regis Rupili pus atque venenum at twenty
three. No notice is taken of the one really ingenious comment that

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122 RECONSIDERATIONS I

has been made on this Uttie piece; Alfred Noyes remarked that
the important word in the last line is not the pun on Rex's name
but the word jugulas. To say to Brutus "tu qui reges jugulas"
estabUshes once for aU the distance between Horace and Brutus'
idealistic repubUcanism.1
We may note here that though Fraenkel beUeves Horace pub
lished his poems in the order they were intended to be read?that
each book of Satires, Odes, and Epistles has a structure?he also
beUeves he has evolved a clue to what is, generally speaking,
early and late in Horace's work. Poems of inferior quaUty are
assumed to be early; so are those that use undignified language.
Moreover, poems that can be attributed to "mere" artistic experi
mentation, such as Vitas hinnuleo, are outranked by the more
serious of the odes to Augustus and Maecenas. The poems are
taken out of order, on this basis, and treated in an artificial order
corresponding to merit. Thus, Satires I is discussed in the order
2, 3,1, 6, 5, 9, 7, 4,10. Satires II is an embarrassment. It becomes
more, rather than less, biting and improper than the first, and it
contains two very funny self-criticisms, 3 and 7, whose biographi
cal information does not quite square with the picture of Horace
Fraenkel would like to draw. 3, therefore, is dismissed as a tour
de force; nothing is said about 7; nothing is said about 5, the
source of Jonson's Volpone, except that it is a good thing Horace
wrote no more in that vein or 'he might have been in danger of
changing from the pugnacious yet good-natured Venusinus into
a venomous Aquinas (i. e. Juvenal). Being Horace, he checked
himself . . ." (p. 145). FinaUy, II, 1 is given a glowing appreci
ation designed to disguise the cynicism of its interlocutor, the
aristocratic jurist Trebatius, with his advice to Horace to discon
tinue his satires: Aude Caesaris invicti res dicerel Fraenkel also
argues that, since there are ten satires in the first book and only
eight in the second, Horace must have gotten tired of writing
satire. ". . . ten, or a multiple of it, seems to have been considered
by Horace, and by some contemporary poets as well, the ideal
number for the poems of a book." However, Satires II is fifty
lines longer than Satires I.
The next chapter takes up the first three books of odes, with
the love poetry almost entirely omitted. The treatment accorded
to two or three samples does not encourage one to wish for more.
On Miser arum est, III, 12: "Horace's Neobule begins with a
gnome, Miserarum est, etc. This gnome is also applicable to Neo
bule's own situation, but as a general sentence it has the effect
of rendering the opening of the poem more ornate and probably,
to the Augustan period, more momentous . . . The topics as well
as the sentiments of this ode are partly Roman, partly Hellenistic.
'Il carme d?lia vergine sospirosa non ? imitazione di Alceo se non

1 Noyes, Alfred, Horace: A Portrait, 1947, p. 47.

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David Armstrong 123

nell'idea gen?rale e nel principio; tutto il resto ? oraziano e ro


mano.' " (p. 178) One has to look back at the poem and see if it
is still there, if Neobule's charming petulance about old uncles
has survived being called a thoroughly Roman sentiment by both
Fraenkel and PasquaU.
For another example, take the section (168-176) devoted to
the following ode (1,32) :

Poscimur. si quid vacui sub umbra


lusimus tecum quod et hunc in annum
vivat et plures, age die Latinum,
barbite, carmen,
Lesbio primum modulate civi
qui f erox beUo tarnen inter arma,
sive iactatam reUgarat udo
Uttore navim,
Liberum et Musas Veneremque et ilU
semper haerentem puerum canebat
et Lycum nigris oculis nigroque
crine decorum,
o decus Phoebi et dapibus supremi
grata testudo Iovis, o laborum
dulce lenimen, mihi cumque salve
rite vocanti.

I am asked for a song. If ever, careless, I sang with you in the


shade something that Uves this year and many more?come, Greek
lyre, give me a Latin song; you, whom Alcaeus turned first, a great
soldier, but one who in battle, or tying his storm-tossed ship on
the wet shore, sang of Bacchus and the Muses and Venus and her
son, and of Lycus beautiful for his dark eyes and dark hair. Lyre,
glory of Apollo, joy of the banquets of Jove above, sweet solace
of troubles, answer my solemn prayers.

Fraenkel argues that cumque goes with rite rather than vocanti,
that no contrast is intended between the Latinum carmen and the
songs sung in the shade, and that much of the language is priestly.
On these three points most of us will agree; but he misses the vital
point in arguing at length for the variant poscimus, which has
been printed by few editors since Bentley. Besides the emphatic
hiss introduced into the prosody, "I pray" instead of "I am asked
for a song" spoils the whole point. If any of Horace's odes was
written in wartime, this one was. It is a beautiful explanation of
the poet's abiUty to write of love and wine when the state is
threatened; this is why Alcaeus, who wrote his love poetry Uke
Horace in unsettled and unsettling times, is invoked. His spirit
will be brought into Latin poetry in?is it unreasonable to suppose,
from the reference to Jove's banquets, a banquet song? At any
rate, a poem that will be a dulce lenimen for the labores he and

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124 RECONSIDERATIONS I

his friends see around them. Can one take this ode seriously, and
still imagine that there was, to Horace, anything that deserved
the word "mere" about such poems as Miserarum est or Vitas
hinnuleo? I think not; and, moreover, Horace's maturity in his
attitude toward the state had not far to develop when he wrote
this beautiful apology for his personal poetry.
Even where the odes to Maecenas and Augustus are concerned,
it would have been weU to remember that a reading which makes
sense of a poem has always the pas over one which does not. Thus
the suture Fraenkel insists oh seeing in III, 12, Nolis longa ferae,
was long ago stitched together by Wilkinson, Horace and his
Lyric Poetry, 83. Much worse is the interpretation of the foUow
ing (11,20):
Non usitata nee tenui ferar
penna bfformis per Uquidum aethera
vates, ?eque in terris morabor
longius, invidiaque maior
urbis reUnquam. Non ego pauperum
sanguis parentum, non ego quern vocas,
cUlecte Maecenas, obibo,
nee Stygia cohibebor unda.
lam iam residunt cruribus asperae
peUes et album mutor in aUtem
superne nascunturque leves
per d?gitos umerosque plumae...
Absint inani funere neniae
luctusque turpes et querimoniae;
compesce clamorem sepulcri
mitte supervacuos honores.
On no ordinary, no slender wing shafl I be borne, a double-formed
poet, through the Uquid air, nor shaU I be bound much longer
to the earth; greater than envy, I shaU leave these cities. I shaU
not die?I, the child of poor ancestors, I whom you caU to your
self, beloved Maecenas?nor shall the Stygian waters hold me.
Already the rough skin gathers on my legs; above I become a
white bird, and the Ught feathers spring out on my hands and
shoulders . . . Let there be no dirges and shameful wailing and
clamors at a pointless funeral; hold back the cries, forget the use
less honors of a tomb.

This poem, exquisite and obviously only half-serious, has raised a


clamor of dislike from editors of school-texts, and Fraenkel goes
them one better, or worse. Quern vocas, I whom you invite?what
an undignified and ridiculous note to introduce into Lyric poetry!
Iam iam residunt cruribus asperae pelles.?"Crude zoological pre
cision . . . repulsive, or ridiculous, or both." (p. 301) Yet no one
has ever called the famous passage in the Phaedrus where the

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David Armstrong 125

pains of love are compared to itching, sprouting feathers of the


soul crude or repulsive; and this passage is clearly present here.
No one could call this third stanza crude, either, who cared for
the sound of words?it rustles beautifully with m's and r's and l's
and n's, and for all its zoological precision clearly pictures an
event in the poet's mind and soul. (Perhaps Horace is betrayed
by his own riches; beauty of sound is so common in the Odes that
we begin to attach no special importance to it.) Steele Com
mager's fine comment on this ode must be quoted: "Horace forces
upon Maecenas the definitive gap that separates the poet from
even his most cherished friend ... he omits any reference to the
immortality that the poet can bestow upon others. Horace's flight
is his alone."2
But with such passages as those devoted to Tyrrhena regum
progenies and Descende c?elo, that is to say, to poems for which
Fraenkel feels a real devotion and enthusiasm, we enter a dif
ferent critical world. The thesis about the difference between
the public voice of Greek and Roman poets takes on a new Ufe
where Horace and Pindar are concerned?that is where it is used
to contrast the two poets as something Uke equals, instead of being
make a stick to beat Horace for a supposed inferiority to the
Greeks which is actually nothing more than a difference of pur
pose. The culminating comparison between Descende c?elo and
the First Pythian is the finest thing in the book, sensitive and philo
sophical, a tour de force in the best sense: "Pindar can start from
premisses of unchaUenged validity and, without an effort, make
the transition from the mousikon that is operative in the present
performance to the power of harmony that governs the world.
Horace had no such ground to stand upon, and he was fully con
scious of it: the time was long past when in the boldness of his
youthful experiments he imagined that he could disregard the gulf
between his own world and the world of an ancient Greek poet.
He now faced bravely, and indeed proudly, the Umitations of his
real position. . . . His poetry, though inspired by the Muses, was
entirely the work of himself alone . . . He does not pretend or
even wish to be the mouthpiece of a community such as no longer
exists; he is determined to remain the man he is, born in a late
and distracted age . . ." (p. 284) The final chapter on the fourth
book of Odes carries on the thesis beautifully; and one is, at the
last, glad to be able to join in Fraenkel's discovery that the shrill
voice that urged Romans to flee to the Blessed Isles, in the early
epode, has changed to a rich and honest note of acceptance: the
final picture (Odes IV, 15, 25 ff.) of Italy at peace, chanting in
festivals of the deeds of great men of old, while the world is
guarded for her by Caesar's might.
It is these sections that form the book's great contribution to

2 Steele Commager, The Odes of Horace, Yale, 1962, p. 310.

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126 RECONSIDERATIONS I

Horatian scholarship; the rest is a pointless and unseasonable


effort to revive a style of scholarly writing that, however great its
contributions, in the first place was never relevant to Uterary?as
opposed to historical?criticism, and in the second can no more
be revived in our century than the Barbizon style of painting or
the Schumann style of musical composition; and since this is so,
we may weU conclude by indicating in what direction Fraenkel's
view of the State Odes needs to be modified by a more complex
view of Horace's relations with Augustus and Augustan society.
First, there is Suetonius' picture of Augustus, distincdy not a man
with whom the sort of friendship Fraenkel glowingly describes
was possible; inscrutable, suspicious, a man who read his friends'
wills anxiously to see what they had reaUy thought of him, aU
along?but JuUan the Apostate has epitomized the Life of Au
gustus better than I can (Banquet of the Caesars, 309A) : "Then
Octavian came in, changing color as fast as a chameleon, first
pale and then ruddy; next dark, somber and overcast; then again
unbending and becoming as de?ghtful as Aphrodite and the
Graces. And he wanted, as he glanced round, to be Uke the sun,
for he disUked having his gaze met by anyone who approached."
Augustus ordered Horace to write him an epistle?"Are you afraid
posterity wiU be ashamed of you because you were my intimate?"
And for all Fraenkel can say about the poem that resulted, there
is no trace in it of what Augustus wanted to hear. No one would
ever deduce from the Epistle to Augustus that Horace was his
familiaris; it is from poet to emperor, not friend to friend.
In the second place, there is Horace's aloofness in general. One
thinks of the Unes in DurreU's fine poem On First Looking into
Loeb's Horace; he

laid down his books and lovers one by one;


indifference and success had crowned them all.

Of his indifference to wealth and power and empire the Odes


are full, particularly Fraenkel's favorite poem, Tyrrhena regum
progenies. What is it but a magnificently expressed appeal to
Maecenas to leave aU the important cares of empire behind, when
he comes to the Sabine farm, as not worth a philosopher's worry?3
The opening words themselves, "Maecenas, child of Tyrrhenian
kings," have a faint irony in context. Clearly the admiration ex
pressed for Augustus in Horace's Odes is a rational admiration,
Uke that of MarveU for OUver CromweU, everywhere quaUfied
by a vivid realization of the best the old order had to offer, now
irrevocably gone with it. Horace has, in the Roman Odes, high
3 Fraenkel considers that the ode Quo me, Bacche, rapis tui ( III, 25 ),
especiaUy the words Caesaris audiar/aeternum meditans decus, puts
Horace's reverence for Augustus beyond question. But a better gloss for
these words is vixere fortes ante Agamemnona; the poet honors the em
peror, not the other way round.

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David Armstrong 127

praise for Augustus; but it is slighting the whole intent of the


cycle not to realize that the moral order of the old Republic
occupies a far more important place, and that (Uke his friend
Virgil) Horace everywhere implies that the new Empire is only
second best, the best that a degenerate age deserves. How else,
for example (the passage puzzles Fraenkel) does one explain
the crashing series of minor chords on which the six Roman Odes
are brought to a close: "Non his iuventus orta parentibus/infecit
aequor sanguine P?nico . . . aetas parentum, peior avis, tulit/nos
nequiores, mox daturos/ progeniem vitiosiorem." And the view
given at the end, of the acceptance of the new order expressed by
Horace in Odes IV, 15, must be sUghdy modified by an apprecia
tion of the elegiac sadness these references to the old days and the
virtute fundos, more patrum, duces bore for the first generation
to Uve under the Empire.
A fruitful approach to the attitudes of the Augustan poets, as
H. A. Mason has recently suggested in another connection in the
pages of this journal, Ues through the imitations of them by the
seventeenth and eighteenth century poets of England and France,
who Uved in a political situation similar to theirs. Perhaps, in
trying to define Horace's attitude to Augustus and the Empire,
this approach is the best. There is no need to choose between an
absolute acceptance of the new Empire's ideals and an absolute
cynicism which would make hypocritical nonsense of the state
poetry, when we consider the poetry written in imitation of
Horace by such men as Boileau and MarveU. Certainly Boileau
intended neither insolence nor adoration (though to say it he
risked, and lost, much of his artistic freedom) when he ventured,
in the spirit of the old days of Henri IV, to say to Louis XIV:

Grand Roi, c'est mon d?faut, je ne s?aurois flatter . . .


On ne me verra point d'une veine forc?e,
Mesmes pour Te louer, d?guiser ma pens?e:
Et quelque grand que soit Ton pouvoir souverain,
Si mon coeur en ces vers ne parloit par ma main,
Il n'est espoir des biens, ni raison, ni maxime,
Qui pust en Ta faveur m'arracher une rime.4

Surely this is spoken in the true spirit of the Episde to Augustus.


An even more reveaUng comparison is that between the Roman
Odes and the poems that MarveU wrote in honor of OUver Crom
well. There are so many things in the Horatian Ode that recall
Horace's attitude: the description of Charles I's death, sympa
thetically done and yet very much from the outside, Uke that of
Cleopatra's in Nunc est bibendum; the clear vision of the best in
both orders, the old and the new; the way in which the poet's
enthusiasm is all for the ruler's usefulness to the state, not his
personal characteristics. Horace was not insincere in accepting
the rule of Augustus and writing fine and enthusiastic poetry
4 Boileau, Discours au Roy 106, 109 ff.

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128 RECONSIDERATIONS I

about it, any more than MarveU, for aU his enthusiasm for Charles
and the old nobiUty, was insincere when he compared in another
poem Cromwell's efficient leadership to the slack government of
kings:
Thus ( Image-Uke) a useless time they teU
And with vain Scepter strike the hourly BeU;
Nor more contribute to the state of Things
Then wooden Heads unto the Viols string.
While indefatigable CromweU hies
And cuts his way still nearer to the Skyes,
Learning a Musique in the Region clear,
To tune this lower to that higher Sphere.5
It is easy to see how similar this is to the tone of Odes, III, 3,
1-12:
Iustum et tenacem propositi virum
non civium ardor prava iubentium,
non voltus instantis tyranni
mente quatit soUda, neque Auster...
Hac arte PoUux et vagus Hercules
enisus arcis attigit igneas,
quos inter Augustus recumbens
purpureo bibet ore nectar.
The man just and tenacious of his course wiU not be shaken from
his fixed purpose by the rage of the people, ordering wrong
doing, nor the tyrant's threatening face, nor the wild south-wind
. . . Thus PoUux and wandering Hercules attained the fiery
citadel; and among them Augustus shaU rechne and drink nectar
with god-like Ups.
The compliment, Uke MarveU's, is to Augustus, not the age that
needed him; and it is the best Horace could ever give, Horace,
who was proud to the end of his Ufe of having fought for the
RepubUc at PhiUppi.
But Fraenkel's remarks on the state odes are fine enough as
they stand, and it is no smaU merit to have made so strong a case
for their greatness in an age by no means sympathetic to state
oriented art. It is a pity that so much poetry of no less merit what
ever is either ignored or given far less than its due; but the
comparative failure of the rest of the book may be a useful sign.
If a scholar of Fraenkel's impressive learning cannot make criti
cism after the old school of Wilamowitz and Mommsen meaning
ful or useful to the interpretation of Uterature, few wiU be en
cauraged to try. And, after aU, no harm is done to Horace. Of all
poets, it is he who responds best to his own srniling description of
Augustus: cui male si palperis, recalcitrat undique tutus.

5 MarveU, First Anniversary.

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