A Symposion of Praise Horace Returns to Lyric in Odes IV




of Praise


Horace Returns to Lyric in Odes IV A Symposion of Praise

  A Symposion of Praise

Horace Returns to Lyric in Odes IV Timothy S. Johnson

T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f W i s c o n s i n P r e s s The University of Wisconsin Press 1930 Monroe Street Madison, Wisconsin 53711 www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress/

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Publication of this volume has also been made possible in large part through the generous

support and enduring vision of Warren G. Moon. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Johnson, Timothy S.


A symposion of praise: Horace returns to lyric in Odes IV / Timothy S. Johnson.

p. cm—(Wisconsin studies in classics) Includes bibliographical references and index.

  ISBN 0-299-20740-4 (hardcover: alk. paper) 1. Horace. Carmina. Liber 4. 2. Laudatory poetry, Latin—History and criticism.

  PA6411.J57 2005 874⬘.01—dc22 2004025227

  ISBN 0-299-20744-7 (pbk. : alk. paper)

  For Kathryn Renee Johnson


  51 C.7: Panegyric and Politics, Putting Off Heirs

  —All in the Family 114


  95 C.5: A Panegyric Tag

  —The Panegyric Agon


  94 C.4: Epinikion

  3. Encomia Augusti, “Take One”


  69 C.8 and 9: As the Wor(l)d Turns, Praise and Blame

  Acknowledgments ix

  Abbreviations xi

  40 C.1 and 2: Great Expectations? Inventing Panegyric Discord

  2. Encomia Nobilium and Horace’s Panegyric Praxis


  14 Sympotic Horace Exiled: Epistle II.2 and Odes IV.1

  12 Sympotic Horace’s Epic Criticism

  6 Parties and Politics

  3 Levis et Gravis

  3 Looking Back

  1. Sympotic Horace

  Introduction xiii

  43 C.3 and 6: The Poet among the Nobiles

  4. Songs of Mo(u)rning 134 C.10: Faces in the Mirror: Ligurinus, Horace, and Vergil

  138 C.11: The Phyllis Odes and the Comic Power of Shared Lyric 145 C.12: Vergilius at the Symposion 158 C.13: E/motive Song, The Art of Writing Off Lyce 167

  5. Encomia Augusti, “Take Two” 181 C.14: Epinikion


  —Winners and Losers 182 C.15: A Panegyric Tag


  —“I Really Wanted To!” 198 Notes

  215 Works Cited

  279 General Index

  301 Index Locorum

  309 viii Contents


  A scholar once whispered in my ear, “It can be hard to explain what you do for a living, when your art is no more than taking from one book and putting it in another.” There may be more to this “art” than appears, but I am still sure that Horace would pre- fer that we simply read his poems. “Horace, if my art (reading) in any way detracts from yours I apologize. I was just not up to such a grand lyric task.”

  My reading of Horace owes mentors: Brent Sandy, Jane Phil- lips, Robert Rabel, G. M. Browne and his sharp critical eye, and foremost J. K. Newman, whose works on Alexandrianism and on the epic tradition are never far from mind. Other readers have commented and corrected at various stages of construction: Michael von Albrecht, Andrew Becker, Randall Childree, Jeff Fish, Kirk Freudenburg, Philip Hardie, Dan Hooley, David Kon- stan, Hans Mueller, Jennifer Rea, Alden Smith, Carol Staup, and Robert Wagman. I have learned much from their discussions and and Michèle Lowrie, the readers for the University of Wisconsin Press, who generously offered their insights—not to mention the errors they prevented. All that remain, of course, are my respon- sibility. The Press has been the model of professionalism from Pa- tricia Rosenmeyer and her kind interest in my project to the edi- tors Raphael Kadushin, Erin Holman, and Jane Curran, without whom this manuscript would not have become a book.

  Many have shown to me the best side of ajkadhmiva. My col- leagues and friends in classics at the University of Florida have x Acknowledgments

  Sussman, and Mary Ann Eaverly more than their fair share. A grant from the Humanities Council (University of Florida) pro- vided funding for work in Rome. Father Raffaele Farina (Vatican Library), Christina Huemer (American Academy at Rome), and Bruce Swann (University of Illinois) made available their li- braries’ fine collections. Friends at Baylor University, in particu- lar William Cooper and Alden Smith (again), and at the Univer- sity of Texas, David Armstrong and Tim Moore, have given invaluable support and encouragement. Janet and Tom Lane (and Bev) offered room and board to an itinerant scholar. I have been blessed with five brothers, all avid and witty readers (thanks to our mother). Deserving special mention are Galen, whose own scholarship inspired me, and Dwayne, who has taught me how, or at least how I would like, to live.

  Animae dimidia meae —Pam, Love, if I had the talent to write an

  ode, it would be for you. To my daughter, Katie, I dedicate this book.


ANRW Temporini, H., and W. Haase, eds. 1972–. Aufstieg und

Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur

  Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. Berlin: de Gruyter. A.P. Anthologia Palatina CIL Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum EGF Kinkel, G., ed. 1877. Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta.

  Leipzig: Teubner.

  FGrH Jacoby, F., ed. 1923–58. Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker. Berlin: Weidmann.

  Gent. Gentili, B., and C. Prato, eds. 1979, 1985. Poetarum

  elegiacorum testimonia et fragmenta. 2 vols. Leipzig: Teubner.

  G.-P. Gow, A. S. F., and D. L. Page, eds. 1965. The Greek

  Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

  K.-H. Kiessling, A., ed. 1884. Q. Horatius Flaccus. Berlin: Weidmann. Rev. by Heinze. Vol. 1: Oden und Epoden, 5th ed. 1908, 9th ed. 1958; vol. 2: Satiren, 6th ed. 1957; vol. 3: Briefe, 5th ed. 1957.


LGPN Fraser, P. M., and E. Matthews, eds. 1987–. A Lexicon of

Greek Personal Names. Oxford: Clarendon.

  L.-P. Lobel, E., and D. L. Page, eds. 1955. Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta. Oxford: Clarendon. N.-H. Nisbet, R. G. M., and M. Hubbard. 1970, 1978. A xii Abbreviations

  1970. A Commentary on Horace: Odes Book II. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978.

  OLD Glare, P. G. W., et al., eds. 1968–82. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon.

  Pf. Pfeiffer, R., ed. Callimachus. 1949, 1953. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon.


PIR Klebs, E., H. Dessau, and P. von Rohden, eds. 1897–98.

  Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III. Berlin: 2 Reimer.

  PIR Groag, E., A. Stein, et al., eds. 1933–. Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III. 2nd ed. Berlin: de Gruyter.

PLG Bergk, T., ed. 1843. Poetae Lyrici Graeci. 3 vols. Leipzig:

Teubner. PMG Page, D. L., ed. 1962. Poeti Melici Graeci. Oxford: Clarendon. RE Wissowa, G., et al., eds. Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Alterumswissenschaft. 1893–1980. 33 vols.

  and 15 suppl. vols. Stuttgart; Munich: J. B. Metzlersche; Druckenmüller.

  SH Lloyd-Jones, H., P. J. Parson, et al., eds. 1983.

  Supplementum Hellenisticum. Berlin: de Gruyter. TLL Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. 1900–. Leipzig: Teubner.

  W. West, M. L., ed. 1971, 1972. Iambi et Elegi Graeci ante

  Alexandrum Cantati. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. 2nd ed., 1989, 1992.

  Journals are abbreviated according to the conventions of L’Année


Philologique. Abbreviations of the ancient authors derive from the

  most recent editions of the Oxford Classical Dictionary; the Oxford Lexicon.


  This is not a book on patronage. Horace tells us he is one in a circle of poets whose patron/s are the governing elite in the developing principate. He addresses the lead poem of his Satires and Odes I–

  III to Maecenas and follows the first ode with a praise poem to Augustus (c.2). He then honors Vergil, the senior poet who intro- duced him into the circle, with a propempticon (c.3) and follows it with a sympotic invitation to Sestius, the consul suffectus of 23


B . C . (c.4). After one love song (c.5) he addresses a recusatio to an-

other poet who supported his entrance into the circle, Varius (c.6).

  By C.I.6 his coterie of friends from the trip to Brundisium (minus Plotius, S.I.5) are all present again. Horatian poetry embodies pa- tronage (Ahl, 1984; P. White, 1993; Bowditch, 2001). Defining the qualities of Horace’s patronage, its socioeconomic contexts and language, has important implications for Horace’s poetic service or gift; nevertheless, as important as this is, it has left unexplored much of the contents of the gift. And in spite of Putnam’s (1986) (Odes IV), which Suetonius reports was commissioned by Augus- tus and is devoted to panegyric song, remains the least-studied Horatian poetry book. This book is about the contents of that gift, Horace’s panegyric praxis in Odes IV.

  When approximately five to six years after the publication of


Odes I–III Horace accepted the commission of the Carmen Saecu-

lare (17 B . C .) and subsequently continued to compose lyric carmina

  and cast these lyrics into another book of odes (13 B . C .), he under- took the vatic role of the Romanae fidicen lyrae. At least, this is how xiv Introduction

  (C.IV.3.23). Although it would strain the limits set by Horace’s lit- erary environment to read back into his persona the modern sense of poet laureate and transpose his claim into an official title, there are major intersections between Augustan and modern lit- erary/political contexts. Modern political theory has rediscov- ered the importance of story for forming and transforming shared ideologies (Sandel, 1996). The exchange of stories as the formative process of civic identity involves competition, a political agon. We can well ask about our own politeiva or civitas, “Whose story was it, is it, and whose will it be—that of the founding fathers and their antecedents, particular presidents and public leaders, the courts, congress, cultural movements, the people themselves with their ideals?” The same question, “Whose story is it or should it be?” can be asked of Horace’s songs, and the answer is surely as complex, but I suggest a good beginning can be made by recognizing Odes IV as a unified collection, a book, and the Hora- tian panegyrist as its storyteller, who engages his audience in an interpretive dialogue rather than as an agent who persuades to any particular point of view.

  An emphasis on persuasion reflects a bias for Ciceronian rhet- oric. The great orator yields the stage reluctantly. Cicero follows the Aristotelian and Hellenistic rhetorical tradition, which posits praise and blame, the epideictic type (Arist. Rh.1358a36–1358b8;


demonstrativum, Cic. Inv.1.7; Part.70), on propositions developed

  according to commonly admitted virtues and vices (oJmologouv- mena ajgaqa; kai; kakav ; Isoc. Helena 11–15; Arist. Rh.1358b38–1359a5, 1362b29–1363a16; Nicol. Prog.48.20; Men. Rh. 368.1–8; Cic. Part. 71; Russell and Wilson, 1981: xix–xxiv). Cicero goes further. He nearly dismisses panegyric as a category of rhetoric because al- narrative and amplification, it needs no argument. Its proofs are naturally sustained by citing evidence, for panegyric the virtues a person practiced (de Orat.2.43–49, 65, 342–47; Part.71–72, 75–82). Cicero distinguishes the Roman tradition of praise from the Greek (de Orat.2.341), stating that the Roman has an unadorned simplicity based on the witnesses to a person’s conduct. The ora- tor may embellish or suppress particular aspects of a person’s life (Part.73–74), but it stands to reason that there will be limits on what a laudator can say and remain credible to an audience that

  Introduction xv intended audience may have observed or heard about the laudan-


dus has implications for the speaker. Maintaining a reasonable de-

  gree of believability regarding the life lived is part of what Cicero means when he reasserts that panegyric admits only certainties and does not introduce points of debate (Part.71: non enim dubia


firmantur, sed ea quae certa aut pro certis posita sunt augentur; see also

  Cicero’s criticism of panegyric lies, Brut.62). Evidence aside, Ci- cero is perfectly willing to overlook such panegyric simplicity for himself. When he asks Lucceius to author his biography (Att.4.6), in particular his lead role in the Catilinarian conspiracy, without blushing Cicero urges Lucceius to exaggerate, ignore history, and go beyond the truth (Fam.5.12.2–4). He would do so himself, but autobiography makes braggadocio too obvious. Then again . . .

  Far from avoiding and suppressing disputed propositions, Ho- race’s praise exploits them. Consider a few Horatian panegyric plots. Horace celebrates Maximus’s marriage to Augustus’s cousin Marcia by praising the gentleman, over thirty years old and an old bachelor by Roman standards, for being a great lover (C.IV.1). Praise for Augustus’s victory over the Sygambri, a tri- umph never technically held, should be led by the rather poor Pindaric imitator Iullus Antonius, while Horace stands back in the crowd and shouts traditional acclamations (C.IV.2). The epinikion for Drusus and Tiberius revisits an old scandal: Au- gustus acquired Nero’s wife and his children. Augustus raised them well, and now Rome is in debt to Nero’s sons, who savagely crushed the Rhaetians and Vindelicians as a lion attacks a help- less roe. Then Horace has Hannibal the liar praise Rome (C.IV.4). Horace praises Lollius, who lost Rome’s standards, for being a great general (C.IV.9) and praises himself as a noble (C.IV.3). Au- vengeance, and then Apollo stops Horace from composing the martial praise he is ready to sing (C.IV.6; 15). These panegyric ten- sions or nuances (dubia) lie blatantly on the surface in the odes’ plots, not just hidden in their details. Horace has neither followed the traditional guidelines transferred to Rome by Cicero and oth- ers nor set any precedent for Menander Rhetor’s precepts for pan- egyric. He has taken another path, more Callimachean. The twists and turns of Horace’s encomiastic plots, the variety of their poetic structures, and the complex allusive qualities of their narratives xvi Introduction

  Sosibios’s victories in the games (fr.384 Pf.), and locks of hair (fr.110 Pf.), vowed by Queen Berenice for the safe return of her husband, lament war and praise their lady’s pledged steadfast love in their own voice (Thomas, 1983). Callimachus did sing of kings and battles and did so with an imagination not easily ex- plained by rhetorical handbooks. Thus Alan Cameron (1995) as- sesses Propertius’s praise elegy (4.6): “It is the fanciful, allusive, asymmetrical style of Callimachean epinician that lies behind the curious Propertian experiment. All that is lacking is Calli- machus’s saving irony and wit” (479; n.b. 476–83). Horace has sustained the witty complexities in his encomia. When Proper- tius’s praises are placed alongside Horace’s, they are not so curi- ous or experimental as supposed. It is certain that Plato as least would have banished both Propertius and Horace and their mimetic praise poetry from his city (R. 396b–d; 401b; Lg. 801e–2a; 829c–e; 957d–e). To be sure, Ovid, who would more fully exploit the same imaginative multiplex panegyric strategy, would have had to go.

  When Lowell Edmunds (2001) puts some final nails in the cof- fin of authorial intention (viii), he does not excuse me from a ques- tion on whether the presence of disputed propositions (dubia) in Horatian panegyric is different from the aporia that naturally comes to the fore in negotiating sense with any literature. Fowler (1997:24, 27; 2000:3–4) and Hinds (1998:48), I think rightly, posi- tion meaning in the moment of reception. What makes tensions in Horatian panegyric different from those in hearing or reading in general is not necessarily any clear evidence in the text of his poems that Horace intended to include disputes, but rather that other rhetoricians and panegyrists advise that disputes, espe- should be avoided. Perhaps what makes panegyric a dangerous game is that disputes can never really be avoided (Bartsch, 1994), and if this is the case, then I believe (just from the brief outline of the above plots) that Horace takes on the panegyric hazards like a daredevil. A panegyrist under a temperamental emperor would not want Horace for his model nor would he want for his listen- ers or readers, an audience Horatian praise had made sensitive to the presence of disputes. Whether we call Horace’s panegyric “good” or “bad” depends on our own understanding of inten-

  Introduction xvii puted praise for the honoree. Horace models a more nuanced panegyric expression, more readily attributed to exilic Ovid (Barchiesi, 1994; G. D. Williams, 1994:154–68). Edmunds’s sup- posedly safe concession, “Roman poets had intentions for their poems. A most obvious one is to please a patron (19),” may have limited value in appreciating the complexities of Horace’s pane- gyric storytelling.

  While dismissing the rule of intention, I would argue that a reading that discerns in Horatian panegyric an invitation to an in- terpreting community, that is the formation of praise through a complex of reciprocal voices, derives from impulses within the text and is not simply forced onto Horatian panegyric by the apo-


ria of remote audience(s). Such aporia surely compounds the com-

  plexities of Horatian panegyric and may be confused, arguably so, with the disputes within the text; however, these disputes are also encouraged by the collective spirit of the panegyric. Horace’s remodeling of Pindaric structures throughout book IV invokes the environment of the agon in which multiple participants (ath- lete, judges, audience, praise singers) comprise the event. Horat- ian panegyric in this short collection involves a wide range of communal experiences: weddings (c.1), triumphs (c.2), hymns (c.3, 6, 15), familial relationships (c.4, 5, 14), and laments (c.1, 10, 11, 12). The Dionysiac ritual symbolism, prominent in c.5 but always implicit in the poet’s sympotic persona, places wine (poetry) inside the gathered revelers so that they are empowered through song to celebrate life’s pleasures together. Thus the book’s concluding invitation (c.15) is to communal song: nos . . .


canemus, ‘I’ (the poet-singer) and ‘we’ (the poet’s audiences).

  These communal moments of Horatian panegyric, the experi- and on some level incorporate individual expressions, position the internal and external audiences not as passive spectators but as active participants who create and re-create the events.

  I borrow the dialect of modern public philosophy (sharing sto- ries in the process of forming and maintaining civic identities) not only to shorten the distance between Horace’s situation and our own but also to provoke a conversation on Horace’s later poems that moves beyond intention, motivation, and the problem of sin- cere or insincere panegyric. This move, long suggested (Galinsky, xviii Introduction been slow to realize. Although panegyric poetry has received some renewed attention (MacCormack, 1981; Pernot, 1993; Bartsch, 1994, 1998; Whitby, 1998; Fantham, 1999) due to recent work on the later epicists, the application of panegyric modes of thought to Odes IV has maintained the assumption that praise and blame are mutually exclusive: the poet in total control of the cre- ative and interpretive processes performs one act or the other.

  Consequently, Horatian panegyric has been oversimplified. In spite of Horace’s consistent imaging of himself as the new and greater Pindar, exactly how he shapes and defines his panegyric persona is given short shrift compared to whether he reflects im- perial interests. Many still view panegyric as a negative label, which offends us more than the poet, and approach Odes IV, via Suetonius, wondering why Horace wrote the book in the first place. Doubts about Suetonius’s account that Horace put together


  IV only because Augustus requested praise pieces for his sons have spread from Fraenkel (1957) throughout Horatian crit- icism, but there continues to be an overreliance on Suetonius and a disregard for the poet’s own ambitions and creative passions even after the success of his Carmen Saeculare. Accepting imperial pressure as the prime motivation for Horace’s later lyric immedi- ately places Odes IV in a reactive posture and perpetuates the pro- /anti-Augustan debate. Some hear Horace’s voice as authentic imperial praise, fervent or less so, with little consideration of what this implies about the poet’s role in Roman society. Others read Horace as subversive without recognizing what might be at risk for a poet so well known and with such powerful patrons. As a consequence, there is still no clear unifying relationship be- tween the so-called public (c.1–9, 14–15) and private poems (c.10– that certain poems are at best ignored and at worst confused.

  Trends in literary theory often lead back to the same conclu- sions. Horace represses his voice; that is, the poet sacrifices in- dependent expression to fulfill a public role and does his best under these circumstances (Oliensis, 1998). Some odes “sap” the sense of others so that the poet weakens his praise and renders it questionable (Lyne, 1995). Although such readings avoid the neg- ative label of propagandist, they still heavily depend on presup- positions about authorial motivation. Others have tried to escape

  Introduction xix curean aesthetic of the small or thin voice (Horatian moderatio) contradicts the persona required for praise poetry and makes panegyric impossible. The poet can never be believable in this role (Fowler, 1995; and to a lesser degree Lowrie, 1997:349–52). To be sure, Horace’s poetry is about poetry, and as Lowrie’s work has again proven, Horatian techne is often the point—not the only point, but a primary one. Putnam (1986) has well demonstrated that Horace is concerned to establish the role of the poet and the lyric poetic in Roman society. But is Horace’s lyric so limited by encomium that poetic power can be reduced to an ability to im- mortalize the deeds of another? If this is the case, then Horace’s lyric sympotic persona of Odes I–III is in full retreat in Odes IV.

  Horace’s Carmen Saeculare, which presents the poet as the creator of its ritual magic (Putnam, 2000), announces the opposite: Ho- race’s lyric has the power to give substance and form to civic iden- tities. This is the impasse of Odes IV: either there is no credible Ho- ratian imperial or Roman panegyric, or the poet is so completely an imperial panegyrist that he is little else.

  One root cause of the dilemma (as Barchiesi, 1994, has already shown with Ovid; Habinek, 1998, with Augustan literature in general) is that the political and aesthetic have been so artificially divided that the lyric sympotic Horace and the panegyric Horace are too often completely disassociated. The failure to appreciate fully the irony of Horace’s epic criticism and the diversity of the lyric tradition has led to the overapplication of this artificial divi- sion (when the poet is in a panegyric mode he has forfeited his in- dependent lyric temperament). Studies on Horace have repeat- edly, if inadvertently, communicated clearly the uncomfortable friction between the pleasures of Horatian drinking songs and same lyric collection. But the poet has been so obviously deceitful.

  Horace is above all a sympotic poet, and his panegyric praxis is best understood as an expression of his sympotic persona from


Odes I–III (chapter 1). Book IV does not stand independently from

  Horace’s earlier lyric collection. From the first ode of book IV, Ho- race weds panegyric with his lyric sympotic persona. This is to say that Horatian panegyric depends on an invitation to commu- nity rather than a confrontational relationship of a poet facing an audience and attempting to persuade them to adopt a particular xx Introduction encomia, like Horatian symposia, to be seriocomic. As such they are prone to incorporate conflicting points of view and tone (chapter 2). These tensions and conflicts provoke Horace’s audi- ence to become active interpreters, and as a result even the pane- gyrics for the imperial family do not offer easy resolutions be- tween praise and blame or political and poetic power. Horace’s lyric praise requires and nurtures a collective interpretive process that transforms panegyric into a vibrant communal activity (chapters 3 and 5). The communal nature of Horatian panegyric complements the expressions of lament and celebration promi- nent in Odes IV. The anguish expressed over the transience of life is not so much an autobiographical sorrow over the poet’s old age but an individual’s genuine emotive response to the episodes of one’s life consciously encumbered and significantly entwined with the lives of others so as to necessitate and envalue individ- ual expression (chapter 4). That is to say, Horace’s panegyric is sympotic.

  To answer three possible criticisms—(1) I have not arranged the book according to particular instances of the sympotic within the encomia of Odes IV. Although this risks weakening the over- all argument, it is more important to treat each ode as a whole and not hinder the natural development of the book by rearranging its odes out of turn. I have not been entirely successful in preserving the book’s linear order. The odes most affected are the encomia


Augusti (4–5, 14–15), which begin in the middle of the encomia no-

bilium and resume after the odes of lament (10–13). Therefore, I

  have divided Horace’s imperial praise into two chapters (3 and 5) to preserve the book’s chiastic structure. This division allows my reading of the encomia to begin where Horace began, with the between “Horace, the poet’s persona, the poet, the singer, and the speaker” because Horace constantly blurs these distinctions so that it becomes impossible to tell when he is wearing a mask and when not. This confusion is part of Horace’s fun. I will not ruin it. (3) It is difficult to sort through and explain the details of Horace’s compressed lyrics with any brevity, especially since his later songs interact so closely with his earlier work. Such attention to complementary repetitions in Horatian song is a necessary task and a large part of appreciating the music in Horace’s lyric art.

  Introduction xxi both fat and thin. Horace, I believe, would enjoy this compliment.

  He would still likely criticize my book for having too many words, but not too many words on literary theory.

  I have tried in the notes to convey some sense of chronology for Horatian studies by generally citing authors according to the date of their earliest editions. For the reader’s convenience I have ref- erenced subsequent editions, which are commonly consulted, under their respective authors in the list of works cited.

  A Symposion of Praise

  I stand amid the roar Of a surf-tormented shore, And I hold within my hand Grains of the golden sand— How few! yet how they creep Through my fingers to the deep, While I weep—while I weep! O God! can I not grasp Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save One from the pitiless wave? Is all that we see or seem But a dream within a dream? —A Dream within a Dream, Edgar Allan Poe

Looking Back Whatever modesty he pretends, Horace never had a small voice

  Horace enjoyed a productive literary career spanning almost thirty years of traumatic cultural and political change and incor- porating four genres: iambi, sermones, carmina, and epistulae. He witnessed the decline of republican power, the expanding power of Rome over the East, the triumph of Octavian and the develop- ment of the principate, and the search for a unifying Roman iden-

  4 Sympotic Horace began as an outsider, the son of a freedman who fought against Octavian at Philippi. He became an insider, as Suetonius tells it, a poet supported and befriended by Augustus’s adviser Maecenas and commissioned by Augustus to compose the hymn announc- 1 ing a new age, the Carmen Saeculare. Comprehending the breadth of Horatian poetry and putting into context its politics have al- ways been a large part of the intrigue in reading and assessing Horace.

  Any reading of Odes IV, especially any consideration of the book’s function as praise poetry, must confront the question of change. What has the earlier Horace (Epodes, Satires, Odes I–III) of the 30s to 20s b.c. to do with the later Horace (Epistles, Carmen Sae-

  culare, Odes

  IV, Ars Poetica) of the 10s b.c.? Do the many transi- tions in the complex interplay between the poet, his cultural and political landscape, and the varied generic expectations within 2 Horace’s poetry books justify any search for continuity? This is where Odes IV begins. Horace in c.1 presents himself as an older poet taking up again, at Venus’s insistence, the lyrics he sang ten years ago:

  Intermissa, Venus, diu rursus bella moves? parce precor, precor. non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cinarae. desine, dulcium mater saeva Cupidinum,

  5 circa lustra decem flectere mollibus iam durum imperiis; abi 3

quo blandae iuvenum te revocant preces. (1–8)

  [Interrupted for a long time, are you, Venus, starting your wars again? Spare, I pray, I pray. I am not as I once was under the dominion of gracious Cinara. Stop, sweet Cupids’ fierce mother, bending a fifty-year-old now hardened to your soft commands: go away to where youths’ flirtatious prayers in- vite you back.]

  Porphyrio, Pseudo-Acro, and subsequent commentators have recognized in the ode’s plot (the poet’s failure to resist the bella


Veneris ) an allegorical statement that Horace is returning to lyric

  poetry. Horace admits what he wrote on several occasions before,

  Sympotic Horace 4

  5 later Epist.II.2.55–57, 141–45) even for himself, and by inference the writing of lyric love poetry. More than reluctant, Horace now 5 declares that he is durus, begs Venus to leave him alone with the emphatic alliterated anaphora parce precor, precor, and even offers Venus a substitute, the youthful Maximus. But Horace cannot re- sist Venus; he must return, over all his protest, to love poems. This is not the first time Horace has lost a battle with Venus, as his repetition of the beginning line from his ode to Glycera (mater 6


saeva Cupidinum, 5; C.I.19) makes clear. Horace could not resist

  Glycera, Lydia (C.III.9), or Chloë (C.III.26). Horace has only re- used a well-known plot and reapplied it as a metaphor for lyric 7 composition. Horace, far from ignoring Odes I–III, begins book

  IV by immediately acknowledging his absence from lyric and at- tempting some explanation for his return, especially since he had indicated that his earlier collection was so perfectly complete. The first word of the last ode of book III, exegi (I have finished), and the metaphor it introduces (a monument grander than pyramids) do not suggest a sequel.

  Horace links Odes IV to his lyric past by plot, direct quotations, and common referents in language, but Horace is not content with a worn-out familiarity void of variation. Intermissa, the first word of his second collection, is resumptive and novel. Intermissa cannot be read as a synonym for omittere (to put aside), a rare and 8 later usage, but looking back it signifies the continuation of Ho- race’s past lyric after a temporary interruption. Intermissa also in- vites new interest, since this is the only time that Horace uses the word, and he is perhaps the first poet outside of the comedians to 9 do so. There is much in book IV that is new. Beginning with the first word, Horace prompts his audience to look back to his ear- anticipation.

  Horace’s return to his previous lyric presents an essential methodology for reading Odes IV: Horace’s present lyric is a repe- tition and variation of his past lyric. It is obvious, but often overlooked, that the most important background poems for


  IV are Odes I–III. This is a self-reflective, introspective mode of intertextuality that gives book IV its intricacy and depth. Horace’s memory of his earlier writings forces his audience back to discover the similarities and tensions of one ode with its pre-

  6 Sympotic Horace independent unit, it is easy to underestimate how readily and art- fully Horace manipulates possible meanings. Each ode has an im- mediate (book IV) and secondary context (books I–III), both of which enliven its sense. Odes IV cannot be hackneyed or simplis- tic panegyric—too much is happening in the background—but against the backdrop of Horace’s prior lyric personae it becomes a complicated group of praise poems that provoke vigorous de- 10 bate, evidenced from an early date. The poet’s and audiences’ recollections must constantly negotiate the interpretive space. In this sense Odes IV becomes simultaneously individual and com- munal. The poet, people, leaders and heroes, insiders and out- siders, come together to fashion their own unique song (nos . . .

  canemus, C.

  IV.15.25–32). The interpretive process is expressed by the very arrangement of the book: an inseparable blend of pub- lic/private moments.

  A diacritical methodology that subdivides the Horatian corpus into distinctly public and private spheres, which at most form a meaningful tension, still captivates much recent criticism, al- though common sense suggests that one’s own living is not com- 11 posed of such segregated experiences. Even the rediscovered in- terest in metapoetics has not taken fully into account the implications of a poet under patronage disavowing epic praise poetry to become master of a new Roman lyric world, which is his own (re)creation and to which he invites not only individual love interests but other poets and the powerful who are (re)construct- ing Roman society. That Horace presents himself as the magister


bibendi of this symposion is heavily invested with political (pub-

lic) overtones.

  What is the nature of Horace’s sympotic world as he constructs potic world is defined by paradox and illusion. The poet is run- ning the game of bringing together opposites: the light and seri- ous, parties and politics, the small (lyric) and grand (epic).

Levis et Gravis

  Horace places every carpe diem command in Odes I–II within the 12 context of a drinking party, the symposion, and although this

  Sympotic Horace

  7 [8, 17, 19, 28, 29] out of eleven sympotic odes), clearly carpe diem is a common feature of Horatian symposia, as it was in the Greek 13 lyricists. Such a consistent connection creates an association between the symposion and time; the symposion represents the present, which humanity can control, as opposed to the future 14 and past, which are outside mortal province. Horace’s sympotic invitation is a summons to pleasures of the moment (carpe diem), made even more urgent by the certainty of death. Time is short. Come to the party.

  The emphasis on human limitations and death as prime mo- tives for accepting the invitation to enjoy life prevents sympotic poetry from being mere diversionary entertainment. There is more to Horatian drinking parties than the supposed lighter pleasures of wine, flowers, perfume, dancing, and lovemaking— Horatian symposia contain a variety of other serious themes. The brevity of life and certainty of death are the most frequent coun- terparts to sympotic pleasures (C. I.4, 9, 11; II.3, 11, 14), but they are not alone. Horace blends into the symposion a strong Satiric flavor: the equality of rich and poor (C.I.4; II.3, 14); the foolishness of worrying about tomorrow (C.I.4, 7, 9, 11); moderation and the dangers of drunkenness (C.I.18, 20, 27, 35, 38; II.3); the rejection of 15 epic panegyric (C.I.6). Sympotic pleasures cannot be separated from serious life issues because Horace intricately binds them to- gether within his lyric structures by contrasting stanzas and in- terlacing patterns within the stanzas. The mix is more than a simple rotation from one ode that is light to another that is seri- ous; the sympotic odes are a blend of both—their structure is best 16 described as seriocomic. The leading sympotic odes of Odes I–II model the blend of the 17 Horatian lyric. Horace in his ode to Sestius (I.4) contrasts the light-hearted pleasures of spring’s return (stanzas 1–3) with the bleak finality of death (stanzas 4–5). Then in the poem’s final mo- ment Horace withdraws Sestius from his future home in the un- derworld and returns him briefly to the world of sympotic erotic pleasures, beautiful Lycidas (nec tenerum Lycidan mirabere, quo


calet iuventus / nunc omnis et mox virgines tepebunt, 19–20). “Now”

  (nunc, 20) completes the anaphora of nunc decet . . . nunc (stanza 18 3). The first “now” tells Sestius to put on garlands in response to

  8 Sympotic Horace second “now” says to sacrifice to Faunus. What begins with a dance ends in ritual death. Horace has loaded the present with se- riocomic overtones. The repetition of nunc in the last line signals that Sestius has the opportunity to enjoy love, but only for an in- stant. Death will come. The young Lycidas also is growing older. Soon he will pass the age when he will be attractive to men, and he will begin to arouse young women. Sestius has a brief moment to act on his desires. Horace has so blended pleasures with the pains of mortality that one hardly knows whether to be happy for 19 Sestius or not. Horace’s refusal to write political praise poetry in C.I.6 reaches its comic crescendo in the last stanza. Achilles’ anger, wily Odys- seus’s journey home, Pelops’s cursed descendents, the praise of Caesar, Meriones covered in dust, and Diomedes powerful enough to wound Aphrodite and Ares are all beyond Horace’s modest lyric (stanzas 1–4). Horace leaves praising these heroes and Agrippa to Varius, a master of Homer’s epic. Horace will sing about drinking parties and lovers’ battles:


nos convivia, nos proelia virginum

sectis in iuvenes unguibus acrium

cantamus, vacui sive quid urimur,

non praeter solitum leves. (17–20) [I sing of feasts, I sing of battles, fierce girls with their sharpened nails fighting the boys; unattached or burning for some lover, as usual, I keep it light.]

  The girls have their sharpened weapons drawn (sectis), but the scratches that their nails may leave are harmless enough, only 20 parties (proelia virginum . . . in iuvenes . . . acrium) with their sham weapons of war (sectis unguibus) figuratively surrounds the young men with their femmes fatales and heightens the humor of the comparison between epic battles and Horace’s lyric warfare. In the erotic battles of lyric no one is ever hurt badly, or are they? It makes no difference to Horace whether he is embroiled in love battles; his song will remain leves (light), the last word.

  If the sympotic should be simply amusing, Teucer (C.I.7) errs; he balances a reminder of his crew’s exile (25–26) with the prom-

  Sympotic Horace

  9 31) before he invites them to forget with wine (31–32). Teucer’s entire speech consists of seriocomic couplets and is evocative of Horace’s advice to Plancus that reminds him that military duty 21 keeps him away from beloved Tibur (19–20). Horace not only utilizes contrasting stanzas in the seriocomic structure of the Soracte Ode (I.9), but he arranges them in an inter- locking pattern. Winter’s freeze (stanza 1) is set against the warmth of an indoor symposion (stanza 2) and love games on the campus (stanzas 5–6). This contrast is interrupted by another seriocomic pair (stanzas 3–4), in which the poet orders Thali- 22 archus to trust the future to the gods:

  permitte divis cetera, qui simul stravere ventos aequore fervido 10 deproeliantis, nec cupressi nec veteres agitantur orni. quid sit futurum cras fuge quaerere et quem Fors dierum cumque dabit lucro appone, nec dulcis amores

  15 sperne puer neque tu choreas, (9–16) [Concede all else to the gods; when they have calmed the winds fighting to the death the stormy sea, neither old cypresses nor mountain ashes are blown about. Avoid asking what will be tomorrow and credit yourself any day Chance will give, and, while young, do not disdain sweet loves or dances.]

  Nature-images of violence and death portray the absolute control of the gods over mortality. Mortals are given only the present are lost to old age.

  Horace duplicates this familiar carpe diem appeal in the sym- potic invitation to Leuconoë (I.11), but changes the seriocomic balance within the principal arguments: divine control of the fu- ture, appreciating whatever time the gods allow, and taking ad- vantage of the moment because time is short. Horace begins by directing Leuconoë not to speculate about her future in language similar to the commands given Thaliarchus (Tu ne quaesieris . . .


quem . . . / finem di dederint, 11.1–2a; fuge quaerere et / quem Fors

  10 Sympotic Horace present that Leuconoë does control, but compared to c.9 the comic tone is muted. Leuconoë enduring however many winters Jupiter sends (3b–6a) is not nearly as seductive as the dances, whispers in the night air, and giggles from the hidden nook, which Horace details over the last stanzas of c.9. By condensing the comic and weakening its contrast to the serious, Horace pres- ents a more pessimistic outlook for Leuconoë. But passion can yet warm Leuconoë’s winters. Horace tempers the pessimism in the concluding lines when he interjects pointed commands for Leu- conoë to enjoy life (vina liques; carpe diem) into two expressions about the brevity of time (sapias . . . reseces; dum loquimur . . .


credula postero, 6b–8). The coordination of the jussives indicates

  how closely Horace associates carpe diem and the sympotic. Vina


liques and carpe diem have the same metrical value and thought:

23 enjoy life, the poet’s love, while winters last.


  II.3 is darker and even more personal. Horace names the song’s addressee “Dellius bound to die” (moriture Delli, 4) and manipulates the seriocomic structure to maximize pessimistic tones. The ode appears perfectly balanced: a stanza pair, each on the common sympotic themes of moderation (1–3) and death (5– 7), surrounding a central stanza (4) ordering the goods for a sym- posion. But Horace varies the seriocomic format within the stanza pairs. In the first he balances the serious and comic by offsetting life’s pleasures and difficulties: there are good and bad circum- stances (1–2), happiness is tamed by mortality (3–4), and there may be sadness as well as the joy wine gives (5–8). Then at the end of the song this careful balance vanishes. The comic is sup- pressed; everywhere Dellius faces death and separation from all that he loves. This shift is not a total surprise since the sympotic ers fade fast (13), and the party lasts only as long as the fates allow (15–16).