Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet
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A wise and witty revival of the Roman poet who taught us how to carpe diem
What is the value of the durable at a time when the new is paramount? How do we fill the void created by the excesses of a superficial society? What resources can we muster when confronted by the inevitability of death? For the poet and critic Harry Eyres, we can begin to answer these questions by turning to an unexpected source: the Roman poet Horace, discredited at the beginning of the twentieth century as the "smug representative of imperialism," now best remembered―if remembered―for the pithy directive "Carpe diem."
In Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet, Eyres reexamines Horace's life, legacy, and verse. With a light, lyrical touch (deployed in new, fresh versions of some of Horace's most famous odes) and a keen critical eye, Eyres reveals a lively, relevant Horace, whose society―Rome at the dawn of the empire―is much more similar to our own than we might want to believe.
Eyres's study is not only intriguing―he retranslates Horace's most famous phrase as "taste the day"―but enlivening. Through Horace, Eyres meditates on how to live well, mounts a convincing case for the importance of poetry, and relates a moving tale of personal discovery. By the end of this remarkable journey, the reader too will believe in the power of Horace's "lovely words that go on shining with their modest glow, like a warm and inextinguishable candle in the darkness."
by ill-conceived wine laws, and the reputation of German wines plummeted. The quality-conscious growers my father and I visited were battling against the odds to restore the reputation of German wine, for the most part in an essentially modest way. German wine and wine-making had a charm, born of passionate dedication to particular plots of land, that I also would find in Burgundy and a few other favored corners of the earth. This wine land of winding river valleys with slopes either planted
fair? Or could Paz be falling victim to the common misconception that because everyone after Horace refashioned his tropes, Horace’s originals sound like commonplaces? The first love poem in the Odes, Odes 1.5, addressed to Pyrrha, may sound conventional. It was translated by the young John Milton, or rather as he put it “rendered almost word for word, without rhyme, according to the Latin measure, as near as the language will permit.” Milton set down the Latin text beside his translation,
least in the form of the Sabine Farm. But though it conveys a profound sense of happiness, this poem is not selfish or gloating; the protection really comes from the gods, to whom Horace and his music are dear and endearing, and they are dear because of their “piety,” their quiet devotion to peace, their turning away from rapine and violence. It is time to go back to the farm for a little more wandering and communing with the spirit of the poet who may or may not have lived there two thousand
looking out over tarmac-covered runways, some woods beyond them, a gray English morning sky, makes me feel more moored and anchored in a place whose very essence is hypermobility. Moored to what? To myself, to some depth of feeling in myself. Reading this particular poem, the thirtieth and last of Book Three, in which Horace prophesies that his odes will outlast the pyramids, is affecting me so much that I am afraid I may start weeping, or generally betray the kind of emotion you are not
own life at the age of forty-four. Another way of putting this is that Lucretius’s De rerum natura is an immense monologue, or a vast lecture. Horace, especially in his later work, in the Odes and the Epistles, is fundamentally concerned with dialogue, with the therapeutic practice of friendship. No poet I know of, in the entire history of poetry, has been more concerned with friendship. Poets, in fact, have often seemed rather self-obsessed, concerned above all with the strength and intensity