Let`s hear it for Horace…..

 

Quintus Horatius Flaccus aka Horace was probably the world`s first autobiographer. He tells us far more about himself, his character, his peculiar foibles, and his way of life than any other great poet in antiquity.

A firm believer in the ” Life is brief and death is coming, so enjoy each moment” school of thought; All of Horace’s odes are organised around this as they tend to begin with a scene from nature or from society (a great banquet, a drinking party, a forest at dawn) and then progress from this concrete image to an always (thankfully) brief argument that explains why (and how) the reader should enjoy what each day brings, without dreading the future. The odes aren’t united by any one subject; Horace addresses, in turn, various women, virgin maidens, his friend Septimus, and gods ranging from Calliope to Bacchus. He writes of the weather, nature, farm life (“All the farm beasts on the green ground / Gambol, and with time to spare / The world enjoys the open air”), the meaning of Roman citizenship, festivals, feasts, and love. But his philosophy of carpe diem (“pluck the day,” seizing whatever it brings without apprehension) shapes every poem. This pragmatic advice is given in full knowledge that death is inevitable, but Horace doesn’t see this as cause for mourning. Rather, the unstoppable approach of death becomes a moral centre for his work: Accept your mortality and always act in the knowledge that time is short.

Horace’s composition of poetry is his own effort to “seize the present moment.” In his first ode, he describes the various ways that men choose to “grasp the day”; the charioteer competes for the victory palm, “others the civic crown desire,” still others accumulate wealth, or sail abroad for adventure, or fight in wars. “But learning renders me divine,” Horace concludes. “If I to lyric fame arise / My brow shall touch the very skies”

 

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