Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
Tam cari capitis?
'With close-lipped Patience for our only friend,
Sad Patience, too near neighbour of Despair.'
An excellent philosophy, but easier to those for whom no Hope had dawn or
seemed to set. Yet it is harder than common, Horace, for us to think of you,
still glad somewhere, among rivers like Liris and plains and vine-clad hills,
Solemque suum, sua sidera borunt.
It is hard, for you looked for no such thing.
You could not tell Maecenas that you would meet him again; you could only
promise to tread the dark path with him.
Enough, Horace, of these mortuary musings. You loved the lesson of the roses,
and now and again would speak somewhat like a death's head over thy temperate
cups of Sabine _ordinaire_. Your melancholy moral was but meant to heighten
the joy of thy pleasant life, when wearied Italy, after all her wars and civic
bloodshed, had won a peaceful haven.The harbour might be treacherous; the
prince might turn to the tyrant;far away on the wide Roman marches might be
heard, as it were, the endless, ceaseless monotone of beating horses' hoofs
and marching feet of men. They were coming, they were nearing, like footsteps
heard on wool; there was a sound of multitudes and millions of barbarians, all
the North, _officina_gentium_, mustering and marshalling her peoples. But
their coming was not to be to-day, nor to-morrow; nor to-day was the budding
princely sway to blossom into the blood-red flower of Nero. In the hall
between the two tempests of Republic and Empire your odes sound 'like linnets
in the pauses of the wind.'
What joy there is in these songs! what delight of life, what an exquisite
Hellenic grace of art, what a manly nature to endure, what tenderness and
constancy of friendship, what a sense of all that is fair in the glittering
stream, the music of the waterfall, the hum of bees, the silvery grey of the
olive woods on the hillside! How human are all your verses, Horace! what a
pleasure is yours in the straining poplars, swaying in the wind! what gladness
you gain from the white crest of Soracte, beheld through the fluttering
snowflakes while the logs are being piled higher on the hearth. You sing of
women and wine--not all whole-hearted in your praise of them, perhaps, for
passion frightens you, and 't is pleasure more than love that you commend to
the young. Lydia and Glycera, and the others, are but passing guests of a
heart at ease in itself, and happy enough when their facile reign is ended.
You seem to me like a man who welcomes middle age, and is more glad than
Sophocles was to 'flee from these hard masters' the passions. In the 'fallow
leisure of life' you glance round contented, and find all very good save the
need to leave all behind. Even that you take with an Italian good-humour, as
the folk of your sunny country bear poverty and hunger.
Me nec tam patiens Lacedaemon,
Nec tam Larissae percussit campus opimae,
Quam domus Albuneae resonantis
Et praeceps Anio, ac Tiburni lucus, et uda
Mobilibus pomaria rivis. (1)
(1) 'Me neither resolute Sparta nor the rich Larissaean plain so enraptures as
the fane of echoing Albunea, the headlong Anio, the grove of Tibur, the
orchards watered by the wandering rills.
So a poet should speak, and to every singer his own land should be dearest.
Beautiful is Italy with the grave and delicate outlines of her sacred hills,
her dark groves, her little cities perched like eyries on the crags, her
rivers gliding under ancient walls; beautiful is Italy, her seas, and her
suns: but dearer to me the long grey wave that bites the rock below the
minster in the north; dearer is the barren moor and black peat-water swirling
in tanny foam, and the scent of bog myrtle and the bloom of heather, and,
watching over the lochs, the green round-shouldered hills.
In affection for your native land, Horace, certainly the pride in great Romans
dead and gone made part, and you were, in all senses, a lover of your country,
your country's heroes, your country's gods. None but a patriot could have sung
that ode on Regulus, who died, as our own hero died, on an evil day for the
honour of Rome, as Gordon for the honour of England.
Fertur pudicae conjujis osculum,
Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor,
Ab se removisse, et virilem
Torvus humi pusuisse voltum:
Donec labantes consilio patres
Firmaret auctor nunquam alias dato,
Interque maerentes amicos
Egregius properaret exul.
Atqui sciebat, quae sibi barbarus
Tortor pararet: non aliter tamen
Dimovit obstantes propinquos,
Et populum reditus morantem,
Quam si clientum longa negotia
Dijudicata lite relinqueret,
Tendens Venafranos in agros
Aut Lacedaemonium Tarentum. (1)
We talk of the Greeks as your teachers. Your teachers they were, but that poem
could only have been written by a Roman! The strength, the tenderness, the
noble and monumental resolution and resignation--these are the gift of the
lords of human things, the masters of the world. Your country's heroes are
dear to you, Horace, but you did not sing them better than your country's
Gods, the pious protecting spirits of the hearth, the farm, the field, kindly
ghosts, it may be, of Latin fathers dead or Gods framed in the image of these.
What you actually believed we know not, _you_ knew not. Who knows what he
believes? _Parcus_Deorum_cultor_ you bowed not often, it may be, in the
temples of the state religion and before the statues of the great Olympians;
but the pure and pious worship of rustic tradition, the faith handed down by
the homely elders, with that you never broke. Clean hands and a pure heart,
these, with a sacred cake and shining grains of salt, you could offer to the
Lares. It was a benignant religion, uniting old times and new, men living and
men long dead and gone, in a kind of service and sacrifice solemn yet
Te nihil attinet
Tentare multa caede bidentium
Parvos coronantem marino
Rore deos fragilique myrto.
Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
Non sumptuosa blandior hostia
Mollivit aversos Penates
Farre pio et salienta mica. (1)
Farewell, dear Horace; farewell, thou wise and kindly heathen; of mortals the
most human, the friend of my friends and of so many generations of men.
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