The Poetry of Criticism: Horace, Epistles II, and Ars Poetica

By Ross S. Kilpatrick | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 2
The Epistle to Florus Epistle 2.2

SELF-CRITICISM IN LIFE AND ART

THE SECOND EPISTLE of Book II is rich in associations with Horace's earlier works, 1 being, for instance, the second poem addressed to Julius Florus (compare Epistle 1.3) while he was abroad on Tiberius' staff. As a recusatio it shares with Epistle 1.1 the affirmation that moral philosophy is more suited to a man of the poet's own age, training, and circumstances. 2 To the extent that it concerns itself with poetry in general as well as his own career and standards, it complements Epistles 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.7, 1.13, 1.19, 2.1 and the Ars Poetica, 3 poems whose aesthetic and ethical themes were already represented in the Satires and Odes.

The first 25 lines of the Epistle to Florus are full of information and gentle irony. The salutation ( Epistle 2.1.1) suggests a postmark and contains another compliment to the young Tiberius (bono claroque) to match the one to Florus (fidelis amice). A plausible dramatic date for the poem would be 19 or 18 B.C., with Florus and Tiberius still serving in the East, the latter as Augustus' legate. 4 This praise of Tiberius in the context of the second book also complements the opening of Epistle 2.1, where his stepfather Augustus was praised for his selfless devotion to the state. The kind of sustained irony (occasionally quite trenchant) in Epistle 2.2 would not have been appropriate in a letter addressed to Tiberius. (In Epistle 1.9, the one brief epistle addressed directly to him,

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