Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem

Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem

Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem

Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem


Horace is a great poet, much loved and imitated in the past, and in recent years much better understood as a result of the learned commentaries of Nisbet and Hubbard (1970, 1978). and Syndikus (1972, 1973). Yet today he is little read. This is partly because he had never been translated into English which is both close to the Latin and readable. The aim of this book is to provide such a translation and support it by a basic commentary which will help newcomers to Horace, whether or not they know any Latin, to understand how the poetry works. It should also stimulate and provoke students of Latin and of Roman history by propounding interpretations which are not always in line with current orthodoxies.


Horace is one of the world's greatest lyric poets, but not one of the most accessible. I would like this book to do three things: to help non- Latinists who like poetry to enjoy Horace; to stimulate young people who have to study the poems; and to add to the scholarly debate by putting forward my own views, which seem on occasion to go against present-day orthodoxies. For me Horace is a profound poet of love, religion, and friendship, with a powerful sense of humour and love of fantasy, a master of tone and pace and shape. The book tries to demonstrate this by translating the poems and adding brief comments to explain how they work.


Those who wish to go more deeply should start with the great commentaries by Nisbet and Hubbard (1970) and Syndikus (1972). These have won new understanding for us by their immense learning and sound sense, and I have repeatedly pillaged them without acknowledgement. After working through them and the works they refer to, students could make a beginning on the vast amount of writing on the Odes by consulting the works referred to ode by ode in the more recent commentaries by Quinn and Romano. Their next step would be to use the annual entries in L'Année philologique and the bibliography by Kissel. This book does not pretend to provide a systematic bibliography, but where my thefts are glaring or the countercase is important, I give a bare name of the author in the text and full reference in the List of Works at the end.


Horace's advice to young writers was to study the Greek models by day and by night (Ars Poetica 268-9) and he had certainly done that himself.

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