The Structure of Horace's Odes

The Structure of Horace's Odes

The Structure of Horace's Odes

The Structure of Horace's Odes

Excerpt

The appearance of another book on Horace needs no apology. Undying interest, and the constant spilling of ink, is the price the poet pays for having caught the world's imagination with his words, especially his lyric words. And this imagination has not altered so much, even yet, that we must look for new judgements on the Odes. But to move towards this poetry by fresh approaches and to reach new ground even for forming old judgements--this is something we owe, to Horace in part, to ourselves much more. The major task, after all, is to refine our own sensitivity and to open our own eyes a little wider. For one thing, enthusiasm is no longer enough: one who calls attention to 'this sublime poem', or opines that 'Horace here achieves perfection', and offers no word of how or why, no general theory of poetry's nature and of Horatian composition, is merely obscurantist. Not that such general theorizing is entirely absent from the existing treatments, although classical scholars complacently allow poets, students of other literatures, and civil servants to make much of the running on this road. But the thing is patchily done; and perhaps the greatest desiderata are something more than a mere classification of Horace's metaphors according to their content, and something beyond the usual ad hoc solutions of the transitions of his lyric thought. Recent years have seen more and more scholarly detective work on Horace's sources of inspiration, on those who said Horatian things before he did: yet the most erudite literary genealogies will not help us to evaluate Horace as a craftsman unless we have already studied the mechanics of each of his poems. We could deny him any craftsmanship at all in a poem if we had its 'original' before us entire and found it to differ in no particular, in sense, length, structure, and emphasis, from Horace's version: in no case is this so.

Therefore, if no apology, at least a word of explanation for . . .

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