Horace & His Lyric Poetry

Horace & His Lyric Poetry

Horace & His Lyric Poetry

Horace & His Lyric Poetry

Excerpt

Horace has the distinction of sharing with Homer a special volume in the Catalogue of the Cambridge University Library. The stream of writing about him continues to flow, swollen recently into spate by the bimillennium of his birth in 1935. The Bursian review covering the years 1929-36 deals with over three hundred books and articles. Yet substantial contributions to our knowledge and understanding of him can still be made. In 1918 Richard Heinze, who transformed Kiessling edition until it became virtually his own, advanced a theory of Horace's metre which has driven from the field the old theory of Wilhelm Christ. Shortly after the war of 1914 three works of first-rate importance on his sources appeared, Jensen Neoptolemos und Horaz (1919), which has reopened the whole question of the plan of the Ars Poetica and its bearing on contemporary literature, Fiske Lucilius and Horace (1920), a useful if rather indigestible contribution, and Pasquali delightful Orazio Lirico (1920). Source-hunting has at least a negative value; it puts a check on false speculation.

Rediscoveries are commoner than discoveries. An interpretation of the end of Epode II recently advanced had already its supporters in the sixteenth century, but was rightly rejected by Lambinus in 1561. It is well-nigh impossible to be sure that you are first in the field; sooner or later you find that your cherished trouvaille has been catalogued for years in some more or less remote museum; whereupon you may weep tears of joy, as Porson did when he found that his emendations had been anticipated by Bentley, or you may curse more humanly with Donatus, 'Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt'. The great mass of our common knowledge about Horace is due to Renaissance scholars. Gratitude to them would be more suitably expressed in a general service for the Commemoration of Benefactors than in footnotes which would each be the meagre product of laborious research; there is a limit to the claims of the dead. Nor, again, can one ever be sure that one's happy thought of to-day is not one's reading of last year. But where I am conscious of a debt . . .

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