Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Satires of Horace

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

The Satires of Horace

Article excerpt

THE SATIRES OF HORACE translated by A.M. JUSTER University of Pennsylvania Press, 160 pages, $34.95

Satire is supposed to be the one native Roman contribution to the literary genres, but it remains hard to define. Satire itself means something like "farrago": a medley of different subject matters and treatments. It is anything goes-so long as it is discursive, vernacular, and rooted not in the sublime but in the present moment's quotidian concerns: money, politics, lawsuits, love, sex, friendships and enmities, the pursuit of happiness, and all the foibles and vices of humankind. It is a mirror in a fun house, a kind of didactic entertainment.

If Horace's great Odes have an Augustan restraint that is perhaps out of joint with our post-Golden Age times, the Satires, with their gossip, vignettes, autobiographical snapshots, dialogues, fanciful squibs, and mild invectives (for all his freedom of speech, Horace is careful not to tread on the toes of the truly powerful), seem as topical as ever. …

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