Ars Poetica (Horace)  

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Ars Poetica (also known as "The Art of Poetry", Epistula Ad Pisones, or Letters to Piso), (c. 18 BC) is a treatise on poetics by Horace. It is second only to Aristotle's Poetics in its influence on literary theory and criticism. Milton recommended both works in his treatise of Education and Montaigne would quote from it in his Essays.

Three quotes in particular are associated with the work:

  • "in medias res," or "into the middle of things." This describes a popular narrative technique that appears frequently in ancient epics and remains popular
  • "bonus dormitat Homerus" or "good Homer nods"; an indication that even the most skilled poet can make continuity errors
  • "ut pictura poesis," or "as is painting so is poetry," by which Horace meant that poetry, in its widest sense meaning "imaginative texts," merits the same careful interpretation that was in his day reserved for painting.

The latter two phrases occur one after the other near the end of the treatise.

The work is also key for its discussion of the principle of decorum, the use of appropriate vocabulary and diction in each style of writing, and for Horace's criticisms of purple prose.

In verse 191, Horace warns against deus ex machina, the practice of resolving a convoluted plot by having an Olympian god appear and set things right. Horace writes "Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus": "That a god not intervene, unless a knot show up that be worthy of such an untangler".


It was first translated into English by Ben Jonson and later by Lord Byron.

See also

Full text from [1]


If a painter chose to join a human head to the neck of a horse, and to spread feathers of many a hue over limbs picked up now here now there, so that what at the top is a lovely woman ends below in a black and ugly fish, could you, my friends, if favoured with a private view, refrain from laughing ? Believe me, dear Pisos, quite like such pictures would be a book, whose idle fancies shall be shaped like a sick man's dreams, so that neither head nor foot can be assigned to a single shape. "Painters and poets," you say, "have always had an equal right in hazarding anything." We know it : this licence we poets claim and in our turn we grant the like ; but not so far that savage should mate with tame, or serpents couple with birds, lambs with tigers.

1* Works with noble beginnings and grand promises often have one or two purple patches so stitched on as to glitter far and wide, when Diana's grove and altar, and

The winding stream a-speeding 'mid fair fields or the river Rhine, or the rainbow is being described." For such things there is a place, but not just now. Perhaps, too, you can draw a cypress. But what of that, if you are paid to paint a sailor swim m ing from

• These examples are doubtless taken from poems current in Horace's day.



navibus, aere dato qui pingitur ? amphora coepit

institui : currente rota cur urceus exit ?

denique sit quod vis,^ simplex dumtaxat et unum.

Maxima pars vatum, pater et iuvenes patre digni, decipimur specie recti, brevis esse laboro, 25

obscurus fio ; sectantem levia^ nervi deficiunt animique ; professus grandia turget ; serpit humi tutus nimium timidusque procellae : qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam, delphinum silvis appingit, fluctibus aprum. 30

in vitium ducit culpae fuga, si caret arte.

Aemilium circa ludum faber imus^ et unguis exprimet et mollis imitabitur aere capillos, infelix operis summa, quia ponere totum nesciet. hunc ego me/ si quid componere curem, 35 non magis esse velim, quam naso vivere pravo,^ spectandum nigris oculis nigroque^ capillo.

Sumite materiam vestris, qui scribitis, aequam viribus et versate diu, quid ferre recusent, quid valeant umeri. cui lecta potenter erit res, 40 nee facundia deseret hunc nee lucidus ordo. ordinis haec virtus erit et venus, aut ego fallor, ut* iam nunc dicat iam nunc debentia dici,

  • quidvis K Bentley. * lenia Bentley.

3 unus 5^ Bentley. * egomet 8(p\p.

  • parvo b\ir. ^ nigrove BCK.

' haut or haud BCK^ II (except w). * aut, //.

' One who has been saved from a shipwreck wants to put a picture of the scene as a votive offering in a temple.

  • So the schoUasts, imus being local amd meaning



his wrecked vessel in despair ? * That was a wine- jar, when the moulding began : why, as the wheel runs round, does it turn out a pitcher ? In short, be the work what you will, let it at least be simple and uniform.

    • Most of us poets, O father and ye sons worthy

of the father, deceive ourselves by the semblance of truth. Stri\ing to be brief, I become obsciure. Aiming at smoothness, I fail in force and fire. One promising grandeur, is bombastic ; another, over- cautious and fearful of the gale, creeps along the ground. The man who tries to vary a single subject in monstrous fashion, is like a painter adding a dolphin to the woods, a boar to the waves. Shunning a fault may lead to error, if there be lack of art.

^ Near the Aemilian School, at the bottom of the row,* there is a craftsman who in bronze will mould nails and imitate wa\ing locks, "but is unhappy in the total result, because he cannot represent a whole figure. Now if I wanted to write something, I should no more wish to be Hke him, than to hve with my nose turned askew, though admired for my black eyes and black hair.

^ Take a subject, ye writers, equal to your strength ', and ponder long what your shoulders refuse, and what they are able to bear. Whoever shall choose a theme ^\ithin his range, neither speech will fail him, nor clearness of order. Of order, this, if I mistake not, will be the excellence and charm that the author of the long-promised poem shall say at the moment what at that moment should be said,

" the last " of a number of shops. Some, however, take it in the sense of " humblest." Bentley's unus is to be taken closel}' with exprimet, " mould better than any others."



pleraque difFerat et praesens in tempus omittat, hoc amet, hoc spernat^ promissi carminis auctor. 45

In verbis etiam tenuis cautusque serendis^ dixeris^ egregie, notum si calhda verbum reddiderit iunctura novum, si forte necesse est indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum,* fingere cinctutis non exaudita Cethegis 50

contingetj dabiturque hcentia sumpta pudenter : et nova fictaque^ nuper habebunt verba fidem, si Graeco fonte cadent^ parce detorta. quid autem CaeciHo Plautoque dabit Romanus ademptum Vergiho Varioque' ? ego cur, adquirere pauca 65 si possum, invideor, cum lingua Catonis et Enni sermonem patrium ditaverit et nova rerum nomina protulerit ? hcuit semperque hcebit signatum praesente nota producere^ nomen. ut silvae fohis^ pronos mutantur in annos, 60

prima cadunt ; ita verborum vetus interit aetas, et iuvenum ritu florent modo nata vigentque. debemur morti nos nostraque : sive receptus terra Neptunus classes Aquilonibus arcet, regis opus, sterilisve^" palus diu aptaque remis 65

^ spernet BC.

  • Bentley transposed II. 45 and 46, and has been followed by

most editors. The scholiasts, however, had 1. 45 preceding 1. 46. Servius, too, though he cites I. 45 three times {on Aeneid, iv. 413, 415; Georgics, ii. 475) noichere applies it to diction.

^ dixerit B. * rerum et, //. * factaque.

  • cadant a, Servius on Virg. Aen. vi. 34.

' \'aroque (t>^5. * procudere Bentley.

' folia in silvis Diomedes. " sterilisque, / {except a).

" Bentley's transposition of lines 45 and 46, making hoc . . , hoc refer to verbis, seems unnecessary. The tradi- tional order is retained by Wickham and Rolfe. Horace deals first with the arrangement of argumentative material,



reserving and omitting much for the present, loving this point and scorning that."

  • '^ Moreover, with a nice taste and care in

weaving words together, you will express yoiuself most happily, if a skilful setting makes a familiar word new. If haply one must betoken abstruse things by novel terms, you will have a chance to fashion words never heard of by the kilted* Cethegi, and licence will be granted, if used with modesty : while words, though new and of recent make, will win acceptance, if they spring from a Greek fount and are drawn therefrom but sparingly.*' Why indeed shall Romans grant this licence to Caecihus and Plautus, and refuse it to Virgil and Varius ? And why should I be grudged the right of adding, if I can, my httle fund, when the tongue of Cato and of Ennius has enriched oiur mother-speech and brought to hght new terms for things ? It has ever been, and ever ^\i\\ be, permitted to issue words stamped with the mint-mark of the day. As forests change their leaves with each year's decline, and the earhest drop off ** : so with words, the old race dies, and, hke the young of human kind, the new-born bloom and thrive. We are doomed to death — we and all things ours ; whether Neptune, welcomed within the land, protects our fleets from northern gales — a truly royal work — or a marsh, long a waste where oars and in 1. 46 passes to diction (c/. Fiske, Lucilius and Horace, p. 449 and note 50).

  • The cinctus was a loin-cloth worn instead of the tunica

by the Romans in days of old.

« As Wickham has seen, the metaphor is taken from irrigation ; " the sluices must be opened sparingly."

•^ In Italian woods, as in Californian, leaves may stay on the trees two or even three years. Only the oldest {jprima) {| drop off each autumn.



vicinas urbes alit et grave sentit aratrum, sen cursum mutavit iniquum frugibus aniiiis doctus iter melius : mortalia facta peribunt, nedum sermonum stet honos et gratia vivax. multa renascentur quae iam cecidere, cadentque 70 quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus, queni penes arbitrium est et ius et norma loquendi.

Res gestae regumque ducumque et tristia bella quo scribi possent numero, monstravit Homerus. versibus impariter iunctis querimonia primum, 75 post etiam inclusa est voti sententia compos ; quis tamen exiguos elegos emiserit auctor, grammatici certant et adhuc sub iudice lis est. Archilochum proprio rabies armavit iambo : hunc socci cepere pedem grandesque coturni 80

alternis aptum sermonibus et popularis vincentem strepitus et natum rebus agendis. musa dedit fidibus divos puerosque deorum et pugilem victorem et equum certamine primum et iuvenum curas et libera vina referre. 85

descriptas servare vices operumque color es

" Horace finds tliree illustrations of human achievement in certain engineering works planned by Julius Caesar or Augustus. These were: (1) the building of the Julian Harbour on the Campanian coast, where, under Agrippa, Lakes Avernus and Lucrinus were connected by a deep channel, and the sandy strip between the Lucrine Lake and the sea was pierced so as to admit ships from the Tuscan Sea; c/. Virgil, Georgics, ii. 161 fF. ; (2) the draining of the Pomptine marshes, planned by Julius Caesar and perhaps executed by Augustus ; (3) the straightening of the Tiber's course so as to protect Rome fnom floods.

" Cf. Epistles ii. 2. 119. " The dactylic hexameter.

"^ The elegiac couplet, made up of a hexameter and a pentameter (hence impariter iunctis), was commonly used in inscriptions associated with votive offerings and expressed



were plied, feeds neighbouring towns and feels the weight of the plough ; or a river has changed the course which brought ruin to corn-fields and has learnt a better path " : all mortal things shall perish, much less shall the glory and glamour of speech endure and live. Many terms that have fallen out of use shall be born again, and those shall fall that are now in repute, if Usage so \^ill it, in whose hands lies the judgement, the right and the rule of speech.*

In what measure the exploits of kings and captains and the sorrows of war may be written, Homer has shown.* Verses yoked unequally first embraced lamentation, later also the sentiment of granted prayer ^ : yet who first put forth humble elegiacs, scholars dispute, and the case is still before the court. Rage armed Archilochus with his own iambus : this foot comic sock and high buskins alike adopted, as suited to alternate speech, able to drown the clamours of the pit, and by nature fit for action.* To the l)Te the Muse granted tales of gods and children of gods, of the victor in boxing, of the horse first in the race, of the loves of swains, and of freedom over wine.^ If I fail to keep and do not understand these well-marked shifts and shades of poetic forms,"

in the form of epigrams. The earliest elegiacs, however, were probably laments, such as those written by Archilochus on the loss of friends at sea.

• The iambic trimeter was the measure used in dialogue, both in comedies and tragedies. For Archilochus see Epist. i. 19. 23 ff.

' Greek Ij-ric poetry embraced hymns to the gods and heroes, odes commemorating victories in the games, love poems, and drinking-songs. For Pindaric themes cf. Odes, iv. 2. 10-24.

' From here on Horace deals especially with dramatic poetry. Tone and style, diction and metre should all accord.



cur ego si nequeo ignoroque poeta salutor ?

cur nescire pudens prave quam discere malo ?

versibus exponi tragicis res comica noii volt ;

indignatur item privatis ac prope socco 90

dignis carminibus narrari cena Thyestae.

singula quaeque locum teneant sortita decentem.'^

interdum tamen et vocem Comoedia tollit,

iratusque Chremes tumido delitigat ore ;

et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri 95

Telephus et Peleus, cum pauper et exsul uterque

proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,

si curat^ cor spectantis tetigisse querella.

Non satis est pulchra esse poemata ; dulcia sunto et quocumque volent^ animum auditoris agunto. 100 ut ridentibus arrident, ita flentibus adsunt^ humani voltus : si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi : tunc^ tua me infortunia laedent, Telephe vel Peleu ; male si mandata loqueris, aut dormitabo aut ridebo. tristia maestum 105

voltum verba decent, iratum plena minarum, ludentem lasciva, severum seria dictu. format enim Natura prius nos intus ad omnem fortunarum habitum ; iuvat aut impellit ad iram, aut ad humum maerore gravi deducit et angit ; 110 post effert animi motus interprete lingua, si dicentis erunt fortunis absona dicta, Romani tollent equites peditesque cachinmim. intererit multum, divusne® loquatur an heros, maturusne senex an adhuc florente iuventa 116

^ decentem VBK: decenter aCM, II. • curas. ' volunt, II.

  • adsunt MSS. : adflent Bentley.

6 turn BGK. « Davusne R.

• Cf. Epist. i. 3. 14. 458


why am I hailed as poet ? Why through false shame do I prefer to be ignorant rather than to learn ? A theme for Comedy refuses to be set forth in verses of Tragedy ; likewise the feast of Thyestes scorns to be told in strains of daily life that well nigh befit the comic sock. Let each style keep the becoming place allotted it. Yet at times even Comedy raises her voice, and an angry Chremes storms in swelUng tones ; so, too, in Tragedy Telephus and Peleus often grieve in the language of prose, when, in poverty and exile, either hero throws aside his bombast* and Brobdingnagian * words, should he want his lament to touch the spectator's heart.

^ Not enough is it for poems to have beauty : they must have charm, and lead the hearer's soul where they >vill. As men's faces smile on those who smile, so they respond to those who weep. If you would have me weep, you must first feel grief yourself: then, O Telephus or Peleus, will your misfortunes hurt me : if the words you utter are ill suited, I shall laugh or fall asleep. Sad tones befit the face of sorrow ; blustering accents that of anger ; jests become the merry, solemn words the grave. For Nature first shapes us within to meet every change of fortune : she brings joy or impels to anger, or bows us to the ground and tortures us under a load of grief ; then, with the tongue for interpreter, she proclaims the emotions of the soul. If the speaker's words sound discordant with his fortunes, the Romans, in boxes and pit aUke, will raise a loud guffaw. Vast difference will it make, whether a god be speaking or a hero, a ripe old man or one still in

  • Segfiuipedalia verba, lit. " words a foot and a half in




fervidus, et matrona potens an sedula nutrix, mercatorne vagus cultorne virentis^ agelli, Colchus an Assyrius, Thebis nutritus an Argis.

Aut famam sequere aut sibi convenientia finge. scriptor honoratum^ si forte reponis Achillem, 120 impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer, iura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis. sit Medea ferox invictaque, flebilis Ino, perfidus Ixion, lo vaga, tristis Orestes, si quid inexpertum scaenae committis et audes 125 personam formare novam, servetur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet.

Difficile est proprie communia dicere ; tuque rectius Iliacum carmen deducis in actus, quam si proferres ignota indictaque primus. 130

publica materies privati iuris erit, si non circa vilem patulumque moraberis orbem, nee verbo verbum^ curabis reddere fidus interpres, nee desilies imitator in artum, unde pedem proferre pudor vetet aut operis lex. 135

^ vigentis M, II. * Homereum Bentley.

  • verbum verbo C.

" The Assyrian would be effeminate, as compared with the Colchian, but both would be barbarians. The Theban Creon is a headstrong tyrant, while the Argive Agamemnon shows reserve and dignity.

" In the Iliad Achilles was first scorned by Agamemnon but in the sequel (Book IX, the embassy) highly honoured. Bentley conjectured that honoratum was a corruption of Homereum, " the Achilles of Homer," but we are dealing with a not uncommon use of the participle. So Elmore in G.R. xxxiii. (1919) p. 102 ; cf. Sat. i. 6. 126.

"' By publica materies Horace means Homer and the epic field in general. A poet may make this his own by original- ity in the handling. Commentators are divided as to whether communia (1. 128) is identical with publica materies



the flower and fervour of youth, a dame of rank or a bustling nurse, a roaming trader or the tiller of a verdant field, a Colchian or an Assyrian, one bred at Thebes or at Argos,"

^^ Either follow tradition or invent what is self- consistent. If haply, when you write, you bring back to the stage the honouring of Achilles,* let him be impatient, passionate, ruthless, £erce ; let him claim that laws are not for him, let him ever make appeal to the sword. Let Medea be fierce and un- yielding, Ino tearful, Ixion forsworn, lo a wanderer, Orestes sorrowful. If it is an untried theme you entrust to the stage, and if you boldly fashion a fresh character, have it kept to the end even as it came forth at the first, and have it self-consistent.

^^ It is hard to treat in your o^\^l way what is common : and you are doing better in spinning into acts a song of Troy than if, for the first time, you were giving the world a theme unknown and unsung. In ground open to all you will win private rights," if you do not linger along the easy and open pathway, if you do not seek to render word for word as a slavish translator, and if in your copying you do not leap into the narrow well, out of which either shame or the laws of yoiu- task will keep you from stirring

or not. The language is in the domain of law and as res communes, things common to all mankind, as the air and sea, differ from res publicae, things which belong to all citizens of a state, as its roads and theatres, so here communia covers a larger field than publico, and denotes characteristics which are common among mankind. These may be com- pared to the general truths {to. KadoXov) of Aristotle {Poet, ix.), as distinguished from particular ones (ri Ka6' (KaoTov). In Horace it is obvious that communia does not apply to Iliacum carmen, which does, however, come under the publico tnateries of the poet.



nee sie ineipies ut scriptor cyclicus olim : " fortunam Priami cantabo et nobile^ helium. " quid dignum tanto feret hie promissor hiatu ? parturient^ montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. quanto rectius hie, qui nil molitur inepte : 140

" die mihi, Musa, virum, captae post tempora Troiae qui^ mores hominum multorum vidit et urhes." non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem cogitat, ut speciosa dehinc miracula promat, Antiphaten Scyllamque et cum Cyclope Charybdin. nee reditum Diomedis ah interitu Meleagri, 146

nee gemino helium Troianum orditur ah ovo ; semper ad eventum festinat et in medias res non secus ac notas auditorem rapit, et quae desperat tractata nitescere posse, relinquit, 150

atque ita mentitur. sic veris falsa remiscet, primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum.

Tu quid ego et populus mecum desideret audi, si plosoris* eges aulaea manentis et usque sessuri,^ donee cantor " vos plaudite " dicat, 155

aetatis cuiusque notandi sunt tibi mores, mobilibusque^ decor naturis dandus et annis. reddere qui voces iam scit puer et pede certo signat humum, gestit paribus colludere, et iram

^ cantarat nobile B. * parturiunt. ^ quis B.

  • plosoris V, It plus oris, II: plausoris B^.
  • sessori B. • nobilibusque B.

" Horace utilizes the fable of the goat that leapt into a well, but has nothing to say about the fox who persuaded him to do so.

  • The opening of the Odyssey.

' Meleager was an uncle of Diomede, and therefore of an older generation.

"* i.e. from the birth of Helen.

• The cantor was probably the young slave who stood



a step." And you are not to begin as the Cyclic poet of old :

Of Priam's fate and famous war I'll sing.

What will this boaster produce in keeping with such mouthing ? Mountains will labour, to birth will come a laughter-rousing mouse ! How much better he who makes no fooHsh effort :

Sing, Muse, for me the man who on Troy's fall Saw the wide world, its ways and cities all."

Not smoke after flame does he plan to give, but after smoke the hght, that then he may set forth striking and wondrous tales — Antiphates, Scylla, Charj'bdis, and the Cyclops. Nor does he begin Diomede's return from the death of Meleager,*' or the war of Troy from the twin eggs.** Ever he hastens to the issue, and hurries his hearer into the story's midst, as if already known, and what he fears he cannot make attractive with his touch he aban- dons ; and so skilfully does he invent, so closely does he blend facts and fiction, that the middle is not discordant with the beginning, nor the end with the middle.

1^ Now hear what I, and with me the pubhc, expect. If you want an approving hearer, one who waits for the curtain, and will stay in his seat till the singer * cries " Give your applause," you must note the manners of each age, and give a befitting tone to shifting natures and their years. The child, who by now can utter words and set firm step upon the ground, dehghts to play with his mates, flies

near the flute-player and sang the eantica of a play, while the actor gesticulated. All the comedies of Plautus and Terence close with plaudite or an equivalent phrase.



colligit ac ponit temere et mutatur in horas. 160

imberbis^ iuvenis, tandem custode remote, gaudet equis eanibusque et aprici gramine Campi, cereus in vitium flecti, monitoribus asper, utilium tardus provisor, prodigus aeris, sublimis cupidusque et amata relinquere pernix. 165 conversis studiis aetas animusque virilis quaerit opes et amicitias, inservit honori, commisisse cavet quod mox mutare^ laboret. multa senem circumveniunt incommoda, vel quod quaerit et inventis miser abstinet ac timet uti, 170 vel quod res omnis timide gelideque ministrat, dilator^ spe longus, iners avidusque futuri, difficilis, queruius, laudator temporis acti se puero, castigator censorque minorum. multa ferunt anni venientes commoda secum, 175 multa recedentes adimunt. ne forte seniles mandentur iuveni partes pueroque viriles, semper in adiunctis aevoque morabimur* aptis.^

Aut agitur res in scaenis aut acta refertur. segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem 180

quam quae sunt oculis subiecta fidelibus et quae ipse sibi tradit spectator : non tamen intus digna geri promes in scaenam, multaque tolles

1 imberbis aB: imberbus VCM; cf. Epist. ii. 1. 85.

  • mox mutare] permutare. II. * delator B.
  • morabitur B, II, Vollmer. » apti B.

" i.e. Campus Martius.

  • Spe longus seems to be a translation of Aristotle's

SiVeXTTis {Rhet. ii. 12), hence Bentley conjectured lentus for longus. It is, however, in view of Horace's spes longa {Odes, i. 4. 15; i. 11. 6) taken by some as "far-reaching in hope," the hope requiring a long time for fulfilment. Wickham suggests " patient in hope," but the quality is here one of the incommoda of age, not one of its blessings. The



into a passion and as lightly puts it aside, and changes every hour. The beardless youth, freed at last from his tutor, finds joy in horses and hounds and the grass of the sunny Campus," soft as wax for moulding to evil, peevish with his counsellors, slow to make needful provision, lavish of money, spirited, of strong desires, but swift to change his fancies. With altered aims, the age and spirit of the man seeks wealth and friends, becomes a slave to am- bition, and is fearful of ha\ing done what soon it will be eager to change. Many ills encompass an old man, whether because he seeks gain, and then miserably holds aloof from his store and fears to use it, or because, in all that he does, he lacks fire and courage, is dilatory and slow to form hopes, is sluggish and greedy of a longer life, peevish, surly, given to praising the days he spent as a boy, and to repro\ing and condemning the young. Many bless- ings do the advancing years bring -with them ; many, as they retire, they take away. So, lest haply we assign a youth the part of age, or a boy that of man- hood, we shall ever linger over traits that are joined and fitted to the age.

"^ Either an event is acted on the stage, or the action is narrated. Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes, and what the spectator can see for himself. Yet you will not bring upon the stage what should be performed beliind the scenes, and you will keep much from our

phrase is explanatory of dilator, even as avidus futuri explains iners, for unlike the youth, who is absorbed in the present, the old man fails to act promptly, because his heart is in the future, however brief that is to be.

2h 465


ex oculis, quae mox narret facundia praesens ; ne pueros coram populo Medea trucidet, 185

aut humana palam coquat exta nefarius Atreus, aut in avem Procne vertatur, Gadmus in anguem. quodcumque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus. odi.

Neve minor neu sit quinto productior actu fabula quae posci volt et spectata^ reponi. 190

nee deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus incident, nee quarta loqui persona laboret.

Actoris partis chorus officiumque virile defendat, neu quid medios intercinat actus quod non proposito conducat et haereat apte. 195 ille bonis faveatque et consilietur amice, ^ et regat iratos et amet peccare timentis^ ; ille dapes laudet mensae brevis, ille salubi'em iustitiam legesque et apertis otia portis ; ille tegat commissa deosque precetur et oret 200

ut redeat miseris, abeat fortuna superbis.

Tibia non, ut nunc, orichalco vincta^ tubaeque aemula, sed tenuis simplexque foramine pauco^ adspirare et adesse choris erat utilis atque nondum spissa nimis complere sedilia flatu ; 205

quo sane populus numerabilis, utpote parvus, et frugi castusque^ verecundusque coibat. postquam coepit agros extendere victor et urbes latior amplecti murus, vinoque diurno placari Genius festis impune diebus, 210

accessit numerisque modisque licentia maior.

^ spectata SXlir : spectanda (exsp-JS/L) other mss. Both known to scholiasts. The latter perhaps an early error, due to Sat. i. 10. 39,

  • amici(s), //. * pacare tumentes. * iuncta C'K.
  • parvo, // {except w). • cautusque C : catusque ^t/-.

" The deus ex machina. As vindex, he is to deliver men from difficulties seemingly insoluble. 4,66


eyes, which an actor's ready tongue will narrate anon in our presence ; so that Medea is not to butcher her boys before the people, nor impious Atreus cook human flesh upon the stage, nor Procne be turned into a bird, Cadmus into a snake. Whatever you thus show me, I discredit and abhor.

^^' Let no play be either shorter or longer than five acts, if when once seen it hopes to be called for and brought back to the stage. And let no god" intervene, unless a knot come worthy of such a dehverer, nor let a fourth actor essay to speak.*

1^^ Let the Chorus sustain the part and strenuous duty of an actor, and sing nothing between acts which does not advance and fitly blend into the plot. It should side with the good and give friendly counsel ; sway the angry and cherish the righteous. It should praise the fare of a modest board, praise wholesome justice, law, and peace with her open gates ; should keep secrets, and pray and beseech the gods that fortune may return to the unhappy, and depart from the proud.

2-2 The flute — not, as now, bound with brass and a rival of the trmnpet, but shght and simple, with few stops — was once of use to lead and aid the chorus and to fill with its breath benches not yet too crowded, where, to be sure, folk gathered, easy to count, because few — sober folk, too. and chaste and modest. But when a conquering race began to widen its domain, and an ampler wall embraced its cities, and when, on festal days, appeasing the Genius" by daylight drinking brought no penalty, then both time and tune won greater hcence. For what taste

  • i.e. not more than three speaking characters are to be

on the stage at once. • Cf. Epistlet, ii. 1. 144.



indoctus quid enim saperet liberque laborum rusticus urbano confusus, turpis honesto ? sic priscae motumque et luxuriem addidit arti tibicen traxitque vagus per pulpita vestem ; 215

sic etiam fidibus voces crevere severis, et tulit eloquium insolitum facundia praeceps, utiliumque sagax rerum et divina futuri sortilegis non discrepuit sententia Delphis.

Carmine qui tragico vilem certavit ob hircum, 220 mox etiam agrestis Satyros nudavit et asper incolumi gravitate iocum^ temptavit, eo quod illecebris erat et grata novitate morandus spectator, functusque sacris et potus et exlex. verum ita risores, ita commendare dicaces 225

conveniet Satyros, ita vertere seria ludo, ne quicumque deus, quicumque adhibebitur heros, regali conspectus in auro nuper et ostro, migret in obscuras hximili sermone tabernas, aut, dum vitat humum, nubes et inania captet. 230 efFutire levis indigna Tragoedia versus, ut festis matrona moveri iussa diebus, intererit Satyris paulum pudibunda protervis. non ego inornata et dominantia nomina solum

^ locum BKSir.

' Horace seems to speak flippantly of the style of choruses in Greek tragedy. He assumes that as the music became more florid, both speech and thought also lost their simplicity, the former becoming dithyrambic, the latter oracular and obscure. It is probable, however, that he has in view the post-classical drama.

  • Tragedy or " goat-song " was supposed to take its

name from the prize of a goat. It was so called, however, because the singers were satyrs, dressed in goat-skins. Satyric drama, the subject of this passage, is closely con- nected with tragedy, and must not be handled as comedy.



could you expect of an unlettered throng just freed from toil, rustic mixed up with city folk, vulgar ^vith nobly-born ? So to the early art the flute-player added movement and display, and, strutting o'er the stage, trailed a robe in train. So, too, to the sober lyre new tones were given, and an impetuous style brought in an unwonted diction ; and the thought, full of wise saws and prophetic of the future, was attuned to the oracles of Delphi."

^^ The poet who in tragic song first competed for a paltry goat ^ soon also brought on unclad the woodland Satyrs, and with no loss of dignity roughly essayed jesting, for only the lure and charm of novelty could hold the spectator, who, after observance of the rites," was well drunken and in lawless mood. But it will be fitting so to seek favour for your laughing, bantering Satyrs, so to pass from grave to gay, that no god, no hero, who shall be brought upon the stage, and whom we have just beheld in royal gold and purple, shall shift with vulgar speech into dingy hovels, or, while shunning the ground, catch at clouds and emptiness. Tragedy, scorning to babble trivial verses, will, hke a matron bidden to dance on festal days, take her place in the saucy Satyrs' circle with some little shame. Not mine shall it be, ye Pisos, if writing Satyric plays, to

It came as a fourth play after a tragic trilogy. Horace treats this form as if it had developed out of traged j-, whereas in fact tragedy is an offshoot from it (see e.g. Barnett, The Greek Drama, p. 11). As for a Satjric drama in Latin, little is known about it, but Pomponius, according to Porphyrio on 1. 221, wrote three Satyrica, viz. Atalanta, Sisyphus, and Ariadne.

  • i.e. of Bacchus at the Dionysia, when plays were




verbaque, Pisones, Satyrorum scriptor amabo, 235

nee sic enitar tragico difFerre colori,

ut nihil intersit, Davusne loquatur et audax^

Pythias, emuncto lucrata Simone talentum,

an custos famuhisque dei Silenus alumni.

ex noto fietum carmen sequar, ut sibi qui vis 240

speret idem, sudet multum frustraque laboret

ausus idem : tantum series iuncturaque pollet,

tantum de medio sumptis accedit honoris.

silvis deducti caveant me iudice Fauni,

ne velut innati triviis ac paene forenses 245

aut nimium teneris iuvenentur versibus umquam,

aut immunda crepent ignominiosaque dicta :

ofFenduntur enim, quibus est equus et pater et res,

nee, si quid fricti^ ciceris probat et nucis emptor,

acquis accipiunt animis donantve^ corona. 250

Syllaba longa brevi subiecta vocatur iambus, pes citus ; unde etiam trimetris accrescere iussit nomen iambeis, cum senos redderet ictus primus ad extremum similis sibi. non ita pridem,

^ et audax VBCKi an audax a, II.

2 fricti aM(p^p : strict! C : fracti BK5-rr.

' donantque tt.

» For nomina verbaque cf. Sat. i. 3. 103. Plato {Cratylus, 431 b) uses prifiara and dvbfxara to cover the whole of lanpfuage. The epithet dominantia translates Kvpia. Such words are the common, ordinary ones, which are contrasted with all that are in any way uncommon.

  • Davus, Pythias and Simo are cited as names of typical

characters in comedy {cf. Sat. i. 10. 40). On the other hand, Silenus, the jolly old philosopher, who was father of the Satyrs and guardian of the youthful Dionysus, appeared in Satyric dramas, e.g. the Cyclops of Euripides.

' By carmen Horace means poetic style, not plot, as some



affect only the plain nouns and verbs of established use <* ; nor shall I strive so to part company with tragic tone, that it matters not whether Davus be speaking with shameless Pythias, who has won a talent by bamboozling Simo, or Silenus, who guards and serves his di\ine charge.^ My aim shall be poetry," so moulded from the familiar that anybody may hope for the same success, may sweat much and yet toil in vain when attempting the same : such is the power of order and connexion, such the beauty that may crown the commonplace. When the Fauns ^ are brought from the forest, they should, methinks, beware of behaving as though born at the crossways and almost as dwelling in the Forum, plapng at times the young bloods with their mawkish verses, or cracking their bawdy and shameless jokes. For some take offence — knights, free-bom, and men of substance — nor do they greet ^nth kindly feelings or reward with a crown everything which the buyers of roasted beans and chestnuts * approve.

^^ A long syllable following a short is called an iambus — a hght foot ; hence it commanded that the name of trimeters should attach itself to iambic lines, though it pelded six beats, being from first to last the same throughout.^ But not so long ago, that it

have taken it. Thus 11. 240-243 are in harmony with those that precede and those that follow. The word Return suggests that this style will look like a new creation. This is to seem easy enough to tempt others to try it.

•* i.e. Sati,Ts. These wild creatures of the woods must not speak as though they were natives of the city, whether vulgar and coarse or refined and sentimental.

  • These are still cheap and popular articles of food in


' An iambic trimeter contains six feet, but it takes two feet to make one metrum.



tardior ut paulo graviorque veniret ad auris, 255

spondeos stabilis in iiira paterna recepit

commodus et patiens, non ut de sede secunda

cederet aut quarta socialiter. hie et in Acci

nobilibus trimetris apparet rarus, et Enni

in scaenam missos cum magno pondere versus 260

aut operae celeris nimium^ curaque carentis

aut ignoratae premit artis crimine turpi.

non quivis videt immodulata poemata iudex,

et data Romanis venia est indigna poetis.

idcircone vager scribamque licenter ? an omnis 265

visuros peccata putem mea, tutus et intra

spem veniae cautus ? vitavi denique culpam,

non laudem merui. vos exemplaria Graeca

nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.

at vestri proavi Plautinos et numeros et 270

laudavere sales, nimium patienter utrumque,

ne dicam stulte, mirati, si modo ego et vos

scimus inurbanum lepido seponere dicto

legitimumque sonum digitis callemus et aure.

Ignotum tragicae genus invenisse Camenae 275 dicitur et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis, quae eanerent agerentque peruncti faecibus ora.^ post hunc personae pallaeque repertor honestae Aeschylus et modicis instravit pulpita tignis et docuit magnumque loqui nitique cothurno. 280

1 nimium celeris o. * ora aKM, II: atris BC.

" The admission of spondees to the odd places in the trimeter, though mentioned by Horace as recent, is really very old. Pure iambic trimeters are occasionally used by Catullus and by Horace {Epode xvi.).

  • The epithet given by this poet's admirers. Cf. EpisL i.

19. 39. " See notes on Epist. ii. 1. 170-176.

•* Jesting from wagons (to. ef a/xd^rjs (TKun/jLara), in the processions which formed a feature of the vintage celebration,



might reach the ears -sdth somewhat more slowness and weight, it admitted the steady spondees to its paternal rights ,<» being obhging and tolerant, but not so much so as to give up the second and fourth places in its friendly ranks. In the " noble " ^ trimeters of Accius this iambus appears but seldom ; and on the verses which Ennius hurled ponderously upon the stage it lays the shameful charge either of hasty and too careless work or of ignorance of the art. Not every critic discerns unmusical verses, and so undeserved indulgence has been granted our Roman poets. Am I therefore to run loose and -WTite %\ith- out restraint r Or^ supposing that all will see my faults, shall I seek safety and take care to keep within hope of pardon ? At the best I have escaped censure, I have earned no praise. For yourselves, handle Greek models by night, handle them by day. Yet your forefathers, you say, praised both the measures and the wit of Plautus.'U Too tolerant, not to sav foolish, was their admiration of both, if you and I but know how to distinguish coai-seness from wit, and with fingers and ear can catch the lawful rhythm.*

2"^ Thespis is said to have discovered the Tragic Muse, a type unknown before, and to have carried his pieces in wagons to be sung and acted by players with faces smeared with M-ine-lees."* After him Aeschylus, inventor of the mask and comely robe, laid a stage of small planks, and taught a lofty speech and stately gait on the buskin. To these succeeded

is associated, not with Tragedy, but with Comedy. Horace seems to confuse the two. The words peruncti faecibus ora are an allusion to rpvyifioia, a term used of comedy {cf. Aristophanes, Achamians, 499, 500), and derived from t/w|,

    • wine-lees."



successit vetus his comoedia, non sine multa laude ; sed in vitium libertas excidit et vim dignam lege regi : lex est accepta chorusque turpiter obticuit sublato iure nocendi.

Nil intemptatum nostri liquere poetae, 2S6

nee minimum meruere decus vestigia Graeca ausi deserere et celebrare domestica facta, vel qui praetextas vel qui docuere togatas. nee virtute foret clarisve^ potentius armis quam lingua Latium, si non ofFenderet unum 290 quemque poetarum limae labor et mora, vos, o Pompilius sanguis, carmen reprehendite quod non multa dies et multa litura coercuit atque praesectum^ deciens non castigavit ad unguem.

Ingenium misera quia fortunatius arte 295

credit et excludit sanos Helicone poetas Democritus, bona pars non unguis ponere curat, non barbam,^ secreta petit loca, balnea vitat. nanciscetur enim pretium nomenque poetae, si tribus Anticyris caput insanabile numquam 300 tonsori Licino oommiserit. o ego laevus, qui purgor bilem sub verni temporis horam ! non alius faceret meliora poemata : verum nil tanti est, ergo fungar vice cotis, acutum reddere quae ferrum valet, exsors ipsa* secandi ; 305

^ clarisque BCK.

  • praesectum VBC: perspectum tt : perfectum a, //.

3 barbas B. * exsortita aBCMRir.

" Fahulae praetextae (or praetextatae) were tragedies with Roman themes, so called because of the toga praetexta worn by the actors. Similarly comedies, in which Roman citizens appeared, were called togatae. Cf. Epist. ii. 1. 57, and note e. 474


Old Comedy, and won no little credit, but its freedom sank into excess and a \aolence deserving to be checked by law. The law was obeyed, and the chorus to its shame became mute, its right to injure being withdrawn.

^^ Our own poets have left no style untried, nor has least honour been earned when they have dared to leave the footsteps of the Greeks and sing of deeds at home, whether they have put native tragedies or native comedies upon the stage." Nor would Latium be more supreme in valour and glory of arms than in letters, were it not that her poets, one and all, cannot brook the toil and tedium of the file. Do you, O sons of PompiUus,* condemn a poem which many a day and many a blot has not restrained and refined ten times over to the test of the close-cut nail."

^^ Because Democritus believes that native talent is a greater boon than wTctched art, and shuts out from Hehcon poets in their sober senses, a goodly nxunber take no pains to pare their nails or to shave their beards ; they haunt lonely places and shun the baths — for surely one will win the esteem and name of poet if he never entrusts to the barber Licinus a head that three Anticyras cannot cure.'* Ah, fool that I am, who purge me of my bile as the season of spring comes on ! Not another man would compose better poems. Yet it's not worth while.* So I'll play a whetstone's part, which makes steel sharp, but of itself cannot cut. Though I write

  • The Calpurnii are said to have been descended froni

Calpus, one of the sons of Numa Pompilius.

' A metaphor from sculpture ; cf. Sat. i. 5. 32.

" Cf. Sat. ii. 3. 82, 166.

' Viz. to write poetry and lose your wits.



munus et officium, nil scribens ipse, docebo, unde parentur opes, quid alat formetque poetam, quid deceat,^ quid non, quo virtus, quo ferat error.

Scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons. rem tibi Socraticae poterunt ostendere chartae, 310 verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur. qui didicit patriae quid debeat et quid amicis, quo sit amore parens, quo frater amandus et hospes, quod sit conseripti, quod iudicis officium, quae partes in bellum missi ducis, ille profecto 315

reddere personae scit convenientia cuique. respicere exemplar vitae morumque iubebo doctum imitatorem et vivas bine ducere voces, interdum speciosa locis^ morataque recte fabula nullius veneris, sine pondere et arte, 320

valdius oblectat populum meliusque moratur quam versus inopes rerum nugaeque canorae.

Grais ingenium, Grais dedit ore rotundo Musa loqui, praeter laudem nullius avaris. Romani pueri longis rationibus assem 325

discunt in partis centum diducere. " dicat filius Albani^ : si de quincunce remota est uncia, quid superat? poteras* dixisse." " triens."


rem poteris servare tuam. redit uncia, quid fit ? " "semis." an,^ haec animos aerugo et cura peculi 330

1 doceat aRd. * iocis K, II.

' Albini, //. * poterat o, //.

  • an FjS: &daCMK,II.

" I take doctum as a repetition of qui didicit (1. 312). The drama is an imitation of life, and the would-be dramatist who has first learned about life from his studies should next turn to real life and make his own observations.

  • " Some take Iocis as equivalent to sententiis, moral reflec-

tions or commonplaces, which may be used anywhere.



naught myself, I will teach the poet's office and duty ; whence he draws his stores ; what nurtures and fashions him ; what befits him and what not ; whither the right course leads and whither the ^vrong.

^^ Of good writing the source and fount is \\isdom. Your matter the Socratic pages can set forth, and when matter is in liand words will not be loath to follow. He who has learned what he owes his country and his friends, what love is due a parent, a brother, and a guest, what is imposed on senator and judge, what is the function of a general sent to war, he surely knows how to give each character his fitting part. I would ad\ise one who has learned the imitative art to look to Ufe and manners for a model, and draw from thence hving words." At times a play marked by attractive passages and characters fitly sketched, though lacking in charm, though without force and art, gives the people more delight and holds them better than verses void of thought, and sonorous trifles.

^^ To the Greeks the Muse gave native wit, to the Greeks she gave speech in well-rounded phrase * ; they craved naught but glory. Our Romans, by many a long sum, learn in childhood to divide the as into a hundred parts. " Let the son of Albinus answer.** If from five-twelfths one ounce be taken, what remains ? You might have told me by now." " A third." " Good ! you %\-ill be able to look after your means. An ounce is added ; what's the result ? " " A half." \Mien once this canker, this lust of petty

  • Ore rotundo is here used of stjle, not utterance.

•* This is a school-lesson in arithmetic. The Romans used a duodecimal system (their as being divided into twelve ounces), and the children learn to reduce figures to decimals {in partes centum).



cum semel imbuerit, speramus^ carmina fingi posse linenda cedro et levi servanda cupresso ?

Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae aut simul et iucunda et idonea dicere vitae. quidquid praecipies, esto brevis, ut cito dicta 335 percipiant animi dociles teneantque fideles : omne supervacuum pleno de pectore raanat. ficta voluptatis causa sint proxima veris, ne^ quodcumque velit^ poscat sibi fabula credi, neu pransae Lamiae vivum puerum extrahat alvo. 340 centuriae seniorum agitant expertia frugis, celsi praetereunt austera poemata Ramnes : omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci, lectorem delectando pariterque monendo. hie meret aera* liber Sosiis, hie et mare transit 345 et longum noto scriptori prorogat aevum.

Sunt delicta tamen quibus ignovisse velimus : nam neque chorda sonum reddit, quem volt manus

et mens, poscentique gravem persaepe remittit acutum ; nee semper feriet quodcumque minabitur arcus. 350 verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis ofFendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit aut humana parum cavit natura. quid ergo est ? ut scriptor si peccat idem librarius usque, quamvis est monitus, venia caret, et^ citharoedus 355 ridetur, chorda qui semper oberrat* eadem :

1 speremiis, II. * nee BC. ' volet, //.

  • aere C, // (but not ir). * ut. ^ oberret aM.

" Lamia was " a bugbear of the Greek nursery."

  • An ancient classification of the citizens into seniores

and iuniores is here referred to. The former were between the ages of forty-six and sixty. The terms Ramnes, Titles, and Luceres were applied to the three centuries of equites



gain has stained the soul, can we hope for poems to be fashioned, worthy to be smeared with cedar-oil, and kept in polished cypress ?

Poets aim either to benefit, or to amuse, or to utter words at once both pleasing and helpful to life. Whenever you instruct, be brief, so that what is quickly said the mind may readily grasp and faith- fully hold : every word in excess flows away from the full mind. Fictions meant to please should be close to the real, so that your play must not ask for belief in anything it chooses, nor from the Ogress's " belly, after dinner, draw forth a h\ing child. The centuries of the elders chase from the stage what is profitless ; the proud Ramnes disdain poems * devoid of charms. He has won every vote who has blended profit and pleasure, at once dehghting and instructing the reader. That is the book to make money for the Sosii" ; this the one to cross the sea and extend to a distant day its author's fame.

^^ Yet faults there are which we can gladly pardon ; for the string does not always yield the sound which hand and heart intend, but when you call for a flat often returns you a sharp ; nor will the bow always hit whatever mark it threatens. But when the beauties in a poem are more in number, I shall not take offence at a few blots which a careless hand has let drop, or human frailty has failed to avert. What, then, is the truth ? As a copying clerk is without excuse if, however much warned, he always makes the same mistake, and a harper is laughed at who always blunders on the same string :

formed by Romulus, so that " Ramnes " is here used for the young aristocrats.

' For the Sosii, famous booksellers, cf. Epiat. i. 20. 2.



sic mihi, qui multum cessat, fit Choerilus ille, quern bis terve^ bonum cum risu miror ; et idem indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus, verum operi^ longo fas est obrepere somnum. 360

Ut pictura poesis : erit quae, si propius stes, te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes. haec amat obscurum, volet haec sub luce videri, iudicis argutum quae non formidat acumen ; haec placuit semel, haec deciens repetita placebit. 365

O maior iuvenum, quamvis et voce paterna fingeris ad rectum et per te sapis, hoc tibi dictum tolle memor, certis medium et tolerabile rebus recte concedi. consultus iuris et actor causavum mediocris abest virtute diserti 370

Messallae, nee scit^ quantum Cascellius Aulus, sed tamen in pretio est : mediocribus esse poetis non homines, non di, non concessere column ae. ut gratas inter mensas symphonia discors 374

et crassum unguentum et Sardo cum melle papaver ofFendunt, poterat duci quia cena sine istis : sic animis natum inventumque poema iuvandis, si paulum summo decessit, vergit* ad imum. ludere qui nescit, campestribus abstinet armis, indoctusque pilae discive trochive quiescit, 380

ne spissae risum tollant impune coronae : qui nescit versus tamen audet fingere. quidni ? liber et ingenuus, praesertim census equestrem summam nummorum vitioque remotus ab omni.

^ terque aCM. ^ opere 5: opere in aM.

  • nee scit VB: nescit a C J/. * pergit £C.

" Dormitat — aitrowdTa^ei. Cf. iv eiriardK-Q yp6.\}/as . . . dnovva-Tci^eLv rbv At) /j-oa 9 ivrjv (Plutarch, Cicero, 24).

  • Poppy-seeds, when roasted and served with honey, were

considered a delicacy, but were spoilt if the honey had a bitter flavour. 48U


so the poet who often defaults, becomes, methinks, another Choerilus, whose one or two good lines cause laughter and surprise ; and yet I also feel aggrieved, whenever good Homer "nods,"" but when a work is long, a drowsy mood may well creep over it.

A poem is like a picture : one strikes your fancy more, the nearer you stand ; another, the farther away. This courts the shade, that will wish to be seen in the light, and dreads not the critic insight of the judge. This pleased but once ; that, though ten times called for, will always please.

^^ O you elder youth, though wise yourself and trained to right judgement by a father's voice, take to heart and remember this sa\ing, that only some things rightly brook the medium and the bearable. A lawyer and pleader of middling rank falls short of the merit of eloquent Messalla, and knows not as much as Aulus Cascellius, yet he has a value. But that poets be of middling rank, neither men nor gods nor booksellers ever brooked. As at pleasant ban- quets an orchestra out of tune, an unguent that is thick, and poppy-seeds served with Sardinian honey,' give offence, because the feast might have gone on without them : so a poem, whose birth and creation are for the soul's deUght, if in aught it falls short of the top, sinks to the bottom. He who cannot play a game, shuns the weapons of the Campus, and, if unskilled in ball or quoit or hoop, remains aloof, lest the crowded circle break out in righteous laughter. Yet the man who knows not how dares to frame verses. WTiy not . He is free, even free- born, nay, is rated at the fortune of a knight, and stands clear from every blemish.

" The Campus Martius in Rome.

2 1 4,81


Tu nihil invita dices faciesve^ Minerva ; 385

id tibi indicium est, ea mens, si quid tamen olim scripseris, in Maeci descendat iudicis auris et patris et nostras, nonumque prematur in annum, membranis intus positis : delere licebit quod non edideris ; nescit vox missa reverti. 390

Silvestris homines sacer interpresque deorum caedibus et victu foedo deterruit Orpheus, dictus ob hoc lenire tigris rabidosque^ leones. dictus et Amphion, Thebanae conditor urbis,^ saxa movere sono testudinis et prece blanda 395

ducere quo vellet. fuit haec sapientia quondam, pubhca privatis secernere, sacra profanis, concubitu prohibere vago, dare iura maritis, oppida moliri, leges incidere ligno. sic honor et nomen divinis vatibus atque 400

carminibus venit. post hos insignis Homerus Tyrtaeusque mares animos in Martia bella versibus exacuit ; dictae per carmina sortes, et vitae monstrata via est, et gratia regum Pieriis temptata modis, ludusque repertus 405

et longorum operum finis : ne forte pudori sit tibi Musa lyrae sollers et cantor Apollo.

1 faciesque aM. * rapidos aCM, II. ' arcis aM.

" The phrase invita Minerva is explained by Cicero, De off. i. 31. 10, as meaning adversante et repugnante natura x cf. " crassa Minerva," Sat. ii. 2. 3.

» Cf. Sat. i. 10. 38. ' Cf. Epist. i. 20. 6.

<* The laws of Solon were published thus.

« The first poets were inspired teachers.

f Tyrtaeus, who according to tradition was a lame Attic schoolmaster, composed marching-songs and martial elegies for the Spartans in the seventh century b.c.



2^ But you will say nothing and do nothing against Minerv'a's will "» ; such is your judgement, such your good sense. Yet if ever you do write anything, let it enter the ears of some critical Maecius,^ and your father's, and my ovra ; then put your parchment in the closet and keep it back till the ninth year. What you have not pubHshed you can destroy ; the word once sent forth can never come back.**

^^ While men still roamed the woods, Orpheus, the holy prophet of the gods, made them shrink from bloodshed and brutal h\ ing ; hence the fable that he tamed tigers and ravening lions ; hence too the fable that Amphion, builder ofThebes's citadel, moved stones by the sound of his lyre, and led them whither he would by his supphcating spell. In days of yore, this was wisdom, to draw a hne between public and private ' rights, between things sacred and things common, to check vagrant union, to give rules for wedded life, to build towns, and grave laws on tables of wood<* ; and so honour and fame fell to bards and their songs, as divine.* After these Homer won his renown, \ and Tyrtaeus ^ with his verses fired manly hearts for battles of Mars. In song oracles were given, and the way of hfe was shown " ; the favour of kings was sought in Pierian strains,^ and mirth was found to close toil's long spell.' So you need not blush for the Muse skilled in the lyre, and for Apollo, god of song.

» In didactic poetry such as Hesiod's, and gnomic poetry such as Solon's.

  • A reference to Pindar, Simonides, and Bacchylides.
  • The ludus is such festal mirth as was exhibited in the

dramatic performances of the Dionysia. Cf. Epist. ii. 1. 139 ff.



Natura fieret laudabile carmen an arte, quaesitum est : ego nee studium sine divite vena, nee rude quid prosit^ video ingenium : alterius sic 410 altera poscit opem res et coniurat amice, qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam, multa tulit fecitque puer, sudavit et alsit, abstinuit Venere et vino ; qui Pythia cantat tibicen, didicit prius extimuitque magistrum. 415 nunc^ satis est^ dixisse: "ego mira poemata pango; occupet extremum scabies ; mihi turpe relinqui est et quod non didici sane nescire fateri."

Ut praeco, ad merces turbam qui cogit emendas, adsentatoi-es iubet ad lucrum ire poeta 420

dives agris,* dives positis in faenore nummis. si^ vero est, unctum qui recte ponere possit et spondere levi pro paupere et eripere atris® litibus implicitum, mirabor, si sciet inter- noscere mendacem verumque beatus amicum. 425 tu seu donaris seu quid donare voles cui,' nolito ad versus tibi factos ducere plenum laetitiae : clamabit enim " pulchre ! bene ! recte ! " pallescet super his, etiam stillabit amicis ex oculis rorem, saliet, tundet pede terram. 430

ut qui conducti plorant in funere dicunt et faciunt prope plura dolentibus ex animo, sic derisor vero plus laudatore movetur. reges dicuntur multis urgere culullis

^ possit. ^ nee. ^ et BC. * agri BC.

  • sin Xtt. * artis : so Bentley. ' qui B : quoi V.

" An allusion to a game of tag, in which the children cried: habeat scabiem quisquis ad me venerit novi'ssimus. Horace means that people play at poetry like children. Cf, Ep. i. 1. 59.



      • Often it is asked whether a praiseworthy poem

be due to Nature or to art. For my part, I do not see of what avail is either study, when not enriched by Nature's vein, or native \sit, if untrained ; so truly does each claim the other's aid, and make with it a friendly league. He who in the race-course craves to reach the longed-for goal, has borne much and done much as a boy, has sweated and shivered, has kept aloof from •nine and women. The flautist who plays at the Pythian games, has first learned his lessons and been in awe of a master. To-day 'tis enough to say : " I fashion wondrous poems : the devil take the hindmost ! " 'Tis unseemly for me to be left behind, and to confess that I really do not know what I have never learned."

  • ^^ Like the crier, who gathers a crowd to the

auction of his wares, so the poet bids flatterers flock to the call of gain, if he is rich in lands, and rich in moneys put out at interest. But if he be one who can fitly serve a dainty dinner, and be surety for a poor man of httle credit, or can rescue one entangled in gloomy suits-at-law, I shall wonder if the happy fellow will be able to distinguish between a false and a true friend. And you, if you have given or mean to give a present to anyone, do not bring him, in the fulness of his joy, to hear verses you have wTitten. For he will call out " Fine ! good ! perfect ! " He will change colour over them ; he \\i\\ even distil the dew from his friendly eyes, he will dance and thump the ground with his foot. As hired mourners at a funeral say and do almost more than those who grieve at heart, so the man who mocks is more moved than the true admirer. Kings, we are told, ply with many a bumper and test witli



et torquere mero, quem perspexisse laborent,^ 435 an sit amicitia dignus : si carmina condes, numquam te fallent^ animi sub volpe latentes.

Quintilio si quid recitares, " corrige, sodes, hoc," aiebat, " et hoc." melius te posse negares bis terque expertum frustra, delere iubebat 440 ^

et male tornatos^ incudi reddere versus. |

si defendere delictum quam vertere malles, i

nullum ultra verbum aut operam insumebat inanem, quin sine rivali teque et tua solus amares. vir bonus et prudens versus reprehendet inertis, 445 culpabit duros, incomptis allinet atrum transverso calamo signum, ambitiosa recidet ornamenta, parum claris lucem dare coget, arguet ambigue dictum, mutanda notabit, fiet Aristarchus ; nee* dicet: " cur ego amicum 450 ofFendam in nugis ? " hae nugae seria ducent in mala derisum semel exceptumque sinistre.

Ut mala quem scabies aut morbus regius urget aut fanaticus error et iracunda Diana, vesanum tetigisse timent fugientque^ poetam 455 qui sapiunt ; agitant pueri incautique sequuntur. hie, dum sublimis versus ructatur et errat,

1 laborant, // {not <t>). * fallant <t>f8.

^ torquatos Ex ter natos Bentley. * non, II.

  • fugientque a^ : fugentque M: fugiuntque K.

' In one of Aesop's fables, the crow, yielding to the fox's flatterj% drops the cheese he has found.

  • i.e. Quintilius Varus, whose death is lamented in Odes,

i. 24.

« The name of Aristarchus, famous as an Homeric scholar of Alexandria in the second century B.C., had become pro- verbial as that of a keen critic.



wine the man they are anxious to see through, whether he be worthy of their friendship. If you mean to fashion verses, never let the intent that lurks beneath the fox ensnare you.<*

  • ^ If you ever read aught to Qiiintilius,' he would

say : " Pray correct this and this." If, after two or three vain trials, you said you could not do better, he would bid you blot it out, and return the ill- shaped verses to the anvil. If vou preferred defend- ing your mistake to amending it, he would waste not a word more, would spend no fruitless toil, to prevent your lo\ing yourself and your work alone without a rival. An honest and sensible man will censure Ufeless lines, he will find fault with harsh ones ; if they are graceless, he will draw his pen across and smear them with a black stroke ; he will cut away pretentious ornament ; he wiU force you to flood the obscure with light, \vill convict the doubt- ful phrase, will mark what should be changed, will prove an Aristarchus." He will not say, " WTiy should I give offence to a friend about trifles ? " These trifles will bring that friend into serious trouble, if once he has been laughed dowm and given an unlucky reception.

  • ^^ As when the accursed itch plagues a man, or

the disease of kings,** or a fit of frenzy and Diana's wrath,' so men of sense fear to touch a crazy poet and run away ; children tease and pursue him rashly. He, with head upraised, splutters verses and off he strays;

•* The morbus regius, said to be so called because the patient was treated with costly remedies, which only the rich (reges) could afford, was our jaundice and was supposed to be contagious.

« " Lunacy " was supposed to be caused by the moon, and the moon-goddess was Diana.



si* veliiti merulis intentus decidit auceps

in puteum foveamve, licet " succurrite " longuin

clamet " io cives ! " non sit qui tollere curet. 4G0

si curet quis opem ferre et demittere^ funem,

" qui scis, an prudens hue se deiecerit^ atque

servari nolit ? " dicam, Siculique poetae

narrabo interitum. deus immortalis haberi

dum cupit Empedocles, ardentem frigidus Aetnam

insiluit. sit ius liceatque perire poetis : 466

invitum qui servat, idem facit occidenti.

nee semel hoc fecit, nee, si retractus erit, iam

fiet homo et ponet famosae mortis amorem.

nee satis apparet, cur versus factitet, utrum 470

minxerit in patrios cineres, an triste bidental

moverit incestus : certe furit, ac velut ursus,

obiectos* caveae valuit si frangere clatros,

indoctum doctumque fugat recitator acerbus ;

quern vero arripuit, tenet occiditque legendo, 475

non missura cutem, nisi plena cruoris, hirudo.

1 si K8 : sic aEM. ^ dimittere most ms8.

' proiecerit, //. * obiectas E.

" So Thales is said to have fallen into a well while studying the stars (Plato, Theaetetug, 174 a).



then if, like a fowler with his eyes upon blackbirds, he fall into a well <* or pit, despite his far-reaching cry, " Help, O fellow-citizens ! " not a soul will care to pull him out. And if one should care to lend aid and let do^^■n a rope, " How do you know," I'll say, " but that he threw himself in on purpose, and does not wish to be saved ? " and I'll tell the tale of the Sicilian poet's end. Empedocles, eager to be thought a god immortal, coolly leapt into burning Aetna. Let poets have the right and power to destroy them- selves. Who saves a man against his %\'ill does the same as miu-der him. Not for the first time has he done this, nor if he is pulled out will he at once become a human being and lay aside his cra\ing for a notable death. Nor is it very clear how he comes to be a verse-monger. Has he defiled ancestral ashes or in sacrilege disturbed a hallowed plot ** ? At any rate he is mad, and, hke a bear, if he has had strength to break the confining bars of his cage, he puts learned and unlearned ahke to flight by the scourge of his recitals. If he catches a man, he holds him fast and reads him to death — a leech that will not let go the skin, till gorged with blood.

  • The hidental was a spot struck by lightning, which was

consecrated by a sacrifice of sheep {biderUet).


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