A very pretty picture. And that makes him immediately problematic as a satirist. In being so beautifully favored by the gods, actually receiving even more than he asked for, there is no one quite like the well-kept poet of Sermones 2. In that programmatic first poem the poet-interlocutor reminded us that not only did Lucilus make direct personal attacks on prominent political figures of his day, he occasionally wrote satires in a completely different register that featured him in a relaxed, private mode, far from the public scene, sporting with his friends, Scipio and Laelius.
One poem apparently found the poet chasing Scipio around the dining room, snapping at him with a twisted napkin. All of which Horace brings to mind in Sermones 2. And instead he treats us to snatches of his private life, his time spent among friends and his daily routines. To write this way is to perform in an alternate mode of Lucilian satire, that of his autobiographical poems, but the end result is anything but Lucilian.
And they add up differently, to suggest that this poet is not in fact his own man, and that he has no life at all. As always in the Sermones , in trying to live up to Lucilius, even in this softer, personal mode, the joke ends up being on the poet himself. Eavesdropping on his daily routines we see that the company he keeps is mostly not of his own choosing.
His ranking with Octavian and Maecenas, again something he tells us frustratingly little about, has made him an object of public attention, much of it unwanted. Throughout the book they insist that he take notice of them, hear them out, and though they never say so become their friend. But the pictures painted all around this one, the ones I have just alluded to, are chock-full of personal discontent, social commentary and comical fun, and that is key to their being taken for satire in the Lucilian manner.
As he describes it, the villa he has been given, while lovely and inviting, is empty. The poet is nowhere in sight.
Rather, he ponders his new farm wistfully from some distant, urban locale, wishing he could include himself in the scene he paints. But he cannot. Any respectable picture of true, god-given bliss should feature the owner tending his fields, plucking fruits, or drinking from his spring. But that is the stuff of lyric, not of satire, where the poet is generically bound to drag out his life in the big city, and where there can be no running off to rustic bliss.
When Horace tries to do this in Sermones 2. As Damasippus lays into the poet for running off to the countryside he casts him in an as-yet unfamiliar light Sermones 2. Go ahead! Pointlessly you blame your writing instruments, and your innocent wall gets battered, born when gods and poets were in a bad mood. Yet yours was the face of one threatening many glorious things, if only your sweet little villa should catch you, freed of duties, under its warm cover.
Here, for the first time in the Sermones, we are presented with a moralist oddly disengaged from city life, running off to his farm to escape the noise and bother of Rome at the height of the Saturnalia, when all good satirists should be busily about their business in the city.
In sum, no satirist at all. But he is not entirely unfamiliar to us. On the contrary, the set of traits picked out by Damasippus adds up to a version of Horace that we know quite well, that of the subumbral lounger, fond of rustic detachment, wine and sleep. It is a version of the poet altogether familiar from the Odes , but quite out of keeping with his self-representation in the satires.
His appearance here in Sermones 2. At the end of Sermones 2. None of which not even the designation poemata applies very well, if at all, to his satires, but all of which applies beautifully to his songs of love, or to certain of his Epodes that stray from their iambographic center towards Lyric expressions of love. In his parting shot against him, Damasippus complains that the poet is mad in his pursuit of lovers, raging after girls and boys by the thousands. They are there to be cartoonified and mocked by a satirist who is both cleanly separate from them and intent on their eradication.
Or perhaps not. In that respect he stands-in for the readers of book one who expect him to deliver a completed second book, and who might well expect him to remain true to his old responsible self.
We recall that in Epode 14, a clear match for Sermones 2. Their failures and broken affairs were a ready source of rage driving them to complain and taunt. He cannot finish the book, the poet says, because a god Love prevents him deus deus nam me vetat, 6. He sang of being pleasurably tortured, and teased, and gratified by his many lovers and would-be lovers.
Bathyllus see Anacreontea 17, a poem that Horace would have regarded as authentic 14 is only the most famous of these. He sang of wine, of banquets, and song, and of the need to take a full measure of delight from these because life, like a bright red rose, fades quickly Anacreontea 32 and He represents a haughty girl as a skittish filly PMG Seen from this background, and with due consideration for what Horace will make of him in subsequent song, the reference to Anacreon in Epode 14 is not a casual gesture that loosely links one lover to another.
So heavily does it gravitate towards the themes and expressive habits of lyric love poetry that much scholarship on the poem has addressed itself to the question of whether it ought to be classified as iambic or lyric. Here again, genres are marked by exemplary names. At lines Damasippus says:. Quorsum pertinuit stipare Platona Menandro?
Eupolin Archilocho, comites educere tantos? And elsewhere I have done my part to add to the confusion by insisting that Damasippus is here talking only about the satires, perhaps rigging his list to include models he thinks worth emulating in satire thus providing a personally focalized list, expressive of his values.
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One would be hard pressed to find two more perfect model-pairs for either work. In the immediate aftermath of Actium, Horace has two unfinished books on his desk, Sermones book 2 and the Epodes. But Damasippus complains that some third distraction has gotten in his way. Through his own eyes the view is attractive rather than unseemly, but when he dreams of going to his villa in lines we cannot help but notice that the activities he describes himself engaging in are precisely the same activities that Damasippus chides him for at the beginning of Sermones 2.
He will bring along a stack of classic books of old writers veterum libris , he says, but he will sleep away his time and get nothing done somno et inertibus horis ducere sollicitae iucunda oblivia vitae. This peculiar nexus of ideas has a clear counterpart probably remembered, but perhaps anticipated in the opening lines of Epode Whereas in the Epodes the reference to the river Lethe is explicit, in 2. That sounds a second reincarnational note by reminding us of Pythagoras and his odd transmigrational beliefs regarding beans. Each guest, the poet says, will drink just what he wants, and no one will force him to drink any more.
And that is very unlike the way drinking parties are conducted in the city, where some guests are required to drink more or stronger wine, and others less or weaker wine, or nothing at all. It all depends on who you are and why you were invited if you were invited in the first place. This is his house larem proprium , 66 , he makes clear, so the dinners and the drinking will be as he dictates.
Here at his farm he is not a mere guest conviva but a host, and that makes for another stunning first in the world of Horatian Sermo. Nowhere else in either book of the Sermones do we find Horace in the role of host. The eye-view of the satirist is routinely that of the put-upon guest who sits in an inconspicuous low seat. From there he sees it all, and he has much to say about the behavior he observes.
In the key programmatic terms of Sermones 1. That is, not until he goes off to his country dreamscape in Sermones 2. Elsewhere in these poems when the poet dines at home he does so in the exalted company of his earthenware cups and his oil jug. But it is not shared with others. At his lyric table, he welcomes friends, toasts their health, and dictates the rules of the feast.
In the world of the Odes it is they who have to behave themselves and know when it is time to go. They are consistent about this. Oddly the two representations, one hostile the other friendly, draw on precisely the same set of habits to reach their opposite conclusions. But among the nasty habits he is chided for in 2. At lines he wonders aloud:. And as in 2. The tense coupling of illustrem satiris in line 17 underscores the oddity: illustrem has strong associations with epinician praise, and satiris equally strong and exclusive associations with invective.
This is not just what a hymn happens to look like in satire, it is what a hymn has to look like in satire: scoffing, cynical, and parodic. This muse can drink Lord, how she can drink!
Stuck in Rome, stuck in satire, Horace can only dream of his citadel, and of the higher kind of inspiration it will bring. But his muse drags him down. For in trying to sing that hymn here, in satire, and having it sound the way it sounds, Horace shows us the upper limits of the genre in which he is currently enmired. The chosen designation plays upon the very expectation it dodges, for we know that Maecenas really is the one getting the poet out of bed he says so just a few lines later. It is his salutatio that has to be raced to first thing, and his duties that the poet is always about.
For the real thing the citadel has to be scaled, and its high inspiration imbibed, not just dreamed of. Just as I need him to be. Will he ever play up the achievements of Octavian, soon to become Augustus, in song, in ways that the princeps himself would encourage or credit as the real thing? These are questions that do not simply disappear with the publication of Odes books Rather, they are intensified by that performance, and actively dwelt upon from the start of Odes 1.
They are prone to straying off in multiple generic directions, in multiple styles and to not stating the obvious.
All of which relates to the problem of writing satire after Actium see below. We know full well whom the poet should be thanking for his farm, and the name in question does start with the letter M. Commentators on the passage normally explain that Mercury is the god of gain and of unexpected windfall, and that works well enough as loose-fitting solution.
Elsewhere in his works Horace is explicit about his having a special connection to the god, as at Odes 2. This is the special gift that Horace attends to in C. And perhaps already here in Sermones 2. Lines pray to him as a god of financial windfall thesauro invento and of buying and selling merc ennarius… mer catus.