Serendipitous Saturday: Horace and Homer on Strings

While browsing through some of our earlier posts, two passages jumped out at me:

Horace, Ars Poetica 347

“The string does not always return the sound that the hand and mind desire”.

neque chorda sonum reddit quem volt manus et mens.



This would normally make me think of one of the greatest Homeric similes, and that simile was posted on the next day!


Homer, Odyssey 21.407-409


Just as a man who knows both lyre and song

easily stretches a string on a new peg

as he attaches the twisted sheep-gut to both sides

just so, without haste, Odysseus strung the great bow


ὡς ὅτ’ ἀνὴρ φόρμιγγος ἐπιστάμενος καὶ ἀοιδῆς

ῥηϊδίως ἐτάνυσσε νέῳ περὶ κόλλοπι χορδήν,

ἅψας ἀμφοτέρωθεν ἐϋστρεφὲς ἔντερον οἰός,

ὣς ἄρ’ ἄτερ σπουδῆς τάνυσεν μέγα τόξον ᾿Οδυσσεύς.


A great passage that combines two strains of the Odyssey, the hero as killer and the hero as singer, that have already overlapped at so many turns right before the killer supersedes all else.

Obviously, the Horatian passage made me think of the Homeric one.  But was that Horace’s inspiration?  Perhaps more scholarly minds than mine (or hands close to commentaries!) will have an answer…

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