Flaccan Friday: Quoting Horace

When I was younger, I didn’t have much time for Quintus Horatius Flaccus. (O Fons Bandusiae? Please.) I remember loathing him for his Epistles when studying for the AP in high school, slogging through the Sermones as an undergraduate  and even in graduate school proudly declaring that his Odes were simply untranslatable.

But now? He’s one of our most quoted authors. So, here’s to Friday, and some old wine in a new vase. (Yeah, that’s backwards.)

Here are some of our favorites on topics like Homer, Homer and drinking, style, fate exceptionality, etc. etc. But no fountains.

Horace, Ars poetica 25

“I try to be brief, and I become unintelligible”

brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio

Horace, Epistulae 1.17.39

“What we’re looking for is here – or nowhere”

hic est aut nusquam quod quaerimus

Horace, Epistulae 1.11.27

“Those who travel beyond the sea change the weather, not their spirits”

caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt

Horace, Ars Poetica 359

“Sometimes even good Homer nods off”

quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus

Horace, Odes 3.29.29-30

“Prudently the god covers the outcome of the future in dark night”

prudens futuri temporis exitum
caliginosa nocte premit deus

Horace, Odes 2.10.11-12

“Lightning tends to strike the highest peaks”

…feriuntque summos / fulmina montes

Horace, Odes 1.18.3-4

“For teetotalers the god has made all things difficult, nor do biting troubles flee in any other way”

siccis omnia nam dura deus proposuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitudines

Horace, Ars Poetica 99

“It is not enough that poems be beautiful; they should be pleasant, too.”

“Non satis est pulchra esse poemata; dulcia sunto”

Horace, Epistles 1.1.76

“You are a beast of many heads”.

bellua multorum es capitum

Horace, Epistulae 1.19.6

“Homer is said to have been a drunkard because of his praise of wine”

laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus

Horace, Sermones 1.1.27

“Let’s put aside these games and focus on serious things”.

amoto quaeramus seria ludo

Horace, Ars Poetica 309

“The origin and source of good writing is good judgment”.

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.

Horace, Epistles 1.1.41-42

“Virtue’s first rule is to avoid vice, and wisdom’s is to not be stupid”.

Horace, Ars Poetica -285-287

“Our poets have left nothing untried, and deserve some honor for daring to stray off the Greek path, and celebrate our own domestic deeds.”

Nil intemptatum nostri liquere poetae, 285
nec minimum meruere decus uestigia Graeca
ausi deserere et celebrare domestica facta

Horace, Epistles 1.2

“The one who has begun has completed half the task.”

dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet.

Horace, Sermones 1.1.43-56

“What good is it to heap up a mound of gold and silver and furtively stash it away in a hole? ‘Because, if you lessen it, it will be reduced to a worthless penny.’ But barring that, what beauty does a heaped up mound have? Suppose that your granary held a hundred thousand bushels: your stomach won’t hold any more than mine! If you were carrying around a backpack of bread upon overburdened shoulders, you couldn’t take more than the man who carries nothing. Tell me: what does it matter to someone who lives within the bounds of nature whether he farms a hundred acres or a thousand? ‘But it’s a fine thing to pluck something out of a huge heap!’ While you would only leave us to take a drink from the smallest remaining fraction, why would you praise your granaries above our little baskets? It is as if, needing no more than a little urn or cup worth of water, you said, ‘I would rather drink from a river than this piddly little fountain!’”

quid iuvat inmensum te argenti pondus et auri
furtim defossa timidum deponere terra?
‘quod, si conminuas, vilem redigatur ad assem.’
at ni id fit, quid habet pulcri constructus acervus?
milia frumenti tua triverit area centum: 45
non tuus hoc capiet venter plus ac meus: ut, si
reticulum panis venalis inter onusto
forte vehas umero, nihilo plus accipias quam
qui nil portarit. vel dic quid referat intra
naturae finis viventi, iugera centum an 50
mille aret? ‘at suave est ex magno tollere acervo.’
dum ex parvo nobis tantundem haurire relinquas,
cur tua plus laudes cumeris granaria nostris?
ut tibi si sit opus liquidi non amplius urna
vel cyatho et dicas ‘magno de flumine mallem 55
quam ex hoc fonticulo tantundem sumere.’

4 thoughts on “Flaccan Friday: Quoting Horace

  1. The Satires & Epistles never grabbed me either. But I started with the Odes & Epodes and kept thinking “oh, wow”. Even for the Hated Fons Bandusiae, especially for it. May explain why I’m a Latinist….

  2. You’re way off base here, man! I am not much of a fan of the moralizing in the later Odes, but consider Horace’s skill as a metrical technician: no other Latin author wrote such technically refined Latin verse in such a variety of meters. He fitted Latin into some of the toughest Greek metrical schemes, yet despite his obvious Hellenism, he also excelled at the entirely Roman satire. The other great Augustan poets like Ovid, Propertius, and Vergil use severely limited metrical range in comparison; and of course, by the time the Silver Age rolled around, poetry was dead!

    I can see, though, that Horace’s poems don’t appeal much to our emotions, at least as modern readers.

    1. Finally, someone pushes back against my denigration of Horace!

      You are absolutely correct, Horace is the eminent stylist and formalist of Roman poetry. And, I do really appreciate the Sermones. I find the philosophical content of his Odes and Epodes thoroughly derivative and unconvincing, almost as bad as Cicero. But for technique, he is unparalleled.

      Ovid has more spirit, though…

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