Page images

"Let my good friend offset my vices with my virtues. Besides, all faults are not equal; if one is harsh to the more venial, how shall he treat the graver?''' Then Horace preaches the more active charity of sharing one's wealth: Why should another lack and thou be rich? Wherefore should the ancient temples of the gods remain in ruin? Why, wretch, wilt thou not give thy country something from thy store? Doubtless to thee alone life will be smooth always,-O thou soon to become a laughter to thine enemies!"

It is sometimes Horace's way to apply old Greek myth and wisdom to the lives of men about him: How comes it, Mæcenas, that no one is content, but each desires another's lot, complaining of his own? It is all foolish avarice. Yes, laugh, ye wretched men who desire more than you can use,-laugh at the fable of Tantalus; it touches you: de te fabula.'

He recognizes weakness as the source of the restless pursuit of unworthy pleasures; and chides weak inconsistency, chides it in himself speaking through the mouth of his moralizing slave, who tells him he cries up the ways of yore, and yet, should some god offer him the chance to return to them, he would decline: In Rome you wish for the country, in the country you sigh for the town. You disgrace yourself running after other men's wives,-O totiens servus! Only fear keeps you from all vices. You are as much a slave as I. Who then is free? only the wise who controls himself and fears nothing. So the slave concludes with Stoical phrases. The same refrain of the foolishness of weak desire is heard in halfsad, half-mocking tones through many of the lighter love-odes.

From the sense of the foolishness of restless desires Horace derives the cardinal principles of his philosophy of life: moderation, contentment with little, an even

1 Sat., i, iii, 117.

9 Ib., ii, ii, 102.

'E.g., Carm., i, v, and i, xxvii, 11.

Ib., i, i, 69. ▲ Ib., ii, vii.

mind in fortune or misfortune,-thoughts which he The Pathos often expresses with varying emphasis and of Epicu- illustration: reanism.

Lætus sorte tua vives sapienter, Aristi,'

is a general expression. More pointedly Horace praises the golden mean, aurea mediocritas, for he has the old Greek fear of too great prosperity, divested of its superstition: "Whom prosperity too much delights, will adversity shake; shun the overmuch." Nil admirari,' -desire nothing passionately; and in all things preserve an even mind prepared for changing fortune:

Æquam memento rebus in arduis

Servare mentem, non secus in bonis.'

These passages are just as accordant with the better Epicureanism as with Stoicism. Horace always preached and practised self-control, moderation, and contentment. But, at least in the earlier part of his life, his point of view wavered between the teachings of Epicurus and the Stoa. The love poems reflect Epicurean leanings; and this:

dum loquimur fugerit invida Ætas carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

There is Epicurean flavor in the famous lines:

Lætus in præsens animus quod ultra est

Oderit curare, et amara lento

Temperet risu; nihil est ab omni

Parte beatum.'

Even in the ode beginning Æquam memento, the philosophizing is that of tempered enjoyment of the present; and the ode closes with sad thoughts of life's ending.

1 Epist., i, x, 44.

2 Carm., ii, x.

3 Epist., i, x, 30; cf. Carm., iii, i. 4 Epist., i, vi, i.

Carm., ii, iii; cf. Carm., ii, x, and see Epist., i, iv, 12.

• Carm., i, xi.

* Ib., ii, xvi.

It may have been possible for some men without sadness to be consistent Epicureans. But it was a sorry system. How could men ever learn to recognize in life no other motive than pleasure, and at the same time learn to care for that only a little? Epicureanism set man's good in pleasurable mental or bodily conditions, fleeting in their nature, and for that reason to be viewed contentedly in their flight. It offered in life nothing of absolute worth, nor any good at the end. In Horace's time it was no new thing, and lacked the cheerful interest of novel experiments. To men of thoughtful temperament it could offer little beyond a tempering of life's sad mortality. Virgil had felt life's higher pathos. Horace was to feel and express the pathos of mortality, the pathos of short-lived pleasure, in fine the pathos of Epicureanism:

Pallida Mors æquo pulsat pede pauperum tabernas
Regumque turres. O beate Sesti,

Vitæ summa brevis spem nos vetat incohare longam.'

Life's short span forbids far hope! The full compass of the sorrow fills a later poem:

Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,

Labuntur anni :

Alas, the flying years slip by! no piety holds back old age and death; with no sacrifice of bulls shalt thou placate Pluto, who quells Geryon and Tityus with that sad wave which must be sailed by all. In vain we shun sea-storm and battle. Needs must be seen the black stream; needs must be left earth, home, and wife; nor of the trees thou tendest shall any but the cypress follow its brief lord." If this ode omits any minor touch of mortal pathos, Horace still can give it :

1 Carm., i, iv.

Non semper idem floribus est honor

2 lb., ii, xiv.

3 lb., ii, xi.

From the
Garden to

The man who could thus feel the pathos of mortality, needed more in his life than Epicureanism could supply. No simple contentment with fleeting joy could appease such feeling. For Horace, life needed the Porch, something besides moderation. Some unsteady sense of religious awe had come to him,' and a need to connect his principles of conduct with divine Providence. He sought a higher sanction for his maxims. Hence it comes to him in a later ode to say: "The more one denies himself, the more he gets from the gods; to those who seek much, much is lacking; well for him to whom God gives the little which is enough.” This connection of his principles with God's rewarding Providence indicates departure from Epicureanism. But more than this was he yet to bring into his philosophy of life; he would add the practice of good to his Epicurean contentment, and this, with thoughts of Providence, he took from Stoicism and from current Roman ideas.

Social and political needs and Augustus' efforts at reform suggested to Horace the virtues which it were well


for him with all other men to cultivate. In the main they were the sterling virtues of old Rome, frugality, toil, hardihood, patriotic fortitude and strength of purpose, all of which he urges in the great odes forming the first part of the third book. There he praises the fearless man, Justum et tenacem propositi; there he utters the words, Dulce et decorum pro patria mori, and, continuing, in the same ode he praises that virtue of high endeavor which knows no repulse, which spurns the earth, and opens heaven for those who deserve not to die:

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Virtus, recludens immeritis mori
Cælum, negata temptat iter via,
Cœtusque volgaris et udam

Spernit humum fugiente penna.'

This is virtue, showing itself in noble conduct, while within, a virtuous heart is a refuge unto itself: let this be a wall of strength, to be conscious of no crime;' good men hate to sin through love of virtue." So Horace turns to the practice of virtue and the inward sense of rectitude as matters of sure worth in life's mortality. Besides which he has connected with divine Providence, not only his early principles of moderation, but also his final sense that a pure conscience is man's best good. God looks to the clean hand, not to the costly sacrifice." Yet with Horace, Epicurean, Stoic, Pagan, this pure and quiet heart comes not from God. Man must rely on himself for growth in virtue and strength of will; it is God's part to furnish life and opportunity:

Sed satis est orare Jovem, quæ ponit et aufert :

Det vitam, det opes: æquum mi animum ipse parabo.*

And the outcome of this life, which has known the joy of pleasure and life's mortal sadness, and thence has turned to a pure heart as a surer satisfaction, is Look peace at last. 'Midst the fumum et opes strepi


tumque Roma, Horace had ever and anon longed for the quiet of nature,' and in later life had cared more steadily for his little farm which restored him to himself." There, freed from importunity and social duties, he might enjoy that personal freedom always so

1 Carm., iii, ii. There is contempt throughout these odes for the crowd, the malignum vulgus (Carm., ii, xvi, 39), which Horace always despised. 2 Epist., i, i, 60.

3 Ib., i, xvi, 52.

* See Carm., iii, xxiii.

6 Carm., iii, xxix, 12.

E. g., Sat., ii, vi, 59.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »