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THE LIFE OF HORACE.
QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS was born at Venusium in Apulia, sixtyfour years before Christ. His father was a freedman, and collector of the revenue; and gave his son a liberal education at Rome and Athens. After enjoying the best means of instruction that Rome afforded, at the age of about twentyone, Horace was sent to Athens to complete his education. Whilst Horace was at Athens, Cæsar was assassinated; and Brutus and Cassius repaired to that city, in order to enlist in the cause of freedom the young Romans who were pursuing their studies there. Horace attached himself to Brutus, under whom he served nearly two vears. He was in the battle of Philippi, with the rank of military tribune. He fled in the rout of that day, and was taken prisoner; but obtained a pardon, and afterwards was distinguished by the favor and friendship of Mæcenas. He filled the office of a clerk to the treasury, and assisted the emperor as his private amanuensis. This appears from the fragment of a letter from Augustus to his minister. “I used to be equal to the writing of my own letters; but I am now so pressed with a multiplicity of business, and so infirm, that I wish you to bring me our friend Horace. Let him come, then, and leave that parasitical table for my palace, and assist me in writing my letters.” Another fragment of a letter from Augustus to Horace, is expressed in terms of the most easy and playful familiarity. “ Dionysius has conveyed your little volume to me; which, not to quarrel with its brevity, I take in good part. But you seem to me fearful, lest your works should be bigger than yourself. However, what you want in height, is made up to you by that little round body of yours. You should, therefore, write such a roll, as may go, not round a stick, but a quart measure; and then the circumference of your volume may be squab and swollen like the rotundity of your little belly.” This is a pleasing personal trait. Horace has, himself, given us some interesting hints of his person and manners. He was gray before his time; fond of basking in the sun; and of taking a siesta on the bank of a river. He speaks of breaking stones and turning up the ground, when in the country; and when in town, of sauntering in the market, or riding out on a dock-tailed mule, which he sat awkwardly. He dined on a pancake and vegetables; and divided the rest of the day between reading and writing, the
bath and the tennis-court. He was subject to a defiuxion in the
eyes; as was Virgil to a complaint of asthma; ani Augustus used to rally the two poets, by saying, “that he sat. between sighs and tears." He had a farm in the country of the Sabines, and a house at Tibur, now Tivoli, the ruins of which are still shown to strangers. He died in his fifty-ninth year; so suddenly that he left no will, and his property therefore reverted to the emperor. He was buried in the cemetery on the Esquiline Hill, near the tomb of Mæcenas.
The writings of Horace have an air of frankness and openness about them; a manly simplicity, and a contempt of affectation, or the little pride of a vain and mean concealment, which, at once, take hold on our confidence. We can believe the account which he gives of his own character, without scruple or suspicion. That he was fond of pleasure is confessed; but, generally speaking, he was moderate and temperate in his pleasures; and his convivial hours seem to have been far more intellectual, and more enlightened by social wit and wisdom, than are those of the common herd of Epicurean poets.
Horace, of all the writers of antiquity, most abounds with that practical good sense, and familiar observation of life and manners, which render an author, in a more emphatic sense, the reader's companion. Good sense, in fact, seems the most distinguishing feature of his satires; for his wit seems rather forced; and it is their tone of sound understanding, added to their easy, conversational air, and a certain turn for fine raillery, that forms the secret by which they please. In variety and versatility, his lyric genius is unrivalled by that of any poet with whom we are acquainted; and there are no marks of inequality or of inferiority to himself. Whether his odes be of the moral and philosophic kind; or the heroic; the descriptive; or the amatory, the light, and the joyous; each separate snecies would seem to be his peculiar province. His epistles knowledge of the weaknesses of the human heart, which would do honor to a professed philosopher. What Quintilian, and the moderns after him, call the “ Art of Poetry,” seems to have been only the third epistle of the second book, addressed to the Pisos. The style and manner differ in no respect from the former epistles. The observations are equally desultory, and we meet with the same strokes of satirical humor; which appear unsuitable to a didactic piece.*
MÆCENAS, atavis edite regibus,
eu visa est catulis cerva fidelibus,
AD AUGUSTUM CÆSAREM.
Jam satis terris nivis atque diræ
Templaque Vestæ :
Cui dabit partes scelus expiandi
Vultus in hostem :
Cæsaris ultor :
Te duce, Cæsar.
..( ODE III.
AD NAVEM QUA VIRGILIUS ATIIENAS PROFICISCENS VEHEBATUR.
Sic te diva potens Cypri,
Ventorumque regat pater,
5 Debes Virgilium finibus Atticis,
Reddas incolumem, precor,
Illi robur et æs triplex