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The poet is said to have had for his model a similar satire of Lucilius, fragments of which are extant, the following verses among others :
Verum hæc ludus ibi susque omnia deque fuerunt,
To what legation and period 'the Journey' belongs has been a vexata quæstio.
It has been commonly referred to the convention and treaty of B.C. 40 at Brundisium, the particulars of which may be found in Arnold's Hist., Vol. v. pp. 259, 260.
It has been referred to B.C. 38, when Antony came to Brundisium to meet Augustus.
But it is with most reason referred to the peace of Tarentum, B.C. 37.
The question materially depends on the chronology of Horace's life. It is barely possible that he was introduced to Mæcenas so early as the first theory presumes ; and probably the early date assigned for bis introduction rested on the assumption that this Iter' could not be placed later than the Brundisian peace.
Sat. VI. An answer to his enemies, who out of jealousy reflected on his low birth, and attributed his good fortune to unworthy arts.
He appeals first to Mæcenas's generous discernment, and to the principle that merit without rank is superior to rank without merit. He touches on the temptations and invidiousness of an elevated station, and recounts his introduction to his patron, with the preparatory character of his earlier, and the simple and contented character of his present life.
Part of the opening argument is elliptical and abrupt in expression (particularly vv. 14—24.). It may be drawn out as follows:
You, Mæcenas, are of the noblest birth, but this does not make you contemptuous, nor do you think merit in a lower rank beneath your notice.
You feel that in all ages men of sterling worth have been found among the humbler classes, and have risen by their worth to eminence; that, on the other hand, there is demerit in the highest ranks, and that so glaring (e. g. in Lavinus) that even the populace admit it, prone as they are to be dazzled by vain show. What then should I do, educated as I have been to a truer judgment, and professing to be superior to, or to see through, popular fallacies? and moreover sufficiently rewarded by your discernment and approval ? Should I compete for public honours, things of no intrinsic value, and in the gift of the misjudging ?
No, for suppose I did (v. 19.), there are rivals who might be preferred to me, and I might even be absolutely rejected as disqualified ; nay, I should deserve it by straining beyond my proper sphere. But, I might plead, who does not wish to rise above his sphere ? On the other hand, is any happier for doing so ? Or what does he gain but criticism and censure?
Such are the principles I maintain. I have, in accordance with them, kept clear of popular ambition, and therefore claim exemption from the jealousies which attend it.
My elevation is not to official rank, or conferred by public caprice; it is due to private sentiment and moral estimation. This is not a matter of chance—nor for jealousy. I have a right to these honours, and I thank my patron, and bim who by education fitted me for such patronage.
Sat. VII. This satire contains the humorous and sarcastic description of a quarrel between a rich merchant and moneylender of Clazomenæ, and an officer on the staff of Brutus when acting as prætor in Asia.
It is said by the Scholiast, that Rupilius had given Horace personal provocation by sneering at his low birth. Anyway, both in his case and in that of his adversary, there must have been magnum spectaculum’ to the poet and his friends; and a lesson to purse-proud vulgarity and domineering insolence too good to be lost.
There is nothing in the other satires resembling this one, if we except Sat. v. 52–69., in which the professed jester's sham-fight admits of an evident comparison with the real acrimony of these disputants, notwithstanding the difference of rank and station.
SAT. VIII. This satire is a speech put into the mouth of Priapus, the scarecrow deity of gardens. It contains invectives against Canidia (See Epode v., and the introductory note and cp. Epode xvii., 58.), and implied compliments to Mæcenas who had reclaimed and converted into gardens the Puticuli on the Esquiline hill. These PUTICULI were sandpits, which, when their stores had been used up, were left open as common receptacles for the corpses of suicides, slaves, and criminals. The contemptuous tone of v. 10. is worth remarking, as an exemplification of the contrast between the heathen and the Christian usages and ideas, and this contrast will be heightened by considering that these very sand-quarries of the Esquiline grew eventually into the famous Catacombs, which were known for ages, first as the hiding-place, then as the cemetery, of the Christians of Rome.
A satirical description of a sycophant, in which, incidentally, is asserted the honourable and independent relation which existed between the poet and his patron. There is a curious and difficult allusion to the Jews in V. 69.
The fourth satire, by its remarks on Lucilius, had called forth much would-be criticism. The rivals and depreciators of Horace had seized on what seemed to be an opportunity of enlisting popular sympathies against him, and of backing the established fame of the old poet against the growing success of the new. Horace defends his expressed judgment, unmasks and retorts on their jealousy, vindicates contemporary merit by distinguishing the great literary names which redeem the age from any slur of inferiority to the preceding, and with a modest but confident assurance appeals to their decision.
LIB. II. SAT. I. The second book opens with a kind of apology for the practice of satiric composition. It takes the form of a consultation with the old lawyer Trebatius Testa, whose hints and cautions are given with much humour and some allusion to his peculiarities, as in vv. 8., 9.
Trebatius recommends first, the abandoning composition, or secondly, recourse to a different style of poetry, e. g. epic or descriptive. The poet replies that his instinct for verse is irrepressible, yet that he is incapable of a higher flight. (Compare Epist. 11. i. 250. sqq.) He defends himself by asserting his freedom from all malice and his fairness of purpose; a resolution to attack no one unprovoked, though he will defend himself. (v. 39. sqq.)
He is like his own native town in this (Venusia, (v. 36.), having been colonised originally for a defence upon the frontier.)
Finally, he recurs (v. 62.) to the example of Lucilius, whom he had mentioned before as his model (v. 29. sqq.), and is confident of finding for himself the support and friendship with which Scipio and Lælius honoured and encouraged him.
(Pope bas imitated this Satire, and the Second, and the Sixth.)
Sat. II. This is a satire aimed at the extravagance and excess of epicures, with a passing sarcasm (vv. 55–63.) upon the opposite extreme. The whole finishes with a description of contented simplicity in the person of Ofella, evidently a neighbour and friend of the poet's, and who, in common with him and others, had lost his property in the civil wars, but who had been temperate in his prosperity, and was now, therefore, resolute and cheerful in adversity. Horace professes to be delivering his opinions, in the fear (as some have suggested) lest they should be too cutting in their truth for his patrons to endure.
The correct form of the name (OFELLA not OFELLUS) was first pointed out by Bentley, and his conjecture was afterwards confirmed by MS. authority.
SAT. III. A satire upon the vices and follies of men, classed according to the Stoic formula under the head of insanity.
Damasippus, supposed to be the same mentioned by Cicero as a connoisseur of expensive tastes, is the speaker. He is represented as invading Horace in the retirement of his villa, and upbraiding him with want of industry