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Cum tibi sol tepidus pluris admoverit auris, me libertino natum patre et in tenui re maiores pinnas nido extendisse loqueris, ut quantum generi demas virtutibus addas ; me primis urbis belli placuisse domique, corporis exigui, praecanum, solibus aptum, irasci celerem, tamen ut placabilis essem. forte meum si quis te percontabitur aevum, me quater undenos sciat implevisse Decembris, collegam Lepidum quo duxit? Lollius anno.
2 duxit mss. Porph. : dixit urged by Keller, accepted by Wilkins, Rolfe.
19 When the milder sun brings you a larger audience, you will tell them about me: that I was a freedman's son, and amid slender means spread wings too wide for my nest, thus adding to my merits what you take from
birth; that I found favour, both in war and peace, with the foremost in the State ; of small stature, grey before my time, fond of the sun, quick in temper, yet so as to be easily appeased. If one chance to inquire my age, let him know that I completed my forty-fourth December in the year when Lollius drew Lepidus for colleague.
a Lollius was consul in 21 B.C. The other consulship, first intended for Augustus himself, was later filled by the appeintment of Lepidus.
In his Life of Horace, Suetonius tells us that the poet composed this Epistle for Augustus after the emperor, on reading certain of his Sermones, had complained because none of them were addressed to
Augustus scripta quidem eius usque adeo probavit . . . ut ... post sermones vero quosdam lectos nullam sui mentionem habitam ita sit questus :
irasci me tibi scito, quod non in plerisque eiusmodi scriptis mecum potissimum loquaris. An vereris ne apud posteros infame tibi sit, quod videaris familiaris nobis esse ?? Expressitque eclogam ad se cuius initium est cum tot sustineas,” a etc. It is quite improbable that the sermones here referred to are either the Satires, which were published sixteen years earlier, or the First Book of Epistles, published some
a “ Augustus appreciated his writings so highly that, after reading some of his Sermones and finding no mention therein of himself, he sent him this complaint : Know that I am angry with you, because in your several writings of this type you do not address me-me above all. Is it your fear that posterity may deem it to your discredit, that you seem to be intimate with me?' And so he wrung from the poet the selection addressed to him, beginning cum tot sustineas."
six years before. They must be the Epistles addressed to Florus (ii.)l), and to the Pisones (Ars Poetica), the present Epistle, therefore, being the latest of the three in composition.
Burdened as you are, O Caesar, with cares of State, you must not be approached by me in a long discourse (1-4).
Unlike the demigods of story, whose benefits to mankind were recognized only after death, your great services to the world are acknowledged in your lifetime (5-17), but this principle is not elsewhere applied by the Romans to contemporary merit, for they admire only what is ancient, and defend their attitude on the ground that the best works of the Greeks were their earliest (18-33). But how can a line be drawn strictly between ancient and modern (34-49) ?
Take a list of the older poets, and note how secure they are in the reputation assigned them by the critics. Ennius, for example, their“ second Homer,” cares little whether the promises of his Pythagorean dreams are fulfilled. Naevius is as familiar to us as if he were a recent writer. So with Pacuvius and Accius in tragedy ; Afranius, Plautus, Caecilius, and Terence in comedy (50-62).
This admiration should be more discriminating, for these early writers are far from perfect and often call for our indulgence rather than our approval. It is really envy of contemporary merit that accounts for this undue praise of the old writers and a depreciation of the new (63-89).
How different was the attitude of the Greeks toward novelty! Once rid of war, they turned like children from one amusement to another-athletics, sculpture, painting, music, and tragedy, but in Rome we have been more serious, devoting ourselves to practical affairs, and only now, in these late days, turning to the writing of verses, as I am doing myself (90-117).
This craze is not without its advantages. Poets are free from many vices. They promote the education of the young and serve the cause of religion (118-138). Let us look at the history of dramatic poetry. Beginning with rude Fescennine verses, whose scurrility had to be checked by law, it came under the refining influence of Greek art, which led to the almost complete elimination of the earlier rusticity (139-160). For tragedy the Romans have a natural aptitude, but they lack the finishing touch. Comedy is supposed to involve less labour, but for that very reason failure can not be so easily excused. Plautus, for instance, is careless and slipshod, being more anxious to fill his purse than to write good plays (161-176). The dramatic writer depends for success upon his audience, and therefore I renounce the stage. The masses call for bears and boxers, and even the educated care more for what delights the restless
eye than for good drama. If Democritus were alive to-day, he would laugh, not at the scene on the stage, but at the audience, who applaud the actor before he utters a word, simply because of his fine clothes (177-207)! Yet don't suppose that I undervalue an art which I cannot handle, for to me a great dramatic poet, who can move my soul with his airy creations, is a wondrous magician (208-213).
But I pray you, O Caesar, to bestow à share of your patronage on those who write, not for spectators, but for readers (214-218).