Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

LIFE OF HORACE.

QUINTUS HORATIUS Flaccus was born at Venusia, or Venusium, a city of Apulia, A. U. C. 689, B. C. 65. His father, a freedman and client of the Gens Horatia, was the proprietor of a small farm in the vicinity of that place, from which he afterwards removed to Rome, when his son had attained the age of nine or ten years, in order to afford him the benefit of a liberal education. While the parent was discharging, in this great city, the humble duties of an attendant on public sales, the son was receiving the instructions of the ablest preceptors, and enjoying in this respect the same advantages as if he had been descended from one of the oldest families of the capital. It is to this circumstance that the poet, in one of his productions, beautifully alludes; and it would be difficult to say, which of the two was entitled to higher praise, the father who could appropriate his scanty savings to so noble an end, or the son who could make mention of that father's care of his earlier years with such manly gratitude and candour. Orbilius Pupillus, an eminent grammarian of the day, was the first instructor of the young Horace, who read with him (though it would seem with no great relish) the most ancient poets of Rome. The literature of Greece next claimed his attention; and it may well be imagined that the productions of the bard of Ionia, while they would be perused with a higher zest than the feebler efforts of a Livius or an Ennius, would also kindle in the bosom of the young scholar the first spark of that poetic talent, which was destined to prove the ornament and the admiration of his country. About the age of tweniy-onc, Horace was sent to Athens to complete his education. The Academy here numbered him among its pupils, and he had for his fellow-disciples the son of Cicero, Varus, and the young Messala. It would appear, however, from the confessions of his maturer years, that he entertained no very sin rious attachment to any system of philosophical speculation ; and though all his writings breathe an Epicurean spirit, and he himself sometimes betrays a partiality to that school, still he rather seems disposed to ridicule the folly of all sects, than to become the strenuous advocate for any one of them, During the time that Horace was residing at Athens many and important changes had taken place at home. Caesar had been assassinated ; Antony was seeking to erect on the ruins of the Dictator's power a still more formidable despotism; while Brutus and Cassius, the last hopes of the declining republic, were come to Athens in order to call to their standard the young Romans who were pursuing their studies in that celebrated city. Among the number of those, whom an attachment to the principles of freedom induced to join the republican party, was the future bard of Venusia. He continued nearly two years under the command of Brutus, accompanied him into Macedonia, and, after attaining there the rank of military tribune, served in that capacity in the fatal conflict of Philippi. Of his disgraceful flight on this memorable occasion the poet himself has left us an account. He acknowledges, in an ode imitated from Archilochus, that he threw away his buckler and saved himself by a precipitate retreat, a confession which some have regarded as the mere effusion of a sportive ruse, while others have dignified it with the appellation of history. The truth unquestionably lies between either extreme. There is no ground for the supposition that Horace abandoned the conflict before the rest of his party; nor would he as a Roman have acknowledged his rapid flight, had it not been inevitable and shared by his companions. An amnesty having been proclaimed to those who should surrender themselves, we find Horace embracing this opportunity of quitting the republican ranks and returning to his country. At home, however, fresh misfortunes awaited him. During the interval of his absence, his father had paid the debt of nature, his scanty inheritance was ruined or confiscated, and the political horizon seemed unpropitious to any hope which the young Venusian might have entertained of future advancement. Naturally indolent, and of a character strongly marked by a diffidence in his own abilities, it may well be imagined that Horace needed some excitement as powerful as this to call his latent energies into action. "Poverty," exclaims the bard, "drove me to write verses ;" and poverty, we may add, proved the harbinger of his fame. Among the generous friends who fostered his rising talents, and whose approbation encouraged him to persevere in the cultivation of his poetic powers, were Virgil and Varus; by the former of whom he was recommended, at the age of twenty-seven, to the notice of Maecenas, and at a subsequent period by the latter. The account which the poet has left us of his first interview is extremely interesting. He appears before his future patron abashed and diffident. His previous history is told in a few words. The reply of Maecenas is equally brief, and nine months are suffered to elapse before any farther notice is taken by him of the candidate for his favour. When this pe. riod of probation is at an end, during which the poet has de. graded his muse by no offering of servile adulation, he is un. expectedly summoned into the presence of Maecenas, and soon finds himself in the number of his domestic and most intimate friends. Indeed friendship, in the ordinary acceptation

[ocr errors]

o = Sare o ratus ea. Ini II

mawar. It set the wis mi u Jean Iz tez silns reasny muss ssering , is pinza ni se v I. Barve u is B H DHE SOVEE munan UE. vma bersers hate

i o surrez tie mie mi feu ins fent tiez sumCDs ang suns De Turizm re Jer, ik te ras" surace i ms a Santisan innan was al zemry mi jeace. Imame mila . Tinc te jani i fie 4.nu. ani i intet inn e esten ermit of he city is Sunnes ver umuts de izmus savet he ants i Wazeemas: Te e most imporant Benerit í al vis de temusun mi pazuhage of fuis mpecal master Amnt 21 DIS TSETT, Overe, the mmt of tie poet anders neve o mare ieri in accustomei eraanicity. With the means or pusesses an ampie fortune Tin his reach, v Azrustus himself wir los protector and Maecenas ór his bed 00 Inch canmot de said in praise of the man who coci preter his humnie zbode on the Esquiline, the summer ar of Praeneste, his milia at Tibur, or his Sabine farm to all the splendours of af fuence; and who, in writing to his friend Licinius, could so antally allude to his own unerring rules of action, which hi proved to him the surest guides to a happy and contentlife. Perhaps too, the situation of his country may have sted in repressing any ambitious feelings in the poet's mes Horace had seen too much of the instability of for e to cherish the desire of again appearing among

whatever we may think of the courtly freely lavished on his powerful master,

too plainly show that better feelings guished, that at times he could recall

[graphic]

to remembrance the lost freedom of his country, and think and speak like a Roman. That he could decline offers made him by the monarch, which, if accepted, would have placed him in situations of power and emolument, is evident even from a single instance recorded by his biographer. The emperor wished him for his private amanuensis, and wrote to Maecenas in relation to him. The offer was declined, on the plea of enfeebled health, yet without producing any diminution of his accustomed friendship on the part of Augustus.

In person Horace was below the ordinary size, and inclining to corpulence. From his own account, however, he would seem to have been abstemious in his diet, and to have divided the greater part of the day between reading and writing, the bath and the tennis-court. He was subject to a defluxion of the eyes, as was Virgil to a complaint of asthma; and Augustus used to rally the two poets by saying, that he sat“ between sighs and tears."

His friend Maecenas died in the beginning of November, A. U. C. 746, B. C. 8, and in his last will recommended the poet to the protection of Augustus ; but Horace survived hirn only a few weeks; and so short indeed was the interval which elasped between the death of Maecenas and that of the bard, and so strongly expressed had been the determination of the latter not to be left behind by his best of patrons and friends, that many have not hesitated to regard the death of Horace as having been hastened by his own voluntary act. He died at the age of fifty-seven, and his remains were deposited on the Esquiline Hill, near the tomb of Mae

cenas.

The works of Horace consist of four Books of Odes, a Book of Epodes, two Books of Satires, and two of Epistles. One of the Epistles, that addressed to the Pisos, is commonly known by the title “ De Arte Poetica," " On the Poetry.” The character of the poet and his por thus given by a modern writer, himself a votar

« PredošláPokračovať »