Monday, February 24, 2014

The Works of Horace: The Art of Poetry

I had rather be esteemed a foolish and dull writer, while my faults please myself, or at least escape my notice, than be wise and smart for it. (2.II: To Julius Florus)

When I first started this overlong series on Horace, I said that one of the main draws of reading ancient literature is to see how literature first developed as an art.   You can almost see the mechanics of Greek, Latin, Old English, Middle English, all developing not only their own cultural tastes and literary styles, but the very evolution of storytelling and writing conventions that we take for granted today.  Philosophers like Aristotle question “What is poetry, what makes an epic and epic, or constitutes a love song?” and even though these questions may be old hat now to our world, saturated with books and literary criticism, it’s important to remember that these questions weren’t always old hat.  Someone, after all, had to be the first to question and characterize the different types of literature, to divide the prose from the poetry.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Works of Horace: The Epistles


You live well, if you take care to support the character which you bear. (XVI: To Quinctius)

If I found Horace’s Satires a bit underwhelming (and I admit that was mostly my fault), I was then pleasantly surprised when, as I neared the conclusion of The Works of Horace, I reached his Epistles.  Now, I normally loathe epistles, and even avoid epistolary novels because I was brought up to respect privacy and not read other people’s mail.  Even if I wasn't brought up right (which I was), it’s a bit of a felony to read other people’s mail. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Works of Horace: The Satires

I may read a lot, but I still make reading mistakes.  Yes, that’s right, it is possible to make mistakes while reading.  Reading, contrary to popular belief, should not be a passive activity—“passive activity” being an oxymoron in itself, but a mental exercise, sometimes even an exertion.  And, as with other activities like sports or playing a musical instrument, there are ways to do it wrong. 

While reading Horace’s Satires I committed one such mistake.  I read it expecting it to be something it wasn’t. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Works of Horace: The Odes

After two weeks of crazy work schedules and scarcely time to post a book-related photo and literary quotation, I can at last write down some of the entries that have been festering at the back of my book-reviewing mind!

As is painting, so is poetry: some pieces will strike you more if you stand near, and some, if you are at a greater distance. 
~ The Art of Poetry, The Works of Horace

I downloaded The Works of Horace because I’d read a few selections of his poems elsewhere in a compilation of ancient Greek and Latin literature.  I often read ancient literature, not only because of my interest in its historical value, but also because these works are the fledgling attempts of storytelling, of prose, style, and the art of writing.  But I’m already getting ahead of myself, as I’d like to tackle the different types of Horace’s works—Odes, Satires, and Epistles—in the order I read them.

Monday, February 10, 2014


If you cannot read all your books, at an rate handle, or as it were, fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are.  
Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances.  
~ Winston Churchill