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. 

Even though it went against the grain initially, I found myself enjoying Horace’s letters to friends and acquaintances (and even Augustus Caesar), and was even more impressed at the wisdom that Horace expresses on a variety of subjects:

  • Rage is a short madness. Rule your passion, which commands, if it do not obey; do you restrain it with a bridle, and with fetters.                                     (1.II: To Lollius)
  • Now, while you are young, with an untainted mind imbibe instruction: now apply yourself to the best. (1.II: To Lollius)
  • In the midst of hope and care, in the midst of fears and disquietudes, think every day that shines upon you is the last. Thus the hour, which shall not be expected, will come upon you an agreeable addition.”              (1.IV: To Albius Tibullus)
  • I was the original, who set my free footsteps upon the vacant sod; I trod not in the steps of others. He who depends upon himself, as leader, commands the swarm.    (1.XIX: To Maecenas)
And, in the course of his advising his friends, Horace also talks about something that I also hold close to my heart: SURPRISE, it’s books!

…Unless before day you call for a book with a light, unless you brace your mind with study and honest employments, you will be kept awake and tormented with envy or with love. For why do you hasten to remove things that hurt your eyes, but if any thing gnaws your mind, defer the time of curing it from year to year? He has half the deed done, who has made a beginning. Boldly undertake the study of true wisdom: begin it forthwith. 
                                                  (1.II: To Lollius)

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