Artifices of Eternity

Artifices of Eternity: Horace's Fourth Book of Odes

Michael C. J. Putnam
Volume: 43
Copyright Date: 1986
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Artifices of Eternity
    Book Description:

    Horace's first three books of odes are universally acknowledged to be masterpieces. His fourth, which appeared ten years later, continues to be relatively neglected. The eminent classicist Michael C. J. Putnam here offers the first comprehensive study of the fourth book of odes. In his view, Horace's last work is at once the culmination of his poetic career and a beautifully crafted composition of exceptional power and brilliance.

    Putnam discusses each of the fifteen odes found in the book, studying the work both as a whole and as a series of interactive units. Always conscious of the historical and social contexts in which the poems were written, he maintains that the fourth book not only expands the intellectual horizons of the three earlier books, but also draws upon, and responds to, two works of genius by other poets: Propertius's third book of elegies and Virgil's Aeneid,/em>. Putnam shows how Horace co-opted and remolded their imaginative detail in his own poetry and how the parallels between Horace's writings and those of his predecessors can help to illuminate the final flowering of Horatian lyric.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6683-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
    (pp. 9-10)
    Michael C. J. Putnam
    (pp. 11-14)
    (pp. 15-30)

    In late May and early June of the year 17 B.C. an event of some moment occurred in the city of Rome: Augustus chose to revive the secular games (ludi saeculares) after an interval of a century and a quarter. For the citizens of the metropolis this meant three days and nights of festive sacrifices followed by a week of ludi honorarii, games paid for by the state.¹ For the princeps the significance went deeper. The most recent celebrations of the ludi had taken place in 249, near the end of the First Punic War, and in 146, a year...

  6. Part One. The Loving Muse:: Odes 1–3

    • 1 ODE ONE
      (pp. 33-47)

      Venus, are you again stirring wars long in abeyance? Have pity, I pray, I pray. I am not such as I was under the reign of kindly Cinara. Cease, merciless mother of honied Lusts, to twist with your soft sway someone calloused by a near half–century. Away, whither the soothing supplications of the young hail you back.

      Aloft on purple swans, you will revel more timely to the abode of Paulus Maximus, if you search to sear a fitting heart. For he is both noble and gracious, and vocal in defense of worried wards. Boy of a hundred arts,...

    • 2 ODE TWO
      (pp. 48-62)

      Whoever strains to rival Pindar, Iullus, depends on wings waxen after the scheme of Daedalus, soon to lend his name to the glassy sea.

      Careening like a stream down a mountainside, which rain–storms have nourished over its familiar banks, Pindar seethes and, beyond measure, rushes with fathomless sound, to be rewarded with the laurel of Apollo, whether he whirls down new words in the boldness of his dithyrambs and is carried along by rhythms freed from restraint, whether he sings of gods and kings, the blood of gods, at whose hands the Centaurs fell in a deserved death, the...

    • 3 ODE THREE
      (pp. 63-78)

      Whom you, Melpomene, have once regarded at his birth with peaceful eye, no struggle at the Isthmia will illumine for his boxing, no racing steed will lead in victory on Achaian chariot, nor will the turns of war exhibit him on the Capitolium, leader adorned with laurel wreaths, for having crushed the bloated threats of kings, but the waters which flow past fertile Tibur and the dense foliage of its forests will sculpt him into nobility by his Aeolian song.

      The offspring of Rome, chief of cities, deigns to establish me among the loveable choirs of bards, and now I...

  7. Part Two. Doctus Apollo:: Odes 4–6

    • 4 ODE FOUR
      (pp. 81-100)

      Like the winged wielder of the thunderbolt, to whom Jupiter, king of the gods, allowed domain over feckless birds, once blond Ganymede had proved him loyal—at first youth and inheritance of energy prodded him from the nest, ignorant of toils, and, once the storm–clouds are dispelled, the winds of spring have taught him in his fear unwonted lunges; soon an onrush of strength has pitched him down, a foe against sheep–folds, now love of food and fray have launched him against struggling serpents—or like a lion, newly thrust from the rich milk of his tawny mother,...

    • 5 ODE FIVE
      (pp. 101-114)

      Sprung from gracious gods, finest warden of the race of Romulus, you are absent now too long. Return, since you promised a timely return to the sacred council of the fathers. Noble leader, render again your brilliance to your fatherland. For when your countenance, like spring, has beamed upon your people, the day courses more pleasantly, and suns better their gleam.

      Just as a mother calls with vows and omens and prayers her young son—the South wind with envious gale estranges him, lingering longer than a year’s span, from his sweet home across the reaches of the Carpathian sea...

    • 6 ODE SIX
      (pp. 115-130)

      O god whom the offspring of Niobe suffered, as revenger of a brash tongue, and the seducer, Tityos, and Achilles of Pthia, nearly conqueror of tall Troy: he was a soldier mightier than the rest, but not your equal, no matter he was sea–nymph Thetis’ warrior son, shaking the towers of Troy with his awesome spear.

      Down, like a pine gashed by gnawing iron, or a cypress blasted by the eastern wind, he plunged, and lodged his neck in the dust of Troy.

      Chambered in the horse that lied of its sanctity to Minerva, he would not deceive the...

  8. Part Three. Time and Redemption:: Odes 7–9

    • 7 ODE SEVEN
      (pp. 133-144)

      The snows have scattered, grass now returns to the meadows and foliage to the trees, the earth transfigures her changes, and subsiding streams wash past their banks. With Nymphs and her twin sisters, Grace dares unclothed to lead the dance.

      “Hope not for immortality” warn the year, and hour, which snatches the nourishing day. Frosts mellow in the western wind, summer tramples down spring, to perish the moment that fruitful autumn has lavished her bounty, and soon shiftless winter recurs.

      Nevertheless scurrying moons replenish their losses in the skies. We, when we have waned toward good Aeneas, toward rich Tullus...

    • 8 ODE EIGHT
      (pp. 145-156)

      Gladly would I present the gift of bowls and shapely bronze to my comrades, Censorinus, gladly present tripods, prizes for the bravery of Greeks, nor would you carry away the least of the rewards, if only I were affluent in the artistry which either Parrhasius or Scopas advanced, the one with stone, the other with liquid pigments, clever to devise now a man, now a god.

      But this is not my forte, nor does your station or your instinct crave such delicacies. You delight in songs. We have the power to offer songs and are able to tell the worth...

    • 9 ODE NINE
      (pp. 157-174)

      Lest you chance to believe that the words are prone to perish which I, born near the far–resounding Aufidus, utter in consort with strings, through skills never before divulged: though Maeonian Homer claims pride of place, the Muses, of Pindar and of Cea, threatening for Alcaeus and solemn for Stesichorus, do not lie concealed, nor has time expunged whatever Anacreon once trifled. The love still breathes, the passions still survive, which the Aeolian girl entrusted to her lyre.

      Helen of Sparta was not the only woman who glowed agog at her lover’s patterned locks, at his gold–daubed garments...

  9. Part Four. Festivity’s Musics:: Odes 10–12

    • 10 ODE TEN
      (pp. 177-183)

      O cruel, still, and sovereign from Venus’ largesse: when unexpected plumage will sprout on your arrogance, and the locks, which now swirl about your shoulders, will lie fallen, and your complexion, which now surpasses the blossom of a crimson rose, Ligurinus, has turned its altered features into shag, you will cry “Alas,” as often as you face in the mirror the other you, “why, when I was a boy, was my inclination not the same as today, or why, with these feelings, do my unblemished cheeks not return?”

      Poems 8 and 9 depend for their power on the shared revelations...

    • 11 ODE ELEVEN
      (pp. 184-197)

      I have a full cask of Alban bettering nine years, I have in my garden, Phyllis, parsley for weaving chaplets, I have much sturdy ivy, plaited with which your hair glistens. The house smiles with silver, and the altar, bound with holy verbena, yearns for the spattering of a ewelamb’s blood. The help all scurry, here and there girls jumbled with boys keep on the run, the flames are aquiver as they coil the sooty smoke within their whirl.

      So that you might know to what festivity you are summoned, you are to celebrate the Ides, the day that halves...

    • 12 ODE TWELVE
      (pp. 198-216)

      The breezes of Thrace, companions of spring, who soothe the sea, now billow the sails, now meadows are not stiff and streams do not snarl from swelling with a winter’s snows.

      The hapless bird, groaning in her lament for Itys, builds her nest, an undying disgrace to the house of Cecrops because she cruelly avenged the brutish lusts of kings.

      In the tender grass the guardians of fattening sheep sing songs on the pipe, and gladden the god who takes pleasure in the flocks and black hills of Arcadia.

      The season has aroused thirst, Vergilius. If you are anxious to...

  10. Part Five. Sorcery and Song:: Odes 13–15

      (pp. 219-235)

      The gods have heeded my prayers, Lyce, the gods have heeded, Lyce: you have become a crone. Yet nevertheless you wish to appear pretty, and brazenly you cavort and carouse, and, besotted, you accost limp Cupid with shaky serenade. He lies sentinel before the lovely cheeks of youthful Chia, clever on the lyre. For, an omen of ill, he flies across shrivelled oaks and flees back from you because yellowed teeth, because wrinkles, because a hoary head disfigure you. Neither the purpled silks of Cos nor precious gems now bring back the seasons which the winged day has once locked...

      (pp. 236-261)

      What concern of senators or what of citizens, with full reward for honors due, can immortalize your prowess for time to come, through eulogy and mindful chronicle, O greatest of princes, where the sun surveys the settled earth, whose strength in war the Vindelici, shareless in the Latin law, recently discovered! For with your soldiery keen Drusus, in manifold requital, hurled down the Genauni, an unquiet race, and the swift Breuni and their bulwarks bastioned on the fearsome Alps. Soon the elder Nero with favorable omens engaged the heavy fray and beat back the giant Raeti. He was conspicuous in...

    • 15 ODE FIFTEEN
      (pp. 262-306)

      When I yearned to discourse of battles and cities won, Phoebus Apollo on his lyre protested against consigning my tiny sails through the Tyrrhenian sea. Your era, Caesar, has ushered back lush harvests to the land, and restored to our Jupiter standards torn from Parthians’ haughty doors, and firmed shut the Janus of Quirinus, void of warrings, and cast reins on license roaming free of meet design. It has eliminated reasons for our blame, and resummoned the ancient arts whereby the repute of Latium, and Italian vigor, have grown, and the grandeur of imperial rule was extended to the risings...

    (pp. 307-326)

    We should begin an overview of Horace’s accomplishment in his final book of odes by a brief comparison of the continuities and disjunctions from his first, more acclaimed collection. The great lyric themes, however varied, remain constant in each group—erotic mutability, seasonal change, imminence of death. The need persists for moments of revelry to relieve life’s tedium and worries, and we sense the same pervasive ethos of moderation and restraint called upon to regulate human actions in so many of the earlier odes. What changes, and changes most dramatically, is the poet’s stance toward history, politics, and the wider...

    (pp. 327-340)
    (pp. 341-348)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 349-352)