« PreviousContinue »
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
My obligations to previous editors are, I hope, frankly stated in the course of my notes. Orelli's edition had always seemed to me so perfect in point of learning, judgment, and poetical taste, that when the task of preparing an English commentary on Horace was first suggested to me I was inclined to answer that nothing remained to be done, unless perhaps to translate his Latin notes for the benefit of the more indolent students. In effect, of course, this is not what has been done. If one's own judgment was to be responsible for the conclusions, there were even among recent editors others whose views could not be ignored. To name only two, there was clearly much to be learnt from the imaginative ingenuity of Ritter, and from Dillenburger's strong sense and keen grammatical analysis. A wider reading of Horatian literature, if it made originality appear even more impossible, seemed at the same time to encourage or even necessitate independent judgment. It lessened to some extent the feeling of personal obligation, by showing how large a portion of what was best in modern editors, both in respect of illustrative learning and of interpretation, was traditional, a part of the inherited store of Horatian criticism, which dates from the scholars of the 15th and 16th centuries, if not from scholiasts of a much earlier time, a store from which later editors have made very various selections, but to which none since the great Bentley seems to have made any very considerable independent addition.
Perhaps the department in which modern editors have added most, as it is the one which has had the most attractions to me, has been that of tracing in the several poems the sequence and proportion of the thoughts. This is a function of criticism to which every reader with any imagination thinks himself equal; and he is apt to resent what seem to him the superfluous, if not prosaic and inadequate, comments of another mind. A commentator on a poet so loved and familiar as Horace is, at any rate to the elder generation among us, must make his count for such resentment. He would only attempt in part to disarm it, by pleading that as he has ventured at times to set aside the interpretations of his predecessors, so he is quite prepared that his own interpretations should be set aside by others; that it is the purpose and the method, not the particular conclusions, to which he attaches value. The thoughts even of a lyrical poem do not follow one another at haphazard. If the links be forged by feeling rather than by logic, yet the feelings must be such as can be traced, and the mind cannot be really in sympathy with the poem unless consciously or unconsciously it follows them. Where the art is so conscious and elaborate as in Horace's lyrics, it is not too much to expect that we should be able to detect the threads which bind them into their several unities. If my efforts teach a young reader that he has not read a poem properly unless he has attempted to do this for himself, if they make him less ready to admit in any poet, and especially in Horace, the existence of inert' epithets, and purposeless digressions or amplifications, I shall not complain that he should come to trust for the explanation of his difficulties to his own imagination rather than to mine.
Some account of the materials at our disposal for the settlement of the text of Horace, and of the principles on which I have endeavoured, where it was necessary to do so, to exercise my own judgment, will be found in the General Introduction. In the matter of orthography I have followed Orelli.
I have to acknowledge much kind help and many useful hints from friends, especially from A. O. Prickard, Esq., Fellow and Tutor of New College, who has been always ready with suggestive criticism, and to whom I was indebted for special assistance in writing the notes on the Fourth Book of the Odes. I owe also to his labour, as well as to the kind courtesy of the Provost and Fellows of Queen's College, the collation of the valuable Queen's College MS. which appears in an Appendix to this volume.