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THE SATIRES, EPISTLES, AND
DE ARTE POETICA
WITH A COMMENTARY
E. C. WICKHAM, D.D.
HON. FELLOW OF NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
§ 6. Personal names in the Satires.
If the Satires are imitations of conversation, they have naturally a personal element. Conversation starts from persons and incidents, it prefers concrete instances to abstract descriptions, a flavour of innocent malice is not out of place in it, its greatest adornment is the art of telling stories vividly and at the happy moment. As a whole it must be allowed that Horace's writing has this effect in a singular degree after the lapse of nineteen centuries. Even if Nomentanus and Opimius had no life outside his verses, he gives them life enough for his purpose. The interest of going behind what he has told us and seeing how far his characters can be identified with particular persons historically known, lies not so much in any gain of point to the Satire that may be looked for,— the persons are too obscure, as well as the results too uncertain, for that, but in the light which it may throw on the methods of the poet, on his personal motives, and on his relations to his contemporaries.
The Scholiasts are prepared in most cases to tell us who each person named is. They had access to earlier sources of information, and no doubt in some cases they have preserved for us a true tradition. But they evidently blunder. They differ from one another, showing that the tradition itself was unsettled. They betray that they are merely paraphrasing the context, sometimes the context misunderstood. They are not trustworthy on the question on which they had the greatest advantage over us, viz. the question whether a name is borrowed or not from some earlier writer. An instance which seems to combine several of these defects is to be found in their notes on the 'causa Petilli,' a cause célèbre of the time, or one still remembered, to which Horace alludes in Sat. 1. 4. 94, and again in 1. 10. 26. In the first passage he gives him the fuller name of Petillius Capitolinus, and speaks of Satire in the narrower sense. When Pope' imitates Horace' he copies and even improves upon the wit of individual lines and passages, but he misses always much of the play, the delicacy, the inner unity of thought, and he puts Horace to very un-Horatian purposes. English 'Satire' has always had at its heart a personal bitterness which is entirely absent in Horace. The truest representation of his spirit in English literature is to be found in the gentler prose-satire of Steele and Addison.
THIS Edition is substantially identical with Vol. II of my larger Horace, published in 1891. I have endeavoured to make some of the notes rather simpler, and I have taken the opportunity of correcting, as far as I could, errors that I had discovered, or which had been pointed out to me. And in twelve years one's judgment on some points has changed. The publication by the Clarendon Press of the text of Horace with a modest 'apparatus criticus,' which is embodied in this volume, has rendered superfluous a certain number of notes on textual questions where the meaning was not seriously involved. I should say that the spelling of Latin words has been assimilated to the standard adopted by desire of the Delegates in that edition.