« PreviousContinue »
frolic glee (ludo fatigatumque somno), fell asleep, and was found reposing unharmed by either serpent or wild beast. Adorning the incident with the graces of poetic fancy, he describes the doves as covering him with leaves of laurel and of myrtle types of the wreaths destined to ndorn his brow; and, kindling into a grateful enthusiasm, vaunts that even then he was the care of the gods 5. Of the various scattered notices he has left of recollections of his birthplace none are more interesting, or speak more highly for the moral perceptions of the boy, than his reminiscences of Ofellus 6. They prove that his judgment, no less than his feelings, had begun to be developed ; and this circumstance corroborates the supposition of Mr. Tate, that Horace must have been at least twelve years of age at the period of his removal to Rome. The desire of his father to give him every advantage a liberal education could afford, led to this migration from their Sabine farm; and his education was commenced under the care of Orbilius Pupillus of Beneventum, whose flogging pr ensities he has taken care to commemorate. From his account of his own education, which he states to have been on a level with that of the noblest youths of Rome, the course of the literary instruction of the day may be satisfactorily ascertained. It began with committing the works of the ancient Latin poets to memory, (a process which, under such a disciplinarian, may, perhaps, have remotely biassed the unfavourable judgment Horace passes upon them in his critical writings,) and ended with an initiation into Grecian literature 7. Independently of receiving the first education of the day, at an expense far beyond the limited means of his father, speaking in a worldly sense, he enjoyed the inestimable advantage of this parent's own unremitting superintendence. The care of this honest and high-minded man did not go unrequited. Horace has delineated with affectionate precision the mode by which his father sought to form his manners and amend his heart, has declared that his example and advice preserved him, pure in mind and unblemished in reputation, to the age of manhood, and that he was more proud to be the son of such a father than if the blood of kings flowed in his veins. The simple expression, “ Nil me poeniteat sanum patris hujus," does more honour to Horace than the ever-living laurel he has won from the Delphic grove. Our admiration for tre genius of the poet is exalted by our esteem for the man. There are no data to fix the period at which he was deprived of this beloved parent. His latest allusion 8 would seem to indicate that he had experienced this loss previously to assuming the toga virilis, or, in other words, be 5 Ode 3. 4. -_-20.
1 Epist. 2 1. 69, 78 8 Sat. 1. 4. 116_121.
6 Sat. 2. 2. 112-114.
fore he had entered on his seventeenth year. After this important epoch in the life of a Roman, he repaired to Athens, which had long been a place of fashionable literary resort for the Roman youth, to complete his education. It is probable, that whilst studying here, he formed an acquaintance with Messala and Bibulus; and, although we have no distinct evidence of the fact, it is not unlikely that he must have been known to the younger Cicero, who was a resident at Athens at the same time. Horace has left us no record of the events of his sojourn here ; and barely hints at the course of study he pursued whilst “ inter sylvas Academi.” From the three lines he devotes to this subject, we learn, that geometry and ethics engrossed the principal part of his attention; and the epithet “ bonæ," affixed to his mention of Athens, would indicate that he looked back with kindly feelings to his abode at Alma Mater. The “ bustling times " which followed the assassination of Cæsar summoned him from the peaceful cultivation of letters; and, joining the republican party, he rose to the rank of military tribune. He was present at the decisive battle of Philippi ; and though, perhaps, not included in the list of the proscribed, he lost his property in the confiscations which rewarded the veterans of the victor 10. The circumstance of his throwing away his shield 1l, which he appears to mention with so little sense of shame, has been adduced to prove that Horace, like Viola, would "rather walk with Sir Priest than Sir Knight.” To fly when tủe hardiest turn their backs, and“ sauve qui peut” escapes from the lips of the veteran as well as the tyro, is no proof of cowardice; and it is but generous to infer that Horace rather meant, by this frank avowal of his flight, to show he was proof against the gibes and sneers of those who envied him his success with the great, than either to proclaim himself a coward, or to pay his court to Augustus. When allowed to return to Rome, as we learn from Suetonius “ Victis partibus venia impetrata "—he bought a situation as clerk in the treasury- scriptum quæstorium comparavit." How he procured the funds to do this, we can only conjecture. Talented and accomplished as he was, and with the endearing manners and disposition we know him to have possessed, friends — for powerful ones, even in the wreck of his party, he must still have retained — may have advanced the sum requisite for the purchase. Not long after this, the foundation of nis future fortunes was laid by his introduction to cenas, through the friendly recommendation of Virgil and Varius. That distinguished statesman was cautious in admitting any man to his friendship; but when once inquiry and observation had satisfied him of the worth of the object, he “grappled it to him with hooks of steel.” On the Epist. 2. 2. 43–45. 10 Epist. 2. 2. 50.
11 Ode 2. 7. 10.
first visit of the youthful poet, his future patron briefly inquired into his origin and circumstances, and dismissed him without any pledge, or even hope, of bestowing his countenance upon him. But after the lapse of a few months, in which time the experienced man of the world had doubtless instituted a close inquiry into the habits and mode of life of the new aspirant to his favour, he summoned Horace to his presence, and told him, not that he would protect him, but that the bard was henceforward to esteem himself as his friend 12. The passage in which Horace tells the tale of his first intercourse and subsequent intimacy with Mæcenas, is of high interest ; and it may not be unpleasing to the reader to‘have it paralleled with similar event taken from the most perfect specimen of autobiography which our own or any country can furnish.
“ I had," writes Mr. Gifford, “contracted an acquaintance with a person of the name of recommended to my particular notice by a gentleman of Devonshire, whom I was proud of an opportunity to oblige. This person's residence at Oxford was not long; and when he returned to town I maintained a correspondence with him by letters. At his particular request, these were inclosed in covers, and sent to LORD GROSVENOR. One day I inadvertently omitted the direction; and his Lordship, necessarily supposing the letter to be meant for himself, opened and read it. There was something in it which attracted his notice ; and when he gave it to my friend, he had the curiosity to inquire about his correspondent at Oxford, and upon the answer he received, the kindness to desire that he might be brought to see him upon his coming to town. To this circumstance, purely accidental on all sides, and to this alone, I owe my introduction to that nobleman.
“ On my first visit, he asked me what friends I had, and what were my prospects in life; and I told him that I had no friends, and no prospects of any kind. He said no more ; but when I called to take leave, previous to my returning to college, I found that this simple exposure of my circumstances had sunk deep into his mind. At parting, he informed me that he charged himself with my present support and future establishment; and that, till this last could be effected to my wish, I should come and reside with him. not words of course; they were more than fulfilled in every point. I did go, and reside with him, and I experienced a warm and cordial reception, a kind and affectionate esteem, that has known neither diminution nor interruption from that hour to this; a period of twenty years." — Introduction to Gifford's Juvenal.
12 Sat. 1. 6. 55-02
That person is not to be envied who can read the above simple nar. rative unmoved.
From this eventful epoch for our poet, the current of his life flowed on in smooth and gentle course.
“ There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune :" and the introduction of Horace to Mæcenas proved to him this happy crisis. The friendship of his patron soon gifted him with a competency, and his well-regulated mind sought for nothing further. Satisfied with this, he declined the offers made to him by Augustus to take him into his service, and steadily resisted the temptation thus held out of rising to opulence and political consideration; advantages which to one of his philosophical temperament would have been dearly purchased by the sacrifice of his independence. For that he was independent, in the noblest sense of the word,- freedom of thought and act,-is evidenced by that beautiful epistle to Mæcenas, in which he states, that if the favour of his patron is to be secured by a slavish renunciation of his own habits and feelings, he will at once say, Farewell to fortune, and welcome poverty 18! The exact terms of the friendship subsisting between Mæcenas and himself are fully described in his writings He studiously disclaims all participation in the political designs and state secrets of the minister; and is anxious to have it understood, that he was the sharer of his hours of relaxation alone. Our conversation is not, he writes, of the prospects of the empire and the state of public affairs; but of the common topics of the day, the weather, and the public games 14, An elegant writer has conjectured, from the account of their intimacy thus given by Horace, that he was regarded both by Mæcenas and the emperor in the light of a domestic pet, a spoiled, but delightful, bantling of the Muses, who might serve to while away an hour, rather than as honoured with their real confidence and esteem. But although the social and convivial qualities of our poet must have made him “ a boon companion for an emperor;" his comprehensive intellect, soundness of judgment, and meditative turn of mind, doubtless won him a far higher place in their regard than would have been accorded to a mere wit, and, let me add, to a mere poet. Horace, it is clear, shrank of his own accord, from the onerous, burthen of political confidences, which would have changed the auream mediocritatem of a literary and learned leisure to the troubled joys and uncertain tenure of a statist's life. His wisdom must have been fully appreciated, both by king and minister ; and they must have admired that philosophy
13 Epist. 1. 7.
14 Sat, 2. 6. 40–46.
which secured a reason, faith, and conscience all his own." The keenness of his wit, and playful raillery of his satire, rendered him a delightful companion, “a fellow of infinite jest ;” and, since his talents calculated him to shine as a man of the world, no less than his own gentle nature inclined him to seek those calm retreats wherein he could reap
« The harvest of a quiet eye
That broods and sleeps on his own heart," his society offered those lighter charms and graces which will always secure a seat at the tables of the rich. But then he was something more than this. His was a mind « full of matter." An acute and refined critic, an amiable moralist, thoroughly versed in the abstruse questions of the Grecian schoolmen, and deeply skilled in the mys. teries of the human heart, he could inform and amend no less than delight. If, when surrounded by his Sabine neighbours, he could inquire, “ Qua sit natura boni 15," we may be certain that all bis discourse, when seated at the table of his patron, or of that patron's patron, was not merely, “ Nec male necne Lepos saltet.” Our estimate of Horace must not be taken by the card.”
Not long after his introduction to Mæcenas, the journey to Brundusium 16 took place; and the gift of his Sabine estate soon followed. The retusal of the secretaryship offered by Augustus, produced no diminution in the emperor's regard; but, if we may judge from the pleasant answer of the latter recorded by Suetonius, rather increased his esteem. Rendered independent by the bounty of Mæcenas, high in the favour of Augustus, courted by the proudest patricians of Rome, and blessed in the friendship of his brother poets, Virgil, Tibullus, and Varius 17, it is difficult to conceive a state of more perfect temporal felicity than Horace must have enjoyed. This happiness was first sensibly interrupted by the death of Virgil ; which was shortly succeeded by an event scarcely less afflicting to Horace, the demise of Tibullus. Endowed with the kindliest feelings of our nature, and of a disposition keenly alive to all the sensibilities of friendship, these losses must have sunk deeply into his mind. The solemn thoughts and grave studies, which, in the first book of his Epistles, he declares shall henceforward occupy his time, were, if we may judge from the second Epistle of his second Book, addressed to Julius Florus, confirmed by these sad warnings of the frail tenure of existence. Devoting himself to the great task of preparation for eternity, he prepared to look death in the face with the steady gaze of true philosophy. The blow inflicted by the dissolution of his early friend and best
15 S&t?.6 76.
16 Sat. 1. 5.
17 Sat. 1. 10. 81-86