Horace declares that his models for the four books of
Odes were the early Greek lyric poets Sappho and Alcaeus. Books 1-3 comprise eighty-eight
poems; book 4, published later, comprises another fifteen. Thirty-seven poems are in the
alcaic metre, twenty-five in the sapphic, and the rest in a variety of asclepiads and
other forms. The first six odes of Book 3 are sometimes referred to as the Roman Odes,
written in stately alcaics in elevated style on patriotic themes. These grander odes owed
something to the inspiration, if not the form, of the Greek poet Pindar, who also had had
to evolve a style in which he could address powerful rulers intimately. There are many
odes which touch on political themes, as did the lyrics of Alcaeus. They reflect the
translation of Roman feeling from anxiety for the safety of the state to security and
triumph under the guidance of Augustus, whom Horace sincerely admired.
Overall the Odes cover a variety of subjects, private as well as public, incidents in the poet's own life or the lives of his friends, their departures on voyages or happy returns, their love affairs and his own, the changing seasons, the joys of the countryside and of wine; the poet sometimes treats these subjects as symbolic of the brevity of human life with its ephemeral pleasures. Mostly the poems address individuals, as did early Greek lyric poetry, or start out with a personal reference. Many of them show Horace's keen sense of situation and his sharp observation of the human comedy; they are full of wit and charm and cleverness, often with a surprise at the end. The Odes are the product not of immediate, intense emotion, but of meditation, not lyric in a modern sense nor yet in the original Greek sense. They are characterized by faultless economy of phrasing, perfect control, balance and harmony of thought and expression; their euphony and intricate word order have proved inimitable. The moderation and urbane good sense they express, in an often ironic and self-deprecating tone, have endeared them to readers of all periods.
-- "Odes and Epodes", The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, ed. M. C. Howatson. Oxford UP: Oxford, 1989.
Many of the Odes so-called are, in their primary purport, poetical epistles, professedly written on the spur of the moment in view of some pleasant or unpleasant event in his own or a friend's life, just past or just about to be, and, as a rule, Horace is at his best when he maintains this personal and impulsive note. It was of the essence of Horace's temper to think, or at least to say, small things of himself, his work, and all that concerned either as compared with the grandiose performances and productions of more ambitious doers and writers; he was only a bee, he tells us (Odes IV. ii. 27), flitting from flower to flower, to gather here or there a little honey; but one bee-like quality he did insist on, the most unwearied labor in the perfecting of his little humble themes.
-- Excerpt from "Introduction", Everyman's Library: The Complete Works of Horace, ed. John Marshall. E.P. Dutton & Co, Inc.: New York, 1911.
|Carminum Liber Primus:||Latin Text||The source of the Latin text is Horatius Carmina, ed. Fr. Vollmer. Teubner: Leipzig, 1917.|
|Carminum Liber Secundus:||Latin Text|
|Carminum Liber Tertius:||Latin Text|
|Carminum Liber Quartus:||Latin Text|
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