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'With purchased gauds why mar thy native grace,
How ivy with no training blooms the best.
Sound half so sweet as wild birds' carolling.'
In a less flattering strain, he likens her to the 'woodstained Britons,' for dying her hair and painting her face; and he also complains, as all lovers are wont,
'Sham cousins often come, and kiss thee, too,
As cousins always claim a right to do.'
Other elegies equally portray the fascination which she exercised over him, whilst they sparkle with classic allusions and picturesque sketches from nature, too dreamy and lengthy for quotation. More practical are the warnings which his jealousy prompted him to send her during an autumn sojourn she was enjoying at the fashionable sea-side resort, Baiæ; and later epistles gradually betray the decline of his affection, until he is not ashamed to own,—
'Though thine was ne'er, Love knows, a pretty face,
or to declare metaphorically,
'Tired of the raging sea, I'm getting sane,
And my old scars are quite skin-whole again.'
And yet, as one of his critics observes, the world of song would have lost no little had Cynthia's charms not bidden him attune his lyre for the delineation of the master-passion in its various phases of tenderness, ecstasy, grief, jealousy, and despair, with 'a force, earnestness, pathos, and originality most entirely his own.
Passing on to his poems on other themes, we have an 'Early History of Rome,' which includes some of the festal
ceremonies described by Tibullus; and the love-story of Tarpeia, who betrayed the city by meeting her lover at the postern gate, which thus concludes,
'But Rome's proud foeman is by honour led;
He spoke; his comrades' shields upon her thrown,
He also attempted a mythological elegy, and one on the 'Battle of Actium,' which contains some fine descriptive poetry. The gems of the collection, however, are the Letter of Arethuse to her husband, Lycotas, on a campaign, and the imaginary appeal of the dead Cornelia to her husband, Paullus. The charm of the former consists in the natural simplicity with which the lonely soldier's wife outpours her love and anxious misgivings,
'When twilight wanes, and sinks in bitter night,
And toss complaining till the tardy light
Hath waked the birds that sing of morning nigh.
I turn the map, and struggle hard to learn
Where Jove hath placed the land, and where the sea—
What climes are stiff with frost, what summers burn,
And guess what wind may waft thee home to me.'
The other is unequalled for the simple pathos with which a blameless matron reviews her life, and would commune from her funeral pyre with those who were dearest to her, in the following concluding stanzas :
'Be careful, if thou e'er for me shall weep,
That they may never mark the tears thus shed;
Let it suffice thyself to mourn in sleep
The wife whose spirit hovers o'er thy bed;
'Or in thy chamber, if thou wilt, aloud
Address that wife as if she could reply.
Dim not our children's joys with sorrow's cloud,
'You, too, my children, at your father's side,
'Obey his will in all; and should he bear
I lost no child; 'twas mine in death to see
Could swell the years in store for those I leave.'
DIED B.C. 8.
HE popularity of Horace with readers of almost every school of thought is attributable to the broad human sympathies, the vigorous common sense, and the aptness of expression, which characterise his writings.
His father had been a slave; but, after obtaining his freedom, had purchased a small farm near Venosa in Apulia, where the poet was born, and brought up in the midst of picturesque scenery. At the age of twelve his father took him to Rome, and gave him the best education the capital could supply. He tells us how carefully his father superintended his studies, and himself moulded him to habits of virtue and morality, by showing him the results of folly and vice. He then spent some time at Athens, where Brutus met with him, on his way to Syria, and induced him to accept the command of one of his legions. Many of his writings contain allusions to his Asiatic campaign, during which he made his first essay in satire, suggested by an incident in a law-suit. The defeat of Brutus at Philippi brought his military career to a close, and, on returning to Rome, he found his father was dead, and his property confiscated. In this predicament he says
'Bated in spirit, and with pinions clipped,
Of all the means my father left me stripped,
His early productions were chiefly personal and abusive lampoons and satirical poems. But in other compositions he showed a true poetic spirit. In one addressed 'To the Roman People' is a description of the Happy Isles, the poets' region of ideal earthly happiness and peace. Another contains a sketch of the innocent enjoyments of a country life, commencing—
‘Happy the man in busy schemes unskilled,
Who, living simply, like our sires of old,
A more imaginative effort is a midnight scene in the garden of the sorceress Canidia, who, aided by her accomplices, is torturing a boy to death, in order to extract a love philtre from his liver and spleen. The witches are again introduced, in another satire, holding an incantation in a burial ground on the Esquiline Hill,—
So to evoke the shade and soul
Of dead men, and from these to wring
but, after a climax of ghastly horrors, the hags are disturbed in the midst of their orgies, and rush off in terror, one dropping her false teeth, and another her wig, by the way;-a conclusion evidently meant to ridicule any belief in their supernatural pretensions. Horace afterwards describes himself as under the influence of a spell for the calumnies he has uttered against the enchantress, which he affects to recant; but she is not pacified, and threatens him with worse pangs than those of Tantalus, Prometheus, or Sisyphus
'Then shall you curse the evil hour,
You made a mockery of my power.'
Thus the poet earned himself a name; and with the produce of his writings he purchased a place in the Quæstor's department, which he held for many years.