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. Epist. XI. Bullatius seems to have been one of those who, when sated of home and weary of themselves, think to escape or dispel their ennui by travelling.
On this mistaken notion Horace moralises : a cheerful mind and a willingness to be pleased is requisite for the enjoyments of life: a life busied with frivolous aims, or given up to energetic idleness, finds the fatigue of toil without its repose : mere change of place and scene cannot soothe or satisfy the inward feeling.
(Compare the remarks on “ Foreign travel,” in Rogers's “ Italy," and Coleridge's little poem on “ Work without Hope,” ending—“ Hope without an object cannot live.")
EPIST. XII. A letter to Iccius, who had formerly been devoted to philosophical pursuits, and in the enjoyment of literary ease, until he gave way to a turn for speculation, and embarked in the Arabian enterprise of Æl. Gallus, (Carm. 1. xxix.).
The failure of that expedition perhaps reduced him to poverty; and his abilities found a new direction: he became the agent for Agrippa's estates in Sicily. He was ill at ease (v. 3.) in this position; it is inferred from this letter that he felt and complained that his agency promised him no eventual wealth, and yet that it absorbed his time and energies ; that it in fact disappointed both the objects he had formerly had in view, viz., the prosecution of intellectual studies, and the acquisition of a wealthy independence.
Horace meets this complaint with kind and sensible reflections, reminding him that he has all his actual wants supplied; that health and temperance need nothing more, love for study he congratulates him, comparing him fa. vourably with Democritus, in being able to combine the execution of practical and necessary duties with sublimer theories and speculative research.
He goes on to request his good offices for his friend Grosphus ; perhaps desiring for Iccius's own sake to engage his feelings by new society, and by the opportunity of kind and useful action. The letter ends with the last news of importance from the East.
Epist. XIII. Contains instructions for the presentation of a volume of poems to Augustus, with some punning on the name of Asella, who was to present it; and humorous allusions to the awkward importunate eagerness with which wouldbe authors thrust themselves upon the leisure, and claimed the patronage of the great.
(The Epistle 11. i. 214–231., as referred to on v. 3., is a fine passage illustrative of this subject.)
EPIST. XIV. Another eulogy of rural life; but varying in tone and style from the tenth epistle, as being addressed to a person of inferior rank and different habits. Horace sketches his own life and tastes (vv. 32–39.) with good humour, and reminds the bailiff that others would be glad to change with him ; but that the rule best for all is to keep steady to the situation which they can best fulfil.
Epist. XV. A rambling letter of inquiry whether Velia or Salernum has the most attractions as a watering-place. Mention has been made before of winter visits to the seaside ; (Epist. vii. 11.), and Baia was the most fashionable resort, but was now, by advice of Musa, and after adoption of the “water-cure,” to be given up. The character of Mænius is described (vv. 26–41.), as exemplifying (though upon a lower level of life, and by a somewhat coarse parallel), the writer's own power of contenting himself with a frugal, but of relishing a sumptuous
EPIST. XVI. . A description of the Sabine farm (vv. 1-16.). The moralist then passes on to the sources of enjoyment,-real enjoyment, as distinguished from the show of it which relies on public opinion. This false show, the desire of standing well with the public, is further traced and analysed in its love of filattery, its acceptance of praise not justly its due (vv. 25—31.).
If it is pleaded that this is a natural liking (v. 32.), it must then be shown to be a weak and foolish one (vv. 33–38.). He whose honour depends not on his own sterling merit, but the public gift, subjects himself to mortification whenever that gift is reclaimed; he who is pleased with flattery will be hurt by obloquy.
The worthlessness of such a character is then shown, and the confusion existing in many minds between the love of goodness in itself, and the abstinence, which circumstances enforce, from wickedness (vv. 40–60.).
Men of principle feel that they have a post of honour to defend ; men of the contrary stamp are renegades (v. 67.), fit only for mean and slavish employments. The free and fearless independence of the good is illustrated from the dialogue of the tyrant Pentheus and his supposed prisoner in the Bacchæ of Euripides.
Epist. XVII. The subject here is (majoribus uti) intimacy with the great : a thing not necessarily to be desired (vv. 6-10.), yet not without its advantages of comfort and of influence (vv. 11, 12.). This point is argued out in the persons, and by the examples, of Diogenes and Aristippus (vv. 13–32.). Real distinction implies merit (v. 33.); so, in its degree, does success in raising oneself above one's equals. Some refrain from attempting to do so for fear of failure, some from consciousness of incapacity; yet the prize, if gained, is worth gaining (vv. 35–42.).
In keeping up the position gained, modesty and discretion are required; a temper obtrusive and querulous defeats itself (v. 43. sqq.).
Epist. XVIII. This epistle seems a sort of counterpart to the last. Though the friendship of the great is worth having, it is not to be courted by a supple dereliction of candour and honesty : nor again is a rude and slovenly manner to be adopted as implying sincerity; or freedom to be displayed by perpetual contradiction (vv. 1—20.).
Again, there should be no vying with the patron in expense, or display, or vanity (vv. 21–30.): nor prying into his secrets (v. 37.) ; nor disregard of his tastes and amusements (v. 39. sqq.); he has a right to expect a cheerful and ready sympathy in respect of them; and Lollius's sharing in them is natural to his position, and accordant with his former habits (v. 52. sqq.).
The interest will be mutual and repaid (v. 65.). Add to all this, discretion in speech and in praise of others (v. 68. sqq.), congeniality of temper (v. 89. sqq.), constant self-improvement and study (v. 96. sqq.), of the questions that concern and promote tranquillity of mind. These questions the poet himself (v. 104. sqq.), has partly answered, and this tranquillity he has found in the undisturbed seclusion of his Sabine home.
EPIST. XIX. A caustic reflection upon the faults of imitators, who as often copy the defects as the merits of those whom they profess to admire. Some (who are author:) fall into the drinking maxims of Cratinus. Others assume the garb of Cato, who are far from his manly force of character. Horace, now that he has become famous, is pestered with such blind admirers.
Far different had his own career been (v. 21. sqq.); he had struck out for himself a fresh untrodden track, and introduced into Italy the great models of Grecian lyric poetry; but detraction pursued him, because he took no pains to win the popular ear or the favour of critics, and because he would not descend to public displays in competition with any rivals.
EPIST. XX. With this epistle the poet closes his first book, and sends forth the volume into the world; addressing it allegorically as a person stirred by ambition, and wearied of the calm retirement and security of home. Yet he prophesies for it a wide reception; and bids it finally take forth and publish to many a gathering concourse the outlines of his likeness and character.