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Horace never got so far as to think of loving his enemies, but one has taken a long step in that direction when he has learned to love and forgive his friends.
It is important to know the reefs where friendship may be wrecked, but more important still to know the peaceful sunny bays where the ship may safely ride at anchor. In other words friendship is not austere and negative, but genial and positive. There is no bargaining in it, no keeping of accounts, but the heart goes forth without reserve. Horace does not so much teach as exemplify this. Perhaps Pompeius has returned to Rome after years of campaigning; he had whiled away many a happy day with Horace during their student days in Athens; they had fought and lost together at Philippi. Horace knew his man, that his mind was set on nothing except that which was true and just. We see them feasting together, taking a part from the working day-near the source of some sacred stream; there are garlands of myrtle and parsley and jars of ancient wine, and we hear Horace saying to his old comrade: “It's right to let the heart run riot when a friend has been welcomed home.”
Again. Perhaps Vergil is setting sail for Attica, who years before had recognized the genius of the freedman's son and had made a life of leisure possible for him by introducing him to Maecenas. The ode that he placed in Vergil's hand as the ship set sail, was something more than an expression of gratitude, something more than a Godspeed. There is in it a tender solicitude for the safe return of the half of his soul, the half of his life. We clutch at the phrase "animae dimidium meae,” for it voices a universal feeling and experience. We have all seen the ship set sail with our friends on board, friends that were not to return, and certain inner chambers of the heart have been locked forever. New friends have come to enrich life, but they have no key and we no longer have a key to those inner rooms. We discover that we have suffered a partial paralysis of spirit, and not in metaphor but in reality we have lost “animae dimidium meae.” Then we understand the poignancy of Horace's words to Maecenas: “The same day shall bring doom to both of us. I have sworn an oath and it shall not be unfulfilled. We shall go, we shall go, whenever you shall lead the way, comrades prepared to take the last journey together.” And here as Horace's concluding word on friendship should be translated the threnody which he addrest to Vergil after the death of their mutual friend Quintilius. But there is hardly time. Now a brief word about the philosophy of Horace and his Weltanschauung as the Germans might say.
When you know what a man thinks about friendship, you have the heart of his life philosophy,—you have a fair gauge by which to estimate his attitude towards most ethical problems. I have a strong feeling that even in the odes Horace regarded himself as a practical teacher of ethics. His method was one he had borrowed from his father and Homer; it was not to present an abstract theory of conduct, but rather vivid pictures from life-concrete illustrations of the result of certain actions and habits. Perhaps I may pause here long enough to say that the most effective teaching of ethics today does not come from formal treatises on the subject, but from literature of power that can touch the emotions and grip the heart.
We have Horace's testimony that in philosophy he had sworn allegiance to no school or master—that he was sometimes a strenuous Stoic, that he sometimes slipt back into the hedonistic ways of Aristippus. It has been customary, however, to brand him as an Epicurean. We remember that he called himself a pig from the herd of Epicurus, but we forget the rest of the epistle in which this playful jest occurs. We remember his jars of wine broached with a friend beneath some laurel tree, but we forget his diatribe against the excessive use of wine. We forget his ridicule of the man whose mental furniture consisted merely of excerpts from a treatise on gastronomy; we forget his warnings against gluttony and all forms of indulgence. In place of these we are likely to recall that amusing stanza of Eugene Field:
He was a very owl, sir,
Until he made his date.
And Maecenas paid the freight.
This is exceedingly clever, but it is very far from a true picture of the man, who was continually preaching the avoidance of excess, and the value of the aurea mediocritas as a rule of life. Apparently he accepted the evolutionary theory of the Epicureans that there had been progress in human life from rude and savage ways to ways of greater refinement—but when he read Epicurus' varied and amusing explanations of the causes of lightning and thunder, he was ready to call the whole scheme a mad philosophy and to make pretence at recanting something to which he had never unreservedly subscribed.
We surely can not object because he is continually urging young people to make the most of youth and springtime, to pluck the joys of the day and trust as little as possible to the future, or because he urges mature men not to allow their sources of joy to suffer atrophy.
To what purpose do the tall pine and white poplar offer the hospitality of the shadows of their intertwining branches? Why do the fleeing waters struggle to hurry on in their zig-zag course? It is nature's admonition and invitation. Bring the roses and the wine and the perfume; the three dark sisters do not forbid the feast. Soon all this must be left behind. Neither piety, nor sacrifice, nor vast estates, nor ancient lineage can delay the doom that has been pronounced on all mankind; soon we will all be placed aboard the boat for eternal exile.
For the moment he seems to have forgotten the call of duty. But read the fifth ode of the third book where pleasure and duty come into conflict. The story of Regulus thrusting aside his wife and children, and returning to a Carthaginian prison and torture chamber that he may serve and save the Roman state without violating his word, may be unverified legend; but the ethical teaching of the parable as Horace presents it, is undeniable. No Stoic philosopher, not even Epictetus, has said with more impressiveness or more directness: “Do your duty, even if it kills you.” Listen now to a brief paraphrase from the second epistle of the first book and note how much it resembles certain chapters of Epictetus:
“Do not listen to the Siren's call of pleasure, do not heed the allurements of Circe lest you become a hog and love the mire. Avoid the refinements of the Phaeacians, their manicures, and pedicures and cuticures. Do not be a pink tea dude like Sybaris, who in his love for Lydia has forgotten his victories in athletic sports. Wake up and save your soul. You must strive and work hard for the wisdom that will save you. He who puts off the hour of living rightly, is like the peasant who waited for the river to run by. Rid yourself of fear and uncontrolled desire; seek merely a sufficiency; avoid avarice, envy, anger;
; rule yout spirit, cultivate correct habits in youth. And yet even in the pursuit of these splendid Stoic ideals-I am a Peripatetic and will not carry the matter to excess.”
With a smile on his face he denounces the avaricious, the ambitious, the self-indulgent, the superstitious; but this does not prevent him from putting in pillory the Stoic philosopher whose theorizing has carried him to an extreme beyond the bounds of common sense and human need. He was a Peripatetic critic of Stoic and Epicurean alike, pointing out the land of peace that lies untroubled by dark care, a golden mean somewhere between duty and pleasure. It is interesting to watch the young Republican fresh from the defeat of Philippi, gradually adopt a pragmatic attitude and renounce his republican theories and swear allegiance to Augustus who had given Rome peace after a hundred years of civil discord. His whole attitude towards the Empire was that of a pragmatist. Let me illustrate in one particular instance. It is quite impossible for us to believe that Horace believed in the superstitions of the common people, that he believed that the flood of Deucalion or any other catastrophe of nature came in punishment of sin. A half dozen passages from the satires and epistles might be cited to prove that he did not. But nevertheless he was ready and willing to use these deeprooted superstitions of the common people for purposes of state. He could say with calm face that the sins of civil war had been more than enough to justify thunder storms and the Tiber's inundation,-and he could add with the unction of a Stoic: “Providence has sent Augustus to put an end to civil discord; if you would avoid further punishment, follow him."
He had lost faith in democracy, in the ability of the mob to govern itself—the many-headed monster that was ever capricious in its opinions, whose judgments were never based on discriminating intelligence. He speaks with contempt of the uninitiated throng, the malignant mob that is dazed and stupefied by externals, by pomp and circumstance. But we must not carelessly conclude that this diatribe is directed against the poor or against those who by rare good judgment have chosen the simple life. No one has presented the charms of the simple life more alluringly than Horace, and no one has heralded with greater enthusiasm the heroic characters who were the product of saeva paupertas. Augusta paupertas is to be the mother of the men who are to defend the new Empire of Augustus. They are to have the physical courage to conquer the Mede, and the moral courage to conquer themselves and rule the world with equity and justice. How splendid is the character that Horace presents as the type of the ideal Roman: "The man who is just and firm of purpose, whom neither the wild passions of the mob, nor the threatening look of a tyrant can shake from his fixt resolve, nor yet the mighty hand of high-thundering Jove; if the heavens should break and fall, the ruins would strike him undismayed.” This is the character that Horace presents in the six odes at the beginning of the third book, the type that will make the Roman state enduring and deserving