Friday, May 18, 2007


Unusual Uses for Horace's Odes

A correspondent passes on the following anecdote:
As a young man I suffered from chronic flatulence and often gave accidental and embarrassing demonstrations of my affliction in class. This happened several times in Prof. Saupin's Latin Poetry Class. After the last such occasion, he took me aside and, satisfied that I had little or no control over the disruptive ventosities, told me that a sure-fire cure was to read one or two Horatian Odes every morning after getting up. "They are," he said, "the perfect carminatives." To my great delight I found he was right.
To appreciate the joke, you need to know thatHere is another story about Horace and the alimentary canal, from a letter of Lord Chesterfield to his son (Letter XXI, 11 December 1747 Old Style):
I know a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small portion of it, which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first, and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina: this was so much time fairly gained; and I recommend you to follow his example. It is better than only doing what you cannot help doing at those moments; and it will make any book, which you shall read in that manner, very present in your mind.

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