Monday, June 29, 2015


Thinking about Horace

Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Horace," Portraits (1931; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 130-134 (at 132-133):
I like thinking about Horace. He was a true Epicurean and gave to friendship the prominent place it ought to occupy in a life regulated by that philosophy. I never could regard Lucretius as an Epicurean, though his work is an exposition in verse of that doctrine; partly because among the good things of life which the philosophy of Epicurus leaves intact—perhaps, indeed, throws into brighter relief—which Lucretius dilates upon, he does not celebrate friendship; and partly because the spirit of his work is too tragic, cosmic, momentous, and filled also with a proselytising ardour almost as sombre as the fears it is the poet's object to destroy. Cosmic vision is not for the Epicurean. He should neither love nor hate Nature, nor trouble much to understand her; but like Horace himself enjoy her when he can, and supplement her pleasures or run away from her when they fail him. He cannot run away from death and old age, of course, and the butt-end of the Epicurean life may be seedy, and even rather ridiculous—if its hey-day has been expressively buoyant and chirpy.

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