Ezra Pound (1885-1972), "Horace," Criterion
9 (January 1930) 217-227, rpt. in Arion
9.2/3 (Summer-Autumn, 1970) 178-187 (at 178-179):
Neither simple nor passionate,
sensuous only in so far as he is a gourmet of food and of
language, aere perennius, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, bald-headed, pot-bellied, underbred, sycophantic, less poetic
than any other great master of literature, occupies one complete volume of the British Museum Catalogue and about
half the bad poetry in English might seem to have been
written under his influence, but as almost no Englishman
save Landor has ever written a line of real criticism this is
not perhaps very surprising. There are people called the
'English Critics' (sometimes the gt. E.C.) who have put
down a few rules of thumb about finding rhymes, or about
the religious bearing of literature, or indulged in metaphysical speculation, but Landor was almost unique in examining specific passages of verse to see whether they were well
or ill written or if they could be improved. Thus books on
Horace abound, but there has been very little attempt to
define the art of Maecenas' protégé.
Horace is a liar of no mean pomposity when he claims to
have been the first to bring in the 'Æolic modes', for Catullus
preceded him, and Catullus wrote better Sapphics. Catullus
frankly translated one poem and frequently improves on
Greek style. Horace lifts passages; incorporates lines; I doubt
if he improves on Alcæus.
Both Catullus and Ovid add something to world poetry,
something which is not in the Greek poetry that has come
down to us. Horace at his best is sometimes more, sometimes
less than a translation, but there is a definitely Horatian art.
Apart from Catullus he was the most skillful metrist among
the Latins, Propertius excelling him in but one habitual
Against the granite acridity of Catullus' passion, against
Ovid's magic, and Ovid's sense of mystery, Horace has but
the clubman's poise and no stronger emotion than might
move one toward a particularly luscious oyster. His jibes at
old women are like petty personal fusses lacking the charm
of Palladas' impartial pessimism or the artistic aloofness, the
Epicurean and really godlike impersonality of Catullus'
poem containing the phrase, 'habet dentes', which is the first
Wyndham Lewis drawing, perhaps the only Wyndham
Lewis drawing, in literature.
Yet Horace remains untranslated. There are charming approximations. For four centuries, French and English poets
have written pleasing poems on Horatian themes, but he has
given rise to nothing comparable with Gavin Douglas' Virgil,
Golding's Metamorphoses or Marlowe's translations of the
Id. (at 186):
Horace lived under that crapulous
presbyterian Caesar Augustus and carried his camouflage
with all the unction of an adulterous Methodist deacon.
Related post: Huysmans on Vergil and Horace