Saturday, August 31, 2019


The Emperor's Chubby Court-Jester

Theodore Ziolkowski, "Uses and Abuses of Horace: His Reception since 1935 in Germany and Anglo-America," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 12.2 (Fall, 2005) 183-215 (at 184-185):
This was the culture that also produced Wilfred Owen's virulent antiwar poem, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" (1917), which takes as its title and subtext the familiar lines from Horace's Second Roman Ode (3.2.13) proclaiming the sweet propriety of death for one's country—a sentiment that Owen calls "The old Lie."7 Two years earlier, required to write a school essay on the same passage, the seventeen-year-old Bertolt Brecht ridiculed "the emperor's chubby court-jester" ("des Imperators feister Hofnarr") who had run away at Philippi, and slighted his poem as "applied propaganda" ("Zweckpropaganda").8 And in the opening section of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920)—"Ode pour l'élection de son sepulchre iv"—Ezra Pound denounced war, lamenting those who, misled by spurious motives, die "pro patria, / non 'dulce' non 'et decor'" (sic).9

7. The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, ed. C. Day Lewis (London: Chatto and Windus, 1963), 55.

8. O. Müllereisert, "Augsburger Anekdoten um Bert Brecht," in Erinnerungen an Brecht, zusammengestellt von H. Witt (Leipzig: Philipp Reclam jun., 1964), 18; cited here by Peter Witzmann, "Bertolt Brecht, Beim Lesen des Horaz," Das Altertum 14 (1968): 55-64.

9. As recently as 1957/58, students at the University of Munich demanded (successfully!) that the same quotation be removed from a decorative window in the main hall of the university. See Werner Suerbaum, Q. Horatii Flacci Disiecti Membra Poetae (University of Munich, 1993), Beiheft 1:24. For further examples see Martin M. Winkler, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori? Classical Literature in the War Film," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 7 (2000): 177-214.

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