Just A Little Horace

I stumbled across some very tattered, old books a few days ago.  Most were badly mildewed and missing pages.  There was one, without a cover that was still serviceable.  A grammar school level Latin textbook.  I carefully opened it at random.  I saw some writings of the poet Horace.Horace-Deucalion_Pyrrha

On the subject of Quintus Horatius Flaccus or Horace, I will barely scratch the surface.  He was the leading poet of the Roman Empire around the reign of Augustus Caesar. He was familiar with both the Republic and the Empire.  His works are so diverse that entire coursework is found regarding single aspects of his writing.

“It is not the rich man you should properly call happy, but him who knows how to use with wisdom the blessings of the gods, to endure hard poverty, and who fears dishonor worse than death, and is not afraid to die for cherished friends or fatherland.”–Horace

Anyone who has studied ancient Roman history knows soon enough to specialize.  The same can be said of scholars of Horace.  So, today I can only sprinkle a sample of a sampler of Horace’s wisdom and verse.

First a bit of verse with an Epicurean twist. From the second book of satire on The Virtues Of The Simple Life, Horace wrote:

Horace-bustcarving“…But the plain-living man who eats then snatches a nap Quick as a flash, rises refreshed for his appointed tasks. He can still turn to a richer diet, when an annual holiday Comes round, or he wants to fill out his slender frame, Or when advancing age demands greater indulgence: But if severe illness strikes you, or feeble senility, How can you increase those indulgences you take So much for granted while you’re young and healthy?”

Horace had much to say about wisdom.  Here is an excerpt from his first book of Epistles:

“Brigands rise in the depths of night to cut men’s throats: Won’t you wake, to save yourself? Just as, you’ll have to Run with dropsy, if you won’t start now when you’re sound, So, if you don’t summon a book and a light before dawn, If you don’t set your mind on honest aims and pursuits, On waking, you’ll be tortured by envy or lust. Why so quick to remove a speck from your eye, when If it’s your mind, you put off the cure till next year? Who’s started has half finished: dare to be wise: begin! He who postpones the time for right-living resembles The rustic who’s waiting until the river’s passed by: Yet it glides on, and will roll on, gliding forever….”

The old textbook had several pages of Horace’s quotations in Latin, followed by translations to English. One of them has survived use in today’s pop psychology culture: “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.” (Seize the day, put no trust in to-morrow!) Most people could not tell you the original author.

He was not completely serious, Horace had his little zingers as well: “Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: It’s good to be silly at the right moment.”

On Empire, his and probably ours, this sentence is offered for our consideration. “Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.”

It looks like that moldy old book still has much to offer.


The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this Horace wisdom quote: “A word, once sent abroad, flies irrevocably.” Think about it.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, History, Vintage Collectables and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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