Reading Classics, Chronologically Through the Ages discussion

Odes: With the Latin Text
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Poetry > Odes (65-8 BCE) - #15

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message 1: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
Up next on our list is Horace's Odes! Here is where we make the leap from Greek to Roman literature, a major milestone on this reading journey, I would say!

"Life is brief and death is coming, so enjoy each moment. Horace's odes are organized around this philosophy; they tend to begin with a scene from nature or from society (a great banquet, a drinking party, a forest at dawn) and to progress from this concrete image to a brief argument that explains why (and how) the reader should enjoy what each day brings, without dreading the future. The odes aren't united by any one subject; Horace addresses, in turn, various women, virgin maidens, his friend Septimus, and gods ranging from Calliope to Bacchus. He writes of the weather, nature, ('All the farm beasts on the green ground/ Gambol, and with time to spare/ The world enjoys the open air'), farm life, the meaning of Roman citizenship, festivals, feasts, and love. But his philosophy of carpe diem ('pluck the day', seizing whatever it brings without apprehensions) shapes every poem. The pragmatic advice is given in full knowledge that death is inevitable, but Horace doesn't see this as a cause for mourning. Rather, the unstoppable approach of death becomes a moral center for his work: Accept your morality and always act in the knowledge that time is short." - Susan Wise Bauer The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

If anyone is not up for reading the entirety of the Odes, Bauer lists a sample of the most noteworthy:

Book I: Odes 1 - 9, 17, 30
Book II: Odes 19-20
Book III: Odes 1-6, 13
Book IV: Odes 1, 7

Happy Reading!

message 2: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
I just wanted to share - in full - the ode that I connected to most.

Book II Ode X
Better will you live, O Licinius,
not always urging yourself out upon the high seas,
nor ever hugging the insidious shore
in fear of storms.

He who esteems the golden mean
safely avoids the squalor of a wretched house
and in sobriety, equally shuns
the enviable palace.

The tall pine most often is shaken
by the winds, and lofty towers tumble
into greater ruin, and lightning strikes
the highest mountain peaks.

Hopeful in adversity, fearful
in prosperity, the well-armed souls
confronts its fate. Though Jove inflicts upon us
unwelcome winters

He also takes them away. Ill fortune now
will not be always so. Sometimes Apollo
awakens the mute Muse with his harp,
not always by

drawing his bow. In difficult times
bold and valiant show yourself! Yet wisely
reef your sails when they are swollen by
too fair a wind.

This one really stuck out to me because in America today, we have such a culture of gain. We try to make as much money as possible, gain the most status, get the nicest things. And I've wrestled with my own sense of ambition and what my true intentions and desires are. I want to aim for that "golden mean" - not too much but not too little.

I think, actually, the idea of the "American dream" is that golden mean. Whether it's attainable still is a discussion for another day, but I think it's still a good desire.

message 3: by Cleo (new)

Cleo (cleopatra18) | 249 comments Mod
I wish I could have joined you on this read, Kendra. Thanks for sharing! I really like this ode too. What has really struck me lately, is that people tend to focus on others; what they are doing or not doing, and then complain about it. I like how Horace draws the focus to ourselves. The only ones we can change are ourselves and so it's best to focus on our own behaviour and hopefully by showing patience, temperance and hope, we can effect others in a positive way.

message 4: by Kendra (new)

Kendra (kendrary) | 146 comments Mod
That is a really interesting point! A lot of greed and desire does come from comparison and wanting what (or more than what) others have. It would be interesting to step back and ask ourselves, "What do I need and want to live a happy life?" without the influence of comparison/ cultural expectations (as much as possible).

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