Odes 1.1, 1.38, 2.1, 2.20, 3.30


A: Programmatic poems: Odes 1.1 and 2.1


(a) encomium

            The first three books of the Odes use encomiastic elements freely in their opening poems: this is partly a function of their lyric genre, reflecting the praise-odes of Pindar in Greek lyric, echoed prominently in e.g. Odes 1.12 and Odes 3.4, and matches their grander and more elevated tone as Horace’s poetic career advances through sermo and iambic to the heights of lyric. The supposed descent of Maecenas is deployed in 1.1 as an opening honorific gambit (Odes 1.1.1 Maecenas, atauis edite regibus, ‘Maecenas, sprung from kings of old’, while in Odes 2.1 we find praise of Pollio not just as man of letters (2.1.9-12) but also as orator and soldier, more conventional fields of Roman endeavour (2.1.13-16):

insigne maestis praesidium reis

et consulenti, Pollio, curiae,

     cui laurus aeternos honores

     Delmatico peperit triumpho. 

Here Pollio’s role as rhetorical patron of clients in the law-courts recalls the more general support of Maecenas for Horace as acknowledged in Odes 1.1, the fortification-metaphor of praesidium being used in both contexts (Odes 1.2.2 o et praesidium et dulce decus meum). Though Odes 3.1 is as we have seen apparently addressed to the contemporary youth of Rome, its opening does have an encomiastic context, this time applied to the poet himself (3.1.1-4):

Odi profanum uolgus et arceo.

Fauete linguis: carmina non prius

     audita Musarum sacerdos

     uirginibus puerisque canto.

Here the primary focus is on the high status of Horace himself and his poetry: he is no less than the priest of the Muses, and his songs are unheard before and original, a conventional element of praise for poetry since Callimachus and central to Roman literary culture.    As in Odes 3.30 (14-16), there is perhaps some idea that the poet has now in his third and last book of his first lyric collection achieved the classic status that he set out to pursue in Odes 1.1 (35-36).


 (b) literary programmes

            In the opening poem of the first book of Odes the poet sets the quiet life of literature against the various ambitions of normal Roman life, including again the ownership of vast estates (1.1.9-10); but the hints earlier of competitive glory in athletics and politics (1.1.3-8) look forward to the poem’s close, where again (as in Epodes 1) the poet focusses on himself and makes an ambitious bid for glory and inclusion in the canon of lyric poets (1.1.29-36):

Me doctarum hederae praemia frontium

dis miscent superis, me gelidum nemus               

nympharumque leues cum satyris chori

secernunt populo, si neque tibias

Euterpe cohibet nec Polyhymnia

Lesboum refugit tendere barbiton.

Quod si me lyricis uatibus inseres,

sublimi feriam sidera uertice.

Apart from the characteristic self-deflation in moments of ambition and grandeur,   this sets up the project of the first collection of Odes which is formally concluded in its last poem, since at 3.30.14-16 the poet asks the Muse for the bays of the poet which he thinks he now deserves:

                   Sume superbiam

quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica              

lauro cinge uolens, Melpomene, comam.           

The poet has earned his inclusion in the lyric canon, and the bay garland recalls and replacing the poet’s ivy crown mentioned at 1.1.29 (above). Poetic garlands are also thematised at the end of the first book of Odes: in 1.38 the exotic garlands of lime-bark are rejected by Horace (1.38.2 displicent nexae philyra coronae), and surely symbolise exotic poetry similarly disdained by the poet (see below).  Once again a dedicatory poem combines modesty of life with metapoetic discourse and sets a programmatic agenda for its collection.

            Odes 2.1, after its lofty encomium of Pollio and its dramatic treatment of his tragic topic of civil war, turns at its end to making sure that Horace’s light lyric does not stray into the higher and heavier territory of Simonidean dirge (2.1.37-40):  

Sed ne relictis, Musa procax, iocis

Ceae retractes munera neniae,

     mecum Dionaeo sub antro

     quaere modos leuiore plectro.

Likewise, the theme of material modesty raises its head once again at the end of Odes 3.1 (3.1.45-8):

cur inuidendis postibus et nouo              

sublime ritu moliar atrium?

     cur ualle permutem Sabina

        diuitias operosiores?


B: Finales: Odes 1.38, 2.20 and 3.30


1: Odes 1.38 – is the poet addressing his own book?


Persicos odi, puer, apparatus,

displicent nexae philyra coronae,

mitte sectari, rosa quo locorum

                sera moretur.

simplici myrto nihil allabores               

sedulus curo: neque te ministrum

dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta

                vite bibentem.


puer = ‘slave, assistant’ Odes 1.9.16, 1.19.13-15, 1.29.7, 2.11.18, 3.14.17, 3.19.10

puer = ‘slave’= ‘book’ Epistles 1.20 (below), and also Ovid:


Paruenec inuideo—sine me, liber, ibis in urbem:

     ei mihi, quod domino non licet ire tuo!

uade, sed incultus, qualem decet exulis esse;

     infelix habitum temporis huius habe.      (Tristia 1.1.1-4, poet speaks)


Missus in hanc uenio timide liber exulis urbem

     da placidam fesso, lector amice, manum;

neue reformida, ne sim tibi forte pudori:

     nullus in hac charta uersus amare docet.

Haec domini fortuna mei est, ut debeat illam

     infelix nullis dissimulare iocis.                 (Tristia 3.1.1-6, book speaks)


puer = ‘son’ = ‘book’:


Nec me, quae doctis patuerunt prima libellis,

     atria Libertas tangere passa sua est.

In genus auctoris miseri fortuna redundat,

     et patimur nati, quam tulit ipse, fugam              (Tristia 3.1.71-4, book speaks)


puer = ‘son’ = ‘slave’ = ‘book’:


orba parente suo quicumque uolumina tangis,

     his saltem uestra detur in urbe locus.

quoque magis faueas, non haec sunt edita ab ipso,

     sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui.   (Tristia 1.7.35-38, poet speaks)


Persicos … apparatus

Callimachus Aetia fr.1.17-18 Pfeiffer:

λλετε Βασκανίης λον γένος· αθι δ τέχν                   Begone, destructive race of Envy; and judge

  κρίνετε, μ σχοίν Περσίδι τν σοφίην·                       Wisdom by art, not by the Persian chain …[distance]


Rejection of Persian epic size and complexity?  apparatus = stylistic elaboration (cf. Fronto Ad Am 1.4.1 uerborum apparatum).


Choerilus of Samos, epic poem Persica, late 5c BCE

  (Supplementum Hellenisticum 317), preface:

μάκαρ, στις ην κενον χρόνον δρις οιδς,

Μουσάων θεράπων, τ κήρατος ν τι λειμών.

νν δ τε πάντα δέδασται, χουσι δ πείρατα τέχναι,

στατοι στε δρόμου καταλειπόμεθ, οδέ π στι

πάντ παπταίνοντα νεοζυγς ρμα πελάσσαι.


Oh, blessed was he who was a skilled singer, a servant of the Muses, at that time when there was still a meadow inviolate. But now, when all things are divided up, and the arts have been limited, we are left behind, as it were, last in the race, and it is not possible for us, peering in all directions, to bring up a newly-yoked chariot.


Horace and the same issue of poetic novelty within an established genre? Allusion to famous metapoetical passage (partly quoted by Aristotle) in new metapoetical passage? Not unlikely that the Persica is the first epic on an event within the writer’s lifetime (Choerilus knew Herodotus according to the Suda), just as Horace’s is the first collection of Greek lyric in Latin; Choerilus’ preface may be leading up to mention of this innovation (cf. MacFarlane, K. A. ‘Choerilus of Samos' Lament (SH 317) and the Revitalization of Epic’, American Journal of Philology 130 (2009): 219-234).


nexae philyra coronae

Could the garland also represent a book (puer = book, his corona = style of book)? Cf. Gregson Davis, Polyhymnia: The Rhetoric of Horatian Lyric Discourse (1991) 118-21, comparing Odes 1.7.5-7:

sunt quibus unum opus est intactae Palladis urbem              

     carmine perpetuo celebrare et

undique decerptam fronti praeponere olivam

where the olive-garland might symbolise Pindar’s various poems for Athens (fr.74-77 S/M).


corona symbol of the epic of Ennius? cf. Lucretius 1.117-8

Ennius ut noster cecinit, qui primus amoeno

detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam

Propertius 4.1.

Ennius hirsuta cingat sua dicta corona: 

  mi folia ex hedera porrige, Bacche, tua,

This passage implies that Ennius’ garland was NOT of ivy (hedera) – was it of rougher lime-bast (philyra)?


Garland as (simple) collection and (simple) conclusion

The idea of a poetic collection as a garland – Meleager AP 4.1.1-6 (100-80 BCE):

Μοσα φλα, τνι τνδε φρεις πγκαρπον οιδν;

τς κα τεξας μνοθετν στφανον;

νυσε μν Μελαγρος, ριζλ δ Διοκλε

μναμσυνον ταταν ξεπνησε χριν,

πολλ μν μπλξας ντης κρνα, πολλ δ Μοιρος

λερια, κα Σαπφος βαι μν, λλ ῥόδα·

Interesting links:

στφανον / corona

male/male situation (Meleager for Diocles, Horace and puer).

interweaving (nexae philyra ~ πολλ μν μπλξας ντης κρνα)

rosa/ ῥόδα


Poetic virtue of simplicity: Ars Poetica 23 denique sit quodvis, simplex dumtaxat et unum.


Ecl.7.62 formosae myrtus Veneri: erotic colour of first book of Odes and of this poem?


the poetic cura of the artist: Ars Poetica 261 operae celeris nimium curaque carentis.


The boy/book provides drink/symposiastic material for the poet?


2: Odes 2.20: does the poet become a book as well as a bird?


Non usitata nec tenui ferar

penna biformis per liquidum aethera

     vates neque in terris morabor

     longius invidiaque maior

urbis relinquam. Non ego pauperum          5

sanguis parentum, non ego quem vocas,

     dilecte Maecenas, obibo

     nec Stygia cohibebor unda.

Iam iam residunt cruribus asperae

pelles et album mutor in alitem               10

     superne nascunturque leves

     per digitos umerosque plumae.

Iam Daedaleo ocior Icaro

uisam gementis litora Bosphori

     Syrtisque Gaetulas canorus               15

     ales Hyperboreosque campos.

Me Colchus et qui dissimulat metum

Marsae cohortis Dacus et ultimi

     noscent Geloni, me peritus

     discet Hiber Rhodanique potor.              20

Absint inani funere neniae

luctusque turpes et querimoniae;

     conpesce clamorem ac sepulcri

     mitte supervacuos honores.


1 non usitata: cf. Callimachus Ep. 28.4 Pf. σικχαίνω πάντα τ δημόσια,  ‘I loathe everything that is publicly available’), Epistles 1.19.32-3 (Horace’s use of Alcaeus) Hunc ego, non alio dictum prius ore, Latinus / uolgaui fidicen. But a flying book would be especially unusual…

nec tenui: grander than Callimachus, seen as an elegiac/erotic poet ?

2 biformis: this is the final poem of the SECOND book of Odes.

1 ferar: three possible meanings:

  1. bird-like flight (cf. Manilius 5.488),
  2. physical transport of the volume to foreign countries (cf. Ep.1.13.13 portes)
  3. Future voicing in recitation (cf. 3.30.10 dicar, OLD s.v. fero 33,34).


Iam iam residunt cruribus asperae

pelles et album mutor in alitem              

     superne nascunturque leves

     per digitos umerosque plumae.


Possible references to the physical book which this poem concludes?

Rough fibres like those on a papyrus sheet?

Note that the koronis inserted by a papyrus scribe to mark the end of a text could be bird-shaped

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/20/P.Berol._inv._9875_col._v_coronis.jpg/120px-P.Berol._inv._9875_col._v_coronis.jpg P.Berol. inv. 9875 4/3 BCE [end of Timotheus Persae]  


Me Colchus et qui dissimulat metum

Marsae cohortis Dacus et ultimi

     noscent Geloni, me peritus

     discet Hiber Rhodanique potor


noscent and discent suggest memorising from a book read out by the master, the usual way of learning poetry in antiquity?


3: Odes 3.30 – the book as monument


Exegi monumentum aere perennius

regalique situ pyramidum altius,

quod non imber edax, non Aquilo inpotens

possit diruere aut innumerabilis

annorum series et fuga temporum.               5

Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei

vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera

crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium

scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.

Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus               10

et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium

regnavit populorum, ex humili potens

princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos

deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam

quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica               15

lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.


The image recalls Pindar Olympian 6.1-4;

Χρυσας ποστσαντεσ ε-

τειχε προθρ θαλμου

κονας ς τε θαητν μγαρον

πξομεν· ρχομνου δ᾿ ργου πρσωπον

χρ θμεν τηλαυγς.


Let us set up golden columns to support

the strong-walled porch of our abode

and construct, as it were, a splendid

palace; for when a work is begun,

it is necessary to make its front shine from afar.


Pindar: poem = palace

Horace: poem-collection = [funeral] monument (link back to 2.20?)

3 edax: both monument and book may be consumed by time – cf. Epistles 1.20.12 tineas pasces taciturnus inertis.

8 crescam laude recens: the book will grow physically by positive commentaries written on it? Cf. Alcman Partheneion

Image result for alcman partheneion Paris, Louvre 3320, 1 CE; DARK areas are COMMENTARY/NOTES.

10 Dicar: Horace’s poems will be recited from his book which has been transported (cf. 2.20.1 ferar)?

lauro cingecomam: alludes to the image of garland as book (the collection of Odes 1-3 is now completed and the poet can receive his ‘garland’).


C: Some connecting thoughts


The common metre of Odes 1.1 and Odes 3.30 presents them as the bookends of the collection of Odes 1-3, and Odes 2.20 is clearly linked as the middle term of the three book-finales. The addressees of the three poems rise interestingly in importance, matching a pattern of ascent found in Horace’s poetic output as a whole from the slave-puer of 1.38 through Maecenas in 2.20 to the Muse of 3.30.


Odes 1.38, 2.20 and 3.30 share some details (references to garlands with their poetic symbolism, references to distant or Italian geographical locations in connection with poetry) and especially Callimachean metapoetic colour: 1.38 is a manifesto for the short and unelaborate poem, 2.20 recalls the envious Pthonos of the Hymn to Apollo, while 3.30 claims to have Callimacheanised the looser texture of Aeolian lyric; similarly, all also allude by contrast to grander poetic predecessors by contrast: 1.38 to Choerilus, 2.20 to Argonaut epics, and 3.30 (perhaps) to Vergil’s Aeneid.