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    XXII. To Q. Horatius Flaccus

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    Chapter 23
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    In what manner of Paradise are we to conceive that you, Horace, are dwelling,
    or what region of immortality can give you such pleasures as this life
    afforded? The country and the town, nature and men, who knew them so well as
    you, or who ever so wisely made the best of those two worlds? Truly here you
    had good things, nor do you ever, in all your poems, look for more delight in
    the life beyond; you never expect consolation for present sorrow, and when you
    once have shaken hands with a friend the parting seems to you eternal.

    Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
    Tam cari capitis?

    So you sing, for the dear head you mourn has sunk for ever beneath the wave.
    Virgil might wander forth bearing the golden branch 'the Sibyl doth to singing
    men allow,' and might visit, as one not wholly without hope, the dim dwellings
    of the dead and the unborn. To him was it permitted to see and sing 'mothers
    and men, and the bodies out-worn of mighty heroes, boys and unwedded maids,
    and young men borne to the funeral fire before their parents' eyes.' The
    endless caravan swept past him--'many as fluttering leaves that drop and fall
    in autumn woods when the first frost begins; many as birds that flock landward
    from the great sea when now the chill year drives them o'er the deep and leads
    them to sunnier lands.' Such things was it given to the sacred poet to behold,
    and the happy seats and sweet pleasances of fortunate souls, where the larger
    light clothes all the plains and dips them in a rosier gleam, plains with
    their own new sun and stars before unknown. Ah, not _frustra_pius_ was Virgil,
    as you say, Horace, in your melancholy song. In him, we fancy, there was a
    happier mood than your melancholy patience. 'Not, though thou wert sweeter of
    song than Thracian Orpheus, with that lyre whose lay led the dancing trees,
    not so would the blood return to the empty shade of him whom once with dread
    wand the inexorable god hath folded with his shadowy flocks; but patience
    lighteneth what heaven forbids us to undo.'

    It was all your philosophy in that last sad resort to which we are pushed so

    'With close-lipped Patience for our only friend,
    Sad Patience, too near neighbour of Despair.'

    The Epicurean is at one with the Stoic at last, and Horace with Marcus
    Aurelius. 'To go away from among men, if there are gods, is not a thing to be
    afraid of; but if indeed they do not exist, or if they have no concern about
    human affairs, what is it to me to live in a universe devoid of gods or devoid
    of providence?'

    An excellent philosophy, but easier to those for whom no Hope had dawn or
    seemed to set. Yet it is harder than common, Horace, for us to think of you,
    still glad somewhere, among rivers like Liris and plains and vine-clad hills,
    Solemque suum, sua sidera borunt.
    It is hard, for you looked for no such thing.
    You could not tell Maecenas that you would meet him again; you could only
    promise to tread the dark path with him.

    Enough, Horace, of these mortuary musings. You loved the lesson of the roses,
    and now and again would speak somewhat like a death's head over thy temperate
    cups of Sabine _ordinaire_. Your melancholy moral was but meant to heighten
    the joy of thy pleasant life, when wearied Italy, after all her wars and civic
    bloodshed, had won a peaceful haven.The harbour might be treacherous; the
    prince might turn to the tyrant;far away on the wide Roman marches might be
    heard, as it were, the endless, ceaseless monotone of beating horses' hoofs
    and marching feet of men. They were coming, they were nearing, like footsteps
    heard on wool; there was a sound of multitudes and millions of barbarians, all
    the North, _officina_gentium_, mustering and marshalling her peoples. But
    their coming was not to be to-day, nor to-morrow; nor to-day was the budding
    princely sway to blossom into the blood-red flower of Nero. In the hall
    between the two tempests of Republic and Empire your odes sound 'like linnets
    in the pauses of the wind.'

    What joy there is in these songs! what delight of life, what an exquisite
    Hellenic grace of art, what a manly nature to endure, what tenderness and
    constancy of friendship, what a sense of all that is fair in the glittering
    stream, the music of the waterfall, the hum of bees, the silvery grey of the
    olive woods on the hillside! How human are all your verses, Horace! what a
    pleasure is yours in the straining poplars, swaying in the wind! what gladness
    you gain from the white crest of Soracte, beheld through the fluttering
    snowflakes while the logs are being piled higher on the hearth. You sing of
    women and wine--not all whole-hearted in your praise of them, perhaps, for
    passion frightens you, and 't is pleasure more than love that you commend to
    the young. Lydia and Glycera, and the others, are but passing guests of a
    heart at ease in itself, and happy enough when their facile reign is ended.
    You seem to me like a man who welcomes middle age, and is more glad than
    Sophocles was to 'flee from these hard masters' the passions. In the 'fallow
    leisure of life' you glance round contented, and find all very good save the
    need to leave all behind. Even that you take with an Italian good-humour, as
    the folk of your sunny country bear poverty and hunger.

    To them, to you, the loveliness of your land is, and was, a thing to live for.
    None of the Latin poets your fellows, or none but Virgil, seem to me to have
    known so well as you, Horace, how happy and fortunate a thing it was to be
    born in Italy. You do not say so, like your Virgil, in one splendid passage,
    numbering the glories of the land as a lover might count the perfections of
    his mistress. But the sentiment is ever in your heart and often on your lips.

    Me nec tam patiens Lacedaemon,
    Nec tam Larissae percussit campus opimae,
    Quam domus Albuneae resonantis
    Et praeceps Anio, ac Tiburni lucus, et uda
    Mobilibus pomaria rivis. (1)

    (1) 'Me neither resolute Sparta nor the rich Larissaean plain so enraptures as
    the fane of echoing Albunea, the headlong Anio, the grove of Tibur, the
    orchards watered by the wandering rills.

    So a poet should speak, and to every singer his own land should be dearest.
    Beautiful is Italy with the grave and delicate outlines of her sacred hills,
    her dark groves, her little cities perched like eyries on the crags, her
    rivers gliding under ancient walls; beautiful is Italy, her seas, and her
    suns: but dearer to me the long grey wave that bites the rock below the
    minster in the north; dearer is the barren moor and black peat-water swirling
    in tanny foam, and the scent of bog myrtle and the bloom of heather, and,
    watching over the lochs, the green round-shouldered hills.

    In affection for your native land, Horace, certainly the pride in great Romans
    dead and gone made part, and you were, in all senses, a lover of your country,
    your country's heroes, your country's gods. None but a patriot could have sung
    that ode on Regulus, who died, as our own hero died, on an evil day for the
    honour of Rome, as Gordon for the honour of England.

    Fertur pudicae conjujis osculum,
    Parvosque natos, ut capitis minor,
    Ab se removisse, et virilem
    Torvus humi pusuisse voltum:

    Donec labantes consilio patres
    Firmaret auctor nunquam alias dato,
    Interque maerentes amicos
    Egregius properaret exul.

    Atqui sciebat, quae sibi barbarus
    Tortor pararet: non aliter tamen
    Dimovit obstantes propinquos,
    Et populum reditus morantem,

    Quam si clientum longa negotia
    Dijudicata lite relinqueret,
    Tendens Venafranos in agros
    Aut Lacedaemonium Tarentum. (1)

    (1) 'They say he put aside from him the pure lips of his wife and his little
    children, like a man unfree, and with his brave face bowed earthward sternly
    he waited till with such counsel as never mortal gave he might strengthen the
    hearts of the Fathers, and through his mourning friends go forth, a hero, into
    exile. Yet well he knew what things were being prepared for him at the hands
    of the tormenters, who, none the less, put aside the kinsmen that barred his
    path and the people that would fain have held him back, passing through their
    midst as he might have done, if, his retainers' weary business ended and the
    suits adjudged, he were faring to his Venafran lands or to Dorian Tarentum.'

    We talk of the Greeks as your teachers. Your teachers they were, but that poem
    could only have been written by a Roman! The strength, the tenderness, the
    noble and monumental resolution and resignation--these are the gift of the
    lords of human things, the masters of the world. Your country's heroes are
    dear to you, Horace, but you did not sing them better than your country's
    Gods, the pious protecting spirits of the hearth, the farm, the field, kindly
    ghosts, it may be, of Latin fathers dead or Gods framed in the image of these.
    What you actually believed we know not, _you_ knew not. Who knows what he
    believes? _Parcus_Deorum_cultor_ you bowed not often, it may be, in the
    temples of the state religion and before the statues of the great Olympians;
    but the pure and pious worship of rustic tradition, the faith handed down by
    the homely elders, with that you never broke. Clean hands and a pure heart,
    these, with a sacred cake and shining grains of salt, you could offer to the
    Lares. It was a benignant religion, uniting old times and new, men living and
    men long dead and gone, in a kind of service and sacrifice solemn yet

    Te nihil attinet
    Tentare multa caede bidentium
    Parvos coronantem marino
    Rore deos fragilique myrto.

    Immunis aram si tetigit manus,
    Non sumptuosa blandior hostia
    Mollivit aversos Penates
    Farre pio et salienta mica. (1)

    (1) Thou, Phidyle, hast no need to besiege the gods with slaughter so great of
    sheep, thou who crownest thy tiny deities with myrtle rare and rosemary. If
    but the hand be clean that touches the altar, then richest sacrifice will not
    more appease the angered Penates than the duteous cake and salt that crackles
    in the blaze.'

    Farewell, dear Horace; farewell, thou wise and kindly heathen; of mortals the
    most human, the friend of my friends and of so many generations of men.
    Chapter 23
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