Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.11.10

Ernst A. Schmidt, Zeit und Form: Dichtungen des Horaz.   Heidelberg:  Winter, 2002.  Pp. 533.  ISBN 3-8253-1228-3.  EUR 50.00.  

Reviewed by S.J. Harrison, Corpus Christi, Oxford
Word count: 3359 words

Ernst Schmidt, perhaps best known internationally for his work on Vergil and the pastoral literary tradition,1 collects in this large volume more than two decades' worth of work on Horace, comprising twenty essays written since 1977, of which one is published for the first time. The format of the volume generally provides German translations of Horace rather than Latin texts, which suggests an intention to reach a readership wider than scholarly circles; several pieces are addressed to audiences outside the university sphere, and the substantial body of work on the reception of Horace in German literature in its later chapters will certainly be of interest to non-classicists. As readers of these essays in their previous form will know, S.'s general approach to Horace is very personal, pronouncedly ethical and highly aesthetic. There is also a good deal of close analysis of the poems (following the lead of his teacher Viktor Pöschl) and of formal structures in Horace's poems and poetry-books. The book is coherent enough, with individual chapters reworked and shorter papers combined (sometimes with clear sutures) for collective publication. It is also well cross-referenced, though at times repetition of material can be an issue, and a full index locorum helps to find discussions of individual Horatian passages. In terms of bibliography, there is a strong tendency to ignore the most recent work in English and Italian and privilege German material (as Anglophones tend to privilege English material), and this inevitably leads to a certain isolation from what those in the USA, UK and other parts of Europe might see as the current mainstream of Horatian scholarship.2

Chapter 1, 'Der Dichter in seiner Zeit' (11-37), begins with a useful summary of Horace's life and poetic career, which provides a good introduction (it originally introduced a translation). Here S. argues that Horace's Republicanism is genuine and provides a subtext even in the Odes; Odes 2.7, a key text for this argument, is seen as a guilty poem about insufficient Republican resolve rather than (as many would say) a subtle compliment to Augustus who can forgive both Horace and his addressee for their youthful political mistakes. The second half of the chapter concerns the reception of H., especially in 18C Germany (a period to which this volume often returns); S. here puts forward his general notion of reception as a living and dialogic presence of the author in subsequent cultural contexts. Thoughtful reception of H., S. argues, involves not the mere use of the classical author as an empty vessel for later concerns but rather an active bringing out of significant aspects of the original work; the receiver is critic, not scavenger. This is a positive and creative view and leads to interesting and significant results in this volume. At the end of this chapter we find an attack on irony and symbolism, especially metapoetic symbolism, as interpretative strategies in Horatian criticism; though interested in poetic analysis, S. is no New Critic. Here as elsewhere S. puts clear water between himself and the current Anglophone mainstream; what an interpreter needs is not metapoetical awareness but 'sensitivity, diplomacy and taste' (34).

Chapter 2, 'Das Epodenbuch und die Tradition des Iambos' (38-59), is the first of several pieces on iambic poetry, here stressing the development of the genre from Archilochus through Callimachus to Horace. Here S. rightly emphasises the theme of helplessness in the Epodes and its Archilochean origins, though he might have benefited from Lindsay Watson's work on this topic;3 for S., iambic poetry is fundamentally moralising, passionate for justice and the right, and does not engage in literary frivolity. Thus he holds the Strasbourg Epode to be Archilochean (in some good company), but cannot accept that the related Epode 10 (well analysed here for structure and sources) might be purely literary in its invective.4 He characterises Callimachean iambus as non-political, though seriously moral-aesthetic, and sees H. as injecting politics into the genre (plausibly enough).

Chapter 3, 'Die Sinnfigur des Epodenbuchs' (60-76), seeks to analyse some individual poems and the Epode-book's structure in a search for the real meaning of H.'s use of the iambic genre. Here and elsewhere S. might have made use of the 1995 commentary by David Mankin.5 The structural argument here is rewarding if relatively familiar: the Actium poems Epodes 1 and 9 are paired as opening and middle items, Caesar's name occurs at the beginning, middle and end of Epode 9, Epodes 2 and 16 balance as second from beginning and end and both concerned with interacting with Vergil's Eclogues. Epodes 11-17 consist of two triads 11-13 and 14-16, the second repeating the themes of the first at a more elevated level with 17 as epilogue; here one can see the links between 11 and 13 (love) and even 12 and 15 (problematic women), but 14 and 16 seem less easily paired, though it is a nice idea that 14 addresses Maecenas as a centrally-placed re-address in the second part of the book (75; this cries out for a missing reference to Conte's work on the 'proem in the middle').6 Once again, S. sees moralising invective and advice as the book's chief purpose.

Chapter 4, 'Öffentliches und privates Ich' (77-91), suggests that the Epodes inherit the archaic poetic 'I' of Archilochus and its combative and public concern for justice but also the subjective private voice of the smaller Hellenistic forms. Epode 13 is rightly seen as 'the quintessence of Alcaic sympotic lyric' (81) in an iambic context, while persuasive links made here between Epode 16 and the civic elegies of Solon would be supported further by the observation that Epode 16 is metrically very close to elegy. The treatment of Epode 3 as a Catullan comic invective for a personal offence partly frivolises but partly maintains S.'s overall view that the Epode-book is fundamentally concerned with justice and the punishment of transgression.

Chapter 4, 'Satirisches Lachen in der römischen Satire?' (92-116) is with Chapter 20 the only treatment of Horatian sermo in the book. Here S. seeks to emphasise the conjunction of satire and laughter doubted by some modern theorists on satire. Mentioning Bergson (whose stress on laughter as a weapon could have been pursued further) and Bahktin (whose notion of the carnivalesque could be applied in more detail to the sometimes Saturnalian world of Roman satire), he identifies two classes of laughter, amusing and retributive. One might argue that the two were combined in the Horatian 'ridentem dicere verum', but S. sees in the laughter of satire the laughter of moral revelation and (sometimes) punishment, not that of amusement: satiric laughter, especially in Persius and Juvenal, is concerned with 'the communication of truth and illumination'. This is a dark, moralising reading of Roman satire which makes little allowance for the casual joke or merely entertaining witticism.

Chapter 6, 'Das Landgut' (117-153), looks at H.'s description of the Sabine estate in three different genres (Sat.2.6, Odes 1.17 and 3.13, Ep.1.10). 1.17 is seen as presenting the Vergilian pastoral world transformed into the Horatian ethic of moderation in the Sabinum (a rather grand interpretation, which ignores the casting of Tyndaris as Helen, Horace as Paris and Cyrus as Menelaus here). 3.13 is seen as expressing the way in which H.'s love of Italian landscape is the 'origin, character and effect of his poetry' (138), but a metapoetical reading (actually not far away from this) is resisted (see on Chapter 2 above). The chapter then turns to trace the history of interest in the actual topographical site of the Sabinum (the detailed controversy is well footnoted), showing how the Romantic sensibility in search of poetic 'authenticity' enjoyed the link of texts with real landscape features: S. himself argues that it is we as readers of his poetry who make the valley of Licenza Horatian.

Chapter 7, 'Dichterfreundschaft' (154-74), traces the poetic links between Horace and Vergil over twenty years, seen (convincingly) as elements in an ongoing interchange. Eclogue 4 is rightly seen as opening the dialogue; Epodes 7 and 16 are seen as a 'friendly, admiring response', but the despair and pessimism of these poems suggest a more serious engagement with major national issues from a different angle. The end of Georgics 1 then comes in (pessimism but possible solution), replied to in Odes 1.2 (the young rescuer will succeed); Epode 7 (ancestral crime of Romulus) is picked up and corrected in Aeneid 1.286ff (the fratricide celestially reunited with Remus). Other links could have been included, e.g. Odes 1.7 and Aeneid 1.90ff (sympotic speeches by Trojan War exiles to cheer their troops).

Chapter 8, 'Der Wechsel zur Musendichtung' (175-189), points to the importance of the Muses in the Odes as opposed to H.'s previous work. This is rightly seen as marking the increased elevation of the lyric genre, as the only Muse-invocation before the Odes, the famous parody of epic battle narrative at Sat.1.5.51-5, clearly suggests. Here and at several other points in the book S. argues for a very early date for Odes 2.13, suggesting that it marks the occasion of the fatal tree accident in 33 B.C.; but that event seems to be placed between Philippi and the Bellum Siculum in the apparently sequential catalogue of Horatian perils avoided at Odes 3.4.26-8 (from a poem which deserves more consideration in this context), and there seems no reason why H. should not be writing long after the occasion and using the event to motivate his narrowly avoided tour of the Underworld; note that Odes 2.17.27-30 and 3.8.1-12 also celebrate anniversaries of his arboreal escape.

Chapter 9, 'Lyrische Wirklichkeit' (190-212), looks at the issue of realism and autobiography in the Odes, focussing again on the perils escaped by Horace as alluded to in the Odes. These are seen not as necessarily autobiographically authentic but as symbolic of the greatness of H.'s lyric poetry and of his elevated self-consciousness as an artist, and the supposed protection of the Muses represents 'the possibility of Horatian lyric, that is his rescue and strength for lyric, a strength first possible for him after Actium'. This author-centred approach provides a complement to the genre-centred approach to the same issues in the previous chapter (this reviewer has more sympathy with the latter).

Chapter 10, 'Liebesfest' (213-229), opens a sequence of pieces on the erotic and sympotic Odes. Here S. rightly stresses the fictionality of lyric love-affairs, but argues that what emerges is 'reality created through literature' (by which he means more than realistic settings). There is also some good analysis of the ways in which the topic of love is linked with other key lyric themes (symposium and the urge to celebrate, divine epiphany and meditation on the passing of life); 1.20, 1.30 and 3.28 receive interesting detailed treatment. On the interesting issue of how differently-named beloveds correspond to different angles on love, we might have had some more concrete examples (e.g. Chloe, usually young and attractive, Lyce, usually old and less attractive, or Lydia, usually the good-time girl), and some discussion of how their names fit their characters through etymologies (Chloe = 'young green shoot', Lyce = 'wolf-woman', Lydia suggests ludere, 'play'). Here as elsewhere there is little discussion of the important philosophical background of Epicureanism, or of the major homosexual element (S's take on the Ligurinus odes 4.1 and 4.10 would have been interesting).

Chapter 11, 'Liebesfreiheit' (230-47), presents a fascinating series of 18C German translations and imitations of the amoebean 3.9 by van Hagedorn, von Kleist, Johanne Unzer and others. The most intriguing element is the identification of the male speaker; imitations vary between assuming that it is the poet's voice and introducing a new, third character.

Chapter 12, 'Festwein und Festzeit' (248-65), is a valuable investigation of the symbolic significance of wine-vintages. Here S. would have benefited from some articles by Robin Nisbet, though he clearly admires and uses the Nisbet and Hubbard commentary.7 In 3.14 the allusions to the wines bottled at the time of the Marsi and Spartacus are rightly argued to parallel the danger averted by Augustus in Spain; the Tullus vintage of 3.8.12 is argued not as 66 but 33, the year of the tree-fall according to S (I disagree, see on Chapter 8 above) could 66 be the birthdate of Maecenas, addressed in the next line? Likewise, in 3.21 Nisbet's idea that Messalla, like Horace and the wine, originates in Manlius' consulship of 65 would be a useful addition.

Chapter 13, 'Philippi' (266-85), looks at the Horatian accounts of the battle in three different poems. Here (and elsewhere) S. argues for a very early date for Epode 13, seeing the allusion to the Thracian wind (13.3) as symbolic of the Philippi campaign, but this is the only evidence, and the closeness of this poem to lyric form suggests rather a date closer to the publication of the Epode-book and writing for the future collection of Odes. S.'s reading of Odes 2.7 seems equally questionable (see also on Chapter 1 above); the general ellipse of Augustus in the poem is not Republicanism but diplomatic, the single mention of the great man is a compliment to his military capacity, and the point of the poem is surely to celebrate the clemency of an Augustan amnesty. The reference to Philippi in the last line of Odes 3.14 is rightly seen as an index of contrast between Horace's youthful political deviation and his celebration here of Augustan peace and as a foretaste of the Augustan odes of Book 4. This chapter surely ought to have included a discussion (however brief) of the important reference to Philippi at Epistles 2.2.46-51.

Chapter 14, 'Bewusstseinswandel in der horazischen Lyrik' (286-96), maps the way in which Horatian lyric traces political developments at Rome. S. argues that the truly imperial Rome is effectively invented in the decade (23-13 B.C.) between the two lyric collections of Books 1-3 and 4; some might see this development as earlier, but the political gear change is clear. S. talks of the Pindaric aspects of Book 4 but ignores the extensive literature on this topic;8 he also points out the decrease in general moralising, the replacement of Maecenas by the people of Rome as key addressee (though he does not engage in the scholarly issue of Maecenas' supposed 'fall'),9 and the merging of the public and private spheres separated in Books 1-3 in a poetry of national consensus. All this is done at a relatively general level, an interesting complement to (e.g.) the grittier prosopographical approach to Book 4 taken by Syme, unmentioned here.10

Chapter 15, 'Fiktionale Occasionalität' (297-315), the sole new piece in the volume, considers the way in which the real festivals of Greek lyric are artificially recreated as fictive contexts for the Odes of Horace; here it would have been interesting to note the realistic approach of Jasper Griffin in a recent article,11 but S. is clearly right to suggest that real occasions need not always be supplied for such poems and that often the poem itself is the festival. He notes that many poems supply a type of address which is limited but not realistic in detail (apostrophe, addresses to 'boys' etc, addresses to the Muses, final prayers), shows some sympathy towards Cairnsian 'genres of content', and suggests that it is the renewed performance of reading which brings out the centrality of such fictive occasionality to the poems (313): 'His odes are not occasional poems. It is rather the fictional occasions in his ods which are fully integrated elements of meaning in the poems, which are actualised in reading and repetition'.

Chapter 16, 'Theologoumena' (316-334), looks at some associations of religion and poetry in two odes. The lectisternium of Odes 1.37.2-4 is seen by S. as a innovatory private celebration, but there is evidence of a public festival which is likely to have included this element (see Dio 51.19.5), while the role of Apollo in 1.2 is presented as consonant with post-Actium Augustan ideology (though the climactic identity of Augustus and Mercury might even point to an earlier date, as does the famous 'Caesaris ultor', more relevant in the thirties than the twenties).

Chapter 17, 'Schema Horatianum' (335-379), discusses at length the compendious technique whereby the second element of an implied opposed pair of epithets or similar is omitted but can be easily supplied from the context e.g. the double effect at Odes 3.13.6-7 'gelidos inficiet tibi / rubro sanguine rivos', where 'rubro' suggests both non-transparency and warmth, in effect supplying the idea of 'calido' for 'sanguine' (to match 'gelidos') and the idea of 'liquidos' for 'rivos' (to match 'rubro') . Though not all the many examples given (drawing partly on previous commentaries and the like) are equally convincing, this technique can plausibly be seen as one of the major building blocks of Horace's compressed style in the Odes, and the linguistic material gathered here is very useful for students of Horatian style.

Chapter 18, 'Horaz und die Erneuerung der deutschen Lyrik im 18. Jahrhundert' (380-428), follows the shorter treatment of Chapter 5 in a detailed investigation of the reception of the Odes in this great period of German lyric poetry, which like the same period in England can rightly be considered an 'aetas Horatiana'. Von Hagedorn is featured again, but also more familiar names: Schiller's 'Ode to Joy' is seen as an example of Horace-inspired celebratory odes, while Klopstock's use of complex word-order and even Alcaic stanzas show close concern with Horatian style. As in Chapter 1, S. argues attractively that historically different receptions can open up new angles of analysis appropriate to the original context: thus the concern of 18C Germany to take Horace as a inspired and passionate lyricist not a disillusioned ironist (contrast 18C England's interest in Horatian satire and his aspect as critic and moralist), helps to rehabilitate the ideas of passion and emotion, qualities indeed underplayed in modern criticism of the Odes.

Chapter 19, 'Hermeneutische Prinzipien bei der Exegese der Horazoden im 18 Jahrhundert' (429-84), takes a rewarding look at commentaries, forewords and editorial notes on Horace in the same period. One major interest was in unity: Lessing in 1759 stressed the concealed elegant plan of each ode, while Herder, writing in 1803, spoke of the unity given by the 'imaginative situation' (480). This was linked in turn with the Romantic 'feeling of beauty', seen as particularly characteristic of lyric; the careful but hidden unity of each ode and its ethos led to a feeling of grace and elegance for the reader. There is a good deal of fascinating material here on the German scholarly reader's reception of the aesthetics of the Odes well into the 19C.

Chapter 20, 'Die Kunstform der Versepistel' (484-98) is a treatment of the first book of Epistles. S. sees the book as renouncing in 1.1. the self-promotion of the Odes and returning to the ethical concerns of the Satires, but that self-promotion could already use the self-deflating humour characteristic of Epistles, and it would be perverse to deny that ethical considerations are prominent in the Odes. S. catalogues the pseudo-epistolary features of the book -- addresses, brevity, unity of theme, ethical content (which had in fact been done already in English work unmentioned here)12 and stresses the concealment of their verse-form (though rightly holding that they are not 'real' functioning letters). He plausibly emphasises the ironic distance of its moderate ethics from 'totalitarian' philosophies (i.e. largely Stoicism), argues that engagement in life is a core value, and posits that freedom is the key Horatian ethical concept, defined as 'mastery of circumstances and relationships'.

In sum, this is a substantial and often stimulating body of work. Readers of the Odes and Epodes will find in this volume many interesting analyses and arguments; students of Horatian reception will find extensive and valuable material on the handling of Horatian lyric in 18C and 19C Germany, and a sympathetic and positive (if relatively untheorised) view of the act of reception. S's voice as Horatian critic is highly individual; this is both an advantage, reasserting an aesthetic, moralising and personally passionate Horace who challenges many postmodern preconceptions, and a disadvantage, leading in effect to substantial disengagement with the main work in international Horatian studies in the last two decades.


1.   E.A.Schmidt, Poetische Reflexion. Vergils Bukolik, Munich 1972; Bukolische Leidenschaft oder ber antike Hirtenpoesie, Frankfurt/Bern/New York 1987.
2.   It is telling that of the 224 items in S.'s bibliography of secondary literature there are only two items in English published since 1982 and only two in Italian at all, one of which is from 1926.
3.   Cf. L.C.Watson, 'Horace's Epodes : The Impotence of Iambos ?' in S.J. Harrison (ed.), Homage to Horace, Oxford 1995, 188-202.
4.   For counter-arguments see e.g. my article in CQ n.s.39 (1989) 271-4).
5.   D.Mankin, Horace : Epodes, Cambridge 1995.
6.   G.B.Conte, 'Proems in the Middle', YCS 29 (1992) 147-59, originally published in Italian in Il genere e i suoi confini, Milan 1984.
7.   This material is most easily found in R.G.M. Nisbet, Collected Papers on Latin Literature, Oxford 1995 (index s.v. 'wine, symbolic or significant').
8.   See e.g. E. Fraenkel, Horace, Oxford 1957, 426ff, and my remarks at JRS 80 (1990) 34-5 and in Harrison, ed. (n.3 above), 108-115.
9.   G.W. Williams, 'Did Maecenas fall from Favour? Augustan Literary Patronage ?' in K. Raaflaub and M. Toher (eds.), Between Republic and Empire, Berkeley 1990, 258-75; P. White, 'Maecenas' Retirement', CPh 86 (1991) 130-8.
10.   R. Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy, Oxford 1986, 382-402
11.   J. Griffin, 'Cult and Personality in Horace', JRS 87 (1997) 54- 69.
12.   Cf. e.g. G.W. Williams, Tradition and Originality in Roman Poetry, Oxford 1968, 7-24; C.W. Macleod, Collected Essays, Oxford 1983, 280-291.

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