Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.06.21

Michael Paschalis (ed.), Horace and Greek Lyric Poetry. Rethymnon Classical Studies 1.   Rethymnon:  University of Crete, Department of Philology, 2002.  Pp. ix, 195.  ISBN 960-714-318-3.  EUR 25.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Stephen Harrison, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (
Word count: 2214 words

This collection of nine papers derives from a conference held at the University of Crete in Rethymnon in 1999. As its title suggests, the book centres on Horace's reprocessing of Greek lyric poetry in the Odes, though the Epodes and the Epistles are also subjects of interesting papers. After an introduction by Michael Putnam which usefully summarises the papers, the volume begins with a piece by Denis Feeney, 'The Odiousness of Comparisons: Horace on Literary History and the Limitations of Synkrisis' (7-18). Here Feeney rightly argues that Horace tends to avoid direct synkrisis (evaluative comparison) of Greek poets in his work: he points out tellingly that the apparent glaring exception at Odes 2.13 (the well-known comparison of Sappho and Alcaeus in the underworld) deconstructs the idea by providing a hyper-reductive and banal contrast. He suggests that this resistance to comparison is influenced by a reading of Cicero, and one can only agree when he states: 'There are many dissertations and books to be written about Cicero and the Augustan poets' (17). His case is attractively made and largely persuasive, though Odes 1.32 surely goes a long way towards suggesting some kind of Horace/Alcaeus comparison (especially if one follows David West's homoerotic view of Odes 1.38).

The second piece, Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi's 'Fantasizing Lyric: Horace, Epistles 1.19' (19-45), takes a new look at a difficult and controversial poem which is central to understanding Horace's own presentation of his lyric achievement. Her case that lyric performance vanishes by the Hellenistic period is well made, and her assertion that the repeated temperat of Ep.1.18.28-9 picks up both the original sympotic sense of 'mix with water' and the metaphorical sense of 'tone down' is effective. The softening of Archilochean iambic aggression by Sappho and Alcaeus is rightly seen as a reflection of Horace's own career in turning from Epodes to Odes, though the lack of explicit allusion to Callimachus as the main aesthetic means for this change is perhaps seen as too problematic (much the same kind of suppression happens in the literary satires). Her suggestion that Horace might have seen Archilochus as at least partly a lyric poet seems plausible given both the variety of the extant Archilochean fragments and the vastness of his lost works and makes the salutary point that archaic generic categories were certainly less firm than in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Alessandro Barchiesi's 'Palingenre: Death, rebirth and Horatian Iambos' (47-70) is a typically wide-ranging and suggestive piece, centering on the theory of genre: 'What kind of model of genre are we using when we are talking about a Roman author who was inspired by earlier Greek poets as models?' (52). Barchiesi identifies two generic models, the Cairns notion of a continuing basic taxonomy and the Kroll idea of the 'crossing of genres', pointing out that in some ways the latter assumes the 'pure-bred' model of the former and suggesting that for Horace as iambic poet the long time-gap after archaic Greek models, the vanishing of the original contexts of performance, and the equivocal nature of the Alexandrian mediation of archaic forms all complicate the issue. The paradox of the Hellenistic intervention is that its self-proclaimed archaism is in fact a mode of distancing (62): 'That which renders Horace more Callimachean is precisely the act of citing early Greek authors; because this profession of faith in the revival of iambic poetry is an admission of detachment'. This is one of a number of tensions here plausibly identified in the Epodes -- between illocution and bookishness, performance and written textuality. Ultimately, argues Barchiesi, it is this balance between continuity and discontinuity which forms the characteristic creative interaction of the Epodes. As well as being highly informative for Horace's iambic poetry, this model would naturally extend well to the Odes, where similar issues arise.

Michael Paschalis' 'Constructing Lyric Space: Horace and the Alcaean Song' (71-84) looks at the issue of public and private space in Horatian lyric and its interconnection with important Alcaean models. The binary opposition of controlled and uncontrolled space, restriction and release, is plausibly mapped on to public and private lyric, though as Paschalis notes this can also suggest broader themes: the open sea (for example) can surely sometimes look to the ocean of epic in Callimachean aesthetics as well as Alcaean political battles. This dichotomy has interesting results for a number of odes on Alcaean models --1.9, 1.14 and (especially) 1.32, where the suggestion that 'restriction (religarat) is here employed for the construction of private lyric space' (81) is highly attractive, and 1.37, where the casting-off of restraint in celebration matches political liberation and release. As one would expect, there is a fair amount of interesting etymological argument here; especially notable are the links made in 1.9 between Soracte and Greek 'soros', 'heap', and Thaliarchus and Greek 'thallein', 'flourish'.

Lucia Athanassaki's 'On Horace, Odes 1.15 and Choral Lyric' (85-101) looks closely at a range of Greek lyric models for this poem, most but not all choral. These include Simonides PMG 543 (the Danae fragment), but not the new Simonides fragment fr.3 West, which can be plausibly reconstructed as a similar prophecy and possible model (see my 'Simonides and Horace' in D. Boedeker and D. Sider, eds., The New Simonides: Contexts of Praise and Desire (Oxford, 2001) 268, which came out too late for this volume). Her arguments for the use of Aeschylean prophecy from the great parodos of the Agamemnon are attractive and convincing, as are also her links with great Pindaric prophecies (Medea in Pythian 4, Teiresias in Nemean 1, Amphiaraus in Pythian 8); such a tragic intertext opens up an obvious means of adding a particular lofty tone to lyric and contributes to the debate about the enlargement of generic horizons as one of the key features of Horace's achievement in the Odes.

Richard Martin's 'Horace in Real Time: Odes 1.27 and its congeners' (103-118), takes a close look at this poem and its potential models. He rightly stresses the unusual nature of the sympotic mini-drama in this poem in that it appears both to be narrated in real time as it happens, demanding responses from an audience, and then to elide the elicited speech of Megylla's brother. Martin argues that though the commonly cited parallels of Anacreon fr. 356 PMG, Xenophanes fr. 1 West and Callimachus Ep. 43 all have shared elements, none shows the real-time dialogic character of Horace's poem. He shows convincingly that this element looks back to Plautine comedy, where he finds a number of 'real time' demands and responses. He also suggests that Anacreon may be the ultimate source through both Hellenistic lyric and the comic tradition (citing Aristophanes), but this may be to construct too hopeful a genealogical chain; there is no reason why Plautine comic scenarios should not influence Horace directly, as they had done for the elegists, his contemporaries.

John Miller's paper on 'Experiencing Intertextuality in Horace Odes 3.4' (119-27) examines the traditional linking of this poem with Pindar Pythian 1 and suggests that it kicks in later than Fraenkel and others have suggested, proposing instead that another Pindaric epinician (Pythian 8), drawing together the role of Apollo, praise of civil tranquillity and praise of great men, has a greater role than previously supposed in framing Horace's praise of Augustus. This is a stimulating exercise which illumines this familiar poem; particularly attractive is his idea (125) that the opening of 3.4 looks to bring Horace's lyric muse down from the forbidden epic heights upon which he had specifically accused himself of trespassing at the end of Odes 3.3 and that its stress on its own 'longum melos' produces lyric elevation as a response to epic sublimity.

Jenny Strauss Clay's 'Sweet Folly: Horace, Odes 4.12 and the Evocation of Virgil' (129-140) looks again at this problematic ode. She copes with the strong echoes of Virgilian texts in a poem addressed to a Vergilius some time after the death of the great poet with the not unattractive argument that the poem presents 'a bitter-sweet evocation of Horace's dead friend' and that 'it describes an impossible dream -- acknowledged to be folly -- inviting Virgil from beyond the grave to join Horace for a brief renewal of their old intimacy' (131). This case is made through an interesting and thoughtful examination of the literary links of the poem, most notably a suggested parallel with the new Simonides fragment 22 West, where the longed-for meeting with the dead Echecratidas is suggested as a parallel for the imagined meeting between Horace and Virgil (though not all agree that Echecratidas is presented as dead in Simonides; see e.g. the paper by Sarah Mace in the New Simonides volume, cited above). However, the main stumbling-blocks to identifying the addressee of this poem with the great Virgil are not so much the poet's death as the addressee's designation as 'iuvenum nobilium cliens' (15), the suggestion that he will trade unguents for wine (16), and the command to lay aside his associated commercial ambitions (25 'verum pone moras et studium lucri'). The first of these three is seen by Clay as a playful allusion to Virgil's role as 'the educator of the aristocratic youth of Rome' (134), the second as an allusion to the theme of sympotic contribution in Catullus 13, both adequate strategies; but the third is seen less convincingly as 'referring playfully to Virgil's self-withholding of his presence from Horace who so ardently desires -- this one last time -- to enjoy his friend's company' (136); surely it is the standard sympotic command to the addressee to forget the pressures of his everyday occupation in drinking (cf. e.g. Odes 3.8.17 'mitte civilis super urbe curas'). Perhaps this Virgil is a living, commercially-minded younger relative of the dead great poet, an affinity complemented by the Virgilian intertextualities, though ancient biographies of Virgil mention no children and only one half-brother of a different name.

The last piece, Michèle Lowrie's 'Beyond Performance Envy: Horace and the Modern in the Epistle to Augustus' (141-73), is by some way the longest and most complex in the volume. It examines the issue of the social function of Horatian poetry through the epistle's stress on the apparent loss of the Greek immediacy of performance in the written literary culture of Rome, rightly pointing out that immediacy and literariness are not necessarily mutually exclusive in such poems as Odes 3.30 but noting too that inevitably in the Rome of Epistles 2.1 'the library replaces the chorus' (155). She suggests that this helps to excuse Horace from Augustan panegyric in this poem (167): 'the distance from a choral lyric community absolves Horace of his duty: he alleges incompetence to relate Augustus' res gestae'. Here one might add some generic considerations; the allegation is a marker of the generic shift from the Pindaric lyric of Odes 4 and the Carmen Saeculare back to 'sermo', and a marker too of the consistent and continuing Horatian rejection of panegyrical epic (in contrast to panegyrical lyric). She employs the idea of Paul de Man that to be modern in literature offers the 'temptation of immediacy', but suggests that the concern for memory in Horatian poetry is another reason for his declining the convenient and conformist modernity of encomium (161): 'The poet cannot help remember what the statesman could just as soon forget'. She argues that Horace is conscious of the inevitable politicising of performance culture and its conflict with the tendency of lyric to identify an individual, non-conformist voice, following Adorno's view that 'lyric poetry most encodes social reality the more it represents the individual in resistance to society' (170); this would again mark a strong contrast from Odes 4 and the Carmen, surely not resistant poetry in any sense. Thus, for Lowrie, the 'perfomance envy' of the title catches Horace in a difficult dilemma (167) -- the immediacy of performance is hard to achieve without conformist compromise: 'Yes, he wants the power of engagement: no, he refuses to compromise his standards to exercise it; and no, he cannot extricate himself from the dilemma'. Again, this seems hard to square with Odes 4 and the Carmen, unless the poet is doubting or rejecting his recent work. This is a difficult but at times rewarding piece. It yields a more resistant reading than the reviewer's but provides an absorbing take on the political function of Horatian poetry as seen in the poet's chief address to his ruler.

Overall, this is a stimulating collection of pieces which gives a good idea of current research on Horace and Greek lyric; in many ways it is a companion volume to Tony Woodman and Denis Feeney's Traditions and Contexts in the Poetry of Horace (Cambridge, 2002), with which it shares three contributors (Barchiesi, Feeney and Lowrie), the last two of whom write interlinked articles in the two collections. I conclude with well-deserved praise for the volume's format. As anyone who has produced a volume for camera-ready copy will know, ensuring a good-looking final outcome is no easy task, and those who were involved in the production of this volume should be congratulated for an elegant, attractive and well- designed book, an excellent start for the new series of Rethymnon Classical Studies which reflects the significant international profile of the Department of Philology at the University of Crete.

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