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Classical Interviews: Horace

Ancient World

Classical Interviews: Horace

“Horace reads before Maecenas”, by Fyodor Bronnikov

 

By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB

I first got the idea for these made-up interviews from the novel Gog by the Italian writer Giovanni Papini, though his “interviews” were with people a bit more contemporary. Today I will be interviewing one of the greatest poets not only of Rome but also of all time, in my humble opinion.

 

Q. Ave, Horace. Thanks so much for having me. It’s a great pleasure interviewing such a great poet. Can you tell us a little bit about your poems?
A. Well, it’s no exaggeration to say that poetry is my life. At some level, I believe that every man has the potential to become a great poet, and I think mankind would be much happier if we all got more in contact with our inner selves and wrote poetry. I am sick and tired of all of Rome’s, but I still have great hopes for the empire. I think Augustus has the potential to be a great leader. After all the wars that happened in the republican period, I’ve come up with a motto, facite amorem, non bellum, which I mention in one of my favorite pieces. I wonder if people in your time still remember this motto.

Q. Oh yes, there are certainly at least a few people in my era who feel the same way. But moving on, I was wondering what your favorite poem of yours was?
A. I am very fond of Carmen IX, from my book of odes. That’s where another of my life mottoes, carpe diem, appears. I think every man should adopt the philosophy summarized in this short phrase because life is so ephemeral. Some people criticize my philosophical views, but I remain extremely skeptical about the concept of an afterlife. I disagree with Cicero’s work “De anima”. Perhaps the gods didn’t mean for us to go anywhere after death, which is why we should enjoy life while we can. I’m not saying there isn’t an afterlife, but I’m also not saying there is one either. As I like to say, de omnibus dubitandum est!

Q. Is there any other poet you particularly admire?
A. I think Catullus is a promising writer. I admire the style of his poems, especially the ones dedicated to Lesbia. Still, I’ve told him many times that I don’t think he’s “seizing the day” vigorously enough. His love for Lesbia will clearly forever be platonic, and he should really just forget about it. I keep telling him there are plenty of fish in the sea and that he’ll eventually find a muse who reciprocates his love. Apart from Catullus, I’m extremely fond of Pindar and, of course, I am a great admirer of Homer’s style. It’s a shame I can’t write epic poetry! I tried once, but my friend Maecenas told me to stick to odes and satires!

Q. Speaking of Catullus, do you have any idea what the real identity of Lesbia is?
A. Yes I do, but that’s a secret I’ll take to the grave. Understand, mi amice, she’s a prominent woman who’s married to a powerful man. She and Catullus would be in deep trouble if her identity were ever revealed. I realize posterity would give much for this information, but I must remain loyal to my friend. So put that money back in your pocket! Friendship is worth more than all your sestertii. As Cicero likes to say, vere amicitiae sempiternae sunt!

Q. Mea culpa, amice! Please forget my rudeness, and let’s get on with the interview. What are your plans for the future? Can you tell us anything about your new poems?
A. I’m in desperate need of a break. My good friend Maecenas has invited me to spend some time at his villa in the country. As you probably know, fuge urbem is another of my favorite mottos! Living in a big city like Rome kills one’s inspiration. I need to be reenergized. And when I get back, I hope to publish a book of satires!

Q. What message would you like to leave for people in the future?
A. I hope people will appreciate the power of poetry for expessing one’s feelings. As I said earlier, I think the world would be a far better place if we all became poets (good ones, of course!). I also hope people will remember my mottos carpe diem, fuge urbem and, last but not least, fac amorem, non bellum!

Conclusion

At the end of the interview, Horace suggested I flee the city and come along with him to Maecenas’ villa. I accepted his invitation with pleasure, and I’m having a great time here in the country. Catullus will be visiting us tomorrow so he can read us his new piece, and Cicero will be coming by to demonstrate his oratory skills. What a bunch!
I’m enjoying a little but of leisure, but don’t worry, folks—I’ll be back with another interview next week. Fortunately, the wifi connection at Maecenas’ villa is excellent!

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.

 

 

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