Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OBSERVATIONS ON A FEW VERSES OF HORACE, by JOHN BYROM



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OBSERVATIONS ON A FEW VERSES OF HORACE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Wheneer this horace comes into one's hand
Last Line: Pray solve the doubts on these decembrian nones.
Subject(s): Hate; Horace (65-8 B.c.)


WHENEER this Horace comes into one's hand,
One meets with words full hard to understand:
If one consult the critics thereupon,
Some places have a note, some others none;
And when they take interpretating pains,
Sometimes the difficulty still remains.

To you that see, good friends, where I am blind,
Let me propose a case of either kind:
Promising first,—for both relate to weather,—
That winter and December come together:
The Romans too, as far as I remember,
Have join'd together winter and December.

In book the third of Horace, ode eighteen,
Ad Faunum—these two sapphics here are seen:
Ludit HERBOSO pecus omne campo,
Cum tibi nonœ redeunt DECEMBRIS:
Festus in PRATIS vacat otioso
Cum bove pagus.

Inter audaces lupus errat agnos;
Spargit agrestes tibi silva FRONDES;
Gaudet INVISAM pepulisse fossor
Ter pede terram.

HOR. LIB. 3. ODE. 18. 9.

Now, in December, if we reason close,
Are fields poetically call'd "herbose?"
Is that the month, tho' Faunus kept the fold,
For "daring lambs" to frisk about so bold?

"Leaves" I would add too—but the learn'd Dacier
Has made this point elaborately clear,
As one that artful Horace interweaves,—
"The trees in Italy then shed their leaves;
"And this the poet's artifice profound,
"The trees themselves for Faunus strew'd the Ground."

It is, we'll say, a fine Horatian flight;
But is the herbage, are the lambs so right?
Is there in all the ode a single thing,
That makes the winter differ from the spring?
Nones of December are indeed hybernal,
But all the rest is absolutely vernal.

Lenis incedis per aprica RURA—
Does this begin like winter?—but quid plura?
Read how it all begins, goes on, or ends,
Nothing but nones is winterly, my friends;
Neither in human, nor in brutal creatures,
One trace observ'd of winter's stormy features.

May not there be, then, tho' the critics make
No hesitation at it, a mistake?
The diggers dancing too has somewhat spissy,
Gaudet invisam terram pepulisse.
"He in revenge," say comments "beats the soil,
"Hated, because it gave him so much toil."

As oft the diggers, whom we chance to meet,
Turn up the ground, and press it with their feet,
Horace himself, perhaps we may admit,
INVERSAM terram not invisam writ;
But this at present our demand postpones;—
Pray solve the doubts on these Decembrian Nones.





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