HORACE: ODES, BOOK II

Edited by Stephen Harrison

CUP (2017) p/b 267pp £20.99 (ISBN 9781107600904)

The passage of nearly 40 years since the edition of this book of Horace’s Odes by Nisbet and Hubbard in 1978 is justification enough (if any such is needed) for this admirable commentary by H. in Cambridge’s ‘Green and Yellow’ series. H. has written widely on (especially) Latin literature, including an edition of Virgil’s Aeneid X (1991); he was editor of the Cambridge Companion to Horace (2007).

In his Introduction, H. provides sections on ‘Dating’ (28-25 BC seems well-nigh assured), and ‘Horace’s Literary Career’, with Odes II belonging to the central lyric phase of a ‘long and carefully modulated poetic career’. This is followed by a section on the ‘Book’s Characteristics’, in which H. shows this to be ‘the book of moderation’—and of course, here we have Aequam memento (3), Eheu, fugaces (14), and Otium divos (16)—in material consumption, philosophical outlook, in passions, and in literary form. The book itself is relatively short too, with only 20 Odes, none of great length. Next come ‘Literary Intertexts’, a notably rich topic, to be detailed in the commentary on each Ode, the ‘Internal Architecture of the Poems’ (ring composition and a variety of closural devices), and ‘Style’ (rich and elaborate, justifying Petronius’ well-known assessment Horati curiosa felicitas). In ‘Metre’, the book’s only unusual offerings are one each of the Second Asclepiad (2.12) and the Hipponactean (2.18), the second of these being a Latin hapax, except for an imitation by Prudentius nearly 400 years later. The text is offered with a minimalist apparatus criticus, with the reader who wants more on the MSS being directed to Klingner’s Teubner text of 1957 or to the Oslo database for previous conjectures. Comment on H.’s own four conjectures will appear later.

Commentary on each of the poems is preceded by a summary, naming of the metre, and an extended introduction in which (inter alia) the addressee’s name and career (where known and relevant) are set out: thus, the introduction to Ode 7 discusses the addressee (Pompeius, possibly a minor relative of Pompey himself), the dismal episode of Philippi, and the notorious relicta non bene parmula: indeed, at Ode 9, the addressee, C. Valgius Rufus, receives almost a mini-essay. Finally, each Ode has its own select bibliography.

The commentaries which follow are replete with learning and generous in detail, especially in the parallels that abound, e.g. from Archilochus and possibly Alcaeus and Anacreon in the case of the abandoned shield (perhaps not exactly what happened, thinks H.), or (loosely) from Simonides in the case of the falling tree (Ode 13)—an episode which is mentioned three times by Horace, implying a degree of verisimilitude (cf. the threefold repetition in Satires I of libertino patre natum). H. quotes liberally and at length from other poets, with welcome extracts given in Greek from the epigrammatist Philodemus and from Anacreon (Odes 4 and 5), Alcman and Callimachus (Ode 8), Anacreon again (Ode 11), Simonides (Ode 13), Bacchylides (Ode 18), and Euripides (Ode 19); there are also fleeting appearances of Bion and Pindar (Ode 16) where, tellingly, the poetics of Callimachus are recalled. Of course, this in no way is meant to imply that Roman authors are ignored, which is far from the case, with Catullus, Lucretius and Virgil especially prominent; Ovid and Tibullus also appear (as do Matthew Arnold and W.H. Auden [see Ode 11]). At the same time, it may be instructive to compare H.’s very full commentary on the moving Ode 17, addressed to Maecenas, with the approach of David West in his own detailed article (cited by H.) in AJP (1991), which elicits the Ode’s Innigkeit in a way not available in the same way to a line-by-line commentator. The commentary is followed by a bibliography and two indexes.

Attempting to emend the text of Horace after the work of distinguished scholars on it over many centuries is a temerarious enterprise. H., as noted above, offers four conjectures of his own: at 1.20, he proposes pectus for vultus (acc. plural), to give a more convincing object to terret: but how might that corruption have plausibly arisen? At 5.13 H. attractively propounds Ferox for ferox, thus giving the Ode an addressee: Ferox is known as a cognomen from Pliny and elsewhere; H.’s admirable note ad loc. expounds and expands his case. At 12.9, H. suggests tu ipse for the awkward MSS tuque: H. gives the (hardly ideal) example of tu elided in an Horatian Epistle, 1.14.41 and refers to this elision as ‘common in Catullus’, but does not point out that Ovid and Propertius can muster only a total of two instances between them. Finally, at 19.31, H. reads cauda for MSS caudam, to give an instrumental ablative with good sense but a slightly awkward elision, adequately discussed by H. (but not noted sv. ‘elision’ under ‘metre’ in the general index on p. 266). As always, time alone will tell whether any of H.’s proposals find lasting favour.

The publisher suggests that this edition ‘in general improves modern understanding of a widely read ancient text which has a firm place in college and university courses as well as in classical research’, and certainly it will now become the natural first port of call for any student whose focus is on this book of the Odes: it is, moreover, attractively priced. But, as H. points out in the Preface, Nisbet and Hubbard remain indispensable, as, from a wider perspective, does E. Fraenkel’s Horace of 1957.

Colin Leach

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