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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

Horatio, Poet of the Party

The Greco-Roman classics, especially the Latin poets: Virgil, Ovid, Horace, Lucretius, Martial, Juvenal etc. -- are extensively present at BVReppucci, mostly in precious and rare editions from the 15th to the 19th centuries. This is the case of Horace with ten titles, two of which are incunabula (1494, 1498), three from the 17th century, four from the 18th century and one from the 19th century. By chance a contemporary Brazilian edition (1995) of Dante Tringali is being registered in the BVR collection, in which the author “studies Quinto Horácio Flaco: his work, his preferences and idiosyncrasies, his religiosity, his thought, his loves. He considers Horace’s production autobiographical “ (Maria da Glória Novak) and to ratify her assertions, he presents, with comments, twenty-eight odes in Latin and Portuguese.

Horácio - Poeta da Festa - Navegar não é preciso. Dante Tringali. Musa Editora, S. Paulo-SP, 1995.

Deeming it opportune and useful, we made a partial and summarized overview of Tringali’s work that we present below, illustrating it with images from the editions present in the BVR.

All of Horace’s work originates from a long meditation on the assertion that happiness has as its goal the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. To this end, he presents a simple, apparently simplistic solution, but one of profound mythical and mystical significance: the party constitutes the supreme ideal of human beatitude, being a collective and not an individual achievement, as it is found in the gathering of friends. At Horace’s festivals, however great the joy, no one is allowed to lose their rationality. The cult of Bacchus is respectful and moderate.

Horace prays and knows that his mission, as a poet, is to formulate prayers. In case the prayers cannot be answered, only resignation and patience remain, submitting oneself sweetly to divine providence. There are evils that cannot be avoided, such as setbacks, illnesses, old age and death.

In the brevity of human life, there are a few fleeting days when happiness shines. It is necessary to take advantage of these days as if they were fruits from the tree of happiness, before old age and death arrive. This is the carpe diem theory; it orders us to seize the day, to enjoy the passing day, especially the feast day.

This is what happens in the poet’s house on a feast day: the servants get excited; in one corner is a vat of precious wine; wreaths are prepared, the tableware shines, the altar is decorated with sacred foliage, the flame crackles and smokes, a lamb awaits immolation: this is the celebration of the birthday of Maecenas.

The feast focuses on the banquet, which is made up of a sacrifice, dinner and socializing, reserved especially for drinking: one drinks then among friends, peacefully, with perfumed hair, the head crowned with flowers and leaves, from sunset on the eve, and may last, under the light of torches, until sunrise. In the atmosphere of the banquet, all the human values that form part of the poet’s vision of the world are cultivated through the power of the wine: love, friendship, pleasant conversation, music, singing, dancing.

The hero of the feast is wine, a gift from Bacchus, by whose natural and mystical virtue man renews his spiritual strength.

Horace asks a friend to serve the wine and leave the rest to the gods. He advises Leukonoe to forget the horoscopes and dilute the wines, without worrying about tomorrow which, if it comes, will be a profit. Wine comforts the soul. The man who drinks in honor of Bacchus relaxes, unwrinkles his forehead, breaks seriousness, getting rid of apprehensions. Wine relieves pain and brings pleasure. The poet asserts that there is no other way to ward off pain and conquer pleasure, except through the communion of wine, drunk in the liturgical context of feast days.

Horace’s feast has nothing to do with the orgy that took place in the Roman Decadence and which was beginning to emerge; on the contrary, it has a profound religious, moral, devout character, almost a eucharistic feast!

The banquet is the essence of the feast and the essence of the banquet is the wine. Horace presents himself as a poet of festivities, banquets and wine. The banquet, which represents the maximum happiness possible in this world, is based on the fraternization between friends, on a feast day, around wine.

Wine occupies the center of the poet’s lyricism. It is not a separate, occasional, episodic theme: it structures and gives meaning to all of his poetic work. His banquet is presided over by a philosophy of life centered on the idea of inevitable death. Impossible to forget it, because everything in the universe evokes it and it is not convenient to ignore it. In Horace, death loses its negative, despairing meaning; it doesn’t take away the charm of living; instead of denying life, it teaches how to enjoy it. According to him, as has already been said, death teaches you to live the day that passes, the carpe diem, and all wisdom lies in knowing the best way to enjoy today as if it were the last. And to repeat, for the poet, the supreme happiness of man in this world is summed up in drinking with friends, in honor of Bacchus. Through wine, man gets rid of the sadness and boredom of life. You don’t drink to forget you’re going to die, but because you’re going to die.

Horace hails wine as a soothing and solace for the soul; chases away sadness and fear; it clears, relaxes, breaks the gravity, excessive seriousness, renewing hopes. Wine is truthful, it opens the soul; under its effect, people love, sing, talk, discuss but without fights, without turmoil.

Happy is he who sits at the banquet table among friends, crowned, anointed, and drinks godly. Happy is he who leaves life as a satisfied guest and manages to say every day: I lived!

Horace advises a friend to cultivate the vine instead of any other plant; and instead of ornamental trees, poplar and elm, which support the vine. His lyricism gives rise to a campaign to exalt the vine and wine, with a patriotic sense, in harmony with his religious convictions; conceives wine mystically, as spiritual medicine, gift of Bacchus; he knows of no other remedy for the soul.

He knew how to conquer glory without sacrificing his life, and could be said that he left the feast of life as a satisfied guest, having at the same time built a work more lasting than bronze.

Today, more than two thousand years after his death, critics recognize Horace as one of the greatest lyric poets of all time.

Horace was born

in the year 65 bC and

died in the 8º year bC.


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