The two Odes in this section represent a departure in that they are addressed to a specific Roman youth in homosexual terms. Horace is therefore defying strong social taboos without any apparent fear of retribution.
In Ode IV, 1, Horace complains that Venus is urging him to commit himself to love once again despite his age and tries to turn her away towards another young man, Paulus Maximus, who, he feels, is more suitable for her attentions. There follows what almost amounts to an eulogy of this young man, explaining to Venus the various qualities that make him so suitable. It all seems rather contrived, as though Horace has included a 'bread–and– butter' piece of writing to gain, or retain, favour. We still are left to assume that this is an heterosexual poem particularly since Horace then enters a disclaimer that he is not interested in any of the physical pleasures that life can offer, including the love of youths. Then comes the volte face; Horace precipitates us into his secret passion for Ligurinus. It is still theorectical, only in dreams does he embrace Ligurinus but the imagery is quite vivid and erotic. We are left with the knowledge that that is as far as Horace got in achieving his passion. No social barriers have been breached; dreaming of a young boy's love, by an older man, is not in itself reprehensible.
In Ode IV, 10, it is apparent that nothing physical was achieved or even attempted. Ligurinus is not interested, either in entering into any homosexual relationships with an older man or in such relationships per se. This Ode is therefore a diatribe by Horace in which he points out that the beauty of Ligurinus himself is only transitory, time will change him from youth to manhood and he will lose his present physical attributes very soon. Then, says Horace, he will understand. Simply put, that is the substance of this Ode but many see in it a reflection on old age and lost opportunities. Certainly Horace imbues it with such an underlying feeling; whether this was intentional is uncertain.
ODES IV, I Intermissa, Venus, diu Rursus bella moves. Parce, precor,precor. Non sum qualis eram bonae Sub regno Cinarae. Desine dulcium Mater saeve Cupidinum Circa lustra decem flectere mollibus Iam durum imperiis: abi, Quo blandae iuvenum te revocant preces. Tempestivius in domum Pauli. purpureis ales oloribus, Comissabere Maximi, Si torrere iecur quaeris idoneum. Namque et nobilis et decens Et pro sollicitis non tacitus reis Et centum puer artium Late signa feret militiae tuae; Et quandoque potentior Largi muneribus riserit aemuli, Albanos prope te lacus Ponet marmoream sub trabe citrea. Illic plurima naribus Duces tura lyraeque et Berecyntiae Delectabere tibiae Mixtis carminibus non sine fistula; Illic bis pueri die Numen cum teneris virginibus tuum Laudantes pede candido In morem Salium ter quatient humum. Me nec femina nec puer Iam nec spes animi credula mutui Nec certare iuvat mero Nec vincire novis tempora floribus. Sed cur heu, Ligurine, cur Manat rara meas lacrima per genas? Cur facunda parum decoro Inter verba cadit lingua silentio? Nocturnis ego somniis Iam captum teneo, iam volucrem sequor Te per gramina Martii Campi, te per aquas, dure, volubilis.
ODES IV, I
Intermissa, Venus, diu
Rursus bella moves. Parce, precor,precor.
Non sum qualis eram bonae
Sub regno Cinarae. Desine dulcium
Mater saeve Cupidinum
Circa lustra decem flectere mollibus
Iam durum imperiis: abi,
Quo blandae iuvenum te revocant preces.
Tempestivius in domum
Pauli. purpureis ales oloribus,
Si torrere iecur quaeris idoneum.
Namque et nobilis et decens
Et pro sollicitis non tacitus reis
Et centum puer artium
Late signa feret militiae tuae;
Et quandoque potentior
Largi muneribus riserit aemuli,
Albanos prope te lacus
Ponet marmoream sub trabe citrea.
Illic plurima naribus
Duces tura lyraeque et Berecyntiae
Mixtis carminibus non sine fistula;
Illic bis pueri die
Numen cum teneris virginibus tuum
Laudantes pede candido
In morem Salium ter quatient humum.
Me nec femina nec puer
Iam nec spes animi credula mutui
Nec certare iuvat mero
Nec vincire novis tempora floribus.
Sed cur heu, Ligurine, cur
Manat rara meas lacrima per genas?
Cur facunda parum decoro
Inter verba cadit lingua silentio?
Nocturnis ego somniis
Iam captum teneo, iam volucrem sequor
Te per gramina Martii
Campi, te per aquas, dure, volubilis.
Love! You move once more
To wars long interrupted. I beg mercy, I submit,
I am not as I was under the tyranny
Of wondrous Cinara. Cease, remorseless
Mother of sweet Cupid,
From being ruthless now, to dissuade with gentleness
Ten lustres' stern commands. Go,
Where the entreaties of flattering youth call out.
If you seek a suitable liver
To scorch with passion, to carouse, feasting
On purple winged swans, at the
House of Paulus Maximus, is more appropriate
For he will bear the standard
Of your warfare widely; not silent on clients behalf
A youth of a hundred arts and
Of noble birth, handsome and easily moved.
He will place a marble statue
Under a canopy of citrus wood near the Alban lake
And whatever the abundant gifts
Of rivals, he, more powerful, will laugh.
There, you will inhale
Abundant incense with the nose and will entice the
Mingling of lyre and Berecyntian
Flutes, and not without songs to the shepherds pipe.
There boys with tender maidens
Will be beating the earth twice a day to triple time
Praising your divinity
On dazzling feet in the Salian manner
As for me, neither woman nor
Youth benefit me now nor credulous hope of mutual
Sensibility nor contests with unmixed
Wine nor temples encompassed with fresh flowers.
But why, alas why, Ligurinus
The occasional tear flows from out of my eyes, why,
With too little eloquence, the tongue
Falls silent in the middle of decorous speech.
Now nightly in dreams I pursue
You through the grasses of the Field of Mars,
Through the harshness of the
Inconstant waters. Now, captive, I hold you.
ODES IV, 10 O crudelis adhuc et Veneris muneribus potens, Insperata tuae cum veniet pluma superbiae Et, quae nunc umeris involitant, deciderint comae, Nunc et qui color est puniceae flore prior rosae Mutatus, Ligurine, in faciem verterit hispidam: Dices "Heu," quotiens te speculo videris alterum, "Quae mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fuit, Vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genae?"
ODES IV, 10
O crudelis adhuc et Veneris muneribus potens,
Insperata tuae cum veniet pluma superbiae
Et, quae nunc umeris involitant, deciderint comae,
Nunc et qui color est puniceae flore prior rosae
Mutatus, Ligurine, in faciem verterit hispidam:
Dices "Heu," quotiens te speculo videris alterum,
"Quae mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fuit,
Vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genae?"
O unfeeling and still powerful with the gifts of Venus,
When unexpected stubble will come upon your pride and
Hair which now floats over the shoulder they will have cut short
And complexion now pink as with the first flower of the rose
Will have turned, Ligurinus, changed into a hairy countenance:
You will say "Alas", how often you have seen another in the
Mirror, "Whose reflection is it today, why was it not the same in
Youth, why do these cheeks not return with character unchanged?
ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY
ODES IV, 1
This Ode has ten stanzas but the middle six stanzas seem to be only loosely connected with the first two and the last two stanzas. Stanzas 1 to 2 and 9 to 10 are about Horace falling in love again at the age of fifty with the youth Ligurinus. Stanzas 3 to 8 are in the nature of a eulogy for Paulus Maximus, a friend of Horace. The connection is not clear at all.
Horace begins by appealing to Venus, Intermissa, Venus, diu rursus bella moves. Parce, precor, precor. Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cinarae. 'Venus, you invoke, once more, wars long since interrupted. Have mercy, I beg, I entreat. I am not as I was under the tyranny of wondrous Cinara.' He continues, desine, dulcium mater saeva Cupidinum, circa lustra decem flectere mollibus iam durum imperiis 'cease, implacable mother of sweet Cupids, to divert by insiduous commands, almost ten unyielding lustres.' Horace tries to divert her attention, abi, quo blandae iuvenum te revocant preces 'Begone! to where the flattering entreaties of youth call to you.' Horace now directs Venus to the house of Paulus Maximus, describing how he is much more in need of her than Horace. Tempestivius in domum ... si torrere iecur quaris idoneum 'If you seek a suitable liver to scorch with passion, to feast riotously on purple winged swans, in the house of Paulus Maximus, is more appropriate.' Namque et nobilis et decens ... late signa feret militae tuae 'He will bear the standards of your warfare widely ... a youth of a hundred arts ... of noble birth and handsome.'
The paean of praise continues but already suspicions of Paulus Maximus's role in this Ode begin to surface. Knowing already that Horace is sexually attracted to the young man Ligurinus, it must occur to us that Paulus is somewhere involved in the connection. Did they meet at his house? Et ... riserit aemuli, ... ponet marmoream sub trabe citra 'He, more powerful, will laugh at the abundant gifts of rivals and will place a marble statue for you near the Alban Lake under a canopy of citrus wood.' Illic ... duces tura ... delectabere ... carminibus ... fistula 'There you will receive much incense to inhale and you will take delight in Lyres and Berecyntian flute mingling with songs and with shepherd's pipe.' Illic bis pueri die ... in morem Salium ter quatient humum 'There, twice by day, praising your divine command, boys with tender maidens, on dazzling feet, will be beating the ground to triple time, in the Salian manner.' Was Ligurinus one of the youths with dazzling feet?
Horace leaves Paulus Maximus rather abruptly, discounting his own involvement: me nec femina nec puer ... iuvat ... novis tempora floribus 'Now, neither woman nor youth nor credulous hope of mutual sensibility nor contests with unmixed wine nor foreheads bound with fresh young flowers gratifies me now.' Horace then addresses the youth, Ligurinus. Sed cur heu, Ligurine, cur manat rara meas lacrima per genas? ... cadit lingua silentio? 'Why, then, Ligurinus, why flows the unaccustomed tear from the eyes? Why the eloquent tongue falls silent, with too little decorum, in the middle of speech?' Horace admits to his passion for Ligurinus: nocturnis ego somniis iam captum teneo, ... sequor ... te per aquas, dure, volubilis. 'Nightly, in dreams, now I hold you, now, winged, I pursue you across the grass of the Field of Mars, now, hard to the touch, through swirling water.'
Fraenkel feels that this Ode is by way of being an overture to the whole of Book IV and, as such, contains a little of all the elements to be encountered therein; love, the praise of famous people, the problems of growing old and the resignation it entails. As an explanation of the apparently unconnected elements within this Ode, it is certainly one point of view. If it were not Horace under consideration one might be tempted to regard the middle stanzas as so much literary padding: well crafted but not within the expected context. Quinn is rather dismissive, seeing the Ode mainly as a vehicle for the praise of Paulus Maximus, of whom he quotes a disparaging Epigram by Cassius Severus. 'You are almost eloquent, you are almost beautiful, you are almost rich; just one thing you are not almost; good for nothing!' So much for the centum puer artium of Horace.
It is with an apparent air of diffidence that Horace introduces Ligurinus in the last two stanzas and if we are to accept that this is the predominant idea behind the Ode, then the almost surreptitious nature of his inclusion is puzzling. It has been pointed out by several writers that Ligurinus is a Roman name and that by making his homosexual emotions for the youth known, Horace was flouting convention in a marked way. Even at the age of fifty and with a successful reputation to support him, it would seem foolish. One could suppose that within the social circle in which Paulus Maximus moved the affection was acceptable but we cannot know.
BOOK IV ODE 10
This is a rather sad little Ode constructed as one long sentence divided into a metrical structure of eight lines. It is sad in many ways; Horace contemplating the indifference of Ligurinus to his pleas, Ligurinus contemplating, if unknowingly, the end of childhood, ourselves, the readers, marking the passage of time for both Horace and the youth and also the inexorable pre–knowledge that for Horace, at least, only a few years remained.
Initially, Horace addresses the youth, O crudelis adhuc et Veneris muneribus potens 'O unfeeling [youth] hitherto powerful with the gifts of Venus'. Warning him of what will happen, insperata tuae cum veniet pluma superbiae 'when unexpected stubble will come upon your pride'. et, quae nunc umeris involitant, deciderint comae 'and, of the hair which now floats over the shoulder, they will have cut off', nunc et qui color est puniceae flore prior rosae mutatus, Ligurine, in faciem verterit hispidam 'and the complexion, which now is pink, as with the flower of the first rose, changed, Ligurinus, and will have turned into a hairy countenance'.
Horace now places the narrative into the mouth of Ligurinus. Dices "heu," quotiens te speculo videris alterum, "quae mens est hodie, cur eadem non puero fuit, vel cur his animis incolumes non redeunt genae?" '"Alas," you will say then, for the many times you have seen another you in the mirror, "whose reflected presence is it today, why not the same youth as it was, or why cannot these cheeks return to their former glory, without damage to the ego?."
Fraenkel says of this Ode, 'The real theme of Horace's poem is not, as it may first seem, disappointment in the sexual pursuit of (Greek term for available young boys), but something more simple and touching, regret for the bygone days of youth.' (Fraenkel, Horace, 414) He cites, as support for this, Petrarch's epistle, 'De brevitate vitae' which uses a quotation from this Ode. Fraenkel concludes that it is Horace who really speaks through Ligurinus, voicing his own regret. Quinn tends to agree: 'the opposition is not between youth's missed opportunities and the denial of love's pleasures which old age brings, but between Ligurinus as he is now ... and as he soon will be ...' (Quinn, Horace The Odes, 317/8). There is a difference of emphasis between Fraenkel and Quinn but the positions that they adopt are not unreconcilable.
The more simplistic view is, of course, that this Ode merely updates the situation with which we are left at the end of Ode IV, 1. Horace, having expressed homosexual desires to the youth, has been rebuffed and in a fit of pique tells him that his beauty will not last. Adolescence and manhood will overtake his youthful beauty and he will have nothing with which to attract further attention. Yet we have no clear indication that Ligurinus is interested in homosexual approaches; the fact that he attracts them is no proof of reciprocity on his part. Unless we assume that he belongs to the intimate circle of Paulus Maximus where he would be expected to observe whatever rules were tolerated. The theme of regret for lost youth that emanates strongly from this Ode may just be accidental; it can certainly stand on its own as a lecture from a disappointed suitor.