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THE object of this small edition of the first book of the Odes of Horace, is to provide such notes as may enable a boy of fair intelligence to obtain a distinct and accurate conception of the meaning of each Ode (1) as regards the exact force and construction of individual words and sentences, (2) as regards the general idea and purpose of the Ode as a complete and connected whole.
(1) With reference to words, phrases, and constructions, only such notes are given as seemed necessary to supplement, but not to supplant, the careful use of Dictionaries and Grammars: they are intended to assist the industrious in their difficulties, not to afford facilities to the indolent. For this reason no explanation is given of ordinary grammatical terms or constructions, of ordinary words, or of proper names of which even the smaller Classical Dictionaries contain an adequate account. On the other hand, even with these omissions, there is so much that is peculiar in the words which Horace employs, so much individuality in his phrases, there are so many subtle allusions and half-expressed references to literature, to history, and to national customs, that it has been difficult to compress into a moderate compass all that is
even absolutely needed for a complete understanding of the text. For although the exceptional felicity and simple terseness of Horace's style render him especially adapted for the fate he would most have deprecated1, and although his general meaning is almost transparently clear, yet this apparent simplicity and ease of style is in reality the result of consummate elaboration; a single epithet often recalls a whole chapter of history, a single phrase is often a résumé of a whole philosophical system: his language is so simple that a child may follow it, but so subtle that perhaps no Latin poetry requires more wide and accurate scholarship for its full appreciation than the Odes. Two facts may serve to illustrate this statement: one, that no author can be more widely illustrated than Horace from the whole range of classical literature, or can be himself more frequently quoted in illustration; the second, that to set an Ode of Horace even in high University Examinations is to set a sure trap for slovenly and inaccurate scholarship.
(2) With regard to the general meaning of each Ode as a connected whole, in almost every case a summary has been prefixed to the notes, with the object of making clear the line of thought running through it; and throughout attention has been carefully drawn to the connection of ideas, where that connection was not obvious, but rather hinted at or suggested than definitely expressed. It is indeed an essential of lyric
1 Hor. Sat. 1. 10. 74:
an tua demens vilibus in ludis dictari carmina malis ?
Epist. 1. 20. 17:
hoc quoque te manet ut pueros elementa docentem