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HORACES UT PICTURA POESIS:

THE ARGUMENT FOR STYLISTIC DECORUM


By WESLEY TRIMPI
Horace opens liis Ars poetica with several comparisons between the arts
to illustrate the structural decorum which all unified works must share.
Later, he develops an extended analogy between painting and poetry, intro
duced by the phrase ut pictura poesis, to illustrate the nature of the stylistic
decorum necessary to please, and to continue to please, the critical reader.
In an earlier essay entitled The Meaning of Horace's Ut Pictura Poesis, I
tried to show' how this analogy (361-5) concludes the preceding discussion of
faults which may and may not be overlooked in a long work (317-60). In the
present paper, in addition to collecting further evidence for this interpretation,
I shall argue that the lines in question (361-5) form, at the same time, a tran
sitional introduction to the following analysis of the kind of pleasure ap
propriate to poetry and of how it may best be protected (366-90).1
In the lines preceding these sections, Horace has just discussed the more
inclusive requirements, primarily with regard to subject matter, that a poem
treat things which are iucunda and idonea vitae, dulce and utile (333-46). He
now turns, with tamen, to the readers critical expectations in relation to
stylistic decorum in order to define precisely the type of pleasure a skillfully
w'ritten poem must continue to give (347-90).
sunt delicta tamen, quibus ignovisse velimus:
nam neque chorda sonum reddit quem volt manus et mens,
poscentique gravem persaepe remittit acutum,
nec semper feriet quodeumque minabitur arcus.
verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit
aut humana parum cavit natura, quid ergo est?
ut scriptor si peccat idem librarius usque,
quamvis est monitus, venia caret, et citharoedus
ridetur, chorda qui semper oberrat eadem,
sic mihi, qui multum cessat, fit Choerilus ille,
quem bis terve bonum cum risu miror; et idem
indignor, quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus; 1
1 The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 36 (1973) 1-34 (hereafter cited as
MHP). The passages already cited there which it has been necessary to mention again in a
new context or to re-emphasize for purposes of presenting the additional materials are clearly
indicated. Since the evidence presented in both essays supports a single interpretation, the
reader is encouraged to examine these additions in connection with the passages assembled
in the text and notes of MHP.
30 TRADITIO
verum operi longo fas est obrepere somnum.
ut pictura poesis: erit quae, si propius stes [AJ ,
te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes (A2];
haec amat obscurum [UJ , volet haec sub luce videri,
iudicis argutum quae non formidat acumen [#2];
haec placuit semel J CJ , haec deciens repetita placebit [C2].2
(347- 65)
The last five lines make three comparisons based on degrees of distance, of
light, and of the power to please on repeated occasions, which I have indicated
by A, B, and C respectively. Each comparison consists of two terms; the
first terms of each I have designated Av Blt and Cv and the second /12, Bit
and C2. In my original interpretation 1attempted to account for two dif
ficulties in understanding the literal meaning of the lines themselves. The first
problem is the evaluative relation of the first to the second term in each of
the three comparisons; the second is the nature of the picture (and the poem)
which could be said to prefer inferior lighting in the sense that it amat ob
scurum. Until a more probable explanation is presented than that deriving,
unquestioned, from the scholiastic tradition, which recognizes neither problem,
my suggestions offer, I believe, the most plausible solution to both.
In the commentaries the three better terms refer to viewing the picture
from close at hand, to seeing it in full light, and to enjoying it on repeated
occasions. Alt therefore, falls logically parallel to Bz and C2, combining At
with Bt and Ct, and thus disturbs the rhetorical parallelism of the syntax.
If the commentaries are correct in their choice of the better term in the first
comparison, which I have argued they are not, then the four terms of the first
two comparisons fall in a chiastic criss-cross pattern: better [AJ , worse [A2],
worse [Bj], better [/2]. The terms of the third comparison then repeat the
order of the second, thus producing the following pattern of the six terms taken
2 Q. Horati Flacci Opera, ed. F. Klingner (Leipzig 1959) 307. (The internal bracketed
additions are mine.) [Yet faults there are which we can gladly pardon; for the string does
not always yield the sound which hand and heart intend, but when you call for a flat often
returns you a sharp; nor will the bow always hit whatever mark it threatens. But when the
beauties in a poem are more in number, I shall not take offence at a few blots which a careless
hand has let drop, or human frailty has failed to avert. What, then, is the truth? As a
copying clerk is without excuse if, however much warned, he always makes the same mistake,
and a harper is laughed at who always blunders on the same string: so the poet who often
defaults, becomes, methinks, another Choerilus, whose one or two good lines cause laughter
and surprise; and yet I also feel aggrieved, whenever good Homer nods,but when a work
is long, a drowsy mood may well creep over it. A poem is like a picture: one strikes your
fancy more, the nearer you stand [AJ : another, the farther away [A2). This courts the shade
[B1);that will wish to be seen in the light, and dreads not the critic insight of the judge [B2).
This pleased but once [C2[; that, though ten times called for, will always please [C21.' Trans.
11. . Falrclough, l.oeb Classical Library (hereafter LCL [London 1936] 479, 481). All
future Latin citations of Horace will be from Klingners edition.
'ut pi ctura poesis 31
together: better [Aj], worse (At], worse [Bx], better [B2], worse [C,], better
[C#J. Since the terms of the third comparison do not have a correspondingly
chiastic relation to those of the second, the order appears arbitrary in that a
single chiasma disrupts, without warning or syntactical clarification, the six
(rather than four) terms of a passage made up of three (rather than two) com
parisons. This arbitrariness, unclarified by such distinguishing pronouns as
hie and ille, threatens these lines with an enigmatic abstruseness, antithetical
to Horaces avoidance of obscurity in the epistolary sermo (cf. Suetonius,
Vila Horati), and encourages the reader to return to the simpler and more
obvious rhetorical parallelism for their meaning. Such a parallelism demands,
however, that the pictorial and literary style to be seen from a distance have,
in contradiction to both ancient and modern commentators, a recognizable
value, in some particular regard, which is not shared by the style to be scrutinized
from close at hand. The explanation of this advantage must account, at the
same time, for the type of style which could plausibly love the obscurum.
In evaluating poems, I believe Horace is saying, allowances must be made
for unintentional (minor) errors when excellences greatly outnumber faults
and/or when the work is long. Since some flaws in detail, distracting to the
closely scrutinizing reader, would have been absorbed in oral presentation,
the stylistic conventions of epic, which the responsible critic should take into
consideration, permit a certain lack of finish, however much one might wish
otherwise. To the extent that Augustan critical expectations may no longer
have been comfortable with the abrupt transitions and dramatic repetition
of the older epic that is, to the extent that the critic might treat the Ho
meric poems, now read not heard, as if they had originally been composed to
be read and become thereby a Zoilus carping at detail Horace is, in the first
place, reminding his reader of the stylistic price to be paid for the greatness
of Homers achievement. But, more important, he may also be cautioning
him to allow for the adaptation of certain oral effects to the written epic by
poets like Virgil, and perhaps Varius, who were criticized for imitating Homer
too closely.3 As an illustration, and only as an illustration, of how the reading
of poems in (or drawing upon) the oral tradition with the close scrutiny ap
propriate to written genres is to read them out of context, Horace borrows a
pictorial analogy from the rhetorical tradition where analogies between the
arts had been and still were common. Although the poet is to be regarded
3 For Virgils detractors, see Suetonius, Vita Vergili 43-6, and for his imitation of Homer,
Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.2-13 even his imitation of Homers faults, which, apparent to
the diligens lector (5.14.8), was criticized by some out of ignorance (5.14.1). Virgil was
criticized for making Homer with fashionable modern colors, lor not suf
ficiently polishing his adaptations from Pindar, and for echoing the archaism of Ennius
(A. Gellius, 13.27, 17.10, 12.2).
32
t r a d i t i o
no more as an orator than as a painter, we have to know that the analogy
with the painter derives originally from this rhetorical context in order to
understand the three comparisons with painting which follow.
The analogy between pictures and poems immediately qualifies Horaces
unusual leniency in allowing critical lapses even in a longer work (operi longo
fas est obrepere somnum). In his first comparison the long poem might naturally
correspond to the further picture, since it is likely that each would demand
that one step back from it in order to see it clearly as a whole.4* Such a
stepping back entails, metaphorically for the poem, certain stylistic con
sequences. 1have argued that, in order to illustrate these consequences and
to distinguish the criteria for judging the style of Homers longer oral, or
Virgils written, epics from those for judging the more meticulously concen
trated styles of other poetic genres, Horace borrows an analogy between the
arts which has its roots in the Aristotelian rhetorical tradition. After identi
fying the agonistic style of deliberative oratory with certain histrionic devices
of asyndeton and repetition in Homer, Aristotle compares the style to a roughly
drawn skiagraphic picture to be seen in broad outline at a distance (Rhet.
3.12).6**In the bustle and noise of a large outdoor assembly the speaker will be
too far off and his delivery too abrupt and dramatically aggressive to make use
of refinements of style or argumentation requiring close leisurely attention in
sheltered recitations or intricate private law suits to be appreciated. Once the
4 Aristotle implies that a suitable distance9 is involved when he compares the proper
length of a play, determined by what Uie memory can hold in unity, with the size of a living
organism which the eye can take in at a glance. (He makes similar observations upon the
length of a period: Rhet. 3.9.3, M09a35-9b6.) When O. Else comments (on 1450b32-51a6)
that 4in Aristotle's theory of vision the size of the thing seen and the time required to see it
are interconnected,* he cites Physics 219vl0, 220b15, and 233a10 to show* how 'magnitude,
motion, and time are strictly correlative (Aristotle's Poetics: The Argument [Cambridge 1963)
285 n. 10). If one adds to these correlatives the first two propositions, among others, of
Euclid's Optica, the size of the object seen and time required to see it Involve as well Its
remoteness from the observer.
6 For Lambinus* earlier suggestion of this parallel, see MHP n. 5. If one excepts the oc
currences of 4skiagraphia* discussed infra in this volume of Traditio, in my 'The Early
Metaphorical Uses of and / Aristotle's comparison between qualities
of rhetorical and/or poetic style and a picture better seen at a distance seems to be unique
before Horace. With the exception of Aristotle, Horace Is the only writer 1have iound who
refers to a kind of painting which is more striking (te capiat magis) if seen from farther away,
let alone who compares such a picture to a literary work. I know, furthermore, of no statement
that a picture which is more striking if seen from a distance is, by virtue of that fact, an in
ferior picture excepting again the epistemological metaphors discussed in my paper in
the Miscellany, infra before the first scholia on Horace's lines. Such negative evidence
does not demonstrate that Horace borrows the analogy from Aristotle or a peripatetic ben
eficiary, but given the congeniality of his other attitudes with those of the third book of the
Rhetoric, such evidence makes this source more plausible. See n. 6.
ut pi ctura poesis 33
devices of the oral style and delivery are consciously evoked and transferred
to the written epic, of course, the very artistry necessary for such evocation
will profit from relatively private presentations like those of Virgil before
Augustus (cf. Suetonius, Vita Vergili 31-4). Although in this case oral sim
plicities become written refinements, the original epic devices from which these
refinements derive must be recognized, lest the critic look only for the sophis
ticated exactness of contemporary stylistic expectations. The Alexandrian
intricacy of Virgils short poems is not to be expected at every turn of the
Aeneid, which needs distance to appear as a whole rather than proximity to
bring out its details. Similarly, by implication, a smaller picture of intricate
design, with delicate colors and highlights, must be examined from a specifi
cally calculated (closer) distance, out of the glare of the sun, in a specially
designed room, courtyard, or gallery (cf. Vitruvius 1.2.7).
I wish at this point to correct any impression my earlier essay may have
given that Horace expresses a preference for the qualities of style appropriate
to oral as opposed to written composition in the Ars poetica. Quite the contrary,
throughout his work he stresses the necessity for the meticulous poetic crafts
manship of the written tradition. In terms of the skiagraphic metaphor, he is,
himself, consistently a poet of the private and the near. It is, indeed, precisely
because of his relentless insistence upon technical excellence and because he
is re-emphasizing at the same time the longer genres of drama and epic in this
epistle that he breaks in to caution the critical reader about allowing for
stylistic conventions appropriate to these genres. I t is possible, furthermore,
that just because such necessary critical allowances might, simultaneously,
encourage a self-indulgent negligence, particularly in beginning writers, Horace
feels compelled to go on immediately in 366-90 to warn again against any
failures in taste which his young correspondent might try to justify on the
grounds of an overbalancing number of felicities or of his seizing the grand,
spontaneous effect. Such an interpretation plausibly accounts for the transi- 6
6 Similarly, M. Fuhrmann: 'die erste Halite spricht Zugestiindnisse aus, die zweile ver-
wahrt sich gegen eine mogliche Missdeutung diescr ZugesUndnisse. Gelegcntliche VerstOsse
gegen die Gesetze der Kunst darf man einem in der Hauptsache trefflichen Werke nicht allzu
sehr ankrelden; hiermit soil jedoch dem verbreiteten Dilcttantisinus kein Frelbrief ausgestcllt
werden so etwa liesse sich die Quintessenz dcs 11. Abschnitts [= 347-90] wiedergeben.
lloraz sucht wieder einmal die richtige Mitte durch den Hinweis auf zwei ungesunde Extreme
zu bcstlmmen* (EinfUhrung in die antike Dichtungsthcorie[Darmstadt 1973] 116). Throughout
his astute and comprehensive commentary (to which I am continually indebted), C. O.
Brink attributes, among other tilings, Horace's subtle adjustments between various faulty
extremes to his underlying debt to Aristotelian, in addition to later Hellenistic, poetic and
rhetorical principles (Horace on Poetry: The An Poetica* [Cambridge 1971] 75-6, 80-5,
106 16, 132-4, 174-5, 418-9, 520 [hereafter cited as Brink]). See as well Brink's first volume,
Horace on Poetry: Prolegomena to the Literary Epistles (Cambridge 1963) 96-9, 143-50,
166-8, 195, 214, 219-20 (hereafter cited as Brink, Prot.). Brink seems to see the Phones as
34 TRADITIO
tion from the first section on critical expectations (347-60) to the second (366-
90) on the type of pleasure appropriate to poetry, as well as for the meaning
of the lines in question.
I
In the Augustan period Aristotles stylistic distinctions are adapted to the
differences between the orators real controversies fought out in the noisy
forum beneath the hot sun and the rhetors stylistically and structurally
refined Iraclaliones in the shaded auditoria of the schools of declamation.
Among other anecdotes, the elder Seneca relates how Votienus Montanus
describes the rhetor Porcius Latro who, when asked to plead a real case, had
the trial moved indoors for the security of walls and a roof. So protected and
spoiled are the students of the schools, Montanus comments, that just as people
coming out of a shady and darkened place are blinded by the splendor of the
full light of day, those who come from the schools to the forum are troubled by
all the unexpected things they see (velut ex umbroso et obscuro prodeuntes loco
clarae lucis fulgor obcaecat, sic istos e scholis in forum transeuntes omnia tanquam
nova et invisitata perturbant). Not least among such new challenges is the
fact that instead of being able to count on the willing predisposition of the
judge to listen, the student must now solicit his attention and good will.7
To this passage should be added Quintilians restatement of the anecdote
(10.5.17-20). Young men, he advises, should not be kept too long with the
false semblance and empty shadows of reality (in falsa rerum imagine detineri
el inanibus simulacris) in the schools, for owing to the seclusion in which
they have almost grown old, they will shrink in terror from the real perils of
public life, like men dazzled by the unfamiliar sunlight (ne ab ilia, in qua
prope consenuerunt, umbra vera discrimina velut quendam solem reformident).
To the antithesis, common to both Seneca and Horace, between the setting
darkened by shade and that in full daylight, Quintilian has added the governing
verb fear, as he had done earlier in the same context (1.2.18-19), to complete
vulnerable to the self-indulgence of wealthy dilettanti (509-10). The passages he associates
with the ironic elevation of the word pango (416) would accord with Horace's cautioning the
Pisones against J ustifying faults on the grounds of ambitious aspirations (399-400). Pliny
is still sensitive about being criticized for hiding his faults behind any attempt at elevation
(Ep. 9.26.7). Longinus expressly rejects the justification of tumidity on the grounds that
"failure in a great attempt is at least a noble error" (Longinus on the Sublime 3.3, trans.
W. R. Roberts (Cambridge 1935J 49) which perhaps suggests less emphasis might be
placed on his romantic admiration of "necessary faults' (Brink 363). Horace criticizes the
self-satisfied poet in Ep. 2.2.106-8 and AP 291-4, 442-4.
7 ControD. 9. pr. 1-5, quoted in MHP 9-10 from Sintque le Rhiteurt Controverses et Suci-
soires, trans. H. Bornecque, 2 vols. (Paris 1932). Compare Philostratus, Lives 614.
u t pi c t u r a po es i s
35
the parallel between the Senecan anecdote and Horaces lines: haec amat
obscurum, volet haec sub luce oiderif / iudicis argutum quae non formidat acumen.
The first type of picture, that is, loves a darker setting; the second type, which
does not fear the keen shrewdness of the critic or judge, will wish to be seen in
full light. The first, I believe, prefers the shade because its refinements would
be overcome, or shaded out, by the glare of sunlight, and the alert observer
would then see to what extent it had depended solely upon intricate artifice
for its effect. The second has no fear of the sun or of the shrewdness of the
critic-judge, not because it is finished in each detail (which it is not) and not
because, under the circumstances, the judge might fail to recognize its maculae,
but because it need not be fearful, i.e. be meticulosus, about whether he rec
ognizes them or not. For, it may assume, he will not be distracted by less es
sential matters however stringent he may be about the broader and more
substantial issues of the presentation, which he, unlike the auditor in the
schools, will not see neglected for stylistic ingenuities. Quintilian then il
lustrates his admonition with the anecdote of Latro, to whom the open air
was so new* (caelum novum fuit) that he seemed to lose his rhetorical powers.
In order that this not happen, students should become apprentices to real
orators and should train with real weapons (as gladiators ought to do) rather
than wTite, like Cestius, fictitious rebuttals to old speeches such as Ciceros
defense of Milo.8
8 The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, trans. . E. Butler, 4 vols. (LGL; London 1953).
All references will be to this edition. Like the declamatory student, the pastoral poet will
also 4fear* the forum: musa ilia rustica et pastoralis non forum modo, verum ipsam etiam ur
bem reformidat (10.1.55), and Ovid comments how reformidant insuetum lumina solem (Ep.
ex. P. 3.4.49). The more 'public* style of the epic or the deliberative speech, on the other
hand, need not fear the subtle concentration of the critic or J udge (iudicis argutum . . .
acumen, 364) whose conscientious alertness would be more appropriately expended in judging
the intricate arguments oi the courtroom than the power to please the many listeners of a
large assembly. As Aristotle suggested that private cases were to be argued before fewer
or even a single judge in an increasingly exact style (RheL 3.12.5), Cicero comments on the
indecorum either of employing *general topics and the grand style when discussing cases of
stillicide before a single referee (unum iudicem) or of speaking calmly and subtly (summisse et
subtiliter) when discussing the majesty of the Roman people (Orat. 72). The intricate private
case was called the obscurum genus causae (De inv. 1.20, Deorat. 2.100), the -
(Quint., 4.1.40). See Cope's commentary, which is the most helpfully detailed for Rhet.
3.12, The Rhetoric of Aristotle, edd. E. M. Cope and J . E. Sandys, III (London 1877) 152 4.
For the relation of the spectator as critic' ( ) to judge1( ), see Rhet. 2.18.1
and A. Hellwig's reconsideration of the terms in Untersuchungen zur Theorie der Rhetorik bet
Platon und Aristoteles (Gottingen 1973) 129-36. What is addressed to the large audience,
Cicero observes, lacks the subtlety of philosophical discourse (De fin. 2.17). A vehement
eloquence can sweep to one side the critic's censures, while a closely reasoned argument must
defend itself with difficulty (De nat. de. 2.20). Dionysius says that Lysias, who lacks emotional
force (Lys. 19), 'is more capable of speaking well on small, unexpected or difficult matters
36 TRADITIO
Later in his treatise Quintilian describes in greater detail how men grown
old in school (in schola) are dumbfounded by the novelty (stupe.nl novitate)
which they meet when they come into court (in iudicia) and long again for
their peaceful scholastic surroundings. For in a court, similar to the one
Cicero describes as so upsetting to the Allici (Brut. 239-91, quoted below),
there sits the judge in silence, their opponent bellows at them, no rash ut
terance passes unnoticed and all assumptions must be proved, the clock cuts
short the speech that has been laboriously pieced together (laboratam conges-
lamque) at the cost of hours of study by both day and night, and there are
certain cases which require simplicity of language and the abandonment of
the perpetual bombast of the schools. There are even those who think them
selves too eloquent to speak in court (12.6.5-6). Quintilian often reiterates the
basic distinction between scholastic seclusion and the demands of the active
life in various antitheses: oratorical debate and philosophical discussions, the
forum and the lecturc-room (fori et auditorii), practical perils and theoretical
precepts (10.1.35-6). One, again, must not spend too much time studying in
the schools unchallenged by real conflicts (12.11.15-6), nor become dependent
on such solitude for concentration (10.3.30). The vir civilis must avoid the
otiosae disputationes and accept administrative duties from which the phi
losophers withdraw (11.1.35). For, unlike oratory, philosophy moves not in
the true sphere of action and in the broad daylight of the forum, but has retired
first to porches and gymnasia and finally to the gatherings of the schools
(studia sapientiae non iam in actu suo atque in hac fori luce versantur, sed in
porticus et in gymnasia primum, mox in conventus scholarum recesserunt). *
As a result, orators who imitate dialecticians in their minute attention to
detail (minute atque concise)' are like those persons wrho, showing astonishing
skill in philosophical debate, as soon as they quit the sphere of their quibbles
(cavillatione), are as helpless in any case that demands more serious pleading
as those small animals which, though nimble enough in a confined space, are
easily captured in an open field (12.2.6-14). The voice, furthermore, must
be trained by long marches, for like bodies only assueta gymnasii et oleo, if it
is too nitida and curata, it will not stand up to exposure to soles atque ventos,
and no reputable orator can refuse to plead a case just because he is forced to
do so in sole aut ventoso, humido, calido die (11.3.26-7). Isocrates, in particular,
lacks this power of delivery because he, being nitidus et comptus el palaestrae
quam pugnae magis accommodatus and in compositione adeo diligens to a fault,
is more prepared for auditoriis than iudiciis (10.1.79). *I
than of speaking forcefully on weighty, important or straightforward subjects* (Lys. 16).
Dionysius of Halicarnassus: The Critical Essays, trans. S. Usher, 2 vols. (LCL; London 1974)
I 53.
9 Cicero says that Isocrates forensi luce caruit intraque parietes aluit eam gloriam (Unit. 32)
and that he used blunt gladiatorial weapons in his oratory because he refrained from serious
ut pi ctura poesi s 37
These and the following passages add to the documentation in MHP of a
type of style in prose and verse which must be scrutinized from close at hand
and requires a private locus obscurus, out of the public glare of the sun, for
its very existence. Comparable evidence for a type of painting with similar
requirements, however, is more difficult to establish. Yet certain plausible
assumptions about the effects of Mediterranean light upon the preservation
and the perception of colours and about the effects of the temperature upon the
comfort of the viewer may be derived from comparisons between literary and
pictorial styles. As discussed in MHP (11-13), Longinus describes how lesser
lumina ( ) might be advantageously concealed under the more
sublime illumination ( ) of a vehement splendor comparable to the suns.
Likewise, sublimity of language may throw the intricate schemata of art
( ) into the shade ( ) as light ( ) may overcome the finer
shading ( = the or lesser lumina) in a painting (17.2-3).
The artificially strained effects of the tumid style will suffer the same fate as
conspicuous sophistry. After quoting five turgid lines, now' attributed to
Aeschylus or Sophocles, Longinus comments:
Such things are not tragic but pseudo-tragic flame-WTcaths, and
belching to the sky, and Boreas represented as a flute-player, and all
the rest of it. They are turbid in expression and confused in imagery rather
than the product of intensity, and each one of them, if examined in the
light of day ( ), sinks little by little from the terrible
into the contemptible (3.1).*10
forensic conflicts (De opt. gen. oral. 17). In addition to the references to Dionysius Isocrates
In MHP n. 21, sections 1, 12, and 20 should be cited: the dramatic qualities ()
of Aristotles deliberative oratory ( ) are here replaced in the periods and figures of
Isocrates by subtle affectation ( ), declamatory display ( ), and preciosity
( ), all of which are out of place in the forum (12). See also Dem. 18, 22 and
Plutarch, Mor. 350b-51b. For the general distinction between spectators at a sophistic
display and actual advisers of the state, see Thucydides 3.38, to which compare Dem. 44;
for that between ludus campusque and pugna et acles with respect to the orator, see De orat.
2.84, Orat. 42, and Leg. 3.14. An interesting expansion of Ciceros De orat. 1.157 (quoted
MHP n. 15) occurs in J ulius Victors Ars rhetorica 25 where one, described in the phrasing
of Quintilian (12.5.2, 1.2.18), who studies too long in situ quodam secreti and in eiusmodi
secretis, upon emerging caligat in sole et omnia nona offendit (C. Halm, Rhetores Latini Mi
nores [Leipzig 18631 445). Literary studies will increasingly seek contemplative secreta away
from the active forum as Quintilian (2.18.4) and Tacitus (Dial. 9, 12) noted: the declamations
of the ancient auditoria will become the debates of the medieval gardens (see my The Quality
of Fiction: the Rhetorical Transmission of Literary Theory, Traditio 30 [1974] 61-75, 81-97).
10 D. A. Russell, Longinus' On the Sublime (Oxford 1970) 68, gives and if you hold them
up to the light to examine them for xdv ... ;, citing the Phaedrus
268a. Such an examination is certainly suggested, but the perceptual connotations, I believe,
arc subservient to those of being brought out into the open before the public at large for
unbiased judgment. Such a public may be either the intelligent consensus of the living or
that of the great writers of the past whom we must imagine to be summoned as our judges
38 TKA.DITIO
The fire imagery will lose its apparent brilliance with the loss of darkness,
and the fear it arouses will dwindle, like the fear of a ghost, with the daylight.
The same thing will be true, Longinus implies, of immoderate emotion ( -
) arising from the speakers own private, laboriously displayed (< -
) psychological states (3.5). So, too, of puerility ( )
which consists of a pedants thoughts ( ), which begin in
learned trifling ( ) and end in frigidity ( ).' Aim
ing at the unusual, the elaborate, and the seductive, it falls into tawdry af
fectation (3.4).
Either an artificially delicate refinement of rhetorical and pictorial colores
or an artificially heightened excitement will desire an obscurum, lest it vanish
altogether in the bright sun. So Quintilian compares the more precious (ex
quisitius) rhetorical effects to red dyes which fade out if not seen in the absence
of the more excellent Tyrian purple (cilra purpuras), effects which shine only
in the absence of the sunlight (citra solem), just as certain tiny insects seem trans
formed in the darkness to little flames of fire (12.10.75-6). Like such pleasing
dyes, delicate refinements of line and gradations of color in pictures, in danger
as well of being lost in the full sun, might be more likely to survive indoors
in courtyards or covered galleries, such as Pliny describes in his Tuscan villa
(Ep. 5.6). Such paintings, furthermore, would of necessity have to be seen
from comparatively near both because of their detail and because they and
their viewer are architecturally confined. I t seems likely, finally, that the
more distant picture would be the one seen in the open (sub caelo, sub divo,
hypaelhrus) and hence sub luce in order for it to be publicly visible.11*
( ) and witnesses ( ) into a timeless tribunal ( ), a theater ( )
for the most severe ordeal ( ). Only in this way shall we know if our work can
survive being seen in the light of other periods and standards than our own (14). Only if
it is repeatedly examined through and through (av ttJ <5 $ ) can we be sure of
its enduring reception (7.3). To be (or , Polybius, 10.3.1) in this sense
is to be where such an examination can be made repeatedly by both the living and the dead.
All imitation or emulation is, finally, a contest ( ), ever) writer an in an
eternal rivalry with his predecessors. To lose to them brings no discredit (13.2 4; cf. Quin
tilian, 10.2.9-10). Quintilian warns (1.2.18-9) that the future orator must live in maxima
celebritate el in media rei publicae luce, lest he fear (reformidare) society and grow pale in a
solitaria et trelul umbratica oita. Left in the darkness without stimulating competition, cither
he will become listless and precious or overweening and tumid the two extremes noted
by both Horace and Longinus for he who has no standard of comparison by which to
judge his own powers will necessarily rate them too high. If he does not practice what he
is learning in public, when he does leave his study, he will be blinded by the glare of the sun
(caligat in sole). Again, too much modesty can cause bona ingenii studiique in lucem non
prolata situ quodam secreti consumerentur (12.5.2). See below n. 21. For the perceptual
connotations of , see Hippocrates, Off. 3; of , see Euripides, ltec. 1154.
11 I agree with Brinks citation of Longinus in relation to Horaces sub luce
if the Greek phrase is taken in the sense described in the preceding note (cf. Lewis and Short,
u t pi c t u r a po esi s 39
Two examples from the elder Pliny and several from Philostratus Lemnius
may illustrate types of pictorial preciosity requiring close scrutiny and protec
tion from the. sun. Among artists, according to Pliny, famous for their brush-
work in minor genres (minores picturae), few, when depicting humble things
with great exactitude, excelled Peiraikos in arte. Like his seventeenth-century
counterparts, Van Laer and the bamboccianli, he painted pictures of barbers
shops, cobblers stalls, animals, and produce, earning the name rhyparo-
A Latin Dictionary [Oxford 1962] lax II A: the sight of all men, the public view, the public,
the world/ citing Isocrates forensi luce caruit from Brut. 32 and familiam abjectam el obscu
ram e tenebris in lucem vocare from Pro Rege Deiotaro 30). This is the sense in which Cicero,
while stressing the approval of one's own conscience, says, nevertheless, that all things well
done wish to be placed in the light of day so that all men may see them (omnia enim bene
facta in luce se collocari volunt. Tuse. 2.64). The phrasing resembles Horace's volet hacc sub
luce videri, and both, I believe, emphasize the necessity of public examination rather than
the conditions of perception. Again, in distinguishing a private philosophical style from a public
oratorical style, Cicero sa>s that he rewrote the Stoic paradoxes to see whether they might be
brought into the light of common daily life (proferri in lucem, id est in forum) and expounded
in a form to win acceptance, or whether learning has one style of discourse and ordinary life
another (an alia quaedam esset erudita alia popularis oratio)9: Paradoxa Stoicorum 4, trans.
H. Rackharn (LCL; London 1960). The erudita oratio would correspond to the style of a
poem which amat obscurum and is seldom requested; the popularis oratio, which seeks to win
acceptance in lucem id est in forum, to the more popular style of the Homeric epic which is
called for again and again (dedens repetita). When perception is involved, Cicero uses a
different phrase, and there is no doubt about his meaning: when Caesar combines his elegant
Latinity with other embellishments of the oratorical style, he achieves the effect of placing
a well-painted picture in good light (videtur tamquam tabulas bene pictas collocare in bono
lumine, Brut. 261). Despite the fact that Horace is also referring to a picture, his sub luce
is not equivalent to in bono lumine. Lewis and Short cite many meanings of luce which are
more narrowly temporal (lux I 2 a and b) in which sense they take Horace's sub luce
(v, sub I B) but cite no passage with an optical or perceptual meaning equivalent to
examining something in good light or from close up sub oculis or ad manum. Greek phrases
using and , meaning in the light/ in the public view/ or in the field/
seem relevant. See Lucian, Apology 14: how better could he employ himself than...
in full view under the open sky to let his loyalty... be put to the lest (
), Lucian, trans. . Kilbum (LCL; London 1959) VI 211. Pliny, un
fortunately, says very little about the qualities of pictures erected in foro or about how
they were placed (.V// 35.25-9). While the text is uncertain, his passage on Apelles' black
glaze is important for colors seen e longinquo (35.97). The glaze apparently reflected a
luminosity (= splendor in 35.29?) which toned down those colors which otherwise would
have appeared disproportionately bright at a distance and thus, according to Sellers, brought
the colours into unison': ne claritas colorum aciem offenderet . . . et t longinquo eadem res
nimis floridis coloribus austeritatem occulte daret (The Elder Pliny's Chapters on the History
of Art, trans. K. J ex-Blake and ed. E. Sellers (London 1896] 132 n. 6). In this case, the
reflecting daylight, by making certain colors too pronounced (which the glaze could prevent
from happening), would shade out others and thus destroy the delicate balance of the whole.
For textual variants and an alternative translation, see J . J . Pollitt, The Ancient Viev of
Greek Art: Criticism, History, and Terminology (New Haven 1974) 325-6.
40 TBADITIO
graphos, the painter of odds and ends. These pictures gave exc|uisite
pleasure and sold for more than other artists received for their large pictures
(NH 35.112). Similar to him is Sosus, whose floor mosaic of the Unswept
House represented in small tessellae, tinted in varios colores, scraps from the
dinner table, making such sweepings appear as if they had been left there.
Among these mosaics is a marvelous dove drinking and casting the shadow
of its head on the water (aquam umbra capitis infuscans),' while other doves
are pluming their feathers in the sun on the lip of a goblet (NH 36.184).12 It
is easy to imagine how such subtly varied colores might shine more clearly
in opaco (NH 10.22.43) and be lost at a distance or in intense light. Many
of the pictures, likewise, described in Philostratus Imagines (if indeed they
existed at all) must have revealed a meticulous subtlety which would have
demanded careful scrutiny: see especially 2.8, 9, 12, 28, and the two still-
lifes called xenias (1.31, 2.26). The painting Looms (2.28) in Philostra-
tus description appears to have been a tour de force of painstaking ( -
> ) minutiae in the depiction of a spider, its web, and its flies in the throes of
being eaten. The xenias, which apparently were pictures to be sent to guests
as invitations to dinner, represented, in the manner of Dutch culinary still-
lifes, game, fruits, and other attractive comestibles with a high polish of
precise detail.13
Despite Philostratus enthusiasm for ingenuity, there are among most ancient
observers genuine misgivings about meticulous imitation of minute detail,
especially when the total effect of the whole is endangered. So Horace criticizes
the sculptor who excels in imitating the nails and the hair but cannot represent
the whole figure (.4P 32-5); Seneca cautions against overly exact emulation
of style and behavior (Ep. 84.5-10); and Plutarch compares sycophants who
imitate the vices of those they flatter to poor painters, who, incapable of
representing what is beautiful, depend upon wrinkles, moles, and scars to
12 Op, cit., 145, 225. E. Pfulil, Malerei and Zeichnnng dcr Griechen (Munich 1923) 114-5, II
808, mentions the Dutch painters In relation to PeiraTkos. \an Laer might he the best
example, who, G. B. Passeri comments, era singolare nel rapresentar la vcritA schletta, c
pura ncllesser suo, che Ii suoi quadri parevano una finestra aperta, per la quale si fussero
veduti quelli suoi success! senza alcun divario, et alteratione, quoted from F. Haskell,
Patrons and Painters (New York 1971) 132 n. 1. In the late sixteenth century Cesare Cris-
polti compares the difficult stylistic precision necessary in a small painting, where the slightest
defect can be seen, to that in a sonnet, wdiile long poems (and, by implication, large pictures),
though of only moderate value as a whole, contain many things whose compensating graces
make up for what is less beautiful (B. Weinberg, A flistorij of Literary Criticism in the Italian
Renaissance [Chicago 1901] I 237).
13The xenia as a genre would be an inleresting counterpart to the invitational poem
such as those of Catullus 13; Horace, Ep. 1.5; Martial 5.78, 10.48, 1.52; J uvenal 11; and
Ben J onson, Epig. 101 were not the poets often using the form to comment more ser
iously on social customs.
4UT PICTURA POESIS 41
bring out their resemblances (Mor. 53de).1415 Demetrius reports that the
painter Nicias used to maintain that no small part of the artistic faculty was
shown in the painters choosing at the outset a theme of some amplitude,
instead of whittling down his art into small things, little birds (for example)
or flowers. 16
One must, futhermore, avoid a pedantic concern for rhythmical as well as
descriptive detail. Ciceros admonition against too much scrupulosity in
avoiding hiatus incorporates many of the issues which make up the context I
have been establishing. Great care (diligentiam), he says, must be taken that
there be smooth compositional transitions but, equally important, that they
not be too exactly observed (operose). Foolish industry (puerilis labor) will
merit Lucilius criticism of Titus Albucius: How charmingly he fait ses
phrases, set in order like the lines / Of mosaic in a pavement, and his inlaid
work he twines (ul tesserulae omnes / arte pavimento atque emblemate vermi
culato).' Let careful composition not be obtrusive in matters so small: nolo
haec tam minuta constructio appareat (Orat. 149-50; cf. De orat. 3.171-2).
Lucilius metaphor of a mosaic is particularly important because Cicero ap
plies it in the Brutus to the stylistic virtues peculiar to Atticism (274).
Though the mosaic purity here is to be praised, Calidius, nevertheless, while
14Plutarch's Moralia, trans. F. C. Babbitt, 15 vols. (LCL; London 1900) I 289. Later
(64a) as a comparison for the flatterer's frenetic activity and strained appearance, Plutarch
describes a painting which has characteristics similar to those of late sixteenth-century
Mannerism: his behavior is like an extravagantly wrought ( ) picture, which by
means of gaudy pigments, irregular folds in the garments ( ), wrinkles,
and sharp angles, strives to produce an impression of vividness ( )/
, meaning superfluous or overly elaborate ornament or fussiness (Quintilian,
8.3.55), is used frequently by Dionysius for literary styles (e.g., Lys. 6, 15; Isoc. 2, 3; Dem.
26, 35). Longinus (3.4) calls a puerile style ( ) pedantic triviality (
) which begins in learned trifles ( ) and ends in frigidity. See Pliny,
NH 35.101-2 and Sellers' citation of Strabo 14.652, as well as Vitruvius on decadence in fres
co painting (7.5.7-8). In Act. Apost. 19.19, = curious arts.
15The proper subjects are naval battles and cavalry engagements, which give the painter
every opportunity to represent men and animals in action, for in painting, as in prose and
poetry, elevation results from the choice of a great subject' (On Stole 76, trans. W. R.
Roberts (LCL; London 1953]). The passage reflects a combination of Hellenistic variety and
Aristotelian unity reminiscent of lines 1-45 of the Ars poetica. Nicias, Pliny reports, did
paintings which were out of doors (in foro; NH 35.27) and, by manipulating lumen el umbras,
made his figures stand out against the background (ut eminerent c tabulis picturae). He was
famous lor large, as well as smaller, pictures of heroic figures and scenes (35.131-3). For
further comments on the neglect of the whole in favor of the part and the sacrifice of overall
grace to diligent detail, see Lucian, Hist. Conscrib. 27, Pliny NH 34.92, and MHP 17-18.
In the Renaissance, Roger Ascham compares the writer to he imitated to the painter who
excels in portraiture as a whole rather than in just a single feature (The Schoolmaster, ed.
L. V. Ryan [Ithaca 1967) 137). For Platonic anticipations of these strictures, see Rep.
420r.n, Phaedrus 264c, and Hip. Maf. 290bd.
42 TRADITIO
cultivating only the charms of lucidity and precision in speaking accurate et
exquisite, has neither the force (vis) nor the intensity (contentio) to move his
listeners (276-7). Cicero then proceeds to his indictment of Calvus and of
the mannerisms resulting from the popular misconception about the true
style (283-91). Calvus, to be sure, spoke in a discriminating and scholarly
manner (scienter eleganterque):
Yet from excessive self-examination and fear of admitting error (nimium
tamen inquirens in sc atque ipse sese observans rneluensque ne vitiosum col
ligeret) he lost true vitality. His language thus through over-scrupulousness
(nimia religione) seemed attenuated, and wldle scholars and careful listeners
recognized its quality, the multitude and the forum, for whom eloquence
exists, missing its finer flavor gulped it down whole (a foro, cui nata elo
quentia est, devorabatur).
Calvus is meticulous in the sense of fearing (metuens) close critical examination
(cf. Quintilian, 10.1.115), and Cicero goes on to describe various self-styled
Attici including the imitators of Thucydides whose own style was excellent for
writing history but out of place in the wrangling courtroom (cf. Orat. 30;
Quintilian, 12.10.20-26). While Demosthenes drew' crowds to hear him, these
men are deserted even by the friends of their client when they address a large
public audience in its capacity as judge (cf. Tacitus, Dial. 23). When a true
orator speaks, the judges tribunal is full, the presiding judge attentive, the
crowd so responsive with its silence, applause, laughter or tears that a passer
by observing from a distance (procul), though quite ignorant of the case in
question, will recognize that he is succeeding and that a Roscius is on the
stage. The scene is skiagraphic precisely in the sense that Aristotle describes
the histrionic setting and delivery of a deliberative oration. And, like Aristotle
on the epideictic style, Cicero goes on to admit that, for those who still choose
an acutum prudens et idem sincerum et solidum el exsiccatum genus orationis,
in an art so comprehensive and so varied there is a place even for such small
refinements of workmanship (minutae subtilitati). Quintilian later repeats
Ciceros caution against those so minutely absorbed in weighing syllables with
painful diligence (cura) that they neglect their subject matter, despise true
beauty of style and, as Lucilius says, will construct a lesselatcd pavement of
phrases nicely dovetailed together in intricate patterns' (9.4.112-3).1
w Cicero; lirutus, trans. G. L. Hendrickson, and Orator, trans. . M. Ilubbell (LCI.;
London 1952). All references are to this edition. The Altic/Asian stylistic controversy does
not correspond to Aristotles distinction between written (epideictic) and oral (deliberative)
expression. Both Attic and Asian styles were written and both in their conservative forms
cultivated refinements essentially antithetical to agonistic debate. Yet the patina of
archaic diction, abrupt simplicity, and rhythmical coarseness of self-conscious Attic imi
tators of the Thucydidean austere style, as well as the histrionic repetition, spontaneous
copiousness, and elevated rapidity of Asian orators, are all characteristics which, if isolated.
u t pi c t u r a po es i s 43
The criticism of overly fastidious diligentia has a poetic as well as rhetorical
and pictorial history'. In Terences defensive prologues, his speakers represent
themselves as pleaders (orator, actor) for tolerance in a court of law where the
spectators are the judges (iudicium, iudices), a pun on index as critic similar to
Horaces iudicis argutum . . . acumen (364). Lucius Lavinius and others have
criticized Terence for combining two similar plots of Menander in his Andria.
Terence asks whether this use of their critical faculty does not show' that they
are no critics: faciunlne intellegendo ul nil intellegant? For, he continues, he
is following the practice of Naevius, Plautus, and Ennius on whose authority
he may rely and whose freedom (neclegenliam) he is far more earnest to imitate
than the murky accuracy (obscuram diligentiam) of his critics (Prol. 18-21).
Terence testifies, then, to the existence of dark diligence, diametrically op
posed to skiagraphic incompleteness, as an accepted term in literary criticism
for the overly fastidious critic, here specifically of the longer dramatic genres.
Horace, whose allowances for incuria (352) correspond to Terences for neclegen-
tia, could borrow1the term from a literary', as well as from a rhetorical, context
to caution those who only approve of a work whose verisimilar intricacy, stylistic
fastidiousness, or umbratical preciosity might make it prefer the obscurum.
Terence, furthermore, returns repeatedly in his prologues to the theme which
introduces that of the Andria: the sole (solum) business of the dramatic poeta
is to see that his plays please the audience (populo ut placerent quas fecisset
fabulas). As we shall see presently, it is to what constitutes this pleasure that
Horace turns his attention in his second section on the critic (366--90).17
might be artistically used to evoke the excitement of oral composition and of the epic past.
Meticulousness, on the other hand, be it within Attic or Asian conventions, will connote the
umbratical leisure of the schools. Despite varying realignments of qualities across these two
distinctions, however, Asian volubility more often tended to be associated with oral con
ventions as in the case of Hortensius (Hrut. 325) who, Quintilian notes, must have been more
pleasing when heard than read (11.3.8). Longinus discussion of allowances to be made in
excellent works for slighter errors of detail, which reflects Aristotles agonistic/graphlc
distinction, is itself a response to an excessive admiration of Lysias Attic precision (32.8).
For the practicing orator, if he cannot hit the mean between brevity and volubility, the
latter, Pliny says, though rougher (non limatioris), is preferable (Kp. 1.20.21). Quintilian
(12.1.22), reporting that Cicero used the same metaphor (dormitare) to explain the lapses in
Demosthenes as Horace did to explain those of Homer (10.1.24), associates these with lapses,
unfairly criticized by Atticists, in Ciceros own more Aslan style (cited MHP n. 27).
17 Terence, trans. J . Sargeaunt, 2 vols. (LCL; London 1904). Pertinent to Terence, and
especially to Horace, is Pindar's justification of his taking liberties with the strict sequence
of encomiastic topics in order to include an important digression (.V. 4.25-43). In contrast
to his hypothetical critic, who busies himself to no purpose in the darkness ( ) and
enviously carps at his license, Pindar will ultimately appear a formidable opponent in the
light of day ( ) as a result of having justifiably departed from the rules (I follow
E. L. Bundys interpretation of this passage in his Studia Pindarica I [Berkeley 1962] 3
n. 11). Varro testifies to the Augustan association of obscurus with diligentia: haec diligentius
44 TRADITIO
The association of obscura diligenlia with excessive critical scrupulosity was
preceded in the drama by that of excessive mcticulousness with the exact
depiction of familiar, less important subject matter. In Aristophanes paragone
of Aeschylus with Euripides in The Frogs (830-1533), Aeschylus, like Timaeus
(cf. Critias 107, in MHP pp. 21-2) in his skiagraphic description of the cosmos,
sketches the traditionally important themes of gods and heroes with the blunt,
bold strokes of the elevated style. In accordance, as well, with Aristotles
account of Homeric abruptness in deliberative oratory, Aeschylus vehement
lines, broken by dramatic silences, heavy with polysyllables, asyndetic apos
trophes and repetitions, and elevated expressions, share the lack of definition
and the incompleteness of skiagraphic representation. As a teacher of the most
excellent human virtues in war and peace and of what men owe the gods, he
follows Orpheus, Museus, Hesiod, and Homer, and from Homer he most often
borrows phrasing and meter. If, in these regards, Aeschylean tragedy cor
responds stylistically to a work contemplated from a distance, Euripidean
tragedy has the characteristics of a work scrutinized from close at hand.
Whereas Euripides charges Aeschylus with grandiloquence (cf. 279-80),
Aeschylus criticizes Euripides for the fragmentary' chatter of his dialogue
(840-42), and the chorus emphasizes his scholastic subtlety (904). Euripides,
in turn, boasts of the fact that he has avoided the monsters of Median tapestry
and reduced Aeschylean turgidity to a trim suppleness. He leaves nothing
obscure but explains immediately his sources and action. Directly, all the
characters, masters and servants, have their say and wittily speak, intrigue,
make love, and busily take account of things. He brings on the stage the
familiar scenes of common life, w'hcre any inaccuracy will be immediately
quarn apertius dicta esse arbitror, sed non obscurius quam de re simili definitiones grammati
corum sunt (De ling, lat. 10.75). Cicero associates obscurus with what is difficilis and non
necessarius which all too often attracts magnum studium multamque operam (De off. 1.19).
Quintilian later criticizes grammarians who carry their diligence in explaining narrative
sources and curiosities usque ad supervacuum laborem until the mind becomes too encumbered
with detail to concentrate on the more important themes. If the texts are sufficiently obscure,
they may even safely make up explanations whose fraud would easily be detected were the
subject familiar to everybody (1.8.18-21). It is ditficult to improve on the comments of
Robert Wolseley about the Karl of Rochester in 1085 as a gloss on Terences prologue, es
pecially in its relation to App. D of MI IP and the neoclassical comparisons of poetry to
painting. But as the loosest Negligence of a great Genius is infinitely preferable to that
obscura diligentia of which Terence speaks, the obscure diligence and labourd Ornaments
of little Pretenders, and as the rudest Drawings of famous Hands have been always more
esteemd (especially among the knowing) than the most perfect Pieces of ordinary Painters,
the Publishers of Valentinian cou'd not but believe the World woud thank em for any
thing tiiat was of my Lord Rochester's manner, tho' it might want some of those nicer Beauties,
those Grace-strokes and finishing Touches, which are so remarkable both in his former and
latter Writings (Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, ed. J . E. Splngarn [Oxford 19G3)
III 1-2).
u t pi c t u r a po es i s ' 45
detected and criticized, rather than the blustering spectacle of legendary wars
(938- 67).18 His characters eristicaily debate about commonplace household
matters (971- 91), pursue their erotic entanglements without shame ( 1043- 56),
and, though kings, do not hesitate to appear as beggars for sympathy ( 1058- 66).
While Aeschylus lacks definition even in the enunciation of the facts (1122)
and is tautological in his dramatic repetitiveness ( 1152- 76), Euripidean lines,
when completed by a trivial reference to a bottle of oil/ often suffer neither
syntactical nor rhythmical disruption beyond a comic loss of decorum ( 1206-47).
And, finally, Aeschylus burlesques a combination of preciously ornate diction
and minute descriptive detail in his lyrics (for the spider, see 1313- 16) and
concludes with a mock-ode on a poor spinning girl in the tragic style. If one
allows for the comic distortion, the characteristics of style attributed to these
dramatists by Aristophanes remain relatively consistent down to Dionysius
(De imit. 1.2), Plutarch (Mor. 79b), Quintilian ( 10. 1.66- 8), and Dio Chrysostom
(52. 11, 14- 6).19
The stylistic differences between Euripides and Aeschylus correspond to
Aristotles distinctions between the style of written speeches which are
18 Plato's Critias, in speaking after Timaeus, fears the same greater demand for exact
representation of familiar subjects (107bd). Meeting this demand becomes increasingly a
serious challenge to the writer of comedy, as Horace himself, perhaps echoing Aristophanes,
observes: "Tis thought that Comedy, drawing its themes from daily life, calls for less labour;
but in truth it carries a heavier burden, as the indulgence allowed is less (creditur, ex rnedio
quia res accersit, habere / sudoris minimum, sed habet comoedia tanto / plus oneris, quanto veniae
minus [Ep, 2.1.168-70, trans. H. R. Fairclough in LCL]). For similar reasons, Dio Chrysos
tom says that the eye is more difficult to convince than the ear (Oral. 12.71-9, quoted in MHP
23). Longinus, who comments that Euripides lacks a natural elevation (15.3), contrasts the
Iliad with the Odyssey (9.11-5). The Iliad presents dramatic events ( ) full of con
tention ( ) in language characteristic of political oratory ( ), while the
Odyssey offers descriptive narrative and depiction of character, indeed might be called in parts
a comedy of manners' ( ... ). Like Longinus (36.3 see MHP
18-9), Quintilian associates the diligent accuracy of Polyclcitus with human rather than divine
subjects (12.10.7-8).
19 In The Clouds (1364-1405) by Aristophanes the comparison of Aeschylus with Euripides
becomes part of the confrontation between old-fashioned social values expressed in a craggy
( v), unpolished ( ), aggressively elevated ( ) style and the fash
ionable interest in modern psychological subtleties ( ) expressed in sophistic
argumentation and cultivated by scholars' who should not be exposed too long to the open
air (198-9). (Aristotle comments on Euripides cleverness in concealing his art in colloquial
constructions [Rhef. 3.2.4 5).) This comparison anticipates the quarrel between ancient
vetustas and modern operositas, between the antiquarios and the cacozelos, both of which
Augustus avoided in his elegans et temperatum style. His dislike of both Attic* archaism and
Asiatic volubility resembles Horace's fine balance between faulty extremes (Suetonius,
Aug. 86; cf. Seneca, Ep. 114.13-4). The comparison of the passionately elevated austerity
of Thucydides with the (deceptively) artless subtlety and charm of Lysias by Dionysius
suggests the better forms of some of the qualities burlesqued by Aristophanes (Dem. 2).
4
TRADITIO
and (tenuis), highly finished and narrow in scope, and the 4larger, freer,
bolder tone required by the loftier and more comprehensive subjects' of de
liberative oratory.20 Euripidean tenuity ( , Frogs 941), subtle in ar
gument and realistic in the portrayal of familiar daily life, sharply articulated
in contrast to the skiagraphic obscurity of Aeschylus, puts the audience on
its guard against the slightest inaccuracies in verisimilitude. Similarly, the
judge in a private legal dispute must attend closely to intricate argumentative
detail in cases often dealing with trivial issues where anything but a dry
( ) banality of style would be out of place. I t is against such eristically
elever ( ; cf. Aristophanes The Clouds 1034, Platos Apology 17) pleaders
and their scholastically barren rhetoric that Isocrates upholds a type of
orator who can represent important Hellenic matters in an artistic and varied
manner of the poets more elevated, original, figuratively striking, and
enduring (Panath. 1, Paneg. 11, Antid. 46- 50).21 He is most offended when
20 E. M. Cope, The Rhetoric of Aristotle III 147. Aristotle cites Chacremon as an example
ol logographic precision who, Cope reports from Athcnaius (15.679k), was known for his
partiality for such minute details as the enumeration of flowers in a garland, as centuries
later Dr. J ohnson was to comment on the enumeration of streaks on a tulip (Rasselas 10).
21 In Antid. 46-50 (cited MHP n. 20) Isocrates says that while clever pleaders owe to a
capacity for intrigue their expertness' in debate and arc tolerated only for the day when
they are engaged in the trial/ more ambitious speakers are honored and held in esteem
'in every society and at all times' (Isocrates, trans. G. Norlin and L. Van Hook,3 vols.(LCL;
London 1966-8]). Compare Thucydides, whose history is not to be a declamatory exercise
( ) to be heard once ( / ) but something for all time (1.22): see Dionysius,
De comp. verb. 22 and Thucy. 7, 20; also Pliny, Ep. 5.8.11. These passages bear on Horace's
haec placuit sernel, haec decicns repetita placebit (365) in the same way as Longinus' com
ments in 7.3-4 (cl. MHP 13 where Brink, who cites the same Longinian passage (p. 369],
should have been mentioned). In adapting the accuracy and variety of the (written) epi-
deictic style to the politically important issues of (oral) deliberative oratory, Isocrates de
velops an ideal of written discourse which subsequently overshadows Aristotle's agonistic/
graphic distinction. Quintilian reflects this overshadowing in 3.8.58-67 and 8.3.11-14
(cited MHP n. 8). Both he (12.10.49-57) and Pliny (Ep. 1.20), while recognizing Aristotle's
distinction, feel that there should be little or no stylistic difference between writing well
and speaking well. Whatever difference there is should be determined, according to Quin
tilian, by the sophistication of the audience: one need use an emotionally histrionic and
argumentatively simplified style less in a speech to be delivered before cultivated men than
in one before a random populace. Dionysius seems to share his view* (Dem. 15, 36- 8, 44-5;
Thucy. 49-51; De comp. verb. 25), which, indeed, goes back at least to Plato (Phaedrus 277c).
In general where Aristotles distinction persists, the public elevated style tends to be as
sociated with simplicity and forcefulness, while the Isocratean ideal seeks to combine eleva
tion with artistically elaborated composition and ornate refinement. For a good account
of the complex overlapping of later terminology, see F. Quadlbauer, Die genera dicendi
bis Plinius d. J .,* Wiener Studien 71 (1958) 55-111 who Is not entirely correct, perhaps,
in saying that Aristotle is objectively neutral in evaluating the three kinds of oratory' (64).
Deliberative oratory is clearly nobler ( ) and more worthy of a statesman ( -
u t pi c t u r a po es i s
47
certain sophists ( ) claim that he is writing speeches for the court
( ). This effrontery is comparable to calling Pheidias, who
sculpted the Athena of the Parthenon, a maker of figurines ( ) or
Zeuxis a painter of votive tablets ( ). These stylistic banalities of the
courtroom (Anlid. 2) are equally characteristic of the false eristic trifling in
the degenerate forms of the written epideictic style (Helen 1-13). Novelties
of paradox end in verbal ingenuities which attempt to prove things even more
inconsequential than those in the private disputes. Seeking only the astounding
( , Hel. 7), the young rhetors, composing mock eulogies in which
they need fear no competitor, take refuge, like Quintilians little animals
of the hedgerows, in such topics because of weakness. All of which, says
Isocrates, is to ignore the fact that to be a little superior in important things
is of greater worth than to be pre-eminent in petty things that are without
value for the living (Hel. 5).2223
In a broader philosophical context, the sophistic manipulator of lesser
highlights against a shaded background in the petty skirmishes of the courtroom
closely resembles the adroit competitor in the battle with shadows ( -
) of Platos cave (Rep. 520c).2i He, like Aristophanes Euripides (cf.
The Clouds 1378) and the eristic rhetorician Tisias (Phaedrus 273b), is clever
( ): How keen is the vision of the little soul, how quick it is to discern the
things that interest it, a proof that it is not poor vision which it has, but one
forcibly enlisted in the service of evil, so that the sharper its sight the more
mischief it accomplishes (519a; cf, Theaet. 17'2c- 77b, Laws 689cd). The
entire episode of the cave, in fact, is pertinent to the critical vocabulary of
literary judgment (514a- 21c). I t offers a context for both the nature of the
artificial lumina, which must be protected from the suns light (as in Longinus
distinction between and ), and the nature of the critic
) than forensic (Rhet. 1.1.10, 1354b23- 7) to say nothing of epideictic oratory, as
well as being less tricky (1354b29-31) and more difficult (3.17.10, 1418a22).
22 However different their stylistic ideals, Isocrates' contrast of the statue of Athena with
the small figurine which Lucian later uses to characterize the literary affectations of his
belletristic fop (Lexiphanes 22-5) corresponds to Longinus* juxtaposition, discussed in
MHP (18-19), of the grand Colossus against the verisimilar spearman (36.3) and the cor
respondingly 'exact' literary genres (33.1-5). Quintilian compares proficiency in writing
fanciful declamations to that in performing feats of dexterity: however skillfully done, both
are useless (2.20.3-5).
23The scholastic associations of with the declamatory halls are brought out well
by H. Stephanus (Thesaurus Graecae Linguae [Paris 1831- 65)): Scilicet non
tam significat Cum umbra pugno, quam In umbra, i.c. non in aperto campo, sed in schola,
in gymnasio: quare etiam generatim signif. Exercitationis s. Ostentationis causa pugno, ut
ap. Athen. 4.154\ ; Plato, 18d, 520c, 830c; Plut. De plac. philos. 4(12); Lucian, Hermot. 33,
Pise. 35.' Translations from the Republic, Phaedo, and Sophist are by P. Shorcy (LCL),
F. N. Fowler (LCL), and F. M. Cornford (in The Collected Dialogues of Plato [New York)).
48 TRADITIO
who takes these objects, which prefer the obscurum, to be clearer than those
in the frightening brilliance above (515e). The cave episode shows, as well, how
the wise man, descending from divine contemplation in the true sunlight to
the miserable dimness below, may well appear ridiculous, if, while still blinking
through the gloom, and before he has become sufficiently accustomed to the
environing darkness, lie is compelled in courtrooms or elsewhere to contend
about the shadows of justice ( ) or the images (
) that cast the shadows (517d). The sensible observer, therefore, must
remember
That there are two distinct disturbances of the eyes arising from two causes,
according as the shift is from light to darkness or from darkness to light, and,
believing that the same thing happens to the soul too, whenever he saw
a soul perturbed and unable to discern something, he would not laugh
unthinkingly, but would observe whether coming from a brighter life its
vision was obscured by the unfamiliar darkness, or whether the passage
from the deeper dark of ignorance into a more luminous world and the
greater brightness had dazzled its vision (518ab).
The shifting light of the nocturnal day ( ) in the cave
and the contrasting brilliance of true sunlight above (521c) account, then, for
two corresponding types of darkness. The man descending again to the puppet
theater (511b) must evaluate impressions which become skenographic in
so far as they now challenge his estimating faculty with conflicting perceptions
of shapes against a background of relative refinements of highlight and shading
(516ce). The man emerging from the cave, on the other hand, since he looks
at things against a background of brilliant light, can grasp all he sees only in
skiagraphic outline.
In Platos Sophist, the philosopher, furthermore, who observes the world
from his position in the light above, will appear, in Miltons phrase, dark w'ith
excessive bright and almost as hard to discern as a god (Sophist 216c). The
difficulty of seeing him, therefore, will arise for a reason very different from
that of seeing the sophist.
The Sophist takes refuge in the darkness of not-being, where he is at home
and has the knack of feeling his way, and it is the darkness of the place
that makes him so hard to perceive. . . . Whereas the philosopher, whose
thoughts constantly dwell upon the nature of reality, is difficult to see
because his region is so bright, for the eye of the vulgar soul cannot endure
to keep its gaze fixed on the divine (254ab).
The sophist would then feel secure in the shadowy courtroom of Platos sub
terranean theater. His soul will resemble that described in the Phaedo (81 bd ),
which has ahvays preferred the refuge of bodily sensations and feared what is
shadowy and invisible to the eyes ( ) but
is intelligible and tangible to philosophy. The distant darkness which causes
UT PICTURA POESIS 49
this 'fear of the invisible and of the other world (
" ) arises from the incomprehensibility of the most excellent things and
will lead the timid soul to desire again the closer darkness of the phenomenal
world (cf. 79, 82e- 83). Such distinctions suggest a philosophical context for
discriminating between literary styles. The elevated subject matter of epic
requires a style comparable to the less visually articulated, skiagraphic rep
resentation of Horaces more distant picture to be seen in full light. The more
familiar subjects of ordinary life require a style comparable to the more me
ticulously accurate lines and modulated colors of his picture to be examined
close at hand which loves the obscurum for its own protection.24
24 Aristotle observes that things too bright will appear as obscure as those too diin (De
an. 422a20-2) and also that when one as the philosopher would when descending from the
light turns from a brilliant object like the sun to relative darkness, the image of the
brightness, remaining on the retina, temporarily impairs its vision (De somn. 459n9-19)
an observation repeated in later optical treatises (cf. J ohn Pecham, Perspectiva communis
1. 1). Plato's visual analogy of the two types of light and darkness (518ab), particularly
in the Phaedo, contributes more to the later mystical than to the optical tradition in philos
ophy and the arts (cf. Plutarch, Mor. 764e; Philo, De somn. 1.83-4; Pseudo-Dionysius, De
caet. hier. 2.2-3; St. Augustine, Soliloquies: for the Renaissance and its beneficiaries, sec
E. Wind, The Concealed God/ Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (New York 1968] 218-35,
and E. H. Gombrich, Icones Symbollcae/ Symbolic Images [London 1972J 123-95). The
literary history of the two kinds of light and darkness, as well as the types of 'wonder* they
respectively aiouse, has not been treated except tangentially when such imagery occurs in
famous treatises like Longinus'. With respect to Aeschylus, it is worth noting that Philos-
tratus associates his style with the elevated speeches of the Brahmans who live in a purer
daylight near to the gods (Life of Apol. 6.11). In the late Middle Ages Nicole Oresme com
ments on the skiagraphic* nature of the proper prophetic style: Hence it is not a charac-
reristic of the prophetic style (stilus propheticus) to determine all things with particularity
and in detail but rather to do so less distinctly (minus distincte), as has been said, although
some who are not prophets go to the other extreme in an excessive way by inventing speeches
with double meaning and obscure, equivocal, and ambiguous words, which can be applied
to any occurrence (qui confingunt orationes amphibolicas et verba ambigua, flcxiloca, el obscurap
que ad omnem eventum possunt applicari)/ De configurationibus qualitatum et motuum 1.39,
cd. and trans. M. ClagelL in Nicole Oresme and the Medieval Geometry of Qualities and Mo
tions (Madison 1968) 267. Those who cleverly elaborate enigmatic utterances, which may
be bent to any occasion, resemble the ancient sophists of Plato and Isocrates who have a
knack for feeling their way in the dark. In the Renaissance, George Chapman's distinction
between the two kinds of 'darkness* (in dedicating his 'Ovids Banquet of Sence*) isbeguil-
ingly ingenuous: Obscuritie in affection of words, & indigested concets, is pedanticall and
childish; but where it shroudeth it selfe in the hart of his subiect, vtterd with fitnes of figure,
and expressiue Epethites; with that darknes wil J still labour to be shaddowed* (The Poems
of George Chapman [London 1941) 19). For the ancient distinction between
and see my study In the Miscellany section of this volume of Traditio.
50
TRADITIO
II
The last line preceding the pictorial analogy, verum operi longo fas esi obre
pere somnum (360), might be said to have raised tacit questions in the reader's
mind: in just what way should the opus longum be appreciated and what is the
nature and extent of the stylistic allowances to be made for it ? The qualifica
tions necessary to answer these questions are expressed as the three resem
blances between types of poems and types of paintings. The third resemblance,
haec placuit semel, haec dedens repetita placebit (365), in its turn, emphasizes,
by repetition, the importance of pleasing, and it is the need to qualify the
proper kind of pleasure that immediately motivates the concluding lines.28
The elusivencss of Horaces transitions within the entire discussion (347-90)
is revealed by the way in which the lines in question (361-5) may serve not
only as a conclusion to the opening section (347-60) but as an introduction to
the closing section (366-90).
ut pictura poesis: erit quae, si propius stes,
te capiat magis, et quaedam, si longius abstes;
haec amat obscurum, volet haec sub luce videri,
iudicis argutum quae non formidat acumen;
haec placuit semel, haec deciens repetita placebit,
o maior iuvenum, quamvis et voce paterna
fingeris ad rectum et per te sapis, hoc tibi dictum
tolle memor, certis medium et tolerabile rebus
recte concedi: consultus iuris et actor
causarum mediocris abest virtute diserti
Messallae nec scit quantum Cascellius Aulus,
sed tamen in pretio est: mediocribus esse poetis
non homines, non di, non concessere columnae,
ut gratas inter menses symphonia discors
et crassum unguentum et Sardo cum meile papaver 375
offendunt, poterat duci quia cena sine istis:
sic animis natum inventumque poema iuvandis, 25*
25 This qualification is crucial to Horaces argument. The type of pleasure required here
is not to he confused with the delectare or dulce which Horace distinguishes for the sake of
argument from prodesse or utile in 333-46 (cf. Brink 378). Neither the pragmatic benefits
(fruges 341) nor diverting entertainment (voluptas 338) of the content alone are involved here
but rather the poems final expression in language which must satisfy the critics sensibilities.
There is something reminiscent of Aristotles preference for the liberal arts as opposed to
those arts which aim at pleasure ( ) and/or at utility ( ) in Horaces
discrimination of the ultimate satisfaction which poetry may give from both voluptas and
fruges (Meta. l .t.14-16). With respect to the Augustan period, Horace may well be wishing
to distinguish his placere clearly from the cruder hedonism of Erastosthenes (Strabo 1.15),
from the exclusive concern with euphony criticized by Philodemus ( , ed.
C. J ensen (Berlin 1923]), or perhaps Iroin a more sophisticated hedonism which Philodemus
himself may have argued for in the circle of the Pisos.
361
365
370
u t pi c t u r a po es i s 51
si paulum summo decessit, vergit ad imum.
ludere qui nescit, campestribus abstinet armis
indoctusque pilae discive trochive quiescit,
ne spissae risum tollant inpune coronae:
qui nescit versus, tamen audet fingere, quidni?
liber et ingenuus, praesertim census equestrem
summam nummorum vitioque remotus ab omni.
tu nihil invita dices faciesve Minerva:
id tibi iudicium est, ea mens, siquid tamen olim
scripseris, in Maeci descendat iudicis auris
et patris et nostras nonumque prematur in annum
membranis intus positis: delere licebit,
quod non edideris, nescit vox missa reverti.26*28 390
380
385
The necessary qualification of placere (365) is achieved in 377-8, which lines,
Brink says, contain the burden of the argument a poem is either good or
void (p. 378). It is clear that we are to take placere in the sense of iuvare,
not only in its meaning of pleasing both the mind and the body (cf. Cicero on
iuvare, De fin. 2.131) but of preserving and nourishing them (cf. alat formet-
que poetam, 307, and Brink, pp. 336-7), for it is the total conscious being of the
soul which is to be served (animis . . . iuvandis).
With his lines 361-5 now forming an introduction to 361-90, Horace, after
complimenting the older son upon his training and his own good sense (per te
sapis) in 366-7, continues by pointing out that arts with no explicit utilitarian
purpose must be judged in accordance with how well and how long they please.
He categorizes the types of pleasures, which different arts effect, with respect
to the senses. In distinguishing the different kinds of pictures to be seen from
26 A poem is like a picture: one strikes your fancy more, the nearer you stand; another,
the farther away. This courts the shade, that will wish to be seen in the light, and dreads not
the critic insight of the judge. This pleased but once; that, though ten times called for, will
always please. O you elder youth, though wise yourself and trained to right judgement by a
fathers voice, take to heart and remember this saying, that only some tilings rightly brook
the medium and the bearable. A lawyer and pleader of middling rank falls short of the merit
of eloquent Messalla, and knows not as much as Aulus Cascellius, yet he has a value. But that
poets be of middling rank, neither man nor gods nor booksellers ever brooked. As at pleasant
banquets an orchestra out of tune, an unguent that is thick, and poppy-seeds served with
Sardinian honey, give offence, because the feast might have gone on without them: so a poem,
whose birth and creation are for the souls delight, if in aught it falls short of the top, sinks
to the bottom. He who cannot play a game, shuns the weapons of the Campus, and, if
unskilled in ball or quoit or hoop, remains aloof, lest the crowded circle break out in righteous
laughter. Yet the man who knows not how dares to frame verses. Why not? He is free,
even freeborn, nay, is rated at the fortune of a knight, and stands clear from every blemish.
But you will say nothing and do nothing against Minervas will; such is your judgement, such
your good sense. Yet if ever you do write anything, let it enter the ears of some critical
Maecius, and your fathers, and my own; then put your parchment in the closet and keep it
back till the ninth year. What you have not published you can destroy; the word once sent
forth can never come back (trans. H. R. Fairclough in LCL).
52
TRADITIO
far and from near, etc., he has already used sight to introduce the stylistic
sources of aesthetic pleasure. The pleasures of the other senses (with the excep
tion of touch) are now illustrated with reference to a dinner party: table music
for the ear, perfume for the nose, and poppyseeds in honey for the palate.
In each case the arts which inadequately please these senses fail, and fail
completely because they have no other function than to please and could
have been omitted (poterat duci quia cena sine islis). In a similar fashion the
art of poetry, whose absence imposes no unpleasant practical consequences,
will fail completely if it fails to please the soul.
Since its entire function, however, is to please the soul, poetry will ultimately
be different in kind from the arts just mentioned which please only their
respective senses. It must please the mind as well which will judge it by
prudential criteria of decorum, which decide what is fitting for the occasion
(quid deceul, quid non, 308), and by criteria of execution, applicable to both
natural abilities and acquired skills, which measure how well the work achieves
its intention.2728The aesthetic analogy of poetry with these other arts extends
only to the fact that 1) these arts do not admit degrees of pleasure, and 2) the
line between pleasing and displeasing is very thin: if one paulum summo
decessit, he vergit ad imum. In the case of poetry, however, one may know
as well as sense where this line exists in order to avoid overstepping it.
This knowledge, both of what is fitting and of how to achieve and maintain
that fitness in practice, is the responsibility of art.2* While the athlete who is
indoctus knows enough not to compete, Horace laments that the poet who
does not know how to write poems will, nevertheless, often dare to do so. He
therefore urges the older youth by rhetorical compliments, both to write in
accordance with his natural gifts, not invita .. . Minerva, and to exercise these
gifts with an art befitting his knowledge and judgment (mens, iudicium),
if he is to write something that will bring lasting satisfaction. With the help
27 Cf. Brink 337-8. Cicero's distinction is useful: in every case while the ability to do
what is appropriate is a matter of trained skill and of natural talent, the knowledge of what
is appropriate to a particular occasion is a matter of practical sagacity (omnique in re posse
quod deceat facere artis el naturae est, scire quid quandoque deceat prudentiae), Cicero: De
oratore 3.212, trans. E. W. Sutton and II. Rackham, 2 vols. (LCL; London 1959). I agree
with Brink's remarks on the relevance of Aristotles discussion of music in Potit. 8.3-5 (373,
377). What Aristotle says of the effects of music on the soul in 8.5.4-10 is close to what
Horace is saying of those of poetry: it nourishes the soul in the very act of pleasing the
senses and the intelligence.
28 Such artistic knowledge is analogous to that necessary to keep one who strives for a
given stylistic effect from falling into its excessive form, its neighboring fault, si caret arte
(31). See Brink for many rhetorical parallels (105-16). The question in lines 377-8 of the
close proximity of aesthetic pleasure in general to disgust or satiety is what distinguishes
the present passage (361-90) from such parallels and relates it to Ciceros observations on
pleasure discussed below.
u t pi c t u r a po es i s * 53
of experienced advice, he will not be tempted to publish his work before all
necessary revisions can be made.
Horaces observations in lines 361-90 on the general nature of the pleasure
appropriate to the fine arts and on the artistic knowledge of decorum and
technique necessary to achieve and to maintain it resemble in their order and
content a description of style in Ciceros De oratore (3.97-1 OO).20 Cicero is
describing the purpose and nature of language in general with respect to
ornamentation in diction (verba) and in thought (sententiae). While he speaks
of both poetry and rhetoric, however, Horace emphasizes the greater difficulty
and importance of giving aesthetic pleasure in a poem by distinguishing poetry
from two activities of forensic oratory, pleading and jurisprudence.50 Beyond
this heightening of emphasis, both men are concerned in these passages with
how style may please not once but on repeated occasions: genus igitur dicendi
est eligendum quod maxime teneat eos qui audiant et quod non solum delectet
sed etiam sine satietate delectet (3.97). Whereas Horaee ascribes the displeasure
in his examples to a failure in the general quality of what is to please, Cicero 2930
29 For the general relationship between Cicero and Horace in AP 366-78, sec Brink 372-8
(similarly In AP 89-118, pp. 131-2). He cites Norden, Rostagni, and others who call at
tention to important passages in Cicero (csp. De oral. 1.118-9, 259; Brut. 193) which claim
a kind of animi libera quaedam oblectatio for rhetoric parallel to Horace's conception of
aesthetic pleasure. Rostagni goes so far as to say that Horace non solo attinga a fonti co
muni, ma rlsenta della diretta lcttura delle opere retoriche di Cicerone' (Arte poetica dt
Orazio [Torino 1930] 107). Brink feels, on the other hand, that Horace is 'close to the original
setting of the argument about poetry and the fine arts,' while Cicero is simply 'extending
to rhetoric the quality of the finer arts, and is hoping to compromise at the same time'
(because of the practical necessities to be faced in all utilitarian pursuits). In presenting the
following similarities between Cicero and Horace, I am trying to clarify the argument of
lines 361-90 rather than to claim a direct borrowing by the poet from the orator. If Horace's
argument turns, like Cicero's, on the description of pleasure appropriate to language in rela
tion to that appropriate to the senses, Cicero's pictorial illustration becomes relevant to
Horace's analogy with painting. G. C. Fiskc and M. A. Grant point out the specific similarity
of Cicero's illustration (3.98) to Horace's analogy (361-5) without clarifying the context as a
whole (Unioersity of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature 27 [1929] 37-8).
30 Cicero makes the same distinction but specifically directed to the greater rhythmical
precision of poetry with respect to rhetoric. Using concedere, which Horace uses twice (369,
373), he says that the public will notice slips in oratory as it docs in versification, but where
as it does not forgive (ignoscit) a poet, it makes allowances for us (nobis concedit)9although
all the audience . . . perceives that our remarks wrcre not neatly put or finished in style'
(De oral. 3.198). Brink overstates slightly the difference between Horace and the rhetori
cians with regard to the ear (304-5, 309). Whatever natural capacities there may be for
distinguishing prose rhythms sine arte (Orat. 203), Quintilian (12.10.73-6) and Cicero stress
the cultivation of the ear by art (Orat. 161-2). Similarly, Horace feels that any innate re
ceptivity, any tacitus sensus (De orat. 3.195, Oral. 173) of all rhythm (cf. Aristotle, Polit.
8.5.4), must be cultivated by all the modern artistic resources and not allowed to relax In
the rougher methods of the early Latin poets (AP 251-74).
54
TRADITIO
ascribes it more specifically to the failure resulting from the excessive use of
what otherwise might delight us. He draws his examples from each of the
senses in the same order as Horace does and with similar comparisons from
painting, music, perfume, food. He begins with a pictorial analogy to illustrate
what may please the sense of sight on continued inspection.
I t is hard to say why exactly it is that the things which most strongly
gratify our senses and excite them most vigorously at their first appearance,
are the ones from which we are most speedily estranged by a feeling of
disgust and satiety. How much more brilliant, as a rule, in beauty and
variety of coloring are the contents of new pictures than those of old ones !
and nevertheless the new ones, though they captivated us at first sight,
later on fail to give us pleasure although it is also true that in the case
of old pictures the actual roughness and old-fashioned style are an attraction
(Quanto colorum pulchritudine et varietate floridiora sunt in picluris novis
pleraque quam in veteribus! quae tamen, etiamsi primo aspectu nos ceperunt,
diulius non delectant, cum eidem nos in antiquis tabulis illo ipso horrido
ob sole toque teneamur).
Ciceros nos ceperunt corresponds to Horaces te capiat for what is striking in
a painting. His appreciation of the rough and old-fashioned style in the ve
teribus and antiquis tabulis, in contrast to the overly florid colors in the
picturis novis, suggests the way in which the skiagraphic qualities applicable
to the epic style may subsequently have been interpreted in the Augustan
period. In anticipation of still later periods, the skiagraphic representation
may already have become associated with the simple, unsophisticated methods
of early, even primitive, techniques of painting and with the abrupt, archaic
force of ancient writers. Even with respect to subject matter, such a style
would suit the remote in time as well as the distant in space, for neither could
be known or seized in detail or refinement; both the remote and the distant
must be sketched in outline.31 Though Cicero and Horace repeatedly criticized
31 Dionysius says that Pindar's lines are vigorous, dignified, austere, and, while harsh to
the ear, not unpleasantly so. They exhibit no contemporary prettiness but rather the archaic
beauty of a distant past (De comp. verb. 22). Aeschylus and Thucydides share these qualities:
all have a 'patina of antiquity* ( nlvov), a mellowing deposit (Dem. 5, 38-9, 44), an
antiquitas impexa clearly distinct from the argutae sententiae of moderns (Tacitus, Dial. 20).
The 'beautiful* and the 'austere* are associated with the 'archaic* and the older oral style
(Dem. 36, 44-5). Like Dionysius, Cicero (see following note) and Quintillian (10.2.7) as
sociate the ancient writers with primitive or archaic art. Such art should be seen at a distance,
perhaps, in the way J ames Boswell can still combine these traditional associations In de
scribing recollections from the past. 'Even harsh scenes acquire a softness by length of time;
and some are like very loud sounds, which do not please, or at least do not please so much,
till you arc removed to a certain distance. They may be compared to strong coarse pictures,
which will not bear to be viewed near* (The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel
Johnson LL.D., Tuesday, 19th October (London 1914) 323-4. I am indebted for this reference
to Brigitte Fields).
u t pi c t u r a po es i s 55
such a style as a model for imitation, Cicero recognizes here the continuing
pleasure of a patina of antiquity* which might even expose, by juxtaposition,
the ephemeral nature of exaggerated effects, however striking they may have
appeared at first (cf. Quintilian, 1.8.8-9). Likewise, Horace, though critical
of those affecting the rough movement and archaic diction of Ennius, might
easily defend Virgils artistically moderate concessions to the archaism of
ruder epic devices for connotative purposes as Quintilian later does (8.3.24-5).**
Cicero then moves on to the pleasure of the ear which will prefer, in the end,
the singers firmly held notes to flourishes (flexiones) and falsetto voices (fal
sae voculae).** He next takes up scent and rejects the overly pungent unguen
tum for the simpler fragrance. Barely mentioning touch (which Horace omits
entirely), he passes on to taste, to which sweetness in food and drink soon be
comes offensive.3 23334 From these sensor} examples Cicero draws a concluding
32 For Virgil's satiricai comment on archaism, see CaLal. 2 and Quintilian, 8.3.27-30. A.
Gellius reports (12.2.10) that Seneca criticized Virgii for writing some verses which are
harsh (duros), irregular (enormes) and somewhat beyond the proper length, with no other
motive than that those who were devoted to Ennius might find a flavour of antiquity in the
new poem (ut Ennianus populus adgnoscerel in novo carmine aliquid antiquitatis)1: The
Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, trans. J . C. Holfe, 3 vols. (LCL; I.ondon 1961-8). Horaee
would regard the Ennianus populus with as much irony as he does the critici who call Ennius
an alter Homerus in his complaint to Augustus and the Pisos about conservative Homan
literary tastes (Ep. 2.1.28-92, AP 258-74, 289-94). Yet old terms, spoken by the ancient
Cato and Cethegus, may bring, when polished up, their picturesque associations to new
contexts and be mixed with wrords newly sanctioned by custom (Ep. 2.2.115-25; cf. AP
46-72). Lucilius, for ail his roughness (S. 1.4.1-13, 1.10.1-71), provides energy and direction
(S. 2.1.28-34, 62-78). Horace's view of the proper use of the Latin literary past is complex
(sec Brink 301-9, 318 23). After allowing for Horace's greater stringency in speaking of
prosody, compare Cicero's own attitudes toward ancient writers like Cato, Cethegus, Ennius,
Livius Andronicus, with whom he compares the earliest painters and sculptors, and toward
their imitators (Brut. 61-76). For Cicero, the ancients had dignity of thought and forceful
originality, but those who imitate them in everything, especially in their abrupt rhythms and
broken composition, are like critics who prefer the most archaic picture (antiquissima illa
pictura), which uses only a few colors, to the developments of modern painting (Oral. 168-73).
Perhaps Cicero's final, and harshest, judgment of early Roman oratory is that expressed by
Atticus (Brut. 292-9). In his essay entitled The Debate on Primitivism in Ancient Rhet
oric' (The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 29 [1966) 24-38), E. II. Gombrich,
citing a number of these passages, establishes a similar context, which, I believe, might now
also include Horace's pictorial analogy (see especially 32-3).
33 Aristophanes associates the decadent new sophistry with ornate trills and quavering in
music (The Clouds 966-72); compare Horace's lines on the decadence of the music accom
panying the chorus (AP 212-19). These lines, In turn, resemble Vitruvius' chapter on deca
dent fresco-painting, if chromatic licence may include both musical and pictorial colores:
flamboyant tones' etsi non ab arte sunt posita, fulgentes oculorum reddunt visus (7.5.8).
34 Without giving any example, Cicero simply says that in touch there are degrees of
softness (mollitudinis) and smoothness (levitatis). Although Horace may imply touch along
with smell in crassus (which has a tactile connotation directly opposed to mollis and levis),
56 TOADITIO
inference which initiates the analogy leading to the main issue: the quality
of language in poems and speeches. This inference, which Horace also draws
figuratively in the line following his analogy of poetry with the sensuous arts,
explains the reason why poetry resembles those arts.
Thus in all things the greatest pleasures arc only narrowly separated from
disgust (sic omnibus in rebus voluptatibus maximis fastidium finitimum est);
which makes thisless surprising in the case of language, in which we can judge
from either the poets or the orators that a style which is symmetrical,
decorated, ornate, and attractive, but which lacks relief (intermissione) or
check (reprehensione) or variety (varietate), cannot continue to give pleasure
for long (non posse in delectatione esse diuturna), however brilliantly colored
the poem or speech may be (quamvis claris sit coloribus picta vel poesis oel
oratio). And what makes the curls and rouge of the orator or poet jar upon
us all the more quickly is, that whereas with the senses satiety in the case
of excessive pleasure is an instinctive and not a deliberate reaction, in the
case of writings and speeches faults of over-coloring are detected not only
by the verdict of the ears but even more by that of the mind {atque eo citius
in oratoris aut in poetae cincinnis ac fuco offenditur quod sensus in nimia
voluptate natura non mente satiantur, in scriptis et in dictis non aurium
solum sed animi iudicio etiam magis infucata vilia noscuntur).35
Cicero makes explicit what Horace implies both in his sic animis natum in
ventumque poema iuvandis (377) and in his hortatory compliment id tibi iudi-
cium est, ea mens (386): for language to be pleasing, it must appeal to the mind
(mente) not just to the senses; to the judgment of the soul (animi iudicio),
not just of the ear. So narrowly are the greatest pleasures separated from
its exclusion more probably reflects the view that touch (and sometimes taste) was less
'pure' (In the sense described below) and less appropriate to the more refined pleasures of
the mind associated with the arts. Cf. Aristotle* JVic* Eth. 10.3.7,10.5.7; Eud. Eih. 3.2.6-14;
Mag. for. 1.21.2-4.
35 For the obligation of language to please the intelligence as well as the ear, see Oral. 162.
Brink stresses Horace's insistence upon variety, if properly given unity by art, throughout his
commentary. Cicero's use of offenditur here parallels Horaces in 248, 352, 376, which Brink
refers to aesthetic taste (293, 378) and compares to Cicero's use of the word in l)e oral. 1.259
(363). Dionysius comments that beautiful things cause satiety just as much as sweet things
when they lack variety; diversity keeps them always new (De comp, verb, 19). More im
portant for Horace is the fact that Dionysius claims other forms of speech may easily hold
a middle position between praise and blame, but in stylistic elaboration ( ) what
ever is not a complete success is an utter failure (Ep. ad P o m f 2). This close parallel to si
paulum summo decessit, vergit ad imum (378) suggests that Ilorace could have had stylistic
embellishments specifically in mind which, if attempted, had to succeed, because the poem,
like the dinner, could have done sine istis (376). Similarly, for Quintilian (8.3.56) aflectation
in language, like virtues carried to excess, is inexcusable, since, while other faults are due
to carelessness, this Is deliberately cultivated: nam cetera parum vitantur, hoc petitur (cf.
AP 352-3 on careless, i.e. excusable, errors, quas aut incuria fudit / aut humana parum cavit
natura, as opposed to habitual errors (354-8). So Seneca, Ep. 114.2.
u t pi c t u r a po es i s 57
disgust, when the style of the poem or speech misses the excellence necessary
to please, it, in Horaces phrase, vergit ad imum.
By comparing poetry to the arts of sensory gratification and by separating
the poets activity from those of the jurist and the pleader, Horace is not antic
ipating the aestheticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.36 Instead
of segregating the utilitarian from the fine arts per se on the grounds of cultural
privilege, he is elucidating criteria for judging aesthetic pleasure, which go
back at least to Plato for their moral presuppositions. In the Gorgias Socrates
attributes the three criteria which Horace later applies to poetry to all beautiful
(or excellent) things (rd ). Beautiful bodies ( ) and colors
and figures and sounds must be judged either with respect to their usefulness
) for some purpose ( ), or with respect to the pleasure
( ) which arises from the delight ( ) they bring to the be
holders (0). All these things among which are music, studies
( ), even legislation ( ) and civic practices ( )
are called beautiful in so far as they offer either some pleasure or benefit or
both ( rj fj r\ ). The triple alternative
( i) ) which is repeated four times, like
a formula, in a short space (474e- 75a, 478b) closely resembles Horaces
aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae / aut simul et iucunda et idonea dicere
vitae (333-4) in his repetition of aut, his use of simul e t . . . et for both (at
once), and his emphasis upon ethical rather than intellectual profit.37 Horace
36 How far Horace is from wishing to isolate the aesthetic experience from contamination
by any practical or theoretical activity becomes clear from his lines to Florus seu linguam
causis acuis seu civica iura / respondere paras seu condis amahile carmen / prima feres hederae
victricis praemia (Ep. 1.3.23-5) where he even extends to the pleader and jurist the ivy
usually reserved for the poet (cf. C. 1.1.29-30). He draws the distinction between the fine
and practical arts in the , not to praise the first at the expense of the second, but to
emphasize the inescapable responsibility of the fine arts to please a properly discriminating
audience. My following discussion traces the origins of this responsibility by elucidating
further a philosophical tradition whose main lines of development have been admirably
sketched by M. Pohlenz ( : Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des grlechischen Geistes*
(1933), Klelne Schriften, ed. H. Ddrrie [Hildcsheim 1965] I 200-39).
37 The terms of Platos formula, which take different grammatical forms in predicating
the fairest things, perhaps share in the direct influence on Horaces lines attributed to Neop
tolemus by J ensen and later scholars (see Brink 352-3 and Brink, Prol. 56). The influence of
Neoptolemus is attractive because he adapts a version of the formula directly to poetry:
the perfect poet in order to fulfill his capacity must not only thrill his hearers but improve
them and teach them a lesson (Brink's translation of
). Brink stresses the
similarity of idonea dicere vitae to and points out that delectare may render
citing Strabo 1.15. Dionysius uses the same word In adapting a similar varia
tion of Platos formula to rhetoric in a context reminiscent of Aristotles distinction between
forensic and epidelctic audiences (Dem. 44); see n. 50.
58 TRADITIO
favors the third alternative (343-6) and then, setting aside for the moment a
content balanced by instruction and diversion its materials, Platonic and
otherwise, having now been treated (309-22, 333-46) he is ready to proceed
to the stylistic criteria necessary for pleasing the sensitive critic. Since the
broad moral distinctions of the Gorgias do not. extend beyond the benefits and
delights of the subject matter, to elucidate further Horaces context we
must turn to the Philebus for further light on the nature of aesthetic pleasure
as the product of an artistic, as opposed to a purely ethical, prudence in the
achievement of stylistic decorum.
In the Philebus Plato turns his attention directly to the question of whether
pleasure or benefit or a mixture of both contributes most to the attainment of
the greatest human good. The benefits here are explicitly those gained from
a rational cultivation of the ethical and scientific disciplines. While, in the
Gorgias, he juxtaposes benefit { ), defined as usefulness ( ) for
some purpose ( ), against pleasure ( ) and delight ( ),
in the beginning of the Philebus (1 Ibc) he sets out to contrast a life devoted to
both and with one devoted to wisdom (ro ) and thought
( ) and memory (rd ) and their kindred, right opinion (
) and true reasonings ( ), each of these being among
the most beneficial ( ) of all things. , or the practical
(prudential) intelligence, is the intellectual faculty most often contrasted with
throughout the dialogue, and hence it corresponds to and
, used to clarify , in the Gorgias. The conclusion of the Philebus
concerning the good life, as of the Ars poetica, concerning good subject matter
(343-6), is that both pleasure and prudence must play their part. Albeit that
of the five categories of things enabling us to attain the Good, that of pleas
urable things comes last, it is still important for Plato and for the future
development of aesthetic theory. A few details of his discussion will elucidate,
I believe, an already emerging general context for Horaces argument.38
Socrates sets out to demonstrate that knowledge, ethical moderation, and
the arts the products of reason and prudence play a more important
38 Plata: The Statesman, Philebus, Ion, trans. . N. Fowler and W. . M. Lamb (LCL;
London 1962). The artistic considerations in the Philebus, as in the Gorgias, are incidental,
of course, to Platos ethical definition of the Good and to his assignment of the part that
pleasure plays in Its attainment. In describing the 'purer' pleasures which accompany the
aesthetic experience of color, shape, scent, and sound, he explicitly says he is not referring to
Individually beautiful living things or to works of art like painting (51c). That the Greater
Hippias (29S.\) directly contradicts this assertion by including works of art in the experience
of the Beautiful is one of the main reasons, as Pohlenz points out (103-4), for questioning
its authenticity. Yet the Philebus introduces distinctions which, however qualified by the
intervening influences described by Pohlenz, help us to understand the aesthetic attitudes
of the Augustan period.
u t pi c t u r a po es i s 59
part in attaining the greatest human good than pleasures produced by gratifying
the senses. In order to measure the products of reason against those of sensory
gratification, he isolates, first, those pleasures which may be considered the
purest or best, and then isolates those arts and sciences which may be con
sidered the purest or most exact. With respect to pleasure, he argues that
what most people regard as pleasure is really a mixture of pleasure and pain
in so far that pleasure is conceived of as the absence or cessation of pain (cf.
Rep. 583- 5). In criticizing this opinion, he says that there arc really two kinds
of pleasure (51e), one mixed in this way and one pure ( ). Pure
pleasures are those that arise from what are called beautiful colors, or from
forms, most of those that arise from odors and sounds, in short all those,
the want ( ) of which is unfelt and painless, whereas the satisfaction
furnished by them is felt by the senses, pleasant, and unmixed with pain
(51b). Socrates separates such pleasures from utilitarian considerations of
practical activities which, presumably, would mix them with painful sensa
tions (cf. Aristotle, Polit. 8.2.5- 6). Pleasurable feelings, for instance, gained
from having knowledge ( ) may be naturally ( ) pure provided
that, in the case of forgetfulness, an admixture of pain does not occur from
reflecting ( ) upon the lack ( ) of the knowledge pre
viously held (52ab). Such pure pleasures, and the arts which produce them,
resemble those which Horaces dinner party could not only quite literally
have gone on without but also have suffered no corresponding pain in losing
(cf. Laws 667de).
With respect to the arts and sciences, Socrates redefines the scale of purity
as the scale of exactitude. Were wre to neglect the most exact or metric dis
ciplines which offer the most reliable knowdedge,
All that would be left for us would be to conjecture ( ) and to drill
the perceptions by practice and experience (
), with the additional use of the powers of guessing, which
are commonly called arts and acquire their efficacy by practice ( )
and toil ( ). . . . Take music first; . . . it attains harmony by guesswork
based on practice, not by measurement ( ).
Therefore, we may divide the arts, as they are called, into two kinds, those
which resemble music, and have less accuracy ( ) in their works, and
those which, like building, are more exact (55d- 56c). Even among the metric
arts there are degrees of purity: reckoning in carpentry will be less exact, for
instance, than calculation in geometry (56d- 57a).
Having established degrees of purity in knowledge corresponding to degrees
of purity in pleasure (57ab), Socrates goes on to ask whether or not either the
purest pleasures or the most exact arts and sciences, by themselves or combined
together, could ever achieve the greatest good. The answer is that neither pure
pleasure nor exact knowledge could achieve the good by itself. Nor, indeed,
60
THADITIO
could a combination of the purest forms of each be more successful (60c.-61c),
because, even though only the purest pleasures may be admitted, the less
exact arts and sciences (such as music) are necessary for the good life (62a- 63c).
In addition, the constitution of the greatest good must include measure (
) and proportion ( ) as its most precious requirements,
which can make any mixture whatsoever either of the highest value or of
none at all (?) , 64de).
The responsibility of , and later (66a) and ,
to make something either everything or nothing anticipates the crucial im
portance of literary decorum, which, if it fails slightly, fails completely.39
Plato concludes by listing the five categories of things which ultimately
constitute the Good as follows (66ac): 1) measure, moderation, and fitness,
2) proportion, beauty, completeness, 3) mind and prudence, 1) activities
belonging especially to the soul, such as sciences ( ), arts ( ),
and true opinion ( ), and 5) those pleasures which we separated
and classed as painless, which wrc called pure pleasures of the soul itself, those
which accompany knowledge (< ) and, sometimes, perceptions ( hdtj-
). Those pure pleasures of the soul were earlier said to be of the same
nature as reason and prudence (63f.) and, here, to be proper companions both
of the more exact arts and sciences and of the less exact conjectural arts,
like music, which must be acquired primarily through practical experience.
I t is the double association of an unmixed pleasure (of Platos fifth category),
which one might without suffering do without, with both the technical
knowledge of a purer art and with the trained sensibility of a less pure or
39 As long as the context is primarily ethical, a perfectly balanced mean remains an
ideal which for the most part can be only approximated, and therefore degrees of proximity
will represent degrees of value, as in any practical activity such as jurisprudence or pleading.
Despite the fact that there is but one way to hit the target and an infinite number of ways
to miss it (Nic. Eth. 2.G. 13 7) and the mean is a consummation ( / ), Aristotle clearly
states that secondary courses of action have relative benefits when the mean is missed
(2.0.4). Horace may simply be distinguishing pleasure as an absolute requirement in the
purer arts from a relative advantage in ethics, or he may have a much more specific
target in mind. One such target could be the curious adaptation by Ariston of Chios of Stoic
ethical criteria to literary evaluation criticized by Philodemus. The Stoics divided all things
into the categories of the good, the bad, and the indifferent with respect to their desirability
for the wise man. When Ariston applies the third category to literature, poems with good
technique and/or good composition but with questionable content, or vice versa, are neither
good nor bad but in the middle. Similarly in the matter of technique (or composition) alone,
since nothing in the world is perfect as a whole, even if poems have perfect sections, as
complete works they are mediocre. Much of the traditional poetic corpus falls into this
third category. C. J ensen describes Aristons opinions without suggesting that Horace could
have had some such views in ndnd when he objected to mediocribus . . . poetis (Philodemos
iiber die Gedichte, fiinfles Huch [Berlin 1923] 128-45).
ut pi ctura poesi s 61
conjectural art (of his fourth category) which foreshadows Horaces critical
admonitions about poems which are to please the soul.40
If we may trust a report of Speusippus views on the arts given by Sextus
Empiricus, we can see how easily a sophisticated conception of a rationally
trained sensibility could be transferred from an ethical to an epistemological
context and, most important for us, be illustrated by an analogy with artistic
judgment in the Academy itself. Since this conception is significant for literary
theory in general and for Horaces discussion in particular, I shall quote the
entire passage (Adv. Log. 1.145-6).
Speusippus declared that, since some things are sensible, others intelligible,
the cognitive reason { ) is the criterion of things in
telligible and the cognitive sense ( ) of things sen
sible. And cognitive sense he conceived as being that which shares in
rational truth ( ). For just as the fingers of the
flute-player or harper possess an artistic activity ( ... ),
which, however, is not primarily brought to perfection by the fingers them
selves but is fully developed as a result of joint practice under the guidance
of reasoning (ix ), and just as the
sense of the musician possesses an activity capable of grasping the har
monious and the non-harmonious, this activity, however, not being self-pro
duced but an acquisition due to reasoning ( '
), so also the cognitive sense naturally derives from the reason the cog
nitive experience in which it shares, and which leads to unerring discrim
ination of subsisting objects.
Plato grants that the musician who trains his perceptions fully (
) by practice and experience ( ) can
produce the kind of pleasure appropriate to the Good. I t is just this kind of
training, according to the illustration of Speusippus, which produces an edu
cated sensation, an , which, by means of the
reason, shares by nature in the experience of intellection ( -
10Aristotles psychological analysis of types of pleasure and of their ethical significance,
extending and qualifying Plato's account in the Philebus (Nle. eth. 10.2.3-3.2), contributed
distinctions, no doubt, of the greatest importance to subsequent aesthetic theories about
the fine arts. The feeling of pleasure, he says, is an experience of the soul, and a thing
gives a man pleasure in regard to which he is described as fond of" so-and-so: for instance
a horse gives pleasure to one fond of horses, a play to one fond of the theatre . . .' (Aristotle:
The Nicomachean Ethics 1.8.10, trans. H. Rackham [LCL; London 1956J). Plato's pure
pleasures become for Aristotle absolute ( ) or natural ( ) pleasures, which are
Independent ot the processes of bodily depletion and replenishment; they are enjoyed after
the body has returned to the state of its natural equilibrium, the soul of its harmony (7.12.2-7).
The pleasures derived from intellectual activities are the purest, the most unmixed with pain
arising from excess and deficiency, and the most permanent. The sensory pleasures most
similar to these are those derived from sight, hearing, and smell, which, like contemplation,
involve no antecedent pain (10.7.1-9; Mag. Mor. 2.7.4-18).
62 TRADITIO
), an experience which leads, in turn, to critical discrimina
tion ( )* Taken together, these passages recognize an educated
sensibility, half rational, half sensory, which has the power to discriminate
among the purest effects of the fine arts. Those who have developed this
sensibility have the power, if they are artists, to produce such pleasures in
others and, if they are critics, to point out both which are the most permanently
rewarding of these pleasures and how they may best be sustained.41
Perhaps through transmission by Stoic theories of perception, such distinc
tions arc later applied directly to literary criticism by Horaces contemporary,
Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Of an exceptionally fine passage in Thucydides,
Dionysius says that the style will appeal to every mind ( ) since
it offends neither our irrational aesthetic faculty (
), which is our natural instrument ( ) for distinguishing
the pleasant from the distasteful ( ), nor our reason (t o
), which enables us to judge individual technical excellence ( ev
)/ Neither the least experienced (ol . . .
) nor the most expert (ot ), neither the layman ( )
nor the technical specialist ( ), will be able to find fault with the Thu-
cydidcan narrative. Reason and instinct ( ) will com-
41 Sextus Empiricus, trans. H. G. Bury, 4 vols. (LCL; London 1967). For Aristotle, the
sensory part of the soul, while essentially irrational like the nutritive part, shares, never
theless, in reason (Nic. eth. 1.13.9-19; De an. 3.9). The senses are, to sonic degree, 'cducat-
able.' Each is itself a kind of mean* between sensible extremes and, therefore, as a mean
has the power of making judgments ( to ) about intensities (De an. 2.11).
Each keeps these sensory intensities in harmony, for all sensation is a proportion ( d' -
) which excessive intensity either hurts or destroys (3,2, 3.4). In so far as the
imagination is sensation actively in motion, it, too, will share to some extent in the act of
deliberation (3.3). Such psychological criteria will ultimately be congenial to the Stoic
theories of perception which Pohlenz traces as a background for the aesthetic response* to
a literary work described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Without reference to the views of
Speusippus, whose terms (quoted above) are identical, Pohlenz describes how the Stoic
Diogenes of Babylonia separated ordinary sensory perception ( ) of qualities
like heat and cold from an educated* sensory perception ( ) able to
evaluate the fitness of things in relation to other things. Since the later Stoics, like Panaetius
(as echoed by Cicero in De off. 1.14), considered man the only rational being, he alone could
have an innate feeling for order and decorum, as well as for beauty and harmony. Human
emotions, theretore, could increasingly become associated with both moral and aesthetic
judgment. Since within the human psyche, such emotions in comparison with its stricter
reasoning faculties were, Indeed, arational, * the intuitive, non-deliberative even in
stinctual response both to an ethical challenge and to a work of art commanded increasing
respect. This sense of decorum,' which Cicero, reasserting the Stoic conflation of ethical
and aesthetic criteria, assumes as a point of departure, becomes for Dionysius the je ne
sais qitoi, the , of literary appreciation. Both, like Platos pure* (intuitive)
pleasure, must be developed by practice and experience rather than by precept and technical
instruction (cf. Pohlenz 112, 123-7).
ut pictura poesis 63
bine in one voice; and these are the two faculties with which we properly
judge all works of art (Thucy. 27). As Plato says of arts like music, the in
tuitive ] of Dionysius is developed by long experience (
) and practice ( )', the writer develops his sense of rhythm, the
painter his eye, only by constant trial and error (Dem. 50). I t is the *instinc
tive response of his aesthetic sensibility that the lay-critic particularly cul
tivates (Thucy. 4). For this capacity, present in the intuitive perceptions
( ) of all readers, is able to decide in all cases what
is distasteful and what is pleasant without technical instruction ( )
or outside encouragement (Dem. 24). This is particularly true in judging writers
like Lysias whose chief quality is charm ( ). The criterion for charm will
be the same as that for judging the physical beauty of youth, rhythm and
melody in songs, prosody and composition in verse: that is, any form of time
liness () which enables us to find the mean ( ). Whether
Lysias charm is a result of natural talent ( ) or application and art
( ) or a mixture of both, the critic who wishes to judge the nature
of his gracefulness must train the senses by patient study over a long period in
order to respond directly to his style without relying on technical knowledge
for criteria (Lys. I I ).12
Poets whose stylistic powers to please are in the middle (mediocribus . . .
poetis), then, fail completely because of the very nature of the pleasure derived
from works of art. The effects of their style must be judged first in the same
way as other pure pleasures which gratify the knowledgeable senses must
be by a sensitivity, developed gradually from experience and practice, to
what can please or displease. In addition, however, for Plato, the most exact
knowledge allowed by the degree of purity of any given art with respect to
conventions and technical accuracy must be acquired by study as well as
practice. This artistic prudence will enable the writer to master not only
the parts of a composition but, as Phaedrus says (268d), their decorous com
bination ( ). Similarly for Horace throughout his epistle,
a technical knowledge of poetic styles, meters, and conventions, with respect 42
42 On Dionysius sense of decorum in relation to Lysias charm ( ), see K. Pohl
{citing Pohlenz), Die Lehre von den drci Wortfdgungsarten: Vntersuchungen zu Dionysios von
Halikarnass, De compositione verborum (Ilirschberg 1908) 42-4 Similar distinctions occur
in De comp. Iterb. 12, where words are said to affect the ear as visible objects the eye, things
tasted the palate, and other stimuli their respective senses. Good taste lends itself to no
systematic treatment ( ) or science ( ) but is apprehended by the personal
judgement of those who have carefully trained themselves ( ). The un
trained are successful rarely, and then only by luck ( ). Cf. AP 358. Horace as
sociates charm (aenus) with ordo ( ) directly in the embodiment of what is *timely'
( ) in the sense of decorum (debentia). As of Lysian charm, the aim of the Iloratian
ordo is to be lucidus (AP 40-5).
64
TRADITIO
to decorum and execution, will be absolutely essential to a poem made for
animis . . . iuvandis (1-37, 258-74, 289-308, and especially 408-18, 438-52).
So also for Dionysius who sees even Lysias artlessness as a product of the
most disciplined control (Lys. 8) if every soul ( ) is to be content, a
work must satisfy both the trained intuitive faculty, which distinguishes
pleasure, and the educated reasoning faculty, which judges technical mastery
with a knowledge of the art as a whole. The senses (particularly the aures),
that is, require artistic cultivation as much as the reason requires artistic
education in order to express in a poem that final adjustment of style to
subject, that decorum, necessary to please the critical reader.4344As Horace
insists that ingenium and ars must each coniurat amice (411) with the other,
so poems must be both dulcia to appeal to the cultivated senses and to
move the emotions and pulchra to satisfy the educated demands of
the intellect for a skillful re-embodiment of poetic conventions: non salis est
pulchra esse poemata: dulcia sunto { et quocumque volent animum auditoris
agunto (99-100). Since lines 361-90 have dealt with pleasing and continuing
to please both the senses and the mind, the elder son, primarily with respect
to the ear, must do nothing against his (given) nature (invita . . . Minerva);
he is to be sure that what he writes in Maeci descendat iudicis auris / ei patris
el nostras** With respect primarily to the mind, in order to give his critical
judgment every possible opportunity to function, he must long keep back what
he is to publish for continued correction, since, once published, it is gone for
ever. With these considerations in mind, let us return to the Ciceronian passage
examined earlier.45
43 Cicero distinguishes these two faculties both of which are involved in judging any
form of discourse (Dc orat. 3.100) with great care: The decision (iudlcium) as to subject-
matter and words to express it belongs to the intellect (prudentia), but in the choice of sounds
and rhythms the car is the judge (aures sunt iudices); the former are dependent on the under
standing (intelliyenUam), the latter on pleasure (voluptatem); therefore reason (ratio) deter
mines the rules of art (artem) in the former case, and sensation (sensus) in the latter (Orat.
1G2).
44Aristotle describes that element in the soul, which, though irrational ( ), yet
in a manner participates in rational principle (Nic. elh. 1.13.15), as being amenable and
obedient ( = attentive, hearkening to, giving ear to) in the sense in which we
speak of paying heed" to ones father and friends (18). That the rational principle may,
in turn, appeal to the irrational is shown by our use of admonishment and exhortation, as a
father employs them toward his child (18-9; Eud. elh. 2.1.15). With respect to the materials
in n. 41, the parental comparison is suggestive for Horaces advice to the elder son to take his
fathers and his friends criticism seriously about what pertains particularly to his natural
(and hence, to some extent, fiAoyoj) powers of perception.
45 On pulchra vs. dulcia, see Brink 183-4. Dionysius' terms vs. (Dem.
47) do not quite coincide with Horaces, except insofar as the two qualities in each case should
be combined (De comp. verb. 20). See K. Pol)I, 87-90, on Dionysius' distinction as it occurs,
however, in De comp. verb. 10-11, where it shares more of the background I have been
ut pictura poesis 65
Though brilliance is desirable, unrelenting colors and highlights in the
picturis novis, or in an overly decorated literary style, at the very moment of
their greatest effect may suddenly be spoiled if prudence fails to intercede.
To avoid appearing excessive, such highlights should be spaced at intervals
within their artistic framework itself. Cicero, continuing his analysis of the
most pleasing style (De oral. 3.101-3), illustrates this principle by citing as
an example the actor Roscius, who separated his more exuberant dramatic
moments by subdued ones (umbram aliquam el recessum) so that they might
appear to stand out more prominently (quo magis id quod erit illuminatum
exstare atque eminere videatur). Poets and composers recognized this necessity
as early as actors did, and now orators must imitate them in order to achieve
a charm which is severe and substantial, not sweet and luscious (ut suavita
tem habeat austeram et solidam, non dulcem atque decoctam).'
Quintilian heightens Ciceros metaphor in adapting it to sententiae which
pedestrian writers use all the more strikingly because of the dreariness of their
general style (2.12.7). These lumina flash more clearly because they are seen
not against shade but against total darkness (non inter umbras . . . sed plane
in tenebris). Such sententiae, he states later, in the spirit of our Ciceronian
context, easily interfere with one another if crowded, like objects in a painting,
too closely together (8.5.25-30). Their bright colors, furthermore, will lose all
unity and consist only of many variegated splashes (variis maculis) on a
canvas. While a purple stripe (clavus) well-placed can bring lumen, many
such distinguishing marks (notis) will appear on a dress like sparks in smoke
which become invisible when a consistent splendor irradiates the language, as
stars disappear in the light of day (quae ne apparent quidem, ubi tota lucet
oratio, ut in sole sidera ipsa desinunt cerni). Where eloquence, Quintilian
concludes, seeks to secure elevation (se attollunt) by frequent small efforts,
it merely produces an uneven (inaequalia) and broken (confragosa) surface
which fails to win admiration (admirationem) due to outstanding objects
(eminentium) and lacks the charm (gratiam) that may be found in a smooth
surface. Those who devote themselves solely to such sententiae will not avoid
producing much that is leves, frigidas, and ineptas. The sententious style, that
is, is in danger of losing both the splendid illumination of the sun appropriate
tracing in Horace. She relates Dionysius pictorial analogies to Cicero's in his discussion of
delectatio sine satietate (De orat. 3.97-100). Dionysius austere style, which strives for rd
, corresponds to Cicero's antiquis tabulist while the smooth style, which strives for
, Is characteristic of the novis picturis. See Dionysius detailed description of these
styles in De comp. verb. 12-3, 22-3, and for their relation to Aristotle's oral/written distine*
tion, see MHP n. 28 (to which add Demetrius, On Style 194).
66 TRADITIO
to topics which solicit admiration and the finely modulated lucidity capable
of producing delight.46
While the striking novelty of the picturae novae and of rhetorical display
might offer Horace a comparison for Alexandrian poetic forms and refinements,
the ruder simplicities of old-fashioned paintings might illustrate the enduring
energy, freshness, and elevation, as well as the stylistic flaws, of the older
epics. Their greater length and more numerous themes possess that variety
necessary to please as often as their best individual episodes are heard.47
Yet, albeit that the critic must (reluctantly) make allowances for stylistic
lapses in Homer, the contemporary poet must not, out of an affectation of
antiquity, negligently imitate the abrupt transitions, archaic diction, repetition,
and too broadly sketched similitudes of the oral, or unfinished written, style,
lie must avoid primitive archaism as much as sopisticated preciosity. If
among the Greeks, furthermore, the oldest writings are indeed the best (si,
quia Graiorum sunt antiquissima quaeque j scripta vel optimu), this is by no
means true ol the older Latin poets (Ep. 2.1.28-33). For, while Homer rep
resented the culmination of the Greek poetic achievement w'hich subsequently
could only decline, Livius Andronicus, Ennius, and Lucilius offer only begin
nings wrhich must be perfected. Whatever their deficiencies, however, they are
not themselves bad poets like Choerilus. Quite the contrary', they are early
explorers who, like Ennius and Lucilius, may still provide a point of departure,
even a source of replenishment, for Virgil and Horace.48 Their imitators, on
the other hand, who, out of bad taste or want of skill, adopt the repetitive
disjointed ness which their undeveloped style shares with spoken oratory' but
shares without the variety of oral presentation, will, as Aristotle said (Rhel.
46This passage (cited MHP n. 18) should be taken with that (quoted above) in which such
ornaments can only appear citra solcm (12.10.73-8). The eider Pliny's distinction between
splendor and lumen atque umbras (NH 35.29) may be pertinent, for both as well as for Lon
ginus (17.2-3), although splendor may also have had a more technical meaning in painting
(see J . J . Pollitt, The Ancient View of Greek Art 440-1).
47 For Suetonius, the Aeneid is an argumentum varium ac multiplex et quasi amborum
Homeri carminum instar ( Vita Vergili 21). In the Saturnalia, Macrobius will compare in
detail Virgils effort to meet the demands of epic variety in imitating Homer's magnitudinem,
simplicitatem, and tacitam majestatem (5.13.40-1). He will even see in the banality of bluntly
colloquial lines an heroic negligence (5.14.5). A style heroice incomptus corresponds to that
of the older pictorial style which A. Gellius invokes to describe the words of Cato (10.3.15).
They are incompta, brevia, non operosa with a certain native charm (nativa quadam suavitate),
a shade, so to speak, and patina of a darkly remote antiquity (umbra et color quasi opacae
vetustatis). Cicero himself compares these characteristics in painting horrida, inculta,
opaca to the bluntness of Ennius' diction (Oral. 36, cited MHP n. 15).
48 Ennius, as Brink says, is the great poet of the past (145), a sacred grove, according to
Quintilian, 'whose huge and ancient trunks inspire us with religious awe rather than with
admiration for their beauty' (10.1.88). Persius, as well as Horace, still derived inspiration
from Lucilius (Suetonius, Vita Auli Persi Flacci).
ut pictura poesis 67
3.12.2), appear stiff and awkward to an Augustan age of readers. For, even
though he was more polished than many of the veteres poetae Latini, had Luci
lius been bora in Horaces time, he would, himself, have smoothed and cut
much of his verse and submitted to contemporary standards of artistic ex
cellence (S. 1.10.64-71). He might have striven to be, that is, like Horace, and
so Ennius, perhaps, to be like Virgil. The contemporary epic poet of the written
tradition, furthermore, will have a greater artistic burden than poets of the
oral tradition. He must consciously achieve their effects of pace and magnitude
by an art which the reader will indeed test again and again with his eye. Less
easily excused than Homer, Virgil must exert greater diligentia in evoking
that patina of heroic antiquity appropriate to the dignity and achievement
of Augustus which itself should be characterized by an apparent lack of
meticulous artificiality. In Virgil at his best we shall be held in the illusion of
an epic past by a style, like that of antiquae tabulae, which will neither tire
the ear with too much piquancy nor, while concealing its art, disappoint the
artistic expectations of the mind. If both failings can be avoided, the epic
poem may be re-embodied in the written tradition and, like the more distant
picture, continue to please indefinitely.49
I l l
Before turning to Horaces own poems, it is interesting to see how his con
temporary, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, combines a number of metaphorical
associations, traced here and in MHP, with the crucial distinction between the
agonistic style of Demosthenes and the scholastic style of Plato. In my earlier
essay I quoted a passage from the Phaedrus (239cd) which associated the
healthy vitality necessary in military and other crises with the sunlight and
the artificial complexion of the non-lovers beloved with a shaded, protected
setting (n. 16). Almost as if he were combining such a passage with Aristotles
distinction between a deliberative, oral style and an epideictic, written style,
Dionysius extends these comparisons to Augustan literary conventions.
Every reader, he says, even one with only a moderate appreciation of
oratory, will recognize the fact that the style of Demosthenes is as different
from that of Plato
49 Quintilian says that wliat Virgil lacks by way of the Immortal and superhuman genius
(naturae caelesti atque immortali) of Homer he makes up for in his greater cure and dili
gentia (10.1.86). This diligentia, revealed as w'ell in Suetonius' account of his methods of
composition ( Vita Verg. 22-5; cf. A. Gellius 17.10), might be particularly necessary in
distinguishing that point at which Homers sublimity becomes extravagance. This dif
ficulty. especially acute when oral devices are to be transposed to a written style, still bothers
Pliny, who ingenuously relates the problem to the elevation ol his own style (Ep. 9.26). On
specific difficulties in Virgils literal imitation of Homer, see Gellius 9.9.
68 TRADITIO
as are the weapons of war from those used in ceremonial processions ( -
), real things from images, and bodies developed by hard work
in the sunlight ( ) from those that pursue a life of ease in the shade
{ ). . . . (Platos style] aims at nothing beyond formal
beauty, and is consequently at its best when describing unreal situations
{ ); . . . [Demosthenes style] concerns itself with nothing which
docs not lead to a useful and practical { ) end. I think one would
not be far wrong to compare the style of Plato to a country spot full of
flowers, which affords a congenial resting-place and passing delectation to
the traveller; whereas that of Demosthenes is like a field or rich and fertile
land, which yields freely both the necessities of life and the extra luxuries
that men enjoy.
Among the ways in which Demosthenes style is superior to Platos is as an
instrument of practical oratory in actual contests {
),' and Dionysius assumes that all his readers are equally aware of
this and do not need to be told (Dem. 32). P^or Augustan Rome, such a
stylistic observation was clearly a commonplace.60
I t is in the context of such literary assumptions that I think Horaces re
cusationis should be understood. However ironical the recusationes may be,
he often explicitly confines himself, in estimating his own talents, to the
perspective of the near, to the conscientiousness of artistic precision, to the
certainty of controlled effects, and to the protection of a private and select
audience. He is completely familiar with the common metaphorical antith
eses used to distinguish the forum from the auditoria, which form an Augustan
context for Aristotles skiagraphic analogy. In commenting on his education
(Ep. 2.2.41-8), he describes how' he had gone to Athens to seek the trutli in the
groves of the Academy (inter silvas Academi quaerere verum), when troubled
times forced him to leave that pleasant place {dura sed emovere loco me tempora 50
50 Even closer to Aristotles distinction is a later passage {Dem. 44). *I tliink that our
orator initially learnt by natural taste ( ) and experience ( ) that crowds which
flock to festivals and schools ( xal ) require different forms of address
from those who attend the political assemblies and the law-courts ( xal
). The former wish to be diverted and entertained ( ), the latter to
be given information and assistance ( ) In the matters with which they are concerned.
He did not think either that the forensic speech should employ hypnotic or striking phonetic
effects, or that the ceremonial ( ) speech should be full of a dry and musty antiq
uity (Ttfvov). I t is interesting that Dionysius attributes a sense of decorum in choosing
among stylistic alternatives derived from Aristotles Rhetoric 3.12 to experience and natural
ability. The same words for profit and delight occur here as in Philodemus account of
Neoptolemus (see n. 37). On the comparison of ornamental vs. productive gardens to style,
see Quintilian, 8.3-8-10. For the physical liabilities of living out of the sun in shaded decad
ence, see Euripides, Bacchae 455-9, Plutarch Mor. 764c, and the passages cited in Thesaurus
Graecae Linguae under : in umbraculis nutriuntur et in sotem non prodeunt,
quales delicati, qui a sole aduri timent. To Horaces recusationes below, compare Pliny,
Ep. 9.2.
ut pictura poesis 69
grato), and the heat of civil war thrust him, as a man unused to arms, into
the service of a cause which could hope for little success against Augustus
(<civilisque rudem belli tulit aestus in arma f Caesaris Augusti non responsura
lacertis). In the same letter he laments the absence of privacy in Rome and
describes two poets in a contest of mutual self-congratulation as two ineffectual
gladiators in a comparison frequently applied to the declamatory schools. He
himself refuses to recite before a large crowd in medio . . . foro (S. 1.4.71-7)
or at public recitations in spissis . . . theatris, and, when charged with courting
the ear of J ove alone, he treats such bickering humorously as if it were a
gladiatorial wrestling match (Ep. 1.19.35-49). He can refer to the soldier as
one who viiamque sub divo et trepidis agat j in rebus (C. 3.2.5-6) and comment
on the infatuated Sybaris who, once bearing the dust and sun, now hates the
glaring field (C. 1.8.3-4: apricum / oderit campum patiens pulveris atque solis).
Who would not seek the Olympic games, he asks in another letter, if he could
have the victory without dust: cui sit condicio dulcis sine pulvere palmae
(Ep. 1.1.51)? So he signifies the increasing luxury by referring to the pleasure
gardens encroaching on the open (producing) acres, which will end in the
laurel thickets shutting out the suns hot rays (C. 2.15.9-10). Finally Horace
has his slave caustically contrast the cultivated preference of his master, a
subtilis veterum iudex et callidus (S. 2.7.95-101), for the refinements of Pausias
with his owmpleasure in the rough vitality of gladiatorial portraits crudely
sketched in action with red chalk or charcoal. Such portraits, mentioned by
Pliny (NH 35.52, quoted in MHP n. 19), appear to have served as posters
and to have appealed with a primitive skiagraphic directness to the ordinary'
populace from whom Horace consciously distinguishes himself. Not striking,
perhaps, in themselves, these passages imply the traditional metaphorical
associations of literary' attitudes toward style and genre with the moral attitudes
toward the private and public life which become clear in the recusationes.
In the sixth ode of the first book, Horace tells Agrippa that it is the Homeric
Varius who must celebrate his military achievements, an epic poet (cf. S.
1.10.43-4) capable of relating the deeds of the Greek heroes. Horaces powers
are too tenues to describe Meriones black with Trojan dust (pulvere Troico j
nigrum). As in the great oratorical debates, it is the dust and heat which
characterize the heroic exploits: duces / non indecoro pulvere sordidos (C 2.1.21-
2). Similarly, Horaee distinguishes himself from Pindar by insisting he is
incapable of celebrating the achievements of Augustus (C. 4.2). Antonius, the
maiore poeta plectro, must sing them, for Horace, in contrast to the swan-like
Pindar, is more like a small laborious bee gathering local sweets for his pains
taking poems (per laborem / plurimum . . . operosa parvos / carmina fingo).
His themes, indeed, are those for the leviore plectro (C. 2.1.40), and speak of
the civil benefits of peace rather than proelia . . . victas et urbis (C. 4.15.1-2).
When Trebatius asks him to recount the Caesaris invicti res, he responds that
70 TRADITIO
he is not up to it (vires / deficiunt), for not everyone can describe battle lines
and Roman victories (5. 2.1.11-5).
The fullest expression of these attitudes occurs in the most significant pas
sage for the interpretation of the phrase ut pictura poesis (Ep. 2.1.219-70).
Leaving aside the fact that poets often have nothing to blame but their foolish
behavior if their labores and tenui deducta poemata filo do not impress their
patrons, it is worthwhile to ask, Horace says, what kind of poet would be worthy
of celebrating great achievements. Alexander, who had the nicest artistic
judgment (iudicium subtile videndis artibus) in choosing Apelles and Lysippus
to represent him, nevertheless chose Choerilus to describe his exploits. Virgil
and Varius, on the other hand, do no discredit to Augustus iudicia or to his
benefits to them in their depicting his virtues in poetry as admirably as the
greatest artists might represent them. As Choerilus is contrasted with Homeric
Varius here, so he is contrasted with Homer in the Ars poetica (357-60). Here
his selection over Varius by Augustus would exemplify the same critical
obtuseness as his selection over Homer would there. I Iere the critical obtuseness
is brought out by contrasting the patrons poor judgment in literature with
his good judgement in art. There the contrast between Choerilus and Homer
leads directly, in line 361, into the analog)7between the arts, which is clearly
composed of three comparisons indicating critical criteria for judging poems in
relation to pictures. The lines 361-5, that is, clarify and conclude the preceding
lines on critical allowances permitted by the decorum of the longer genres,
where the contrast between Choerilus and Homer, as epic poets, parallels the
contrast of Choerilus and Varius in the epistle to Augustus. In neither poem
would Choerilus qualify for the leniency appropriate for the other poets.
Augustus good iudicia in the epistle correspond to the iudicis . . . argutum
acumen encouraged as well in the elder son (386) of the Ars poetica.
Once any poet who can only be good by chance and not by art has been ex
cluded from consideration, the critics natural insight (acumen), sharpened by
a knowledge of poetic conventions and techniques (argutum), is now called
upon to distinguish the proper mean degree of exactitude to be expected
in the longer genres. The attainment of this mean, the appropriateness
( ) of Aristotles Rhetoric (3.2-17) and Poetics (22), consists in the
finest possible adjustment of style to subject, an adjustment, Cicero says,
requiring the most experienced judgment (magni iudici) and the greatest
natural talent (summae facultatis) which w-isdnm(sapientia) can bring together
(Oral. 70-4; cf. De off. 1.97, 114). Accordingly, Horace continues in his epistle
to Augustus by contrasting with Varius' epic his own sermones . . . repentis
per humum.61 He would happily describe great exploits, distant lands and 51
51 For repentis per humum, see Brink 282 -3, 112-3, and for the flexibility of Horaces
conception of appropriateness, 463-4. Humilis sermo is characteristic of obscuras tabernas
'ut pi ctura poesis 71
rivers, mountain fortresses, barbarie nations, and the Augustan hegemony,
had he but the power. But neither Augustus dignity nor his own modesty
permits him to undertake what his talents refuse to bear: sed neque parvom /
carmen mates fas recipit tua nec meus audet / rem temptare pudor quam vires
ferre recusent. As in all things, parvum parva decent (Ep. 1.7.44): a parvus
poet (C. 4.2.31) should write a parvum carmen on appropriately delimited
subjects. The topics he refuses to treat resemble those suitable for a skia-
graphic sketch as Critias uses the comparison earth, mountains, rivers,
forests, heavens and for the elevated style as Longinus associates them
with the colossal statue, a statue which Strabo had compared to his great
geographical survey (MI1P 17-21).
Horaces insistence upon the meticulous selectivity of art in his own operosa
carmina is in no sense inconsistent with the tolerance that he permits the critical
reader to exercise in judging longer works. His emphasis upon diligence
throughout the Ars poetica, in fact, may require his calling attention to the
different stylistic expectations suitable to the more ambitious genres for two
reasons. First, since subtle refinement can easily degenerate to preciosity
and the final responsibility of art is to correct or conceal its own artificialities
which it cannot do si caret arte (31) I lorace wTould be particularly sensitive
to the pedantries of Alexandrian mannerism.52 If the critic becomes a Zoilus,
rather than nubes (AP 229 30), and the everyday subjects tt describes might be said to be
more appropriate for, and hence prefer, the obscurum. Generally speaking, Horace prefers
neither to be on the ground nor in the clouds' (AP 28). His low-flying bee works some
where between the cloudy paths of Pindar's swan and the earth itself (C. 4.2.25 32) as
in its amorous pursuits so charmingly preferred to real or legendary conquests and riches in
C. 2.12 (cf. G. Davis, Philologus 119 [1975) 70-83, who adroitly resolves the inherited dif
ficulties of this ode by referring its conventions to the recusatio). In his Life of Apollonius
(6.11), Flavius Philostratus contrasts the heroic subjects of Aeschylus with trivial themes
which are .
52 As a striking parallel to the Ars/ Brink cites (366) Philodemus' disapproving comment
about how it is commonly thought that Choerilus, Anaximenes, and other bad epic poets
arc superior in technical skill ( < > ) to Homer and the best poets ( ) and
are therefore, Philodemus implies, mistakenly preferred to them. If Philodemus has in mind
an Alexandrian critical preciosity which prefers small felicities to the 'nobility' of an oc
casionally nodding Homer, this criticism would support the interpretation of Horace's view
of decorum which I have presented. In a closely following fragment, apparently a part of
the same context, Philodemus further observes that if technique were the only criterion
involved in evaluating poets, there would be no real way to differentiate the better from the
worse. Earlier (Poem., HV2, VI.147), apparently in opposition to an overly zealous critic,
he comes to the defense of Homers repetitions and cites the famous Nireus passage {//.
2.671-3) which Aristotle had used to illustrate certain of the more skiagraphic characteristics
of the deliberative and epic styles. The example was, then, perhaps as familiar to the Piso
circle and to Horace as it was to later writers (cf. Demetrius, On Style 6If., and Quintilian,
3.8.63-7, both cited in MHP n. 8). I have used here the text and commentary of T. Gomperz,
72 TRADITIO
he will not appreciate the very stylistic virtues of the greater genres which
might help to overcome the contemporary decadence in literary fashions.
Second, however, since such differences should be taken into account, the
young man whom he addresses directly again in line 366, in addition to avoiding
the affectations of overly refined detail, must not go to the other extreme
and seek the affected casualness of the grand effect. He must not, that Is,
invoke the stylistic negligence permitted to an operi longo or to any work
conspicuous for its over-balancing excellences (which he might possibly de
ceive himself into believing he had achieved) as an excuse for deficient taste,
skill, or attention to detail. This double-edged admonition recognizes the
existence (and possible abuse) of critical criteria for regaining the generic
scope and seriousness of the literary past without, at the same time, sacrificing
the technical sophistication of the present.53*********63
Stanford University
' Philodem und die asthetischen Schriften der TIcrculanischcn Bibliothek,' Sb. Akad. Vienna
123(1891) 37-8, 19-20.
53This is one more reflection of an Aristotelian 'mean* whose presence throughout the
Ars poetica Brink continually emphasizes. In commenting on carmen reprehendite (292) he
remarks that the very tone of his pronouncement puts laborious art in its place, whereas,
in the sequel, heavy irony devalues ingenium beyond all recognition' (322). The sequel
begins with the famous lines ingenium misera quia fortunatius arte / credit el excludit sanos
Helicone poetas / Democritus (295- 7). Brink suggests that *forlunatii s perhaps hints at
Greek antitheses apart from - . . . . I am thinking of , -
(. 330). One might say, even furtner, that all three antitheses share something with the
more general dichotomy of - , customlaw-art versus chancc-force-genius. The
powers of 'artistic' control , , are brought into an Horatian
balance with the 'given' , , elxaiov by Longinus, who defends art
as a necessary means for analyzing and attaining the highest excellence. This attainment
is rendered possible by the fact that, in Quintilian's words, naturae ipsi ars inerit (9.4.120).
Longinus' opponent, Caecilius, in insisting that only an innate, unteachable gift can achieve
this excellence unattainable by art corresponds to Horace's Democritus (On the Sub
lime 1-2; cf. MHP 20). The most important early discussion of these distinctions occurs
in Plato's Laivs (888c- 90d). Plato is defending the customary beliefs in the gods in op
position to those relativists who think of them simply as products of opinion rather than
as principles of nature. This question raises a 'wondrous argument' ( )
among 'wise men' who believe all things come Into existence partly by nature ( ),
partly by art ( ), and partly owing to chance ( ). The greatest and most beautiful
things are the work of nature and chance, they say, while art can produce only the pettier
ones ( ) which arc artificial' ( ). The beautiful cosmos is brought into
existence by the 'necessary' mechanical processes of natural elements which owe nothing to
rational principles of order. It is only as a later product that art, being mortal itself and of
mortal birth, begets later ptaythings ( ) which share but little in truth, being images
of a sort akin to the arts themselves images such as painting begets, and music, and the
arts which accompany these' (889cd). Politics and laws are also only products ot art and
4UT PICTURA POESIS 73
convention (cf. Gorgias 482e- 84c, 488a- 92c), and therefore these men of science' (
) teach students to ignore the gods and to live according to nature' which consists
in being master over the rest of reality, instead of being a slave to others according to legal
conventions' (890a). In order to oppose such men, who perhaps include Archelaus (cf. Diog.
Laer. 2.16) and atomists like Leucippus and Democritus, Plato defends law and art as things
which exist by nature or by a cause not inferior to nature ( i) since ac
cording to right reason they are the offspring of mind' (890d). This, I believe, is the broader
context within which Horace ironically disparages Democritus' poetic theory of natural in
spiration and reasserts the claims of misera . . . arte. This phrase, in relation to foriunatius,
seems to be anticipated in Platos , and . Plato: Laws, trans.
R. G. Blry, 2 vols. (LCL; London 1967-8).