Sublime Measures: Horace Odes 4.6

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Abstract

In Odes 4.6, Horace presents readers with an account of Apollo first as an agent of retribution and a participant in the Trojan war, then as a god of poetry who bestows “inspiration and craft” on the poet.1 The poem’s movement from war to peace has often been read against the wider importance of Apollo to Augustan iconography and self-representation, as mapping an idealizing substitution of the calm plenitude of the new dispensation for the violence of the civil war.2 Yet this same movement can also be read as intimating the ineliminable presence of violence and disorder in both the historical processes within which the poem situates itself and in the literary traditions that ground a creative engagement with those processes.3

This article focuses on the consequences of this ambivalence and its formal mediation for the poem’s projection of readerly response. In particular, I examine how intertextual features associated with the “sublime,” the construction of time, and metrical form affect readers’ selfhood, a process which is given realization by the picture in the poem’s final lines of the woman who has become “learned in the measures of the poet Horace” (docilis modorum / vatis Horatii). The phrase docilis modorum glosses the particular responsiveness projected by the poem’s formal and affective qualities, which are experienced by readers simultaneously as an imaginative impulsion and as “a modality of limitation.”4 The figure of the nupta emphasizes that the poem’s treatment of Achilles and the Trojan war enacts an ethical stance, but also serves as an affordance for independent reflection by readers on how the poem’s formal configurations might inform their own lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-45
JournalClassical Philology
Volume114
Early online date1 Jul 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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