Scholia Reviews ns 6 (1997) 17.
Bernhard Kytzler, Horaz: Eine Einfuehrung. Stuttgart: Philipp
Reclam jun., 1996. Pp. 206, incl. 15 black and white plates, chronological table,
select bibliography, and indexes. ISBN 3-15-009603-0. DM9.00.
Department of Classics, University of Cape Town
Appearing in the well-known, small, yellow, paperback format of
Reclam's `Universal- Bibliothek,'[] Kytzler's Horaz aims, primarily, to
introduce Horace to the German- speaking reader who may or may not have some
Latin. All Latin passages in the text are translated into German. A pleasant feature
of the book is that it contains a number of black and white plates (small, but of
good quality) of such items as the so-called `Casa di Orazio' in Venosa, the `Fons
Bandusiae,' portrait-busts of Pindar, Epicurus and Vergil, and woodcuts from the
1498 Strassburg edition. Six-and-a-half pages of bibliography at the end give
readers all the help they would need in following up questions of detail.
The book is divided into three sections, `Leben' (pp. 11-39), `Werk'
(pp. 40-160), `Nachleben' (pp. 161-184). In the section on Horace's Life Kytzler
uses Satires 1.6 as a framework around which to construct an account of
the poet's upbringing, education and later career; and he draws on the whole corpus
to sketch a portrait of Horace as someone moved by his acute awareness of the
darker side of life and the precariousness of existence to embrace a philosophy of
living the present moment to the full (the famous carpe diem,
Odes 1.11.8). `Werk' then surveys the poetry in chronological order:
Epodes, Satires, Odes, Epistles,
Literary Epistles and Ars Poetica. `Nachleben' briefly
sketches Horaces's reception in Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the
modern period, showing the different figures the poet has cut at different times:
moralist, polished courtier, imperial propagandist.
Since this is an introductory work, most of what Kytzler has to say
will, inevitably, be familiar to scholars (though given the broad sweep of his
interests, not all of it will be familiar to all of them). Instead of examining each
part of the book, it seems more appropriate to look in some detail at just one
section, Kytzler's discussion of the Odes (pp. 75-119), which is clearly
the centrepiece of the volume, occupying much more space than the treatment of
any other part of Horace's poetry. This should give the reader a good idea of what
aspects of Horace's work interest Kytzler, which issues he chooses to emphasize,
and which not.
In discussing the Odes Kytzler pays considerable attention
to questions of form and structure. He explains in an admirably clear and simple
way the variety of lyric metres used by Horace, giving the metrical schemes of
Sapphic and Alcaic stanzas, and of a couple of the Asclepiad systems. Kytzler has
quite a lot to say, too, about the placement of individual odes and of groups, such
as the `Roman Odes,' and the significance of their position within the book and the
collection as a whole. A selection of odes are succinctly analysed, among them
Maecenas atavis edite regibus (1.1), Persicos odi, puer,
adparatus (1.38), Vixi puellis nuper idoneus (3.26), Quis
multa gracilis te puer in rosa (1.5), Tu ne quaesieris . . . (1.11),
O fons Bandusiae . . . (3.13), Quem tu, Melpomene, semel . .
. (4.3), and Kytzler gives an overview of the `Roman Odes.' Kytzler finds
characteristic of the Odes the manner in which individual pieces often
move from one pole to its opposite: `vom Weiten ins Umschlossene, vom breit
Ausgreifenden zum Bescheidenen . . ., von der Erregung zur Besaenftigung, von
der Duesternis zur Helle, von Zweifel und Trauer zur Heiterkeit' (p. 95). The
Horace of the Odes is, for Kytzler, a figure who, although he
occasionally speaks in a public voice, is essentially a private person, devoted above
all to poetic craftsmanship, to friendship, love, and the quiet enjoyment of the
pleasures of the moment.
In this book Kytzler does not (perhaps appropriately for an
introductory work) enter into literary-theoretical questions, but allows his own view
of poetry, and of Horace, to appear from the text. Kytzler emerges as an
unapologetically old-fashioned humanist, interested in a person, Horace, whose
biography, views on life, on philosophy, literature and politics, and whose poetic
intentions he reconstructs from the poems (and other available evidence). As far as
the effect of Horace's poetry on us is concerned, Kytzler repeatedly endorses the
ancient view, that poetry (in this instance the poetry of Horace) can, if we let it,
offer substantial emotional support: `Loesung und Linderung im Leid, Freude im
Fest, Zuversicht im Zweifel und Heiterkeit und Helligkeit dazu' (p. 8). At a time
when it is almost taboo for a critic to speak of the author and his personality, or of
emotions that poetry may arouse in us, there is something refreshing about this
neo-Romantic approach. Of course there are problems with a critical position of
this kind -- as there are with any critical position. But the personality of the poet as
it appears in his text is surely as legitimate an object of critical speculation as the
significance of his intertexts.
That said, each reader of so complex as an author as Horace will want
to place the emphases slightly differently. I kept wondering, as I read the book,
why Kytzler downplayed so much Horace's role as vates, as a public and
political poet of Augustan Rome. The reason appeared only at the end of the book,
where Kytzler deprecates the twentieth century's obsession with this aspect,
arguing that `Durch die Ueberbetonung des oeffentlichen Charakters der
dichterischen Aussagen des Horaz wurde das dichterische Individuum Horaz so gut
wie ausgeschaltet . . .' (p. 182). Maybe so, but I still felt Horace's role in the
creation of Augustan ideology could have received a little more attention. One
further point: I believe Horace's multifaceted irony makes it harder than Kytzler
would allow to take his pronouncements about himself at face value. For example,
if what Horace says at Sat. 1.4.129-133 about his character -- that he is
free of all serious vice -- is to be taken as autobiographical (thus Kytzler, p. 31),
then what are we to make of the charges leveled at him by his slave, Davus, that
Horace is guilty of adultery with married women (2.7.46-82) and gluttony (2.7.102-
11)? If we must treat Davus' pronouncements in Sat. 2.7 as ironical, then
why not, equally, Horace's in 1.4?
These are, however, minor and personal reservations. I greatly
enjoyed reading this book. Kytzler writes with grace and ease, and shows a fine
sense for what to include and what to leave out, exemplifying the Hesiodic
principle that the half is much greater than the whole. For me the crucial question
prompted by an introductory work such as this, is: `Does reading this book make
me want to go and read (or re-read) the author it deals with?' In the case of
Kytzler's Horaz the answer would be an emphatic `Yes.'
[] This is an updated version of the author's earlier work with the same
title published by Artemis (Munich and Zurich 1985).