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.

Richard Whitaker
Department of Classics, University of Cape Town

Appearing in the well-known, small, yellow, paperback format of Reclam's `Universal- Bibliothek,'[[1]] 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.'


[[1]] This is an updated version of the author's earlier work with the same title published by Artemis (Munich and Zurich 1985).