ODES OF HORACE.
Do not insist that the long wars of fierce Numantia, or the formidable Annibal, or the Sicilian Sea impurpled with Carthaginian blood, should be adapted to the tender lays of the lyre: nor the cruel Lapithæ, nor Hylæus excessive in wine and the earth born youths, subdued by Herculean force, from whom the splendid habitation of old Saturn dreaded danger. And you yourself, Mæcenas, with more propriety shall recount the battles of Cæsar, and the necks of haughty kings led in triumph through the streets in historical prose. It was the muse’s will that I should celebrate the sweet strains of my mistress Lycimnia, that I should celebrate her bright darting eyes, and her breast laudably faithful to mutual love: who can with a grace introduce her foot into the dance, or, sporting, contend in raillery, or join arms with the bright virgins on the celebrated Diana’s festival. Would you, [Mæcenas,] change one of Lycimnia’s tresses for all the rich Achæmenes possessed, or the Mygdonian wealth of fertile Phrygia, or all the dwellings of the Arabians replete with
- Numantia, a city in Spain, now called Garray: with a garrison of 4000 men, it held out fourteen years against a Roman army of 40,000 men; at last, being sore pressed by Scipio, and like to perish by famine, they gathered all their goods together, and setting them on fire, they threw themselves afterward into the flames. Watson.
- Terentia, the passionately-loved wife of the jealous Mæcenas, is, doubtless, intended. When the poets wished to avoid the direct nomination of an individual, they generally coined some word corresponding in meter and number of syllables with the proper name of the person, as here Lycimnia=Terentia. Thus also Persius, "Auriculas asini Midas rex habet," where Midas is=Nero, as Plania is=Delia, in Tibullus, etc.; Malthinus in Serm. i. 8, is for Mæcenas, etc. A freed-woman could not be intended, from the expression "nec ferre pedem dedecuit choris," for none but females of the highest rank took part in these sacred dances. Wheeler. "Neque enim periculum erat, ne inter virgines lectas saltaro cuivis fœminæ dedecori esset, excepta forte Livia Augusti vel Terentia Mæcenatis, vel Octavia aliave ex nobilissimis quarum infra dignitatem id esse severioribus videri potest." Orelli.
- By the word certare, the poet alludes to a custom among the Greeks and Romans of disputing the prize of raillery on their festival days. It appears by a passage in Aristophanes, that the victors in these disputes were publicly crowned by the Greeks. Dac.