Horace on the disappointment of following the Masters

Ode IV no. 2 (for a sense of the meter, stretch out the bolded syllables and trip lightly though the others. Pause at the slashes.)

Pindarum quisquis // studet aemulari,
Iulle, ceratis // ope Daedalea
nititur pinnis, // vitreo daturus
nomina ponto.

The sense, though not the letter:


Whoever tries to emulate Pindar

strives with wax wings of the sort Daedalus made

And his words will drop upon the glassy surface of the ocean.

The best short description of the moment of realization that one actions will never be equal – never even be comparable to – the persons that inspired him to act in the first place. Morever, it is not vanity or even pure naivety that makes us want to attain the heights we see in the masters – all eros is a desire for the immortal, viz. an acorn would not drop except for a desire to be an oak tree. Still, it is better for the order of things that almost none of them become so.

1 Comment

  1. Evan said,

    May 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    ok, ill finish my dissertation then.

%d bloggers like this: