Horace's Rud(e)-imentary Muse: Sat. 1.2
University of Missouri
Satire 1.4, Horace's earliest self-consciously programmatic poem, alludes conspicuously to only one identifiably earlier satire (1.2); here is father to son on the subject of sex (Sat. 1.4.111-15):
cum deterret, 'Scetani dissimilis sis':
ne sequerer moechas concessa cum venere uti
possem, 'deprensi non bella est fama Treboni'
aiebat. . . .
Horace's recollection of paternal advice turns out to be the thematic focus of an earlier satire whose final tableau, itself a formulaic literary scene derived from mime,(1) is neatly concentrated in 1.4's deprensi . . . Tebroni (Sat. 1.2.127-34):
ianua frangatur, latret canis, undique magno
pulsa domus strepitu resonet, vepallida lecto
desiliat mulier, miseram se conscia clamet,
cruribus haec metuat, doti deprensa, egomet mi.
discincta tunica fugiendum est ac pede nudo,
ne nummi pereant aut puga aut denique fama.
deprendi miserum est; Fabio vel iudice vincam.
The telescoping reference reference is a curious incorporation of one of Horace's more awkward satiric experiments into a decorous apologia for the social good of satire. On the face of it, his earlier effort, treating of the varieties of libidinous excess and seeming to urge in the end a pragmatic approach to sex that avoids emotional folly and the dangers of rampaging husbands (vv. 37-46, 127-34), is not one a (generically and otherwise) self-justificatory Horace would seem likely to draw attention to. Nearly alone of the satires (but for that plosive line in Sat. 1.8 and a few racy items, like the wet dream in 1.5, scattered here and there), 1.2 joins the more infamous of the iambi in enjoying bowdlerizing attentions in previous generations' school texts. Readers of Horace who do not dote on the iambi and who think of their Horace as that most gentle courtier-poet may find it expedient to shift this earliest satire in with the guilty epodes and write the lot off as youthful sport. Certainly there are elements of continuity with Horace's major work, notably the discursive, desultory structuring and, already, that finished persona: reflective, approachable, self-ironizing. But pieces of radical discontinuity as well; the poem, certainly written before Horace enjoyed real security in the circle of Maecenas, has the air of being not quite sure of its audience. It plays to an aristocratic sensibility, but testingly; it has about it youth's provocativeness, but is careful that its most conspicuous victim is the poet himself; its uncensored parrhesia consciously invokes Lucilius, yet here, in the end, is no Lucilius. Horace would never write another poem like this one, and for that reason alone it deserves more attention than it has received. But I am interested in that tiny intertextuality. Why in a poem that writes against Lucilius (1.4) does Horace invoke his own most Lucilian exercise (1.2)? Or rather, why in a poem that stakes out a specifically Horatian satiric territory does he draw attention to a satire in which that territory, that urbane self-presentation, consciously attenuated voice, and delimited set of satiric subjects, is unsettled, seemingly in play?
The beginnings of an answer, if answer there be, may arise, negatively, out of another intertextuality--this a massive one, between Sat. 1.2 and Lucretius 4.1058-1287. Lucretius's diatribe on love is one of the two great 'satiric' swatches in the long didactic poem, but more even than the diatribe on the fear of dying (3.830ff.) the attack on passion partakes in and extends a recognizably satiric tradition. Lucilian antecedents are conspicuous, as are Juvenalian echos.(2) Moreover, scholars have pointed out the special Romanness of this attack, its play of Roman against Greek, male against female, volgivaga venus (casual love) against the love poets' servitium amoris.(3) Horace seems to echo Lucretius's answer to love's excesses with similarly casual servicing: venus parabilis (namque parabilem amo venerem facilemque [for I want available and easy love], 119). And one is tempted by Horace's own Epicureanism and the hint of philosophical underlayment in Horace's treatment of his theme; surely, a similar sort of thing, then, with the later satirist cribbing from both Lucilius and Lucretius. These resemblences are unquestionably there; yet the long observed continuities disguise aggressive recalcitrance. If Lucretius's diatribe is satire, then Horace's riposte is not; the converse also holds. The axes of Lucretius's treatment are parochial (male) self-interest (anchored in traditional assumptions and exclusions of aristocratic mos maiorum and literary anti-femininism from Hesiod and Semonides on) and a deeply felt philosophical conviction. With respect to the latter, Robert Brown particularly has pointed out links between what might seem a 'detachable' finale and the more clearly philosophical argument of earlier sections of Bk. 4 of Lucretius's poem.(4) The rhetorical tour-de-force represented by the famous diatribe subserves the larger philosophical mission more or less satisfactorily, depending on your view. But it is inalienably part of a sustained and crafted argument, a proposition that provides coordinates that effectively determine the range and limits of the 'satire's' meaning. Horace will take this paradigm and rethink it; the clear philosophical theme of Lucretius becomes far less clear in Horace, fading in fact into muddle; the illustrative diatribe in Lucretius becomes in Horace foregrounded, independent and experimental poeisis, whose 'meaning' arises from the fabric of that literary experiment. Horace's recasting of this traditional material becomes foundational: what the new satire does. And in that we may see the clue to the far more important intertextuality between Horace's earliest satire and his first programmatic formulation of his sense of the genre.
The opening of Sat. 1.2 is carnivalesque (1-4):
mendici, mimae, balatrones, hoc genus omne
maestum ac sollicitum est cantoris morte Tigelli.
quippe benignus erat.
Tigellius, that uncooperative performer we see in Sat. 1.3.4, is dead, and the Roman underclass goes into mourning. Here is the street's bounty, the plenty whence the satire bubbles up. And here is the 'other' too, the one(s) made strange in satire's distinguishing eye. Tigellius is one of 'them,' as 'we' see them. Satire maps out perspective this way. And that perspective, itself, will be meant to be seen (Horace's innovation), to be the object itself of meditation in the course of the poem. For the moment, we are presented an entrée to the theme of excess to be followed by opposite number, meanness. And so, the larger summation: dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt [avoiding one lot of vices, fools rush to their opposites] (v. 24). The riff Horace plays on the theme through the first twenty-four lines is entertainingly varied and a bit random: casual and familiar sermo. And so the poem may seem to be about what one might think satire should be about: correcting peccadillos, pointing the way--fluttering between extremes--to the middle ground of sanity. It might also be 'about' other things: about (a general exhortation to) an ethical mean(5) ; or an argument for balanced self-awareness in respect to sexual activity(6) ; or about the ancient quarrel between nomos and physis(7) ; or about literary stylistics wittily translated through sexual metaphor(8) ; or gendered writing about certain male conceptions of woman and/as sex.(9) Several of these views will recur in the discussion that follows, but initially, Horace's plan seems clear and simple: the unbuttoned sermo of the first twenty-four lines, being so much like other Horatian sermo, leads with natural conversational ease to that 'middle' of (watered-down Aristotelian/Epicurean?) ethical balance, neither too much this or that, where the complacent among us feel happy; nothing in extreme, nothing to embarrass--until we get to line 25, where mention of the begowned, mincing Maltinus (satirizing Maecenus, scholiasts say, but most probably, or so others say, a linguistic twist on malta(10) ) begins the slip into material hinted in the poem's initial adversion to Tigellius and his club scene. This motley crowd designates the margins of the Roman social world, where pleasures come easy: 'Maltinus' resumes that atmosphere, and from v. 28 to the poem's close, the topic of discussion will be frank sex. No comforting middle, after all (28-30).
quarum subsuta talos tegat instita veste:
contra alius nullam nisi olenti in fornice stantem.
Normative diatribe exhorts the middle, but satire lives at the edges. And that is where this satire goes, to its own club scene, immediately in that bizarre opening line, to a language place where readers are either titillated or offended. Lucilian parrhesia. It plays with audience tolerance and/or complacency this way, fabricating an ambience designed to unsettle; its legacy culmintates in Swift. And as in Swift, this satire operates with unstable ironies; voices assert perspectives one cannot be quite sure of: will Horace really mean to take Cato's line (31ff.) on the social value of brothel sex? does the personal tone Horace employs throughout the satire reflect his real view of these 'issues'? does the chummy tone that occupies so much of the poem have a soft, vulnerable underside? just where does irony begin, if it does? Sorting out, or at least beginning to think through, this Horatian texture of potential irony, duplicity, and indirection is important. Failing to do so can lead a reader to mild amusement at this Roman locker-room talk or to acid critique of the values implicated in this 'moderate' sensualist's voice. Either reaction, I believe, falls short of the poem's challenges. The key to those challenges resides in the multidimensionality of the satire's voice: its origins, its authority, its 'perspective,' its partiality, and its implication with readerly attention and response. All of these aspects of literary voice are involved one with another, but to begin I want to select out authority and the structures of social and literary power it invokes.
Horace's dirty talk in this poem, this Lucilian libertas, designates, of course, more than the poet's 'freedom' of speech; that is, it plays with (illustrating) the auctoritas that underwrites the (Lucilian) satirist's impunity to say what he wants. The political dimension is scarcely disguised: of course, libertas is not freedom in any modern sense at all, but a function of a certain kind of privilege and power in a world where all Romans are not equal. Inequality resides in the very structure of assumption and argument in this poem about male sexual gratification and who is placed in its service; Sat. 1.2 foregrounds this dimension of human relation rather than the common appeals to common humanity many have wanted to see here and elsewhere in Horace.(11) But while Lucilius and Horace both speak from, or from near, circles of social and political authority, enjoying thereby the 'freedom' to exercise the expressive prerogatives of their social position, there is for Horace the curious complication of 'philosophy': Horace fashions a voice that pretends authority drawn from other than political sources: popular philosophy and the literary tradition of iambographic poetry, both of which theoretically transcend, in their reach of maxim and ethical exhortation, local social stratification.(12) Hence, limned behind the political auctoritas of this familiar of the powerful is the perennially licensed truth-teller, the informing Geist for which comes from the underclass of streetcorner philosophers (Bioneis sermonibus, Epp. 2.2.60). Of course Horace himself is none such, and he is thus aware of the literary-fictional basis of his libertas and runs with it, just as he does with the politics of patronage and protection. The satirist's voice has about it from the start, thus, even in the authority that underwrites its freedom to speak, a self-consciously shifting valence that anticipates or patterns further lability. It is equally important to note that in addition to the more or less consciously acknowledged background ideology of highborn male privilege, Horace's satiric authority is conspicuously a borrowed, derivative, and patched together thing. To speak with clout Horace must mime Bionic diatribe, hint at the imperatives of popular ethics, and echo Lucilian brazenness as well as invoke traditional assumptions about who counts in Roman society. Horatian auctoritas is, thus, in large part a transparently rhetorical construction, implications of which, we will see, must complicate readers' responses.
A further dimension of the authority peculiar to the writer (rather than merely the free speaker), is likewise fashioned out of literary precedent into a new, Horatian concoction: that of the poet as maker, fashioner of satiric constructions of 'reality.' This satirist talks freely in part as a demonstration of his power, as creator of discourse worlds, to do what he wants with his victims, to cast them into whatever role he wishes for whatever effects he might find amusing or (un-) edifying or useful or whatever. This is a truism of all writing, which always has this latent and dangerous potential even when curbed by larger forces. Yet Horace's version of this draws upon the possibly intimidating, generically sanctioned threat raised by satirists; beware lest 'you' become one of its notorious targets. The threat and its consequences seem to be real enough in Lucilian satire; iambic-style attacks on living enemies (usually, opponents or critics of Scipio) are a matter of record.(13) Horace, Persius, and Juvenal all advert to the biting power of satire, Persius with characteristically robust imagery: secuit Lucilius urbem, / te Lupe, te Muci, et genuinum fregit in illis (Lucilius sliced up the city, you Lupus and you Mucius, and he broke his molars on them, Sat. 1.114-15). Horace, in 1.4, puts the charge in another's mouth: 'laedere gaudes' / inquit, 'et hoc studio pravus facis' ("you enjoy giving pain," says one, "and you do it maliciously," 78-9), as he does, at length in 2.1. That deferral, along with the extravagant apologia pro sua innocentia in Sat. 1.4 announces a change in satiric rules, how the threat card is to be played. Persius declares that Horace invokes it not at all; 'plays' rather in a different sense, with a sly and mocking superiority (1.116-18):
tangit et admissus circum praecordia ludit,
callidus excusso populum suspendere naso.
(Sly Flaccus touches every vice in his laughing friend, and having been admitted in, plays around heart and conscience mockingly, clever at ridiculing people with that sniffy nose.)
Persius (with many since) reads the difference as a matter of style, of artistic personality; Lucilius does satire one way; Horace another. But that diagnosis, in positing a disjunctive relationship between the two poets' manners, elides an important connection. Horace, as we have noted earlier, sees the enterprise of satire in terms unavailable to Lucilius, yet in the moment Horace invokes Lucilian precedent he places himself not only in secondary relationship to the genre's founder and that founder's art, but, as well, beyond or to a degree outside prior generic codification. Horace's satire may function recognizably with and 'be about' Lucilian precedent. Whatever Horace's motives for donning the vafer Flaccus mask and however much mere prudence accounts for an unwillingness to go after specific contemporaries, his art incorporates this further dimension of generic aboutness. At an elementary level, then, Lucilian attack does not simply become Horatian irony; rather the record of Lucilian attack is invoked in a more comprehensive and refracted Horatian generic program. And that program, nuanced as it is away from direct targeting of known victims, modifies the threat gambit; the maker's power preserves the traditional notion that there must be satiric targets, but chiefly as a means to more ambitious if less direct literary ends, viz., the elaboration of the constructed relationship between satire's fictions and its readers, most of whom will not be, in any appreciably direct sense, its immediate targets. The (Horatian) satirist's real power, invoking the authority of position or literary precedent, is that of creating discourse worlds that touch, unsettle, confuse, and otherwise tamper with the everyday sensibilities of everyday readers.
The name of the game, then, is power, the sources, uses, reach, and viability of authority. But that authority, we are noticing, is in Horace's usage a compounded, multiply inflected thing, 'seen' variably in the poem's wordscape. Further complication of that inflection arises from the interface of the satirist's discourse world and reader's perspective as 'outsider.' Outsider, that is, as designated receptor of the poem qua poem and by whom satiric discourse will be seen both as mapped onto the social world it describes and as marked literary language directed to a certain audience. That readerly audience may well be the 'same' in most respects as that described within the satire, may share assumptions about the satire's subjects, about sex, women, status, and pleasure, but is different, too, in its (potential) cognizance of satire as an artificial literary medium. Horace's poem, as we've seen, builds that awareness in, making his own satire of and about other satire. Builds in, that is to say, a dynamic of literary reception that at once asserts authorial/authoritative perspective and a reader's potential restiveness, a counter-authority, which is, in minimal terms, simply an awareness larger than that enframed by the rhetorical world of the satire.
This dynamic of potentially contesting views, a shifting or instability of perspective, operates throughout the poem, even the satire's jokes, as in Horace's retelling of the Cato anecdote (31-36):
virtute esto' inquit sententia dia Catonis:
'nam simul ac venas inflavit taetra libido,
huc iuvenes aequum est descendere, non alienas
permolere uxores.' 'nolim laudarier' inquit
'sic me' mirator cunni Cupiennius albi.
One could say this is just an outré example of the poem's freqently noticed 'moderation' theme, avoiding extremes; lust directed in legitimate directions; Cato in an engagingly worldly wise vein designed to disarm readerly second thought. But second thought is structured into the passage. The apocryphal story of Cato had been circulated and then dropped into this satire precisely because of the irony it encapsulates: that of stern moralist cheering on randy young man, paragon of virtue encouraging, enabling, "foul lust" (taetra libido).(14) We may call this merely a 'literary' turn; the irony justifies, explains, the anecdotal exemplum. But doing so, of course, glosses over a dark social reality that the reader has to deal with: cheerleader Cato represents a paradoxical moral standard, virtue, that implicates vice, that finds, as it were, an alter ego in low sexual gratification. Cato and the libidinous young aristocrat (notus homo) are obverse facets of precisely the same coin, and that coin is the ethos of the male, freeborn Roman. Cato and the boys about town take their pleasure in those over whom they have long-standing and unquestioned institutional power: prostitutes in this case; women in general in the larger scheme, or slaves, of both sexes. Even married aristocratic women--for though literature tells us that they could fight back, the crude description focalized through Cupiennius here, cunni albi, enfigures them precisely as sexual conveniences. John Henderson's take on the satire as gendered discourse reads the poem this way, how Roman man sees and uses woman-as-sex (his ellipses in what follows):
'I' of men can have: basic 'property' . . . He finds 'us' unbalanced and excessive,
using up our resources unwisely on the wrong females. He looks to what you
might (not) like to call 'the mentality of the amorous male.' As he ticks off silly-
billies for making such a mess over sex--clowns to the left and jokers to the right--,
expensive mistresses and dangerous adulteries, all that (You know . . .), H and his
readers can enjoy looking over 'the field'. Without feeling im-plicated.
He continues, laying out the sensibility, the register of looking-language that fleshes out the mentality of this Roman gaze:
entré to a poem-long string of pejorative descriptions. Here they come (again):
'Flute-girls, . . . strippers . . . the type that stands in a stinking brothel . . . other
men's wives . . . cunts which are dressed in white . . . freedwomen . . . married
women . . . Miss Newcome . . . striptease artists and callgirls . . . a married lady or
a wench with a cloak . . . Joy . . . a cunt descended from a mighty consul and
veiled by a lady's robe . . . [and on] (14a).
It is tempting to quote more from Henderson's engaging blast, but the underlying critical principle of his reading is clear enough: (this) satire as gendered writing, as a certain kind of very explicit patriarchal discourse, of generically-empowered male voice, telling things 'as they are' from a certain perspective, may (intentionally or not) expose that discourse when the politics of reading and writing are likewise made explicit. The gendering of Horace's language in this poem designates perspective, so much so that it is hard not to read it, as Henderson and Amy Richlin do, as Horace's version of male-speak, his particular parole in the greater langue of anti-feminist role-making and metaphorizing.(15) There is no good reason to deny this aspect of the poem; in Sat. 1.2 'human desire' is cast in terms of overt partiality. Corresponding, for instance, to cunni albi (cunts robed in white) is Cupiennius himself, Horace's significant name, "Lusty" (or, given the citation that follows, CupiEnnius, "lusty-Ennius"(16) ); two sides of a closed equation, seer and seen, that describes a necessary entailment in the larger Roman, male, social world. This 'phallogocentric' reciprocity, then, functions as another kind of authority underpinning the reality Horace's satire describes. It is, in its fashion, perfect; it allows no other voice to disturb its equilibrium. Women and slaves and the urban underclass do not count here, nor is the prospect that they might count ever raised.
Yet comic irony, that literary turn, is obtrusive (marked overtly by the blatant sententia dia Catonis) and, in the end, not without serious impact. Cato's 'solution' is really viable only in the conceptual world of the joke. Here, male satisfaction, that gendered desideratum, slips into that discursive space where reality is suspended, where Cato can become sensualist, and the brothel a club for civic minded young men. The world of the joke is, of course, a modal transposition where not only are reality's norms and limits suspended, expectations inverted, and so forth, but where wit itself takes on a tendentious cast. Jokes create temporary communities of insiders, and in so doing release resentments, desires, aggressions. They are instinct with partiality and ideology. In the case of Horace's Cato joke, the partiality and ideology is manifest; but its literary framing as joke generates a fracture in the literary texture of the satire. The joke thus not only exemplifies a kind of partiality of view that echoes other instances of parti pris in the poem, it lifts all that baggage into a discursive register where it is to be seen as both more than and only a joke. Cupiennius, then, who is conspicuously placed as auditor of the joke, figure for the reader who also listens in, reacts 'appropriately'--"not me, I don't want that kind of praise." And we know why. Horace makes it clear where Cupiennius stands in relation to the joke, but the reader, perhaps not sharing Cupiennius' moral compass, is left to sort out his or her place, inside or outside the joke's rhetorical world-view. And that leaves a fissure in the joke's (and attendant ideology's) closure. Despite all the nasty certainties of cultural assumption implicit in it, the joke's essence is a play of excess, transience, and, finally, interrogation; not 'common sense' or the (Horatian, Roman, 'our'?) considered view. After it passes, we are left with no authorized sense of right and wrong, wise and foolish, or viable 'middle' ground. Whatever real solution Horace may have dreamed up, it is not here and his joke tells us so. The reader is quite explicitly drawn into all this, smiles his or even her way into that Cato-story's appealing para prosdokian, thus into the poem's poised undecidability. As the reader walks straight into Horace's satiric, ironic word-web, just who is spider in the middle (the middle way that has become the antithesis of safe mediocrity) of all that, and who is fly, all entangled in sticky satire's trap, remains a question.
A central issue of the poem then is sorting out this tricky involved relationship of authority and perspective; this satire's central subject of sex and woman as sex more or less convenient for certain relatively privileged Roman males both reflects what is out there in real Roman life and entails a certain (gendered and otherwise complicated) way of seeing what is out there. That 'seeing' is never neutral, it goes without saying, but neither does it amount to mechanical ideology. In this case it is a compounded vision, building on Lucilian parrhesia--the Lucilian precedent is explicit(17) --Horace's vision is 'about' how Lucilius sees what is out there, how Cato sees it, how the differently-viewing Cupiennius (nolim laudarier' inquit 'sic me') sees it, and, crucially, how we readers see all this. Perspective on perspective, gaze on gaze, at the heart of which is woman as sex; this satire, more than any other, is an open invitation to the reader to enter into this discourse world--then to deal with the consequences.
Again here are issues of power and control, again as in a joke, which is never a unilateral tour-de-force. Rather it depends upon, needs, an audience, and needs from them reaction--failing which there is the painful spectacle of the comic losing control, dissolving before a stony-faced audience. Horace's poem opens to view this latent tension: asserting perspective and control even while raising the prospect of readerly resistance and counter-control. In reading out a lecture on 'sane' sexual indulgence to an audience ostensibly selected by gender and social rank, Horace writes as an insider, asking, as it were, 'what, given our place in society and our choices, ought we to do about taking sexual pleasure?'(18) The question presumes legitimacy, community, solidarity, exploitation, exclusion, as the author places his reader along with himself within this social solidarity. Equally, the gesture represents, even while disguising, a kind of control over his reader: 'like it or not, this is your world too, this enframed construction of values, likes, dislikes, problems, concerns, pleasures.' We in the audience are told where (with whom) we're sitting as we watch our satiric drama unfold. Not least importantly, we are sitting, again, with Lucilius, who in frr. 923-4 (hic corpus solidum invenies, hic stare papillas / pectore marmoreo [here you will find a firm body, breasts standing out from a chest white as marble]) and 927-8 (quae et poscent minus et praebebunt rectius multo / et sine flagitio [those women who demand less and make their offer with more propriety and without threat of disgrace]) seems to comment explicitly on the least troublesome and most economical opportunities for sexual gratification.(19) Lucilius (together with Lucretius) marks the poem's thematic origin, and it is tempting, tracing generic influence, to see Lucilian bravado throughout, or its ghost haunting even the modest-seeming evasions of the Horatian voice.(20) And we readers may decide that we are meant to look at all this from Lucilian satire's private box--best view in the house. Yet we have seen that Horace has used his Lucilian bearings to compound his own satiric perspective and ours as well. The invocation of Lucilius raises the issue of history, pastness, distance, change--and here is signalled the reader's scruple; is Horace's placing himself and us cheek by jowl with that aristocratic proto-satirist with all his world-view entails quite the right fit? The question stipulates a third degree of distance: we (because with Horace self-consciously 'after' Lucilius) see ourselves (where Horace has positioned us) seeing this problem of sexual discipline or opportunity as Lucilius does.(21) The poem's initial gesture is at once selectively inclusive--Lucilius, Horace and his readers (us) indulging in a bit of boy-talk--and at the same time distancing, for the poem virtually requires a degree of readerly self-consciousness, asks us to wonder what we are doing in this neighborhood. No exculpating evasion, this: readers historically have positioned themselves, taken a view, with respect to this disconcerting satire.(22) What has remained unremarked is the degree to which the poem has required that response, has made the fact of the reader's reacting presence a feature of its inscape.
Registering an awareness of that mobile dynamic, we may be less inclined to see the satire as straight transcription of Horace's 'preoccupations' and more disposed to consider its presentation of a 'subject' within a self-consciously literary frame. Consider, for instance, the subject of best sex and attendant cultural assumptions--on which the poem is commonly assumed to represent 'Horace's view.' It is a curiously inconclusive view that patterns itself dialectically and leads, finally, not to definite conclusions but rather to a textual space where sexuality becomes part, though not merely part, of a largely cognitive play. The poem is built on contrasting pairs of elements (whores, matrons; high-priced courtesans, domestic servants; aspirations high and low; veiled and undisguised attractions; excessive desire and 'common sense'; the 'empty' and 'solid'; natural and unnatural; illusory and real . . .), beginning in its explicit turn to the question of sex at v. 28 with the contrast between low prostitutes (olenti in fornice stantem) and matronae, the optimal "middle" between which would be the freedwomen Horace is said to be partial to (47-48):
libertinarum dico . . .
(How much safer is trade with the second class, I mean freedwomen. . .)
But of course it isn't so. For that desideratum is followed immediately by qualification (48-49):
non minus insanit quam qui moechatur.
(Sallustius goes no less crazy over these than does the adulterer over his willing wives.)
Suggesting that all bets are off; one may obsess as disastrously about freedwomen as about others. In fact, the point of Horace's rhetorical exercise seems now to revert to balance of mind in Epicurean terms (49-53)(23) :
qua res, qua ratio suaderet, quaque modeste
munifico esse licet, vellet bonus atque benignus
esse, daret quantum satis esset nec sibi damno
(But if he wanted to be goodly and generous, as purse and reason dictate, and as a moderate generosity allows, he would fork over only what is enough and not pay himself into ruin and disgrace.)
Other Epicurean monitions about 'consuming' within nature's limits at 72ff. and 111ff. inform the drift the poem might seem to be taking, but the Epicurean ethical chat in this poem never rises above the level of decorative wit. The latter part of the satire, from the horse-trading vignette glossing the predatory male's choice of desirable woman (regibus hic mos est: ubi equos mercantur opertos / inspiciunt, ne si facies ut saepe decora / molli fulta pede est emptorem inducat hiantem . . . [kings have a method: when they buy horses they examine them covered up, so that the pretty appearance, as often, underpinned by a soft hoof, not mislead the gawping buyer], 86-88) through the comic account of the fleeing adulterer (127ff.), focuses dramatic attention on the wrong kinds of choices lovers make in terms that are motile rather than consistent. Niall Rudd's diagnosis, quoted in the course of Bushala's argument, still has purchase:
And it gets worse, for at 116 Horatian lust devolves into an undiscriminating reductio:
ancilla aut verna est praesto puer, impetus in quem
continuo fiat, malis tentigine rumpi?
(When your loins swell up, if a maid or servant or boy is to hand, easy to take, would you rather burst from the tension?)
diceret haec animus: 'quid vis tibi? numquid ego a te
magno prognatum deposco consule cunnum
velatumque stola mea cum conferbuit ira?'
This would seem simple enough: 'give me what I need,' basic biology. And doesn't Horace seem to call for something of the same sort at 116ff.? Here, the pragmatically lusting poet appears to have his Lucretian say (119-122):
illam 'post paulo: sed pluris: si exierit vir'
Gallis, hanc Philodemus ait sibi quae neque magno
stet pretio neque cunctetur cum est iussa venire.
(Not me: for I want available and easy love. "To the Gauls" with your 'later,' 'a bit more cash,' 'if my husband's out' girls--so at least Philodemus says; for him, someone at an economy rate who doesn't dally when called.)
nec magis alba velit quam dat natura videri.
haec ubi supposuit dextro corpus mihi laevum
Ilia et Egeria est: do nomen quodlibet illi, . . .
(She should be fair and straight; elegant, smart but not taller or whiter than nature allows. When such a one has placed herself just so, body to body, she is an Ilia and Egeria together: I give what name I choose, . . .)
Not basic biology after all. For not only is this fantasia at direct odds with the muto-talk earlier ('give me anything'), but contrasts with the fastidiousness of the earlier 'Horatian' voice at 90-3:
contemplere oculis, Hypsaea caecior illa
quae mala sunt spectes. 'o crus! o bracchi!' verum
depugis, nasuta, brevi latere ac pede longo est.
In 123ff. blemishes go unnoticed, as the love object is, now, female, fair and straight, rightly proportioned within limits prescribed by 'nature.' This may seem to affirm some of the Epicurean sermonizing earlier, but there (vv. 73-76 and 111-13) nature offered chastening guidance to the mind's out-of-hand desires. Here, nature becomes aestheticizing, subscribes a certain kind of (natural, not powdered-up) physical desirability. Earlier thoughts slip out of consideration as the lover's imagination hots up, and the last line of this passage resurrects appeals long dismissed: in the mind's eye, the beloved now can become a nobly born matrona.(27) One could say that this is just Horace having his maid and matron too, that the obvious point is that sexual pleasure with a servant can be just as good as, or better than, with La Belle Dame. But there would be little call for the ennobling fantasy if it weren't attractive to the voice satirizing, poem long, noble attractions, and if imaginative fictioning were not somehow necessary not only to experience of pleasure but to the poem's representation of same. Just where we have got by way of explicit recommendation, then, at virtually the poem's end is not easy to specify: a lovely lover, 'noble' but on hand, willing.... The sex that is best may be, in fact, no sex at all, or sex of the mind, of fantasy, the kind inscribed in jokes and in poetry.(28)
This (non-)resolution of the poem's apparent thematic issues robs it of any substructure of Lucretian didaxis. Rather, what has been foregrounded is an experimental literary formulation: the authorized voice that creates the poem's 'satire,' that dynamic of targeted 'folly' and targeting (implicated) solidarity, is made to be seen as part of a constructed incorporation of prior textual (and other) authority and itself merely a text in a larger dialogue with the reader's potentially subversive power. This is not merely 'our reading satire'; Horatian satire, in contradistinction to texts that 'tell,' ordain, or preach, fashions readerly insurgency by foregrounding its textual self-awareness. Conspicuous manifestation comes early, for instance in the allusion to Ennius in lines 37-38:
qui moechis non voltis, ut omni parte laborent , ...
(It's worthwhile to attend, you who don't want adulterers to flourish, to how they suffer at every point. . .)
qui rem Romanam Latiumque augescere vultis.(29)
Horace here has some fun in displacing Ennius' words from the realm of political piety into the world of sexual misadventure.(30) More latently, the intertextuality may remind us of the close relationship between traditional political idealism and the unseemly behaviors lurking behind its facade, of the violence that enforces and enables aristocratic virtue, that keeps the Roman domus intact: if one is a reasonably affluent Roman male with a stake in the way things 'ought to be,' the only answer to the philanderer's (and alter ego's) threat against the vested interest of one's possession of woman (as matrona, as controlled sex) is a countervailing threat. And so we get one: Horace's seriocomic (man's eye) run-through of the conventional punishments for the adulterer.(31) But the Ennian allusion that initiates that dolorous catalogue also marks generic shift, epic to satire, secondarily indicating temporal shift, past to present (37-44):
qui moechis non vultis, ut omni parte laborent,
utque illis multo corrupta dolore voluptas
atque haec rara cadat dura inter saepe pericla.
hic se praecipitem tecto dedit; ille flagellis
ad mortem caesus; fugiens hic decidit acrem
praedonum in turbam; dedit hic pro corpore nummos;
hunc perminxerunt calones; quin etiam illud
accidit, ut quidam testis caudamque salacem
Qua allusion, the Ennius designates epic; followed by homely, even scurrilous instance, the yield is satirical mock-epic: the perils, the leaping from roofs, the battlefield ransoming, the army-like gang, the nasty sword work, all in the context of surreptitous sex. It is a favorite Horatian mode.(32) Often forays into mock-epic are read as an element of 'Horace's' ironic self-fashioning. Not quite up to the higher registers, as he says, in Sat. 2.1.12-15:
deficiunt: neque enim quivis horrentia pilis
agmina nec fracta pereuntis cuspide Gallos
aut labentis equo describat vulnera Parthi.
(Good sir, I haven't the stuff for these ambitions. Not everyone can portray battle lines bristling with spears or dying Gauls, their lances shattered, or gashed Parthian sliding from his horse.)
He toys with them, conspicuously in Satires 1.5, 1.9, 2.1, 2.5, to adumbrate the distance between his poetry, sensibility, language, and world, and that of Homer and Vergil. This would be Horace using genre to make, with fair transparency, a point about himself and his poetry. But allusion in general, and this allusion in particular, functions on another level as well; it stipulates a point of metapoetic awareness. Horace's reference to Ennius, more than simply citing the earlier text, interprets and places Ennius in tendentious light, hence pointing out the act of reading within the poem; Horace's satire 'reads' Ennius--a dramatically different thing from Horace himself reading Ennius and finding himself wanting. The satire enframes and conditions the elements of its own textuality; generic interplay becoming thus a metatextual element in (Horatian) satire's self-formation. This genre will incorporate other genres--in certain ways--read them, and in the self-reflective act of allusion show itself reading them.
All of which lies behind the extravagant use of comedy and mime in this poem, on which Freudenburg has written convincingly: "Horace is a dramatist. Not only has he fashioned a dramatic persona for himself as satirist, he has created an entire comic world as his stage. . . . Closer analysis of [Sat. 1.2] indicates just how heavily Horace has leaned on the analogy with comedy, its themes, type characters, and techniques, in the formation of his Satires."(33) And of course the satire closes with the explicit, full-blown comic scene, adapted from mime, of the lover caught out, in flagrante. Epic, comedy, mime--and proto-elegy too if Barry Baldwin is correct in declaring that "[Horace's] prime concern is to make fun of the passions of the Love Poets by reducing sex to a comic physical exercise."(34) Now there are traces of this poetic kind (albeit difficult at times to distinquish from like tropes in comedy), established by Catullus' Lesbia poems and Gallus' four books of Amores by the time of Horace's writing, throughout the satire. Villius, who is said to have had an adulterous liason with Sulla's daughter, is cast in the role of that much-abused elegiac lover, the exclusus amator (64-67):
nomine deceptus, poenas dedit usque superque
quam satis est pugnis caesus ferroque petitus,
exclusus fore cum Longarenus foret intus.
(Villius, 'son in law' to Sulla out of love for Fausta, the poor wretch deceived by the noble name, paid the price satis superque; beaten, chased with a sword, locked outside while Longarenus enjoyed himself within.)
hoc facit insanum,--multae tibi tum officient res,
custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitae,
ad talos stola demissa et circumdata palla,
plurima, quae invideant pure apparere tibi rem.
(If you seek the illicit love--well-defended, which of course drives you crazier--many are the obstacles in your way: chaperons, sedan chair, hairdressers, hangers on, gown extending right down to her ankles, mantle over that all around, many, many things which prevent access to a clear view.)
in nive sectetur, positum sic tangere nolit'
cantat, et apponit 'meus est amor huic similis; nam
transvolat in medio posita et fugientia captat.'
Hiscine versiculis speras tibi posse dolores
atque aestus curasque gravis e pectore pelli?
("As the hunter pursues the hare through deep snow, but doesn't touch it when it's placed before him" he sings, "so is my love like to this; for it passes over what's put in front of it, but chases what runs away." Do you hope your sorrows and tempestuous emotions will be driven from your heart by versicles like these?")
That editorial comment frames Callimachean epigram, telling us of course how we should see the stock manners of amores, but perhaps more crucially that we should see it as a certain kind of literary formulation. And again, one of the most characteristic turns of elegy and comedy, the paraclausithyron, appears only mildly disguised and lavishly parodied in the outside-the-closed-door conversation, mentioned earlier, between the lover Villius and his penis (68-72). Horace replaces contemporary love poetry's gorgeously absurd song of amorous psychopathology with a crude send-up. One reason for this, as Baldwin has said, is simple parody of the conventions and attitudes of love poetry and all its attendant literary/aesthetic politics, using the rude language of plain sex talk to deflate the precious locutions of the refined poet-lover.(36) Horace writes up Villius's curious little dialogue to demonstrate what, on one level, underpins it all. Just as cunni albi are an enfiguration of Roman matrons as sexual possibilities, Horace's scenario here enfigures, reads (proto-) elegiac love poetry tendentiously: as a chat between the Roman male and his penis. Horace does not speak of love: he speaks of lust and class envy (quid responderet? 'magno patre nata puella est' [What should he say? "That the girl is born of a noble father," 72])--that which subscribes elegy's exclusivity.
Traditionally, satire is supposed to do precisely what Horace's poem seems to do at this point--ridicule pretension (viz. the pretensions of a literary clique he was, probably a little enviously, not part of) and tell the unvarnished truth. Alas, lust and class envy are no more 'true' than love: both are consequences of certain ways of looking. The poetry to be called, in Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid, subjective love elegy presents itself as a way of seeing, of writing love; it enfigures men and women in precise roles, desiring subject and desired object, active and passive, even while it plays with inversions that feminize traditional male conceptions. In seeming to puncture the (manners and baggage of the) love poetry of Catullus, Gallus, and others writing the stuff, Horace composes a meta-script in which elegiac love is a generic view of sex itself seen in the context of other generic views. The very 'pragmatism' of Horace or his speaker at this point, the one who wants to do away with all the foolery and get down to business with the maid (too neatly the antitype of the love-struck elegist to be real), is itself a generic construction, that of epigram. The poet even marks it as such by explicitly citing the epigrammatist Philodemus (119-22, quoted above). There is nothing 'authorized' about Philodemus; he had made an earlier appearance, at 92-3, where his o crus! o bracchia! was satirized as credulous and unnoticing in the horse-market of sex. In 119-22, Philodemus speaks in the tone and manner of epigram, commenting on the voice from love poetry.(37) Horace's satire on sex is, in fact, a place made of distinct language worlds, at once competing and somehow organized into a coherent medley.
But leading where? Not, certainly, to the "priapic braggadocio" some see endemic to satire any more than to epigram's acid pragmatism.(38) The voice of love lyric already noted satirically raises the prospect of priapic powerlessness (this satire is not just anti-elegiac, but floats its constructions into the reader's view); Villius, our excluded lover, is virtually separate from his back-talking penis. And Horace's catalogue of love's troubles at 37-44 not only 'warns' the ambitious amator, but places him in explicitly passive position (ille flagellis / ad mortem caesus . . . hunc perminxerunt colones; quin etiam illud accidit, ut quidam testis caudamque salacem demeteret ferro); this is the institutionalized shaming of the adulterer written up melodramatically, but it prefigures the poem's closing, stock scene from yet another generic landscape, comedy and mime, wherein Horace seems to write 'himself' (127-34):
ianua frangatur, latret canis, undique magno
pulsa domus strepitu resonet, vepallida lecto
desiliat mulier, miseram se conscia clamet,
cruribus haec metuat, doti deprensa, egomet mi.
discincta tunica fugiendum est ac pede nudo,
ne nummi pereant aut puga aut denique fama.
deprendi miserum est; Fabio vel iudice vincam.
(Nor am I afraid that while I'm going at it her husband might return from the country, the door be broken in, dog set up a din, the house resound from every corner with pounding, guilty wife (gone quite pale) leap from bed and her conspiring maid cry woe, the latter fearing for her legs, milady for her dowry--and I for myself. Flight's the thing, clothes trailing and barefoot, lest I lose my money, backside, and reputation. It's a bad thing to get caught; I'll win that case with even Fabius judging.)
Non vereor, he writes with conspicuous irony, then proceeds to set out in doting detail the humiliations of the lover caught out; and with that emphatic egomet mi turns in the last three lines of outright 'confession' of failure and comic flight. In this there is a deep-seated consistency; each of the poem's conflicting conceptions of sex entails controlling power, yet that control slips away from the male in the course of the poem's treatment. Just as the male himself is most frequently represented as out of control, a prisoner of his own preconceptions about what is desireable, of his libido, of convention. The paradox of the controlling male vision at the mercy of its own and other forces (chased, pummeled, enslaved) is at the heart of the poem's strange, inquiring fantasia.(39)
The offending lover of vv. 37-44, humiliated, acted upon rather than acting, and the 'Horace' who runs half-clad from his lover's bedroom represent the poem's predominant leitmotif; in this last incarnation, he is not far in terms of constructed persona (for he is here a denizen of mime) from the carnivalesque crowd that introduces the poem: ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae, mendici, mimae, balatrones, hoc genus omne. Horace's closing register echoes his opening notes--suggesting completion, return to the major key of low comedy. From comic eulogy to comic flight. And that final gesture may be important. This satire has from its beginning fashioned a view of sex that is variously 'authorized,' given authority by conventional, gendered social assumption and by literary precedent patched together in a process of rhetorical construction. We have seen that authorizing infrastructure being made to work against itself as it is made explicit by Horace's narrative and held to view--to the critical attention of an audience that may share implicit assumptions about sex and society but whose larger awareness of the poem as constructed artefact necessarily becomes part of its reading, its meaning. We have noted further that Horace has created a perspective on sex that is really a composite of warring views, originating in diverse generic scripts. The lesson to be taken from the poem may be simply that sex is always, inescapably scripted; that satire at its best makes that truth known to us as well as the further truth that scripts authorize certain dynamics of response--that we readers are both involved with and responsible for what goes up (or down) on the page. So that last comic flight of 'Horace': flight maybe from priapic assertion, evasion of the obligation to tell us, really, what he thinks about sex; or another kind of assertion, that sex is a comedy of diverse manners; or more likely, I think, that the comic scene, the big joke, most explicitly of all generic tricks, calls for response: do you think this funny, and why?
And that should lead us to further speculation about what Horace has made. Not, certainly, a straightforward critique of (or, conversely, an apology for) men's sexual obsessions; nor, like Lucretius a concerted effort to deliver readers from error; nor, like Lucilius, a cut and thrust progress through the lesser reality that is us. Perhaps it is (merely) this: to make 'satire' a thing that perforce shows up its own openness, instability, and finitude. We cannot, are not allowed to, 'believe' in Horatian satire's 'authority' because Horace openly testifies to its status as (ingeniously) made-up text bound to be read by those with, it turns out, more final authority; there could hardly be a more emblematic representation of that than Horace running away, at poem's end, pulling on bits of comic costume. Which does not mean that he does not face up to the big ideas of Lucretian didactic; he might just be showing that they are in fact a bit more complex and contingent than his great predecessor represents. This dialogic satire Horace is inventing shows up those ideas (along with the literary and social traditions that encode them) under discussion, in that messy conceptual place that is prior to the necessarily reductive finality of Lucretian and Lucilian decision, the 'authorized' point of view and all that implies about writer and reader. Sat. 1.4 sets about the task of describing his anti-Lucilian satire, marking out distance from both his precursor and the tenor of diatribe that colors the first three poems of that first book; his adverting to 1.2, to what he has done with Lucilius, may be that later poem's most potent programmatic gesture.
2 D.R. Dudley, "The Satiric Element in Lucretius," in Lucretius (London 1965), pp. 115-130; H.P. Houghton, "Lucretius as Satirist," TAPA 43 (1912): xxxiv-ix; C. Murley, "Lucretius and the History of Satire," TAPA 70 (1939): 380-95; Niall Rudd, The Satires of Horace (Cambridge 1966), 24-26; and esp. Robert D. Brown, Lucretius on Love and Sex (Leiden 1987), 127-43. Martha Nussbaum touches on this material in her Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton 1994), 140-91.
3 Dudley, 121-27; for bibliography on the relationship of Lucretius and Catullus, Brown (140) points us to L. Hermann, "Catulle et Lucréce," Latomus 15 (1956): 465 n. 1. See too E.J. Kenney, "Doctus Lucretius," Mnemosyne, 23 (1970): 366-92; A. Betensky, "Lucretius and Love," CW 73 (1980): 291-99.
5 cf. E. Fraenkel, Horace, (Oxford 1957), 76-86; D. Armstrong, "Horace, Satires 1.1-3: A Structural Study," Arion 3 (1964), 86-96; N. Rudd (1966), 9-12, 30-33; C. Dessen, "The Sexual and Financial Mean in Horace's Serm., 1.2, AJP 89 (1968): 200-208.
9 John Henderson, "Not 'Women in Satire' but Satire writes Woman," in S. Braund, ed., Satire and Society in Ancient Rome, Exeter Studies in History (Exeter 1989), 89-125. The essay was revised for publication as "Satire Writes Woman: Gendersong" in Writing Down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry (Oxford 1999), 173-209.
18 Richlin, 177, goes further in claiming that the subject matter of 1.2 "depends on preoccupations of [Horace's] own; among them "the question of control and the related question of money. . . [a]pparently prompted by uneasiness over his humble origins, Horace returns again and again to musings on the importance of money and power."
19 Warmington's text (ROL III) and translations, slightly modified. He further notes in re fr. 927-8, "Lucilius apparently advocates the brothel in preference to other ways of satisfying lust. But the fragment is not certain; if qui is right, it refers to male prostitutes who would be in no danger of flagitium, scandal (sc. of an illegitimate child)."
21 See the general treatment of influence in G.C. Fiske, Lucilius and Horace: A Study in the Classical Theory of Imitation. University of Wisconsin Studies in Language and Literature 7 (Madison 1920), 248-74.
22 Henderson (1989 and 1999) and Richlin go after Horace: gendered discourse, deep-structured misogyny. Others, earlier, find ways of talking about its (metaphorized) philosophical and/or literary content; still others avoid this "Horace" who seems, if really "here," a little too crude. All are positions taken; all, some less directly to be sure than others, address where "we" fit in all this.
23 Bushala's view, in general terms: ""Extremism is bad no matter in what category, in what class, or in what amatory possibility it occurs. There is no difference whether one errs with a matron, a brothel prostitute, or a libertina. The error is not in the category per se but rather in the manner, the style, in which such activity is carried out" (314).
28 It would be incorrect to contend that the inconcinnity between the undecorated sex advocated by Villius' muto and the decorated fantasy of 'Horace's' love object points to anything like the modern distinction between sex and sexuality, the former biological in essence and the latter the social construction of sexual relations and identities. The cultural mediation of sex, its conceptual baggage, is in fact evident throughout the satire, not least in that funny little penile outburst. But it may be fair to say that Horace toys with the illusion that sex might be a matter of simple biological imperative, only to show, as we shall see, how even that image is conditioned by 'discourse' in the largest sense. The bibliography on the history of 'sexuality' is very large and beyond easy summary here but minimally: M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, tr. R. Hurley (New York 1978); J. Hallet and M. Skinner, edd., Roman Sexualities (Princeton 1997); D. Halperin, J. Winkler, F. Zeitlin, edd., Before Sexuality (Princeton 1990); L. Irigaray, This Sex Which is Not One, tr., C. Porter and C. Burke (Ithaca 1985); and D. Milligan, Sex-life: A Critical Commentary on the History of Sexuality (London 1993).
38 M. Skinner, in her useful introduction to Roman Sexualities (Princeton 1997), p. 12: "just as satire inscribes a poetics of priapic braggadocio, so elegy, in its incessant flirtation with the passive subject position, fluctuates among three intersecting gender modalities, the masculine, the effeminate, and the feminine." Skinner's generalization is too categorical in respect to satire, though she is certainly correct in remarking the overt play with gender in elegy.
39 Not so, says Henderson (1999): "[Horace] takes for granted the nature of males, which is to say he deflects scrutiny away from the construction and constructedness of maleness, and so represses any questioning of it. H projects the issue away from males themselves and toward the cultural obstacles which condition the sane satis-faction of the 'ever present, powerful thrust of their sexual drives.' Consumed by Maleness, Man is denied (the pleasures of) problematization" (187). JH may be right, but the point of my look at the satire has been that the compounding of genres and perspectives in this not-simple or univocal poem problematizes a number of things, including maleness.