My aim is to take familiar things and make
Poetry of them, and do it in such a way
That it looks as if it was as easy as could be
For anybody to do it . . . the power of making
A perfectly wonderful thing out of nothing much. --from "The Art of Poetry"
When David Ferry's translation of The Odes of Horace appeared in 1997, Bernard Knox wrote in The New York Review of Books that it was "a Horace for our times." Now Ferry has translated Horace's two books of Epistles, in which he perfected his dazzling conversational verse medium, speaking with directness, wit, and urgency, to young writers, to friends, to his patron Maecenas, to Emperor Augustus himself. It is the voice of a free man, talking about how to get along in a Roman world full of temptations, opportunities, and contingencies with one's integrity intact.
Horace's world, so unlike our own and yet so like it, comes to life in these poems. And there are also the poems -- the famous "Art of Poetry" and others -- about the tasks and responsibilities of the writer: truth to the demands of one's medium, fearless clear-sighted self-knowledge, and unillusioned, uncynical realism, joyfully recognizing the world for what it is.
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A passage truncated by Ferry as: "It's that I follow whatever is bad for me/ And shun the things that might be good for me," is given in full by Jacob Fuchs (Horace's Satires and Epistles) as: "I seek what injures me, flee what I think may help./ The wind blows me: in Rome I love Tibur, in Tibur ...| Read Full Review of The Epistles of Horace