From Plants to Poets: Sequential Imagery in the Epilogue Odes of Horace's First Three Books

Kathleen R. Burt

University of Florida

When scholars turn to analyze the three end poems of Odes I-III, inevitably they group Odes 2.20 and 3.30 together and treat Ode 1.38 separately. All three odes share the distinction of being in the prominent final spot in the book, but Odes 2.20 and 3.30 share the common theme of the poet achieving immortality through his art and are treated together as a set, while 1.38 concentrates on the carpe diem theme and is considered separately. Upon closer examination of these poems, an unmistakable link appears. Each epilogue Ode contains imagery representative of the main message of that particular Ode, and in the sequence of these images progressing through the end-Odes Horace establishes a common thread.

Horace presents some of his favorite themes that deal with disparate issues of life and death in the epilogues to each of first three Books of Odes. Ode 1.38 is a snapshot of a sympotic moment expressing the carpe diem theme opposed to seeking after immortality, and the epilogues of the following two Books are written on the theme of the vates achieving immortality in contrasting yet complementary tones and styles. There is a clear thematic division between Ode 1.38, and Odes 2.20 and 3.30, but there are also some significant differences between the two Odes that share the crucial theme of poetic immortality which cause scholars to compare and contrast them as a pair. The differences between 2.20 and 3.30 also illustrate that the two Odes most alike in basic theme contain the transitional and concluding stages of the progression of imagery. Examining the thematic differences of the end-Odes reveals that the prevailing image of each of the final Odes relates the progression of the power of the poet overcoming the natural order of life and death.


Back to 2006 Meeting Home Page