I’ve been rereading Book IV of Horace’s Odes for the first time in years, and memorizing as much as I can on walks and long drives. When I finish 4.11 tomorrow, I will have 1-3, 7, and 10-13 down, which is probably near the limit of what I can keep in mind at one time. I’ve also compiled a couple of pages of notes, quibbles, emendations, and embryonic reinterpretations. Richard F. Thomas’ 2011 Cambridge ‘green and gold’ commentary has been an invaluable companion, telling me almost everything I needed to know about these poems, but nothing is perfect, and I have noticed one perhaps-not-very-important lapse. In the introduction to 4.10 he writes “With 1.30 and 1.38 the shortest of the Odes“. For a pedant like me, this is problematic in two ways:
1. The number of 8-line odes in Horace is not three but five: 1.30, 1.38, and 3.22 in Sapphics, 1.11 and 4.10 in Greater Asclepiadeans.
2. More important, it seems to me that 1.11 and 4.10 are much longer than the other three, since they have much longer lines. Surely the best measure of the length of a poem is not lines, or even syllables, but morae, short-syllable equivalents. Measured thus, 4.10 and 1.11 are tied for sixth-shortest among the Odes of Horace, and only one mora (0.5%) shorter than the eighth.
Here are the details (I count the final anceps in a line as honorarily long):
- The very shortest odes are the three 8-liners in Sapphics: 1.30 (O Venus, regina Cnidi Paphique), 1.38 (Persicos odi, puer, apparatus), and 3.22 (Montium custos nemorumque, Virgo). A Sapphic stanza is 18+18+18+8 morae = 62, so these are 124 morae each.
- The fourth-shortest is a 12-liner, 1.20 (Vile potabis modicis Sabinum), three Sapphic stanzas adding up to 186 morae.
- Only slightly longer is another 12-liner, 1.23 (Vitas inuleo me similis, Chloe), three stanzas of Third Asclepiadeans (19+19+12+13=63 morae) adding up to 189.
- Tied for sixth-shortest are the other two 8-liners, 1.11 (Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi) and (the one from which we began) 4.10 (O crudelis adhuc et Veneris muneribus potens), in Greater Asclepiadeans (25 morae per line). Whether we divide them into two stanzas or not is irrelevant: either way, a four-line passage comes to 100 morae, and the whole poem to 200, 61% longer than the three 8-liners in Sapphics.
- The eighth-shortest ode of Horace is another 12-liner, 3.26 (Vixi puellis nuper idoneus), three stanzas of Alcaics (18+18+16+15=67 morae) for a total of 201.
Have I missed anything – either an ode or an argument or an arithmetic calculation? Contradictions and corrections are welcome, and may be left in the comments.