A Strange Ambiguity in Horace’s Torquatus Ode (4.7)

One of the many memorable couplets in C. 4.7 is 19-20:

cuncta manus avidas fugient heredis, amico
    quae dederis animo.

Has anyone noted the odd change of meaning when we come to the last word? Up until then, it looks like the poet is advising people to share their money with their friends: “Everything you give to your friend will escape the greedy hands of your heir.” Good advice for those with no living relations they care about. It is only when we come to animo that we see that amico is an adjective, not a noun, and that we are being advised to spend all our money on our own “friendly soul”, that is on ourselves, before we die – a very different, and far less noble-sounding, message. Are we meant to suppose that the addressee Torquatus has no family or friend to leave some of his money to? That would make this magnificently gloomy poem even gloomier.

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