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Horace’s philosophy of life, I believe, can be summed up quite effectively by this line on his poem Gather Ye Rosebuds, addressed to Leuconoe: “This day’s thine own, the next may be denied”. Horace is all about finding fulfilment in life through enjoyment of “the present hour”, and living a life worth living. He finds no joy in wars or worries, but says that life is only worth living if you can enjoy it as much as possible.
Gather Ye Rosebuds is the first poem in which Horace attests to this philosophy of life. He tells Leuconoe that he does not care what astrologers predict, or whatever may befall him, he believes that we are powerless to act in opposition to the fate of the world, so one should drink a lot, be happy, don’t think about the future, and generally enjoy each day as it comes. While we debate politics or future uncertainties, time that you could be enjoying slips away. I think this shows Horace’s philosophy of life most strongly.
Horace also tells us that deciding to save and be stringent with money is a waste. “Enjoy your possessions while they are yours” is a poem that describes death, and the inevitability of it, but also contrasts it with the beauty of life that you could be enjoying right now. He describes a beautiful villa on the banks of the river Tiber, that you worked long and hard to purchase, just for your heirs to swoop in and grab up all your hoarded gold, then presumably go and waste it. Horace wants us to enjoy the use of our money now, and not worry about leaving it to anyone, because you’ll be dead, and they’ll squander it anyway. He also mentions this in “We all must die”, saying that death is inevitable, and your heirs will quickly forget about you once you’re dead, so there’s no use giving them everything you made.
The philosophy of Horace also includes his wish to escape from ‘all this’, in “A Quiet Life”, he talks at length about the fact that humans fight, humans struggle, humans live to find a calm and quiet life after the fact. Soldiers endure their hunger, cold and marches because they want to return home to peace. Money and power doesn’t calm the chaos inside of one’s mind, nor does being king. Horace preaches that one is with few means, but is perfectly happy with this means, and does not seek constantly more, more, more. All the happiest man wants, is peace and quiet. You can’t escape your fate, no bodyguards will let you outrun fear, so one should laugh and be merry to drown all of those negative feelings, and aim to live a quiet, peaceful life.
In “Enjoy the Present Hour”, Horace again shows his philosophy of living life to the fullest. He talks about a depressingly cold mountainside outside, but revels in the warmth of his hearth, the wine, and a bit of light conversation to pass the time. He says that the future is the gods’ domain, let them worry about the weather and the seasons, life and death, “Lay hold upon the present hour”, and live in the moment. He says that one day we will all see death coming for us, at some point, and old age will wrack our bodies, but one has to love their youth before these things, to live a fulfilled life. The best times are now, and only the gods need worry about tomorrow.
Horace embraces his own philosophy in Rustic Joys, here talks about how blessed it is to be free from debts, from work, from creditors and other stresses of city life. Horace writes about the beauty of nature, and his love of just being in the countryside, living a quiet life of small pleasures. The man described is a skilled worker, and has skilful hands, Horace respects his skill at work, and the beauty of it. He says the pleasure of a simple life such as this would remove all troubles from the world, such as a lover lost. He romanticises a life in the countryside in the peace and quiet as something with no worries or preoccupations, and that all should strive to life like the man who works on the farm.
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