Horace’s Epistles (c. 20-15 b.c.e.) are written in the same meter, and with much the same style, as his Satires. In form, they are poetic letters intended for a recipient who is named in the first few lines; in actuality, they are general commentaries about human weaknesses or other issues of concern to the author himself.
The Art of Poetry is a reiteration of many of the same arguments found in Epistles 2.1, written at the request of Augustus. In that work, Horace discussed his views about the proper role of literature and the place of Roman poetry within the ancient literary tradition. In The Art of Poetry itself, Horace expands upon these and couples them with specific suggestions for the authors of his day.
Horace begins by praising consistency as the highest virtue of poetry. A work that attempts to be now one thing, now another, is eventually, according to Horace, being nothing at all. For this reason, authors must maintain the same tone throughout a work, not attempt to improve an inferior effort with a “purple patch” (purpureus . . . pannus, lines 15-16) of fine words every now and then. Moreover, authors should not attempt subjects that are beyond their powers. If they do, the result will make them look ridiculous.
Each incident and word in a poem should be chosen with care. Precise selection of what is needed, rather than a torrent...
(The entire section is 586 words.)