Odes 1.9, the Soracte ode Summary



The charm of Odes 1.9, the Soracte ode, is derived from Horace’s ability to combine the traditional themes of lyric poetry in new ways. The poem begins with an image of winter: Mount Soracte, twelve miles north of Rome, is covered with snow, and the trees are laden with ice and frost. This image, then, is set into strong contrast with the poet’s description of the warmth inside the house of Thaliarchus (Greek for “master of the festivities”), where wine flows abundantly and logs are heaped upon the fire. This contrast reminds Horace, rather abruptly, of how all things, such as the winter cold, are determined by the gods and must be entrusted to them. As a result, humankind, the poet says, should enjoy its youth while it can, taking delight in such simple pleasures as the warmth of the fire and the distractions of love.

In this way, Horace moves from a description of a natural scene to a commentary on the human condition. The Soracte ode may be read on a number of levels. It captures, as does much of Greek lyric poetry, the particular feeling that its author had at a given moment. Yet it is also a symbolic commentary on the contrast between youth (the fire inside) and old age (the white snow outside).


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