Horace’s description in Satire 1.9 of his encounter with a bore is an excellent example of his satirical style. The bore is never named, and though several critics have attempted to identify him with the poet Sextus Propertius, Horace provides no clues as to his identity. The reason is that Horace does not wish to create a poem filled with invective against a particular individual. Rather, Horace’s intention is to satirize dullness in general. Humor in the poem is derived from the reader’s identification with Horace’s predicament. Everyone can recall an incident in which an annoying individual would not leave despite numerous hints. In this way, Horace criticizes the behavior of the bore and of others like him rather than attacking the person by name.

During their (rather one-sided) conversation, the bore reveals that he is a poet and is hoping that Horace will introduce him to Gaius Maecenas (Horace’s wealthy patron). In so doing, the bore alienates Horace still further by completely misunderstanding the relationship that poets such as Horace have with their patron, by stressing his ability to write quickly (elsewhere in the Satires, Horace makes it clear that he prefers polished writing to swift writing), and by assuming that Horace wants to compete with the other poets in Maecenas’s circle. The bore, therefore, appears shallow and insensitive, as well as annoying.

It is unlikely that Horace, in this satire as elsewhere, really sought to correct the fault that he is ridiculing. Few readers will leave this work with a renewed desire to be more interesting and less annoying to others. Rather, by gently mocking this common human flaw, Horace leaves his readers smiling at a situation that they will recognize and a type of folly with which they are well familiar.


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