chapter  6
29 Pages

AMUSEMENTS FOR A SMOKY DECEMBER: HORACE ON POETRY AND OVID ON EROS

One other important aspect of Horace's and Ovid's poems is to be seen in the way that their texts highlight notions of learnt and reasoned behaviour (precisely that which is required of a poet in the Ciceronian mode). It is difficult not to think that the conceptual key to the enterprise represented by Cicero's, Horace's, and Ovid's didactic poetry is a contrast between learnt, reasoned skills and innate, scarcely understood drives. Cicero's poem (it is a translation of a very difficult poem in another language) affirms learnt and reasoned skill (ratio or ars in Latin, technein Greek). The stress on ars and ratio is even more pronounced in Horace and in Ovid. Horace, as we shall see, bases his poem upon the axiom that poetic craft cap be learnt. He periodically affirms this principle in a pointed contrast between ars and ingenium (natural and untutored poetic ability). Ovid too utilizes a discursive variant. He contrasts the ars or ratio of which he would have a lover possessed with the impetus (the passionate drive - it can also be vio/entia or furor and can be associated with natura) which he would have lovers curb, if they wish some sexual success. Ars and ratio perform a double function which is not made clear in the previous formulation. They emphasize the basic didactic theme of instruction on the one hand; they point towards the artificial nature of the poems which we read on the other. An ars that instructs can also be an ars that beguiles.