The facetum ingenium, as it manifests itself in satire and invective, does 대전오피 not properly here concern us: it belongs to another order of poetry. Yet I may be allowed to illustrate from this species of composition the manner in which the Italian spirit in Roman poetry asserts for itself a dominatingxxii and individual place. Satura quidem tota nostra est, says Quintilian. We know now that this is not so: that Quintilian was wrong, or perhaps rather that he has expressed himself in a misleading fashion. Roman Satire, like the rest of Roman literature, looks back to the Greek world. It stands in close relation to Alexandrian Satire—a literature of which we have hitherto been hardly aware. Horace, when he asserted the dependence of Lucilius on the old Attic Comedy, was nearer the truth than Quintilian. But the influence of Attic Comedy comes to Lucilius (and to Horace and to Juvenal and to Persius) by way of the Alexandrian satirists. From the Alexandrians come many of the stock themes of Roman Satire, many of its stock characters, much of its moral sentiment. The captator, the μεμψίμοιρος, the auarus are not the creation of Horace and Juvenal. The seventh satire of Juvenal is not the first 'Plaint of the Impoverished Schoolmaster' in literature. Nor is Horace Sat. II. viii the earliest 'Dinner with a Nouveau-Riche'. In all this, and in much else in Roman Satire, we must recognize Alexandrian influence. Yet even so we can distinguish clearly—much more clearly, indeed, than in other departments of Latin poetry—the Roman and the primitive Italian elements. 'Ecquid is homo habet aceti in pectore?' asks Pseudolus in Plautus. And Horace, in a well-known phrase, speaks of Italum acetum, which the scholiast renders by 'Romana mordacitas'. This 'vinegar' is the coarse and biting wit of the Italian countryside. It has its origin in the casual ribaldry of the uindemiatores: in the rudely improvized dramatic contests of the harvest-home. Transported to the city it becomes a permanent part ofxxiii Roman Satire. Roman Satire has always one hero—the average paterfamilias. Often he is wise and mild and friendly. But as often as not he is merely the uindemiator, thinly disguised, pert and ready and unscrupulous, 'slinging vinegar' not only at what is morally wrong but at anything which he happens either to dislike or not to understand. The vices of his—often imaginary—antagonist are recounted with evident relish and with parade of detail.

It is not only in Satire that we meet this Italum acetum. We meet it also in the poetry of personal invective. This department of Roman poetry would hardly perhaps reward study—and it might very well revolt the student—if it were not that Catullus has here achieved some of his most memorable effects. In no writer is the Italum acetum found in so undiluted a sort. And he stands in this perhaps not so much for himself as for a Transpadane school. The lampoons of his compatriot Furius Bibaculus were as famous as his own. Vergil himself—if, as seems likely, the Catalepton be a genuine work of Vergil—did not escape the Transpadane fashion. In fact the Italian aptitude for invective seems in North Italy, allied with the study of Archilochus, to have created a new type in Latin literature—a type which Horace essays not very successfully in the Epodes and some of the Odes. The invective of Catullus has no humbug of moral purpose. It has its motive in mere hate. Yet Catullus knew better than any one how subtle and complex an emotion is hate. Two poems will illustrate better than anything I could say his power here: and will at the same time make clear what I mean when I distinguish the Italian from the Roman temperament in Latin poetry.


Let any one take up the eleventh poem of Catullus:

cum suis uiuat ualeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullam amans uere sed identidem omnium
ilia rumpens.
There is invective. There is the lash with a vengeance. Yet the very stanza that follows ends in a sob:

nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem,
qui illius culpa cecidit uelut prati
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam
tactus aratrost.
Turn now for an inverse effect to the fifty-eighth poem:

Caeli, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
plus quam se atque suos amauit omnes ...
Note the dragging cadences, the pathetic iteration, the scarce-concealed agony of longing. Yet this five-line poem ends in a couplet of intolerable obscenity.

There once more you have the unpredictable Celtic temperament—obscenity of wrath dissolving in the tenderness of unbidden tears, fond regret stung suddenly to a rage foul and unscrupulous.

But let me here guard against a misapprehension. The more closely we study Roman poetry the more clearly do we become aware of the presence in it of a non-Roman element: and the more does it seem as though this non-Roman element were the originative force, as though it were to this that Roman poetry owes most of that in it which we regard as essentially poetical. The quickening force in the best Roman poetry is the Italian blood. Yet we speakxxv of this poetry as Roman: and it is not without reason that we do so. If it was to a great extent made by Italians, it was made by Italians who were already Romanized. Indeed the Italian and the Roman elements are never so separate or so disparate in actuality as they appear in literary analysis. The Italian spirit worked always under the spell of Rome, and not under any merely external compulsion. And the spell of Rome is over the whole of Roman poetry. The Italians were only a nation through Rome: and a great poetry must have behind it a great life: it must express a great people, their deeds and their ideals. Roman poetry does, beyond almost any other poetry, bear the impress of a great nation. And after all the language of this poetry is the language of the Romans. It is said of it, of course, that it is an unpoetical language. And it is true that it has not the dance and brightness of Greek: that it is wanting in fineness and subtlety: that it is defective in vocabulary. All this is true. Yet the final test of the poetical character of a language is the poetry that is written in it. The mere sound of Roman poetry is the sound of a great nation. And here let us remember what we ought never to forget in reading Roman poetry. It was not made to be read. It was made to be spoken. The Roman for the most part did not read. He was read to. The difference is plain enough. Indeed it is common to hear the remark about this or that book, that 'It is the kind of book that ought to be read aloud'. Latin books were read aloud. And this practice must have reacted, however obscurely, upon the writing of them. Some tinge of rhetoric was inevitable. And here I am led to a new theme.


Perhaps no poetry of equal power and range is so deeply infected with rhetoric as the Roman. A principal cause of this is, no doubt, the language. But there are other causes, and we shall most easily penetrate these if we consider what I may call the environment of Roman poetry.

Two conditions in Rome helped to foster literary creation among a people by temperament unimaginative. Of these the first is an educational system deliberately and steadily directed towards the development of poetical talent. No nation ever believed in poetry so deeply as the Romans. They were not a people of whom we can say, as we can of the Greeks, that they were born to art and literature. Those of them who attained to eminence in art and literature knew this perfectly well. They knew by how laborious a process they had themselves arrived at such talent as they achieved. The characteristic Roman triumphs are the triumphs of material civilization. But the Romans were well aware that a material civilization cannot be either organized or sustained without the aid of spiritual forces, and that among the most important of the spiritual forces that hold together the fabric of nationality are art and literature. With that large common sense of theirs which, as they grew in historical experience, became more and more spiritual, they perceived early, and they gauged profoundly, the importance of accomplishments not native to their genius. They knew what had happened to the 'valiant kings' who 'lived before Agamemnon'—and why. The same couldxxvii easily happen to a great empire. That is partially, of course, a utilitarian consideration. But the Romans believed also, and deeply, in the power of literature—and particularly of poetry—to humanize, to moralize, to mould character, to inspire action. It was this faith which, as Cicero tells us, lay behind the great literary movement associated with the circle of Scipio Africanus. It was this faith which informed the Augustan literature. Horace was a man of the world—or he liked to think himself one. He was no dreamer. Yet when he speaks of the influence of high poetry upon the formation of character he speaks with a grave Puritanism worthy of Plato. These practical Romans had a practicality deeper than ours. The average Englishman, when he is told that 'the battle of Waterloo was won by the sonnets of Wordsworth', is puzzled and even offended. Nothing of Eton and its playing-fields? Nothing of Wellington and his Guards? What have sonnets in common with soldiering? But the Roman knew of himself that sonnets are a kind of soldiering. And much as he admired deeds, he knew that there is no deed greater than 'the song that nerves a nation's heart.'

These are not mere words: and this was not, in the Roman, an idle faith. It was a practical faith; that is to say, he acted upon it. Upon this faith was based, at any rate in the early period of Roman history, the whole of the Roman system of education. The principal business of the Roman schoolmaster was to take the great poets and interpret them 'by reading and comment'. Education was practically synonymous with the study of the poets. The poets made a man brave, the poets made a man eloquent,xxviii the poets made him—if anything could make him—poetical. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the obscure benefit to the national life of a discipline in which the th