previous next


Ode XVI


The myth of Danae as a symbol of the power of gold and a preface to moralizing on the superior happiness of contented competency. Cf. 2.2; 2.16; 3.1.

Acrisius, king of Argos, fearing the fulfillment of an oracle that his grandson should slay him, shut up his daughter Danae from all suitors. But Jupiter found access to her in a shower of gold, and she became the mother of Perseus.

Cf. Il.14.319 (where there is no brazen tower) ; Apollod. 2.4; Pausan. 2.23.7; Simon. fr. 37 (the exquisite lament of Danae), Pind. Pyth. 12.16; Is. 6. (7) 5; Jebb. on Soph. Antig. 945; The fragments of Naevius' Danae; Ter. Eun. 585-590; Spenser, F. Q. 3.11.31; Herrick, 284, 15; 298, etc.; John Fletcher, 'Danae in a brazen tower| Where no love was loved a shower' ; Prior, An English Padlock, 'Miss Danae when fair and young |(As Horace has divinely sung)| Could not be kept from Jove's embrace,| By doors of steel and walls of brass.'

Cf. also Correggio's Danae, and Tennyson's beautiful line, 'Now lies the earth all Danae to the stars.' The conceits of Cowley's quaint and subtle paraphrase of this ode are interesting (Essays, Of Avarice).

Horace's cynical interpretation of the myth seems to have been a commonplace. Cf. Anth. Pal. 5. 31.6; 5.33.5.217; Ovid, Amores, 3.8.33; Petronius, Le Maire Poetae Minores, 2. 120; Pind. fr. 269.


inclusam: the captive Danae. turris aenea: for aenea, cf. on 3.3.65. But the prehistoric (Mycenaean) bronze-plated walls may be meant. Cf. Soph. Antig. 946, ἐν χαλκοδέταις αὐλαῖς; Ov. Am. 2.19.27, si numquam Danaen habuisset aenea turris; Herrick, 298, 'Rosamund was in a bower| Kept as Danae in a tower'; id. 284, 'It be with Rock, or Walles of Brass | Ye Towre her up, as Danae was.'


robustae: of oak. Cf. 1.3.9; 2.13.19 (?).


tristes: surly, grim. Cf. Propert. 2.6.39; Ov. A. A. 3. 601, tristis custodia servi. excubiae: 4.13.8; Verg. Aen. 9. 159. munierant: cf. on 2.17.28, they had and would still have si non. satis: well.


adulteris: 1.33.9. n.


si non: 3.24.34.


pavidum: he feared the oracle, like Pelias in Pind Pyth. 4.97.


risissent: 'But Venus laughed to see and hear him sleep !' (Cowley). fore enim, etc.: their thought in indirect disc. Cf. Verg. Aen. 1.444; F. Q. 3.11.31, 'Vain was the watch, and bootless all the ward, | Whenas the god to golden hue himself transfar'd.' The unpicturesque pretium, perhaps the best word his vocabulary supplied (cf. 3.19.5; 3.24.24; 4.8.12), serves Horace to introduce the rationalization of the myth. Cf. Ov. Am. 3.8.33; Marlowe, Ed. 2.3.3, 'like the guard| That suffered Jove to pass in showers of gold| To Danae.' deo: probably dative.


aurum, etc.: that 'every door is barred with gold and opens but to golden keys' has always been a commonplace. Cf. Pind. fr. 222; Shaks., 'saint-seducing gold'; Menander's χρυσὸς δ᾽ ἀνοίγει πάντα καὶ ᾁδου πύλας. satellites: guards; cf. 2.18.34.


amat: gaudet and solet. Cf. 2.3.10. n. perrumpere: cf. on 1.3.36. saxa: walls of stone.


ictu: cf. on 1.8.9. auguris Argivi: the Argive seer; Amphi&amacr;rius, whose wife Eriph<*>&ymacr;</*>le was bribed by Polyn&imacr;ces with the necklace of Harmonia to constrain her husband to join the expedition of the Seven against Thebes, in which he met the death he had foreseen. Their son, Alcmaeon, slew Eriph<*>&ymacr;</*>le to avenge his father, and was haunted by the furies of his mother like Orestes. The 'house' was thus like that of Pelops (1.6.8), a theme of tragedy. Cf. Ody. 11.326-327; Plato, Rep. 590 A; Apollod. 3.6; Ov. Met. 9.406; Stat. Theb. 2.267; Arnold, Frag. of an Antigone, 'nor . . . his beloved Argive seer would Zeus retain| From his appointed end'; Frazer, Pausanias, III. 608, 5.30.


demersa: possibly a hint of Amphiaraus' end, swallowed up by the earth (Pind. O.6.16). exitio: 1.16.17. diff<*>&ibreve;</*>dit: with bribes, as with the cleaving ax or thunder-bolt. urbium: as Potidaea, Olynthus, Amphipolis.


vir Macedo: Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great; Demosthenes' Μακεδὼν ἀνήρ (Phil. 1. 10); Milton's 'Macedonian Philip.' For his briberies, cf. Plut. Aem. Paul . 12; Juv. 12.47, callidus emptor Olynthi; his saying that any fortress could be taken that could be reached by an ass laden with gold, Cic. ad Att. 1.16. The oracle of Delphi bade him 'fight with silver spears.' subruit: undermined.

14, 15. aemulos . . . reges: his rivals for the throne ot Macedon (Diodor. 16.3), and others.


munera: Ov. A. A. 3.653, munera, crede, mihi, capiunt hominesque deosque. Hence Spenser, F. Q. 5.2.9, quaintly personifies munera (as if fem. sing.) as daughter of Pollente, 'Her name is Munera, agreeing with her deeds.' Note resumption of aurum (1.10) by lucrum, munera, and pecuniam.

15, 16. navium . . . duces: possibly an allusion to Menodorus or Menas, the faithless admiral of Sextus Pompey. Cf. Dio, 48.45; Suet. Oct.74; Epode 4; Shaks. Ant. and Cle. 2.7. With the whole, cf. Andrew Lang's Ballade of Worldly Wealth, 'Money taketh town and wall| Fort and ramp without a blow.'


crescentem, etc.: but for all its power, the sage will desire it in moderation. Cf. 2.2; 2. 16.9-12; 2.18.12; 3.1.47; 3.24.1-5; 3.29.56-60.


malorum: neuter, greater possessions. fames: cf. Epp. 1.18.23; Vergil's auri sacra fames (Aen. 3.57); Odes 2. 2.13; 3.24.63; Juv. 14.139, crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crevit; Theoc. 16. 64. perhorrui: ἀπέρριγα. So Emerson often states his counsels of perfection in the first person indic.


conspicuum: proleptic. tollere verticem: 1. 18. 15. 20. Maecenas: an example of sage restraint. Cf. on 1.1.1, 1.20.5, and Propert. 4.8.2.


plura: in worldly goods. plura: in real goods.


castra, etc.: the image of the two camps may have been suggested by Crantor's famous comparison of wealth and virtue. Cowley ingeniously expands, 'From towns and courts, camps of the rich and great,| The vast Xerxean army, I retreat,| And to the small Laconic forces fly| Which hold the straits of poverty.' nudus: i.e. unincumbered by the impedimenta of riches. Cf. the philosopher's boast, omnia mea mecum porto; Job, 1.21, 'Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither.'


contemptae: despised by the millionnaire. Cf. Cic. Paradox, 6. 47, meam pecuniam contemnis, etc. dominus splendidior: more glorious as the owner, in the eyes of the sage who uses the words rightly (2.2. 19). rei: estate.


ar&amacr;t: i.e. the produce of the plow. For quantity, cf. 1.3.36. n. impiger: cf. Epode 2.42. For fertility of Apulia, see Strabo, 6.284. But any other name would serve.


occultare: i.e. condere, 1.1.9. meis: so proprio, 1.1. 9. Cf. mea in the periphrasis for riches, Epode 1.26. dicerer: wealth so great as to be a theme of rumor.


inter opes inops: oxymoron arising from the contrast of the popular and the philosophic point of view. Cf. Epp. 2.18.98, semper inops . . . cupido; 1.2. 56, semper avarus eget; Claud. in Ruf. 1.200, semper inops quicumque cupit; Herrick, 106, 'Those who have the itch| Of craving more are never rich.'


rivus, etc.: see the descriptions of his own farm, Epp. 1. 16.12; 1.18.104; 1.14.1; and Odes, 1.22.9.


fides: reliance; cf. 3.1.30. n.; Lucan, 1.647.

31, 32. fulgentem . . . beatior: is a truer happiness than the glittering lot of the lord of fertile Africa, though he knows it not ; lit. escapes him (his notice) (being) happier in lot, in imitation of the Greek λανθάνει ὀλβιώτερον ὄν. The want of ὄν makes the Latin awkward. The great proconsul of Africa may be meant. Cf. sors Asiae, the proconsuiship of Asia (Tac. Ann. 3.58). But fertilis and the context make 'lord of great African estates' more probable. Cf. Sat. 2.3.87; Odes, 2.2. 10-12; Anth. Pal. 5.31.6.


Cf. 1.31.5. n.; 2. 16.33 sqq. n.


Calabrae . . . apes: honey of Tarentum; 2.6.14; 4. 2.27 (?).


Laestrygonia: Formian; Formiae is said to have been the capital of the Laestrygones. Cf. on 3.17 and 1.20.11.


languescit: mellows (3.21.8, languidiora vina). pinguia: the Greek could say δασύμαλλοι. Gallicis: Cisalpine Gaul, renowned for fine white wool (Pliny, N. H. 8.190).


importuna: (4.13.9) the pinch of poverty, distressful poverty. Cf. Epp. 2.2.199, immunda pauperies. Not the δειλὴ or οὐλομένη πενίη of Theogn. 351, Hes. Theog. 593. Poverty in itself Horace commends (1.12.43; 3.2.1; 3.29.56).


Cf. 2.18.12; Epode 1.31.


contracto, etc.: cf. 2.2.9; Plato, Laws, 736 E; Lucret. 5.1118; Cowley, 'The most gentlemanly manner of obliging him, which is not to add anything to his estate, but to take something from his desires' (after Epicurus); Sen. Epist. 21.7; Mm. Felix, 36.5, omnia si non concupiscimus possidemus.


vectigalia porrigam: I shall increase my revenues. Sat. 2.2.100, ego vectigalia magna divitiasque habeo; Cic. Rep. 4.7 ; Paradox. 6.49, quam magnum vectigal sit parsimonia. Cf. Hamlet's use of 'revenues.' porrigam: Sen. Epist. 89. 20, quousque arationes vestras porrigetis.


quam si: 2.2.10. Mygdoniis: Phrygian, 2.12.22.-- Alyattei: Bentley's reading of the hopelessly confused Mss. Horace's readers would think of Croesus, recalling Herod. 1.6; 'Croesus was a Lydian and son of Alyattes.' Cf. Croesi regia Sardes (Epp. 1.11.2). The longer sonorous name helps the meter. Cf. on 1. 17.22-23. Bacchyl. 5.40, Ἀλυα[τ]τα δόμοι. For form of gen., cf. 1.6.7.


campis: preferably dat. continuem: Liv. 34.4 has ingens cupido agros continuandi; Isaiah, 5.8, 'Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field.'


bene est: almost colloquial. Cf. Epist. 1.1.89; Catull. 14.10; 38.1, male est; Cowley, 'Thrice happy he| To whom the wise indulgency of Heaven,| With sparing hand but just enough has given.'


quod satis est: 3.1.25.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (1 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (1):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 1.16
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: