Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Natales grate numeras?

Today marks the 1,944th birthday of an author near to the Library Society's heart, the Roman poet Horace.  Horace's writing praised hard work; a life lived simply, and in the moment, and virtuousness for its own sake.  He penned epigrams that have outlived him by two millennia (as he said he would, Exegi monumentum aere perennius: I have made a monument more lasting than bronze): Carpe diem, aurea mediocritis, nil disperandum, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, all Horace.

Horace's impact on our time goes well beyond a few fine Latin phrases: translations of Horace were made across the late medieval/early Renaissance world, and these Renaissance authors would spawn the Enlightenment, and through it our modern age.  15th and 16th century translators in Florence, Castille, Paris, Heidelburg, and London all poured over Horace, and their intellectual descendants followed suit.  The poets and scholars of the Renaissance made Horace one of their own, and his influence can be clearly seen in Opitz, Voltaire, Rousseau, Spenser, Johnson, Dryden, and Shakespeare.  Closer to our own times,  Nietzsche, Pound, R.L. Stephenson, and G.M. Hopkins are all remarkable for the obvious influence of Horace on their works.

This is why the Library Society's copy of the Works of Horace is such a treasure.  A handwritten Latin copy from the 1400's, our Horace manuscript has come back from a summer of loving restoration work just this Fall.  Penned in Ferrara, Italy, circa 1450, and at one point in the library of the queen's attorney in Milan, the manuscript was given to the Library Society by Plowden Weston in 1864.  The first medieval manuscript in South Carolina, Weston's antebellum acquisition of the document would have been a sign of cosmopolitan taste amongst his contemporaries.  Even today, when it sits in a collection full of treasures, the many fine qualities of the Horace award it a place of honor in the collection.

Don't forget: seize the day this coming Saturday at 6pm by joining us for a holiday concert with a string quartet from the CSO.  Tickets available at the door, $15.

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