Verse > Anthologies > Heathcote William Garrod, comp. > The Oxford Book of Latin Verse
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Heathcote William Garrod, comp. (1878–1960).  The Oxford Book of Latin Verse.  1912.
 
Preface
 
 
THE PLAN of this book excludes epic and the drama, and in general so much of Roman poetry as could be included only by a licence of excerpt mostly dangerous and in poetry of any architectonic pretensions intolerable. If any one remarks as inconsistent with this plan the inclusion of the more considerable fragment of Ennius and the early tragedians, I will only say that I have not thought it worth while to be wiser here than Time and Fate, which have of their own act given us these poets in lamentable excerpt. A more real inconsistency may be found in my treatment of the didactic poets. It seemed a pity that Didactic Poetry—in some ways the most characteristic product of the Roman genius—should, in such a Collection as this, be wholly unrepresented. It seemed a pity: and it seemed also on the whole unnecessary. It seemed unnecessary, for the reason that many of the great passages of Lucretius, Vergil, and Manilius hang so loosely to their contexts that the poets themselves seem to invite the gentle violence of the excerptor. These passages are ‘golden branches’ set in an alien stock—non sua seminat arbos. The hand that would pluck them must be at once courageous and circumspect. But they attend the fated despoiler:
        Ergo alte uestiga oculis et rite repertum
carpe manu, namque ipse uolens facilisque sequetur
si te fata uocant.
  1
  Even outside Didactic Poetry I have allowed myself an occasional disloyalty to my own rule against excerpts. I have, for example, detached one or two lyrics from the Tragedies of Seneca. And, again, from the long and sometimes tedious Itinerarium of Rutilius I have detached the splendid apostrophe to Rome which stands in the forefront of that poem. These are pieces without which no anthology of Latin poetry would be anything but grotesquely incomplete. And after all we should be the masters and not the slaves of our own rules.  2
  Satire finds no place in this book. Horace is represented only by his lyrics. Juvenal and Persius are not represented at all. The Satires and Epistles of Horace are books of deep and wide influence. They have taught lessons in school which have been remembered in the world. They have made an appeal to natures which teaching more profound and spiritual leaves untouched. By their large temper and by their complete freedom from cant they have achieved a place in the regard of men from which they are not likely to be dislodged by any changes of literary fashion or any fury of the enemies of humane studies. I am content to leave them in this secure position, and not to intrude them into a Collection where Horace himself would have known them to be out of place. Indeed, he was himself said upon this subject all that needs to be said (Sat. I. iv. 39 sqq.). Persius similarly, in the Prologue to his Satires, excludes himself from the company of the great poets. Nor can I believe that Juvenal has any place among them. IN the rhetoric of rancour he is a distinguished practitioner. But he wants two qualities essential to great poetry—truth and humanity. I say this because there are critics who speak of Juvenal as though he were Isaiah.  3
  My Selection begins with fragments of the Saliar hymns, and ends with the invocation of Phocas to ‘Clio, reverend wardress of Antiquity.’ If I am challenged to justify these termini, I will say of the first of them that I could not begin earlier, and that it is commonly better to make the beginnings offered to us than to make beginnings for ourselves. The lower terminus is not so simple a matter. I set myself here two rules. First, I resolved to include no verse which, tried by what we call ‘classical’ standards, was metrically faulty. Secondly, I judged it wiser to exclude any poetry definitely Christian in character—a rule which, as will be seen, does not necessarily exclude all the work of Christian poets. Within these limits, I was content to go on so long as I could find verse instinct with any genuine poetic feeling. The author whose exclusion I most regret is Prudentius. If any one asks me, Where is Merobaudes? where Sedulius? where Dracontius? I answer that they are where they have always been—out of account. Interesting, no doubt, in other ways, for the student of poetry they do not count. Prudentius counts. He has his place. But it is not in this Collection. It is among other memories, traditions, and aspirations, by the threshold of a world where Vergil takes solemn and fated leave of those whom he has guided and inspired:
        Non aspettar mio dir più nè mio cenno.
  4
  I have spent a good deal of labour on the revision of texts: and I hope that of some poems, particularly the less known poems, this book may be found to offer a purer recension than is available elsewhere. I owe it to myself, however, to say that I have sometimes preferred the convenience of the reader to the dictates of a rigourous criticism. I have thought it, for example, not humane to variegate the text of an Anthology with despairing obeli: and occasionally I have covered up an indubitable lacuna by artifices which I trust may pass undetected by the general reader and unreproved by the charitable critic.
H. W. G.

  Oxford, Sept. 2, 1912.
  5
 

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