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Horace & Petrarch

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horace.png HORACE
Book 3, Ode XXX, 23 BC

I have achieved a monument more lasting
than bronze, and loftier than the pyramids of kings,
which neither gnawing rain nor blustering wind
may destroy, nor innumerable series of years,
nor the passage of ages. I shall not wholly die,
a large part of me will escape Libitina:
while pontiff and vestal shall climb the Capitol Hill,
I shall be renewed and flourish in further praise.
Where churning Aufidus resounds, where Daunus
poor in water governed his rustic people,
I shall be spoken of as one who was princely
though of humble birth, the first to have brought
Greek song into Latin numbers. Take hard-won pride
In your success, Melpomene, and willingly
wreathe my hair with Apollo’s laurel.


petrarch.png PETRARCH
Letter, 1345

To Cicero,

Are you desirous of learning what lot befell your works, of knowing in what esteem they are held either by the world in general, or else by the more learned classes? There are extant, indeed, splendid volumes—volumes which I can scarcely enumerate much less peruse with care. The fame of your deeds and your works is very great and has spread far and wide. Your name, too, has a familiar ring to all. Very few and rare, however, are those who study you, and for various reasons: either because of the natural perversity of the times toward such studies, or because the minds of men have an entirely different direction. Thus, some of your works have (unless I am mistaken) perished in this generation, and I know not whether they will ever be recovered. Oh, how great is my grief at this; how great is the ignominy of this age; how great the loss to posterity! It was not, I suppose, sufficiently degrading to neglect our own powers and to bequeath to future generations no fruit of our intellects, but worse than all else, we had to destroy the fruit also of your labor with our cruel, unpardonable disregard. This lamentable loss has overtaken not merely your works, but also those of many other illustrious authors.

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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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