Quintus Horatius Flaccus, or Horace as we call him, no longer occupies a central place in our literary landscape. The loss is ours, says the author of this wonderful, touching, highly personal new dual biography. Horace can be your friend for life, as an impressive variety of people have found, from Wordsworth to Voltaire, Petrarch to Brecht, and now Harry Eyres, journalist, wine lover, poet and writer of the ‘Slow Lane’ column in the Financial Times.
Eyres finds many parallels between his own life and the poet’s, and loves his work for its beauty and its philosophical richness. Poetry, like philosophy, should be about ‘how to live and how to die’, not abstruse scholarship or minute textual criticism. This makes Horace and Me one of the very best kinds of ‘How to’ books.
Horace’s Odes are difficult, yes, and virtually impossible to translate (though Eyres makes some enjoyably free attempts here), and while never sententious, they are full of hard-won wisdom. It’s middle-aged wisdom, agrees Eyres, but none the worse for that. Horace extols deep friendship, the ‘therapeutic practice of friendship’, rather than