Virgil you can take or leave, but Horace and Martial are the cat''s whiskers. Horace''s odes are beautiful and thought-provoking, and Martial (despite that his name leads the uninitiated to expect battle imagery) was a very funny man. About as far from stuffy as it gets, these Roman poets wrote with passion and wit. Here''s Martial on book reviewers (from Epigram I): "So they''ve summed you up, my little book. / You''re now ''a milestone in ironic outlook.'' / This the price of your publicity: / MARTIAL VIEWS LIFE VERY SAUCILY / Whatever they say is a load of balls / Certain to send you to second-hand stalls." The Roman Poets is another welcome addition to the Everyman''s Library Pocket Poets series. These are beautiful books, sturdily made, and sensibly edited and arranged.
The urban and pastoral poetry of the Roman republic, and of the empire that succeeded it, was both the culmination of the magnificent classical tradition of the Mediterranean and the seedbed for almost all the subsequent poetic traditions of Western and Central Europe. The stateliness of Virgil''s Eclogues and the grandeur of his epic line, the unsurpassable lyricism - by turns tender, incisive, and scabrous - of Catullus''s elegies and satires, the philosophical splendor of Lucretius''s meditations, the relentless imaginative energy of Ovid''s narratives, and the sonorous beauty of the odes of Horace have been for two millennia a source of endless delight and instruction, and the work of these writers has given to Europe its frames of literary reference and its enduring canons of taste.
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