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Assignment on Ars Poetica

Submitted by:- Amisha Verma

Roll no:- 2088
The Ars Poetica is a poem written by Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC –
8 BC), known aw Horace in english. Horace was born in Venusia,Italy.
His father was a slave for at least part of his life, captured by Romans in
social war but he was man of strong abilities and managed to gain
freedom and improve his position in society. Thus Horace was a free
born son of an auctioneer with se of the functions of a banker. His
father spent a lot of effort on his education , eventually accompanying
him to Rome to keep a check on his formal and moral education.
Horace later paid a tribute to his father in a poem. After his father's
death ,he left Rome and continued his formal education in Athens, in an
academy founded by Plato, now dominated by Epicurean and stoic
persuasion whose theories made a great impression on him. But
Rome's troubles because of the assassination of Julius Caesar was soon
to catch up with him Marcus Junius Brutus one of the assassins of
Julius Caesar recruited Horace as the senior officer, fighting against
Octavius Caesar (later known as Augustus) and Mark Antony at the
Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Octavius soon declared amnesty to his
opponents and Horace accepted it quickly. After returning to Italy he
confronted yet another loss, his father's estate was confiscated for the
settlement of the Veterans. Horace was reduced to poverty and this led
him to try his hand on poetry. He was then befriended by Octavius's
right hand man in civil affairs, Maecenas and became a spokesman for
the new regime.
Horace was known for perfection oh his style. He crafted elegant
Hexameter verses(satires-horatious satires are gentle and create
similes and juvenalian satires are sharp and angry) and caustic Iambic
poetry. Horace expresses disapproval and refers to himself and his life
humorously in his works. He promotes moderation and good
judgement and increasingly avoid personal attack in his satires.

Ars Poetica is a poem written to lay emphasis on many of the

arguments found in epistles, written at the request of Augustus. It was
written in 8BC-10BC. It is made up of two words Ars which means art
and Poetica which means poetry thus it means art of poetry. The poem
is written in the form of an Epistle (letter) to Lucius Calpurnius Piso (the
Roman senator) and his two sons, and therefore it is also referred to as
'Epistlula Ad Pisones' which means letter to pisos. Ars Poetica was firs
translated in english in 1566 by Thomas Drant. The poem is written in
hexameter verse which means it is 6 feet long and has 4 verses which
can be spondee-short syllable or dactyle-long syllable,5th verse dactyl
and 6th spondee. Wordsworth said “poetry is spontaneous overflow of
emotions recollected later in tranquillity. It is not a well constructed
treatise rather it is an inviting and lively letter written for friends who
appreciate poetic literature. Horace approaches poetry in quite a
different way than his predecessors Aristotle and Plato. He holds poet
in high respect ,opposite to Plato who distrusts mimesis and in his book
10 of republic says to banish poets from the ideal just state. Ars Poetica
is one of the most important works of Horace which is written in lively
and easy going way and has examples that makes Horace's instructions
true to his own maxim.
“If you want an approving hearer, one who waits for the curtain, and
will stay in his seat till the singer cries “Give your applause”, you must
note the manners of each age, and give a befitting tone to shifting
natures and their years. When we try and understand this line with
context of Ars Poetica it seems that Horace is saying that if somebody
has to have the stature of an excellent poet so that the hearer stays
back at his place in his place till the singer cries give your applause,
thence has to follow the maxims,logics,rules and dictum of Horace
while writing a poem. He has mentioned about this all in his work 'Ars
Ars Poetic is very smartly divided into three divisions; a)Poesis which
tells about the subject matter of the poem, b)Poetica which tells about
the form of the poem, c)Poeta which tells about how a poet should be.
Horace says a poem must have organic unity. The poet must not create
monsters or impossible figures in his creation. He uses this phrase “ut
pictura poesis” which means 'as is painting so is poetry' which refers to
imaginative texts. He says there must exist a harmonious relation
between the parts and the whole and the subject matter should be
chosen wisely. A wise discretion must be used in choice of words, poet
has the liberty to coin new words but it should be done with care and
only when it is necessary. He proclaims that there should be no
stereotype rules for the usage of language in poetry because language
is like a tree and words are like leaves to it which within every year gets
replaced by the new ones. He talks about the principle of decorum
which is the use of appropriate vocabulary and diction in each style of
writing. Further each particular genre should stick to the meter allotted
to it by the ancient Greeks such as complain,tragedy,comedy and elegy
are Iambic verses whereas hymns, odes and love poems are measures
of lyrical kind.
While telling about the form and style of the poem Horace says the plot
of a poem should be based on old familiar stories and novelty may be
imparted with skilful treatment and as far as plot construction is
concerned it is good to follow the example of Homer and plunge
straight into the middle keeping the beginning simple and straight
forward , here he uses a phrase “ in medias res” which is 'middle of
things’, he says unnecessary details should be avoided. About
characterisation he says that the poet must be true to traditional forms
of the characters. Dramatic style should be according to character,
mood and circumstances dramatist must know what to present on
stage and what to not. A play must not have more or less than five acts
and three characters in one scene. Moreover Gods should not
intervene in between unless and until its necessary. The denouncement
or the result should be the outcome of the preceding actions not the
natural result of chance. Chorus should be an integral part of the play
and it should control the action of a play and tale it forward as well.
Iambic hexameters should be used and 'The Greek models should be

Adding onto it he talks about how a poet should be. He says a poet
must revise a poem several times until it attains artistic excellence and
is polised,he should let it stand over a decade. A poet must also be a
keen observer of men and manners and he should constantly study the
book of life and draw thence “language true to life”. A poet should
instruct or please, or he may combine both these functions but for the
sake of pleasing he must not use romantic extravagance and
absurdities. He further says minor mistakes in poetry maybe forgiven
because “quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus” which means
sometimes even the good Homer nods off i.e. even the most skilled
poet can make continuity errors. Whether a poet achieves greatness
through nature or through art both are essential for good poetry.