Ars Poetica

Horace, several editions, ca. 18 B.C. (Google Books, 1564)

Lister read Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus) on 6 August 1664 when in Nîmes.

The central idea in Horatian poetics was the principle of combining pleasure and practicality (dulce and utile).  As scholar Jan Bloemendal stated, ‘early modern readers knew Horace from his own text and from commentaries . . . scholars agreed that Horace was following Aristotle’s theories as formulated in the Poetica and the Rhetorica . . .  the Aristotelian idea of mimesis (poetry as a representation of reality) was combined with the Horatian delectare and prodesse (to teach and to delight)’. 1  As Horace stated:

Poets wish to benefit or to please, or to speak
What is both enjoyable and helpful to living.
When you give instruction, be brief, what’s quickly
Said the spirit grasps easily, faithfully retains:
Everything superfluous flows out of a full mind.

Horace’s idea that poetry was also a speaking picture, a picta poesis, influenced the development of early modern emblem books.

Lister would later donate a 1694 edition of Horace’s poetic works to Oxford.

  1. Jan Bloemendal, ‘Introduction’, Gerardus Joannes Vossius: Institutes of Poetics in Three Books (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 27.

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