Epode IV: Landlady and Cleaner (Lupis et agnis) [Wolf & Lamb]
Epode 4 is about a ‘jumped-up arriviste (who is in fact very like Horace himself)’(1)
‘Horace addresses the ex-slave in the first half of the poem. One passer-by speaks to another in the second.’(2) In my version of the poem there are not two speakers, but one and the poem is cast as street-corner gossiping.
In the original Epode ‘…the target of this lampoon has not only been a slave, he had also been a good-for-nothing slave, frequently flogged and chained.’(3) ‘…No doubt Horace’s enemy had amassed enough wealth by a military career not only to buy a prime vineyard in the Falernian country, but also to meet the Knights’ property qualification, but the law seems also to have stipulated that no one who had been born a slave could become an eques.’(4)
In other words, here the speaker of the poem, himself from humble beginnings, but who had improved himself, is objecting to others who have done the same and doesn’t want them to ‘get above their station’ How true is this of us, even now! Very recently a writing colleague of mine, during a conversation we were having about British characteristics said, ‘the worse thing anyone can do to a friend in this country is to be successful’
As ever, what attracts me to the poetry of Horace and what I try to capture here is his wisdom and insight in relation to human interaction and reaction. In my poem, ‘Landlady and Cleaner’, exactly the same message is contained. Here the speaker in the poem, having seen the Landlady gain wealth and status, begins to resent it. She points out the landlady’s humble background as a cleaner and is really saying, she may have acquired a bit of wealth and status, but she’s still no better than me.
All of these versions of the Epodes need to be taken in context with the whole collection and read as a narrative.(5)
(1)Harrison, Stephen (in personal correspondence)
(2)West, D. (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press,: Oxford p.133
(5)See Almond, Maureen (2004) The Works, Biscuit Publishing: Washington, Newcastle-upon-Tyne