Epode II: Trafalgar Street Men (Beatus ille) [Happy the Man]
Although not immediately apparent, the speaker of the poem is a man called Alfius. Throughout most of the poem he praises the countryman ‘unencumbered by debt’(1) He praises the simple life and says how much more worthy and glorious it is to lead a simple, sober life. You get the sense throughout the poem that he is rejecting wealth. (It makes me think a bit about that story in the Bible where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.).
The irony is,that Alphius turns out to be a moneylender. It the old, old story really; those who have money can afford to regard it as unimportant.
In my poem the speaker is a landlord/property owner who praises the simple, humble life of those who rent property from him – he tells them how highly he regards them
and how much greater their lives are than his and then in the next breath he puts their rents up.
In other words, this poem is a rejection of wealth and a praise for the simple life, (though not of course, by the actual poor people themselves)
The figure of the landlord occurred to me as a parallel for Alphius quite quickly in this sequence. The fascination for me with Horace is how he captures human traits and how those human traits are still present in the contemporary world.
(1) West, D. (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press,:Oxford p.132