in Old Man's Love

Chapter 17 – Mr. Whittlestaff Meditates a Journey

Mr. Whittlestaff and quotations from Horace

Trollope directly quotes the first poem of Horace’s fourth (and last) book of Odes, as if his readers may know it: Intermissa, Venus, diu / rursus bella moves? Parce, precor, precor. / Non sum qualis eram…“ (Venus are you starting up the wars again, left off so long ago?  I beg of you, I beg, spare me. I am not the man I once was…”). Mr. Whittlestaff chooses a poem devastatingly apt for his own situation, since Horace goes on to say he is near fifty years old and is not able to love as when he was young (he is too toughened with age to bend to Venus’ “soft commands”), while he protests against Venus’ apparent urgings. The poet recommends to Venus that she go where young men of a suitable age send their prayers to her, and he even recommends one Paulus Maximus, who is distinguished, wealthy, and handsome. Horace takes a posture of desperate pleading, which is of course hopeless against Venus—he already is in love. Mr. Whittlestaff’s ruminations stop at the poem’s first line to critique Horace, calling him crafty or vain for harking back to his past life when the pleasures of Venus were right for him. But this irritation with Horace takes him to the next line, “I am not the man I once was,” and then to Catherine Bailey. Then the difference between himself and Horace (was Mr. Whittlestaff ever that man? No, he thinks) and his shame at having been jilted makes him pocket the book of poetry. [CMS 2018]

Source: Horace, Ode 4.1.1-3.


poet draining the dregs

The “poet” here is presumably Horace, whom Mr. Whittlestaff has just consulted and whose Ode 4.1 Trollope has just quoted. The image of drinking to the dregs perhaps recalls Ode 3.15, in which Horace finds fault with Chloris, an older woman who remains interested in parties and love affairs despite her age. Horace closes the poem with the admonition: “Citharas do not befit an old woman, nor the purple blossom of the rose, nor jars drunk to the dregs.” Although Horace criticizes Chloris for interests that he finds unseemly due to her age, we have seen that in Ode 4.1 an older Horace himself feels the pull of love’s battles. Mr. Whittlestaff here seems to be turning Horace’s critique of Chloris against the poet himself; Mr. Whittlestaff, by contrast, curtailed his romantic ambitions after his disappointment with Catherine Bailey and is again readying himself to give up his interest in love and Mary Lawrie in favor of a younger man. [RR 2018]

Source: Horace, Ode 3.15 esp. 14-16.


August, Augustus, and auspicious

Mr. Blake recalls a connection between the first of August and the Roman emperor Augustus. The entire month of August was named in honor of Augustus, and the first of the month is the anniversary of his conquering of Alexandria in 30 BCE. The defeat of the forces of Marc Antony and Cleopatra consolidated Augustus’ power. It seems appropriate that Mr. Blake is eager to invoke Classics but doesn’t have the specifics to back up the gesture—and if he did, he might realize that a military anniversary is not necessarily auspicious for a wedding. Even Mr. Blake’s use of auspicious has a Classical ring, since it refers to the Roman practice of bird-watching and prognosticating via omens. Mr. Blake’s bride-to-be finds his Classical citation unusual for a clergyman. [RR 2018]