I first read Horace's odes at school but have enjoyed re-reading his Epistles on the train recently on my daily commute in David Ferry's excellent bilingual translation published in 2001. Total self sufficiency is perhaps an impossible dream for most of us as our lives are interconnected and interdependent with everything else in multiple and complex ways but the sense that there is an optimal 'economics of sufficiency' supported by right attitudes of mind and heart is worth cultivating if it 'brings tranquillity' and 'makes cares less'.
......Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books ?
Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?
What is the way to become a friend to yourself
What brings tranquillity? What makes cares less?
Honor? Or Money? Or living your life unnoticed?
Whenever I drink from the cold refreshing waters
Of the little brook Digentia, down below,
Our local hill town, what do you think I pray for?
“ May I continue to have what I have right now,
Or even less, as long as I am self-sufficient.
If the gods should grant me life, though just for a while,
May I live my life to myself, with books to read,
And food to sustain me through another year,
And not to waver with the wavering hours “
But Maybe it’s enough to pray to Jove ,
Who has the power to give and take away,
Simply for life and for the means of life;
I will myself provide a steadfast mind.
To Lollius Maximus Epistles of Horace i.18
Bilingual translation David Ferry
This week the bicycle, the walking boots and the lunch box have with the support of the tram, the train and some very nice friends with cars helped me to be self-sufficient in various ways with regard to food and transport, but without inter-dependence we could not function independently and without friendship we could not enjoy the pleasure of shared delights like this walk in the snow in the Ardennes on Sunday with Alex. For all his Stoic philosophy Horace had enough self deprecating humour and self-knowledge to admit his human failings and was worldly wise enough to enjoy the good things if they came his way even whilst preparing himself psychologically for the uncertain and unreliable in life and its ultimate inevitable end.