Horace's Odes have a surface translucency that belies their rhetorical sophistication. Gregson Davis brings together recent trends in the study of Augustan poetry and critical theory and deftly applies them to individual poems. Exploring four rhetorical strategies—what he calls modes of assimilation, authentication, consolation, and praise and dispraise—Davis produces enlightening, new interpretations of this classic work.
Polyhymnia, named after one of the Muses invoked in Horace's opening poem, revises the common image of Horace as a complacent, uncomplicated, and basically superficial singer. Focusing on the artistic persona—the lyric "self" that is constituted in the text—Davis explores how the lyric speaker constructs subtle "arguments" whose building-blocks are topoi, recurrent motifs, and generic conventions. By examining the substructure of lyric argument in groupings of poems sharing similar strategies, the author discloses the major principles that inform Horatian lyric composition.