Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate, read Horace’s ode “To Licinius” on the PBS Newshour shortly after 9/11. Horace’s counsel to Licinius is to pursue the middle way, a path of evenmindedness and equanimity. The middle ground and compromise are far from what is heard in today’s angry ad hominum public discourse.
What strikes me about Horace’s ode to Licinius is his counsel that things will not always be bad. Apollo picking up his lyre to awaken “the music sleeping upon the strings” is an image of hope.
“Expect reversals,” Horace says. Change is constant. The way open today may not be open tomorrow. There is as much to be learned from way closed as way open. Opportunity favors a willing spirit and an open mind. Remain resolute, but keep a short sail in strong winds to avoid the risk of being thrown off course. In other words, be flexible. Those who do best choose the middle way.