Carpe Diem

I’ve been reading Harry Eyres’ book, Horace and me. Horace is the Roman poet, not his dog. It is an odd, personal and engaging read. Harry is the son of a much admired wine merchant who studied classical literature, before becoming a writer.

My grasp of Latin remains reprehensibly shaky, unlike Harry’s, despite a classical education, but I have long had a soft spot for Horace. Most of his poems are commendably short, and frequently on subjects I feel I understand. He valued friendship. He enjoyed wine.

Aglianico vines My grandfather gave me his small well-thumbed pocket-size edition. As The Wine Society’s Italian buyer, I have visited the town in Basilicata where Horace was born on my way to find good bottles of aglianico grown on the slopes of Mt Vulture, close to the town. Venosa, now a charming airy town little frequented by tourists, was once the largest colony in the Roman world, and an important stop between Rome and the port of Brindisi.

‘Carpe Diem’, in the last line of his short poem (Odes 1.11) means literally ‘harvest the day’. It has become a tag phrase implying ‘make hay while the sun shines and to hell with the future’. But I think Horace meant ‘savour the moment’. When you converse, listen. When you take a photograph, look properly first. When you drink a glass of wine, take a moment to relish it, give it your full attention, as Horace once did with his humble home-grown Sabine wine or his grander Falernian.

One of the ‘good bottles of aglianico’ that Sebastian uneartherd while visiting Horace’s homeland is Oronzo Alò’s Aglianico del Vulture 2006 (ref IT14181, £14.50)

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