By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Composce Mentem: Control Your Emotions and Your Feelings

That's the observation at the heart of one of the poems or odes of Horace (Ode 1.16). You can translate it variously: control your mind, control your feelings, check your emotions, get yourself together, etc.

The poem is about a man, now older, trying to lure back a woman with whom insults appear to have been traded. He seeks to reconcile with his former girlfriend or amica. In the course of this ode, he teases her with an exaggerated description of the evil effects of her anger--the anger found in all human beings which shakes the minds of many and even overturns cities under seige. He confesses to his own excessive anger in his youth.

Now the same poet who gave us carpe diem asks the estranged woman to give her heart (animum) back to him.

As usual with Horace, we can find a broader canvas. Horace emerged from a time of great and angry conflicts and civil disturbances in Rome and Italy, a time of civil wars. Vengeance and hatred tilted back and forth with many casualties.

Horace, with great good luck, survived because he was shown mercy (clementia) by Octavian, the victor in these conflicts. So, the message of composce mentem is also social and political: let us compose our minds, put away our angers, and reconcile. A timeless and wise message for all because time is short.

(The image of the alleged home of Horace in Venosa, southern Italy, is in the public domain.)