Horace's conception of friendship
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Friendship is the most elevating of human affections, and yet it is a relation that cannot be explained or defined. It begins and ends in feeling, and feeling is a matter of purely personal organization. It is this subjective nature that causes one to be betrayed into inconsistencies the moment one endeavors to frame a definition of it that shall comprehend all its varieties; and yet it is intelligible enough when once it has been experienced. One can know happiness only by experiencing it; for the same reason, one who has never felt the ties of friendship cannot comprehend its meaning, for it is not translatable. There are definitions, of course, in plenty, but they have all proved unsatisfactory. A citation of a few that are found in the leading dictionaries will show how futile these attempts have been; they have either defined it in terms of itself, which is no definition at all, or they have given the factors relative to it and have, by no means, expressed the essential nature of the emotion. While a definition of friendship is impossible, one can learn more about it by turning to the poet. For he, realizing that he cannot express his feelings directly, produces images that are naturally connected with the feeling he wishes to express. The reader is stirred by these to a feeling akin to the poet's feeling, and in some measure duplicates the experience of the poet - which for the present study shall be that of friendship - thereby learning more effectively what friendship is. It shall be the purpose of this paper to organize and present whatever Horace has said in the poetry that can throw any light upon his conception of friendship.
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