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ARGUMENT OF THE PROLOGUE TO THE FIRST
The desgn of the author was to conceal his name and
quality. He lived in the dangerous times of the tyrant Nero; and aims particularly at him in most of his fatires. For which reason, though he was a Roman kright, and of a plentiful fortune, he would appear in this prologue but a beggarly poet, who writes for bread. After this, he breaks into the business of the first satire ; which is chiefly to decry the poetry then in fashion, and the impudence of those who were endeavouring to pass their stuff upon the world.
I Never did on cleft Parnassus dream,
clown, Before the thrine I lay my rugged numbers
Ver. 1. Parnassus and Helicon, were hills confecrated to the Muses ; and the supposed place of their abode. Parnassus was forked on the top; and from Helicon ran a stream, the spring of which was called the Muses' well. Ver. 5.
Pyrene] A fountain in Corinth; confecrated also to the Muses.
Ver. 7. Statues, &c.] The statues of the poets were crowned with ivy about their brows.
Ver. 11. Before the shrine] That is, before the shrine of Apollo, in his temple at Rome, called the Palatine
407 Who taught the parrot human notes to try, Or with a voice endu'd the chatt'ring pye? 'Twas witty want, fierce hunger to appease: Want taught their masters, and their masters
these. Let gain, that gilded bait, be hung on high, The hungry witlings have it in their eye; Pyes, crows, and daws, poetic presents bring : You say they squeak; but they will swear they
ARGUMENT OF THE FIRST SATIRE.
I need not repeat, that the chief aim of the author is
against bad poets in this fatire. But I must add, that he includes also bad orators, who began at that time (as Petronius in the beginning of his book tells us) to enervate manly eloquence, by tropes and figures, ill placed, and worse applied. Amongst the poets, Persus covertly strikes at Nero; some of whose verses he recites with scorn and indignation. He also takes notice of the noblemen and their abominable poetry, who, in the luxury of their fortune, set up for wits and judges. The satire is in dialogue, betwirt the author and his friend or monitor ; who dissuades him from this dangerous attempt of exposing great men. But Persius, who is of a free spirit, and has not forgotten that Rome was once a commonwealth, breaks through all those difficulties, and boldly arraigns the false judgment of the age in which he lives.The reader may observe that our poet was a Stoick philosopher; and that all his moral sentences, both here and in all the rest of his satires, are drawn from the dogmas of that feat.
IN DIALOGUE BETWIXT THE POET AND HIS
FRIEND OR MONITOR.
How anxious are our cares, and yet how
vain The bent of our desires !
FRIEND. Thy spleen contain : For none will read thy fatires.
Persius. This to me? FRIEND. None; or, what's next to none,
but two or three. "Tis hard, I grant.
PERSIUS. 'Tis nothing; I can bear That paltry fcriblers have the public ear: That this vast universal fool, the Town, Should cry up Labeo's stuff, and cry me down.
Ver. 1. How anxious] None of my author's hard metaphors or forced expressions, says Dryden, are in my
Dr. J. WARTON.' Ver. 11.
Labeo's stuff] Nothing is remaining of Atticus Labeo, (fo he is called by the learned Casaubon) nor is