« FöregåendeFortsätt »
To consider Persius yet more closely : he rather insulted over vice and folly, than exposed them, like Juvenal and Horace, And as chaste and modest as he is esteemed, it cannot be denied, but that in some places he is broad and fulsom, as the latter verses of the fourth satire, and of the fixth, sufficiently witnessed. And it is to be believed that he who commits the same crime often, and without necessity, cannot but do it with some kind of pleasure.
To come to a conclusion, he is manifestly below Horace; because he borrows most of his greatest beauties from him; and Casaubon is so far from denying this, that he has written a treatise purposely concerning it; wherein he shews a multitude of his translations from Horace, and his imitations of him, for the credit of his author, which he calls Imitatio Horatiana,
To these defects, which I casually observed, while I was translating this author. Scaliger has added others; he calls him, in plain terms, a filly writer, and a trifler ; full of oftentation of learning; and after all, unworthy to come into competition with Juvenal and Horace.
After such terrible accusations, it is time to hear what his patron Casaubon can alledge in his defence, Instead of answering, he excuses for the most part; and when he cannot, accuses others of the same crimes. He deals with Scaliger, as a modeft scholar with a master. He compliments him with so much reverence, that one would swear he feared him as much at least as he respected him. Scaliger will not allow Persius to have any wit; Casaubon interprets this in the mildest sense ; and confesses his author was not good at turning things into a pleasant ridicule; or in other words, that he was not a laugh, able writer. That he was ineptus, indeed, but that he was non aptissimus ad jocandum. But that he was oftentatious of his learning, that, by Scaliger's good favour, he denies. Persius shewed his learning, buz was no boaster of it; he did oftendere, bụt not often-.
tare; and so, he says, did Scaliger : where, methinks, Casaubon turns it handsomely upon that supercilius critick, and filently infinuates that he himself was sufficiently vain-glorious, and a boaster of his own knowledge. All the writings of this venerable cenfor, continues Casaubon, which are xpuoš xqucóteça, more golden than gold itself, are every where imelling of thyme, which, like a bee, he has gathered from ancient authors : but far be ostenta. tion and vain-glory from a gentleman, so well born, and so nobly educated as Scaliger. But, says Scaliger, he is so obscure, that he has
himself the name of Scotinus, a dark writer: now, says Casaubon, it is a wonder to me that any thing could be obfcure to the divine wit of Scaliger ; from which nothing could be hidden. This is indeed a strong compliment, but no defence. And Casaubon, who could not but be sensible of his author's blind fide, thinks it time to abandon a post that was untenable. He acknowledges that Persius is obscure in some places : but fo is Plato, fo is Thucydides, fo are Pindar, Theocritus, and Aristophanes, amongst the Greek poets ; and even Horace and Juvenal, he might have added, amongst the Romans. The truth is, Persius is not sometimes, but generally obfcure : and therefore Casaubon, at last, is forced to excuse him, by alledging that it was se defendendo, for fear of Nero; and tha: he was commanded to write so cloudily by Cornutus, in virtue of holy obedience to his master. I cannot help my own opinion; I think Cornutus needed not to have read many lectures to him on that subject. Perfius was an apt scholar ; and when he was bidden to be obscure in some places, where his life and safety were in question, took the same counsel for all his books; and never afterwards wrote ten lines together clearly. Casaubon, being upon this chapter, has not failed, we may be sure, of making a compliment to his own dear comment. If Persius, says he, be in himfelf obscure, yet my interpretation has made him in
telligible. There is no question but he deserves that praise, which he has given to himself: but the nature of the thing, as Lucretius says, will not admit of a perfect explanation. Besides many examples which I could urge, the very last verse of his last satire, upon which he particularly values himself in his preface, is not yet sufficiently explicated. It is true, Holiday has endeavoured to justify his construction ; but Stelluti is against it: and, for my part, I can have but a very dark notion of it. As for the chastity of his thoughts, Casaubon denies 'not but that one particular passage, in the fourth satire, At si unétus celles, &c. is not only the most obfcure, but the most obscene of all his works: I understood it; but for that reason turned it over. In defence of his boisterous metaphors, he quotes Longinus, who accounts them as instruments of the sublime; fit to move and stir
the affections, particularly in narration. To which it may be replied, that where the trope is far fetched and hard, it is fit for nothing but to puzzle the understanding; and may be reckoned amongst these things of Demofthenes which Efchines called θαύματα, not ρήματα, that is Prodigies, not Words. It must be granted to Casaubon, that the knowledge of many things is lost in our modern ages which were of familiar notice to the ancients; and that satire is
of a dif. ficult nature in itself, and is not written to vulgar readers. And through the relation which it has to comedy, the frequent change of persons makes the sense perplexed ; when we can but divine who it is that speaks: whether Perfius himself, or his friend and monitor; or, in some places, a third person. But Casaubon comes back always to himself, and concludes, that if Persius had not been obscure, there had been no need of him for an interpreter. Yet when he had once enjoined himself so hard a tak, he then considered the Greek proverb, that he muft χελώνες φαγείν ή μη φαγείν either eat the whole snail, or let it quite alone, and so he went through
with his laborious task, as I have done with my difficult translation.
Thus far, my lord, you see it has gone very hard with Persius: I think he cannot be allowed to stand in competition either with Juvenal or Horace. Yet for once I will venture to be so vain, as to affirm, that none of his hard metaphors, or forced expressions, are in my translation: but more of this in its proper place, where I shall say somewhat in particular, of our general performance, in making these two authors English. In the mean time, I think myself obliged to give Persius his undoubted due, and to acquaint the world, with Casaubon, in what he has equalled, and in what excelled his two competitors.
A man who is resolved to praise an author, with any appearance of justice, must be sure to take him on the strongest fide, and where he is least liable to exceptions. He is therefore obliged to chuse his mediums accordingly; Casaubon, who saw that Persius could not laugh with a becoming grace, that he was not made for jesting, and that a merry conceit was not his talent, turned his feather, like an Indian, to another light, that he might give it the better glofs. Moral doctrine, says he, and urbanity, or well mannered wit, are the two things which constitute the Roman fatire. But of the two, that which is most effential to this poem, and is, as it were, the very soul which animates it, is the scourging of vice, and exhortation to virtue. Thus wit, for a good reason, is already almost out of doors ; and allowed only for an instrument, a kind of tool, or a weapon, as he calls it, of which the satirist makes ufe, in the compafling of his design. The end and aim of our three rivals, is consequently the same. By what methods they have profecuted their intention, is farther to be considered. Satire is of the nature of moral philosophy, as being instructive : he, therefore, who inftru&ts most usefully, will carry the palm from his two antagonists. The philosophy in which Persius was educated, and which he pro.
fesses through his whole book, is the stoick: the most noble, most generous, most beneficial to human kind, amongst all the sects, who have given us the rules of ethicks, thereby to form a severe virtue in the foul; to raise in us an undaunted courage, against the assaults of fortune ; to esteem as nothing the things that are without us, because they are not in our power; not to value riches, beauty, honours, fame, or health, any farther than as conveniencies, and so many helps to living as we ought, and doing good in our generation. In short, to be any ways happy, 'while we possess our minds, with a good conscience, are free from the slavery of vices, and conform our actions and conversations to the rules of right reason. See here, my lord, an epitome of Epictetus; the doctrine of Zeno, and the education of our Persius. And this he expressed, not only in all his fatires, but in the manner of his life. I will not lessen this commendation of the stock philosophy, by giving you an account of some absurdities in their doctrine, and some perhaps impieties, if we consider them by the standard of christian faith : Persius has fallen into none of them; and therefore is free from those imputations. What he teaches might be taught from pulpits, with more profit to the audience, than all the nice fpeculations of divinity, and controversies concerning faith ; which are more for the profit of the shepherd, than for the edification of the flock. Passion, interest, ambition, and all their bloody consequences of discord, and of war, are banished from this doctrine. Here is nothing proposed but the quiet and tranquility of the mind; virtue lodged at home, and afterwards diffused in her general effects, to the improvement and good of human kind. And therefore I wonder not that the present bifhop of Salisbury has recommended this our author, and the tenth satire of Juvenal, in his Pastoral Letter, to the serious peruial and practice of the divines in his diocess, as the best common-places for their sermons, as the store-houses and magazines of moral virtues,