Sidor som bilder

from whence they may draw out, as they have on cafion, all manner of a listance for the accomplishment of a virtuous life, which the Stoicks have asligned for the great end and perfection of mankind. Herein then it is, that Perfius has excelled both Ju. venal and Horace. He sticks to his own philosophy: he shifts 'not fides, like Horace, who is sometimes an Epicurean, fometimes a Stoick, sometimes an Eclectick, as his prefent humour leads him; nor declaims like Juvenal against vices, more like an orator, than a philosopher. Persius is every where the same;, true to the dogmas of his master. What he has learnt, he teaches vehemently; and what he teaches, that he practises himself. There is a spirit of sincerity in all he says: you may easily discern that he is in earnest, and is persuaded of that truth which he inculcates. In this I am of opinion, that he excels Horace, who is commonly in jest, and laughs while he instructs : and is equal to Juvenal, who was as honest and serious as Perfius, and more he could not be.

Hitherto I have followed Casaubon, and enlarged upon him ; because I am satisfied that he says no more than truth; the rest is almost all frivolous. For he says that Horace, being the son of a taxgatherer, or a collector, as we call it, smells every where of the meanness of his birth and education; his conceits are vulgar, like the subjects of his satires; that he does plebeium fapere; and writes not with that elevation, which becomes a satirist: that Persius being nobly born, and of an opulent family, had likewise the advantage of a better master; Cornutus being the most learned of his time, a man of the moit holy life, the chief of the ftoick feet at Rome; and not only a great philosopher, but a poet himself; and in probability a coadjutor of Perfius. That, as for Juvenal, he was long a declaimer, came late to poetry, and has not been much conversant in philosophy.

It is granted that the father of Horace was Libertinus, that is, one degree removed from his grand


father, who had been once a slave : but Horace, speaking of him, gives him the best character of a father, which I ever read in history; and I wish a witty friend of mine now living had such another. He bred him in the best school, and with the best company of young noblemen. And Horace by his gratitude to his memory, gives a certain testimony that his education was ingenuous. After this, he sormed himself abroad, by the conversation of great men.

Brutus found him at Athens, and was so pleased with him, that he took him thence into the army, and made, him tribunus militum, a colonel in a legion, which was the preferment of an old soldier. All this was before his acquaintance with Mecænas, and his introduction into the court of Augustus, and the familiarity of that great emperor; which, bad he not been well-bred before, had been enough to civilize his conversation, and render him accomplished and knowing in all the arts of complacency and good behaviour ; and, in short, an agreeable companion for the retired hours and privacies of a favourite, who was first minister. So that, upon the whole matter, Persius may be acknowledged to be equal with him, in those respects, though better born, and Juvenal inferior to both. If the advantage be any where, it is on the side of Horace; as. much as the court of Auguftus Cæsar was superior to that of Nero. As for the subjects which they treated, it will appear hereafter, that Horace writ not vulgarly on vulgar subjects, nor always chose them. His ftile is constantly accommodated to his subject, either high or low: if his fault be too much lowness, that of Persius is the fault of the hardness of his metaphors, and obscurity: and so they are equal in the failings of their ftile ; where Juvenal manifestly triumphs over both of them.

The comparison betwixt Horace and Juvenal is more difficult; because their forces were more equal: a dispute has always been, and ever will continue, betwixt the favourers of the two poets. Non noftrum


A tantas componere lites. I shall only venture to give my opinion, and leave it for better judges to determine. If it be only argued in general, which of them was the better poet, the victory is already gained on the side of Horace. Virgil himself must yield to him in the delicacy of his turns, his choice of words, and perhaps the purity of his Latin. He who says that Pindar is inimitable, is himself inimitable in bis odes. But the contention betwixt these two great masters, is for the prize of satire: in which controversy, all the odes and epodes of Horace are to fand excluded, I say this, because Horace has written many of them satirically, against his private enemies :

: yet these, if jusly considered, are somewhat of the nature of the Greek filli, which were invectives against particular sects and persons. But Horace has purged himself of this choler, before he entered on those discourses, which are more properly called the Roman satire: he has not now to do with a Lyce, a Canidia, a Caffius Severus, or a Menas; but is to correct the vices and the follies of his time, and to give the rules of a happy and virtuous life, In a word, that former fort of satire, which is known in England by the name of lampoon, is a dangerous fort of weapon, and for the moft part unlawful. We have no moral right on the reputation of other men, It is taking from them what we cannot restore to them. There are only two reasons, for which we may be permitted to write lampoons; and I will not promise that they can always juftify us : the first is revenge, when we have been affronted in the same nature, or have been any ways notoriously abused, and can make ourselves no other reparation. And yet we know, that, in christian charity, all offences are to be forgiven, as we expect the like pardon for those which we daily, commit against Almighty God. And this consideration has often made me tremble when I was saying our Saviour's prayer; for the plain condition of the forgiveness which we beg, is the pardoning of others the offences which they have done to us: for which


[ocr errors]


my own

to me.

reason I have many times avoided the commission of that fault, even when I have been notoriously provoked. Let not this, my lord, pass for vanity in

for it is truth. More libels have been written against me, than almost any man now living: and I had reason on my fide, to have defended innocence : I speak not on my poetry, which I have wholly given up to the criticks ; let them use it as they please ; pofterity, perhaps, may be more favourable to me: for interest and passion will lie buried in another age ; and partiality and prejudice be forgotten. I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently aspersed ; that any sort of reputation ought to be dear to every honeft man, and is

But let the world witness for me, that I have been often wanting to myself in that particular; I have seldom answered any fcurrilous lampoon, when it was in my power to have exposed my enemies: and being naturally vindicative, have suffered in filence, and possessed my soul in quiet.

Any thing, though never so little, which a man speaks of himself, in my opinion, is till too much; and therefore I will wave this subject, and proceed to give the second reason, which may justify a poet, when he writes against a particular person : and that is, when he is become a publick nuisance. And those, whom Horace in his satires, and Persius and Juvenal have mentioned in theirs, with a brand of infamy, are wholly such. It is an action of virtue to make examples of vicious men. They may and ought to be upbraided with their crimes and follies : both for their own amendment, if they are not yet incorrigible, and for the terror of others, to hinder them from falling into those enormities, which they see are so feverely punished, in the perfons of others. The first reason was only an excuse for revenge; but this second is absolutely of a poet's office to perform: but how few lampooners are there now living, who are capable of this duty! When they come in my way, it is impossible sometimes to



avoid reading them. But, good God ! how remote they are in common justice, from the choice of such persons as are the proper subjects of satire ! And how little wit they bring, for the support of their injustice! The weaker sex is their most ordinary theme ; and the best and faireft are sure to be the most severely handled. Amongst men, those who are prosperously unjust, are intitled to panegyric; but afficted virtue is insolently stabbed with all manner of reproaches ; no decency is considered, no fulsomeness omitted ; no venom is wanting, as far as dulnefs can supply it: for there is a perpetual dearth of wit; a barrenness of good fense and entertainment. The neglect of the readers, will soon put an end to this fort of scribbling. There can be no pleasantry where there is no wit: no impression can be made, where there is no truth for the foundation. To conclude, they are like the fruits of the earth in this unnatural season: the corn which held

up its head, is spoiled with rankness; but the greater part of the harveft is laid along, and little of good income and wholsome nourishment is received into the barns. This is almost a digression, I confess to your lord ship; but a juít indignation forced it from me. Now I have removed this rubbish, I will return to the comparison of Juvenal and Horace.

I would willingly divide the palm betwixt thein, upon the two heads of profit and delight, which are the two ends of poetry in general. It must be granted by the favourers of Juvenal, that Horace is the more copious and profitable in his instructions of human life; but in my particular opinion, which I set not up for a ftandard to better judgments, Juvenal is the more delightful author. I am profited by both, I am pleased with both; but I owe more to Horace, for my instruction ; and more te Juvenal, for my pleasure. This, as I said, is my particular taste of these two authors: they who will have either of them to excel the other in both qualities, can scarce give better reasons for their opinion, than I for mine :


« FöregåendeFortsätt »