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Argument of the PROLOGUE to the First Satire.
The defign 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 reafon, though he was a Roman knight, and of a plentiful fortune, be would appear in this prologue but a beggarly poet, who writes for bread. After this, he breaks into the business of the first fatire; which is chiefly to decry the poetry then in fashion, and the impudence of those who were endeavouring to pass their fluff upon the world.
Never did on cleft Parnaffus dream,
And claim no part in all the mighty Nine.
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 be 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 worfe applied. Amongst the poets, Perfius covertly ftrikes at Nero; fome of whofe verfes he recites with fcorn and indignation. He also takes notice of the noblemen and their abominable poetry, who in the luxury of their fortunes, fet up for wits and judges. The fatire is in dialogue, betwixt the author and his friend or monitor; who diffuades him from this dangerous attempt of expofing great men. But Perfius, who is of a free fpirit, and has not forgotten that Rome was once a commonwealth, breaks through all thofe difficulties, and boldly arraigns the falfe judgment of the age in which he lives. The reader may obferve that our poet was a ftoick philofopher; and that all his moral fentences, both here and in all the rest of his fatires, are drawn from the dogmas of that fect.
In Dialogue betwixt the POET and his
WOW anxious are our cares, and yet how vain
Friend. Thy fpleen contain :
For none will read thy fatires.
Perfius. This to me?
Friend. None; or what's next to none, but two
"Tis hard, I grant.
Perfius. 'Tis nothing; I can bear That paltry fcriblers have the public ear: That this vaft univerfal fool, the town, Should cry up Labeo's stuff, and cry me down. They damn themselves; nor will my Mufe defcend To clap with fuch, who fools and knaves commend; Their fmiles and cenfures are to me the fame: I care not what they praise, or what they blame, In full affemblies let the crowd prevail :
I weigh no merit by the common fcale,
The confcience is the test of ev'ry mind;
Perfius. I cannot rule my fpleen; My scorn rebels, and tickles me within. First, to begin at home: our authors write 1 In lonely rooms, fecur'd from public fight; Whether in profe, or verfe, 'tis all the fame: The profe is fuftian, and the numbers lame. All noife, and empty pomp, a ftorm of words, Lab'ring with found, that little fense affords. They comb, and then they order ev'ry hair : A gown, or white, or fcour'd to whitenefs, wear: A birth-day jewel bobbing at their ear,