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et tetrico vivunt tibi pectine chorda. Casaubon, perhaps rightly, observes, that the reading should be tetrico, and not Tetrico. For my part, I almost suspect my author's gravity of pun.
Mihi nunc Ligus ora Intepet. Casaubon, according to custom, when any difficulty occurs, makes all easy by supposing a rhetorical figure. Thus he says, Ligus ora inaadayń pro Ligustica, ut mox juvenes jocos, id est juveniles. I observe, Casaubon does not take notice of the construction of the last line of the fifth satire. I understand an infinitive.
This great commentator has another peculiarity. He admires Persius to extravagance; but he seems never to suspect him of poetry. It is true, the satirist did not shine in description ; yet, unless I had been told so by Casaubon, I should never have dreamt, that while my author is talking of the port of Luna, and of the Ligurian shore, he is in fact all the time busy philosophizing. Who, that had not been bred to the profession of commentator, would have discovered that Persius was
alluding here to the universal principle of heat, which, according to the Stoics, pervades every part of the universe ? of this principle the vast body of the waters has its share. Now as the air begins to cool when winter approaches, the transition from heat to cold would be much more felt, if the earth and ocean did not part with a certain portion of caloric, as the air becomes less heated by the sun's rays. But water (as its fluidity evinces) contains a larger proportion of caloric than other matter, of which the particles are united by a closer adliesion, and a more powerful attraction; it necessarily follows then, that in the same latitudes the air of the sea will be warmer than that of continents. Now although this reasoning may appear to be borrowed from the modern chemists, yet it might certainly have been inferred from the principles of the Stoic philosophers, who held the universality of caloric just as much as Black or Lavoisier. Persius, therefore, under other terms, might have reasoned as I have now done: but still is it not a little absurd to suppose, that he could not describe his country residence, nor even talk of the weather, without taking all this trouble to prove that he was of the sect of Zeno, to his friend, who knew it very well before?
Ver. 9. Lunai portum, &c.
Strabo (L. v.) has celebrated the size and beauty of this port. It is still known by its ancient name ; and
is situated at the mouth of a small river called Vitra, which falls into the golfa de la Spetia.
Quintus pavone ex Pythagoreo. The Metempsychosis, like many other metaphysical doctrines, is laughed at by some who do understand it, and by more who do not.
The transmigration of the soul was taught by the priests, and believed by the people of India, of Persia, of Chaldea, and of Egypt. This doctrine, which was first introduced into Greece by Pythagoras, was afterwards adopted and perhaps refined by the Platonists. According to their sublime, but fanciful philosophy, God is the source of intellectual being; and from him all other intelligences are derived. As the rays of light, which illumine the earth, emanate from the orb of the sun, so the spirits, which animate matter, have originally proceeded from the essence of God. The soul, upon its first immersion into matter, loses all its energies, which it slowly and imperfectly recovers. If, in its union with matter, it becomes enamoured of its present existence, and forgets its intellectual pleasures, it continues wandering upon earth (according to the beautiful allegory of Apuleius) rising, or sinking, in the scale of being, as it is exalted by virtue, or degraded by vice. At length, when the soul of a virtuous man desires to be re-united with the primary intelligence, it becomes capable of attaining a higher sphere of existence. Finally, it returns
to the source whence being flows; and in this union is the ultimate happiness.
This doctrine is certainly sublime; but does it not sometimes happen, that the sublime borders upon the extravagant ?
aut cænare sine uncto. Those authors are mistaken who say, that the Greeks took the custom of perfuming themselves at meals from the Persians; and Pliny had forgotten his Homer, when he said that the Greeks did not use unguents, until a period subsequent to the siege of Troy. Thus, speaking of Paris in the third book, the poet says,
Καλλει τε σιβιων και ειμασι. . In another book he speaks of the wounds of Patroclus being filled with unguents.
In later ages the custom of anointing the head, hands, and feet, became very general, not only at the commencement, but at the conclusion of feasts. Then,
Ωραίος παίς ήλθε φερων μυρον κρινον ηδυ
The Ionians are said to have been the first who wore crowns of flowers during their meals. It became among the Romans a common fashion ; and the hair was first anointed, and then adorned with flowers.
- funde capacibus Unguenta de conchis. Quis udo
Deproperare apio coronas,
Curatve myrto? But the perfumes most in request were those which came from Arabia, India, and Persia.
Non omnes possunt olere unguenta exótica. It appears
from Seneca, that one method of inviting a person of rank to supper, was to send him perfumes and garlands. (Seneca de Ira, L. ii.) Perfumes, among the Romans, were made from myrrh, cinnamon, nard, spikenard, casia, roses, baccar, &c.
Ver. 17. Et signum in vapida naso tetigisse lagena.
This is to draw from the life. Horace himself could hardly have given a more striking picture of avarice.
Genitos horoscope, varo Producis genio.In the age of Persius the number of judicial astrologers at Rome seems more than once to have excited the indignation of the poet, who justly reprobated a superstition by which jugglers and sciolists imposed upon the credulity of the people. The senate had in vain decreed the expulsion of those cheats: they assumed the names of Chaldæi, Genethliaci, and Mathematici; and obtained the highest credit among the lower orders of the Romans, who were the dupes of their impostures. Every body knows the weakness of Dryden upon the subject of astrology. He has no note upon these words of Persius.