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will have it in your power to blot out what you have not made public; but a word once sent abroad can never return.
Orpheus, the priest and interpreter of the gods, first deterred the savage race of men from ravages and inhuman diet; hence said to tame tigers and furious lions: Amphion too, the builder of the Theban wall, was said to give the stones motion with the sound of his lyre, and to lead them wherever he would by engaging persuasion. This was deemed wisdom of yore, to distinguish the public from private weal, things sacred from things profane; to prohibit a promiscuous commerce between the sexes; to give laws to married people; to plan out cities; to engrave laws on tables of wood. Thus honour accrued to divine poets and their verses. After these, the excellent Homer, and Tyrteus, animated the manly mind to martial achievements with their verses. Oracles were delivered in poetry, and the economy of life pointed out, and the favour of sovereign princes was solicited in Pierian strains: games were instituted, and a cheerful period put to the tedious labours of the day this I remind you of, lest haply you should be ashamed of the lyric muse, and Apollo, the god of song.
It has been made a question, whether good poetry be derived from nature or art. For my part, I can neither conceive what study can do without a-rich natural vein, nor what rude genius can avail of itself; so much does the one require the assistance of the other, and so amicably do they conspire to produce the same effect. He who is industrious to reach the wished-for goal has done and suffered much when a boy; he hath sweated, and shivered
Abstinuit venere et vino:* qui Pythia cantat Tibicen, didicit priùs, extimuitque magistrum. 415 Nunc satis est dixisse,t "Ego mira poëmata
Occupet extremum scabies: mihi turpe relinqui
Et, quod non didici, sanè nescire fateri."
Ut præco, ad merces turbam qui cogit emendas;
Et faciunt propè plura dolentibus ex animo: sic
Et torquere mero, quem perspexisse laborent, 435 An sit amicitiâ dignus: si carmina condes, Nunquam te fallant animi sub vulpe latentes.
* Abstinuit Venere et Baccho.
Nec satis est dixisse.
Et eripere arctis. Bentl.
with cold; he has abstained from love and wine; he, who sings the Pythian strains, first was a learner, and in awe of a master. But, in poetry, it is now enough for a man to say of himself; "I make admirable verses: a murrain seize the hindmost : it is scandalous for me to be outstripped, and fairly to acknowledge that I am ignorant of that which I never learned."
As a crier, who collects the crowd together to buy his goods; so a poet, rich in land, rich in money put out at interest, invites flatterers to come and praise his works for a reward. But if he be one who is well able to set out an elegant table, and give security for a poor man, and relieve him when entangled in plaguy lawsuits, I shall wonder, if with this wealth he can distinguish a true friend from a false one. For you, whether you have made, or intend to make, a present to any one, do not bring him full of joy directly to your finished verses; for then he will certainly cry out, Charming, excellent, judicious; he will turn pale; at some parts, he will even distil the dew from his friendly eyes; he will jump about; will beat the ground with ecstacy. As those that mourn at funerals, for pay, do and say more than those that are afflicted from their hearts; so the sham-admirer is always more affected than he that praises in sincerity. Certain kings are said to ply with frequent bumpers, and, by the strength of wine, make trial of a man, whom they are sedulous to know, whether he is worthy their friendship or not. Thus, if you compose verses, let not the fox's* concealed intentions impose upon you.
Alluding to the well-known fable of the fox and crow
Quintilio si quid recitares, Corrige, sódes, Hoc, aiebat, et hoc. Melius te posse negares, Bis terque expertum frustrà: delere jubebat, 440 Et malè formatos incudi* reddere versus. Si defendere delictum, quàm vertere, malles, Nullum ultrà verbum, aut operam insumebat in
Quin sine rivali teque et tua solus amares.
Ut mala quem scabies aut morbus règius urget,
Et malè ter natos incudi. Bentl.
• Aristarchus was a very great criti who lived reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was cotemporary with Callimachus. He wrote about fourscore volumes of commentaries on Homer, Aristophanes, and other Greek
If you had recited any thing to Quintilius, he would say, "Alter, I pray, this and this;" If you replied you could do, it no better, having made the experiment twice or thrice in vain, he would order you to blot out, and once more apply to the anvil your ill-formed verses: If you chose rather to defend than correct a fault, he spent not a word more, nor labour in vain, but you alone might be fond of yourself, and your own works, without a rival. A good and sensible man will censure spiritless verses; he will condemn the trash; on the incorrect he will draw across a black stroke with his pen; he will lop off ambitious and redundant ornaments; he will make him throw light on the parts that are not perspicuous; he will arraign what is expressed ambi-` guously; he will mark what should be altered; in short, he will be an Aristarchus:* he will not say, why should I give my friend offence about mere trifles? These trifles will lead him into mischiefs of serious consequence, when once made an object of ridicule, and used in a sinister manner.
Like one whom an odious plague or jaundice, fanatic phrensy, or lunacy, distresses, those who are wise avoid a mad poet, and are afraid to touch him the boys jostle him, and the incautious pursue him. If, like a fowler intent upon his game, he should fall into a well or ditch while he belches out his fustian verses, and roams about, though he
poets: he revised and corrected Homer, which work is lost, with the rest of his criticisms, which were so nice and pené trating, that he was commonly called the Diviner, on avcount of his great sagacity.