Obrázky na stránke

elevated rank of the emperor, but in the peculiar diligence and sollicitude, with which, history tells us, he endeavoured to promote, by various ways, the interests of his country. So that the compliment is as just, as it is polite. It may be further observed, that sermo is used in Horace, to signify the ordinary style of conversation [See Sat. i. 3, 65, and iv. 42.] and therefore not improperly denotes the familiarity of the epistolary address, which, in its easy expression, so nearly approaches to it.

13. URIT ENIM FULGORE SUO, QUI PRAEGRAVAT ARTES INFRA SE POSITAS : EXTINCTUS AMABITUR IDEM.] The poet, we may suppose, spoke this from experience. And so might another of later date when he complained:

Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
Attones not for that envy which it brings.
Essay on Crit. v. 494.

Unless it be thought, that, as this was said by him very early in life, it might rather pass for a prediction of his future fortunes. Be this as it will, the sufferings, which unhappy wit is conceived to bring on itself from the envy, it excites, are, I am apt to think, somewhat aggravated; at least if one may judge from the effects it had on this Complainant. That which would be likely to afflict him most, was the envy of his friends. But the generosity of these deserves to be recorded. The wits took no offence

at his fame, till they found it eclipse their own : And his Philosopher and Guide, 'tis well known, stuck close to him, till another and brighter star. had gotten the ascendant. Or supposing there might be some malice in the case, it is plain there was little mischief. And for this little the poet's creed provides an ample recompence. EXTINCTUS AMABITUR IDEM: not, we may be sure, by those The most improved, enlightened, and obliged; but by late impartial posterity; and by ONE at least of his surviving friends, who generously took upon him the patronage of his fame, and who inherits his genius and his virtues.

14. EXTINCTUS AMABITUR IDEM.] Envy, says a discerning ancient, is the vice of those, who are too weak to contend, and too proud to submit: vitium eorum, qui nec cedere volunt, nec possunt contenderea. Which, while it sufficiently exposes the folly and malignity of this hateful passion, secures the honour of human nature; as implying at the same time, that its worst corruptions are not without a mixture of generosity in them. For this false pride in refusing to submit, though absurd and mischievous enough, when unsupported by all ability to contend, yet discovers such a sense of superior excellence, as shews, how difficult it is for human nature to divest itself of all virtue. Accordingly,

a Quinctilian, lib. xi. c. 1.

when the too powerful splendor is withdrawn, our natural veneration of it takes place: Extinctus amabitur idem. This is the true exposition of the poet's sentiment; which therefore appears just the reverse of what his French interpreter would fix upon him. "La justice, que nous rendons aux grands hommes après leur mort, ne vient pas de l'AMOUR, que "nous avons pour leur vertu, mais de la HAINE, "dont notre cœur est rempli pour ceux, qui ont



pris leur PLACE." An observation, which only becomes the misanthropy of an old cynic virtue, or the selfishness of a modern system of ethics,

15. PRAESENTI TIBI MATUROS, &c. to v. 18.] We are not to wonder at this and the like extravagances of adulation in the Augustan poets. They had ample authority for what they did of this sort. We know, that altars were erected to the Emperor by the command of the Senate; and that he was publicly invoked, as an established, tutelary divinity. But the seeds of the corruption had been sown much earlier. For we find it sprung up, or rather (as of all the ill weeds, which the teeming soil of human depravity throws forth, none is more thriving and grows faster than this of flattery) flourishing at its height, in the tyranny of J. CAESAR. Balbus, in a letter to Cicero [Ep. ad Att. 1. ix.] Swears by the health and safety of Caesar: ità, incolumi Caesare, moriar. And Dio tells us [L. xliv.] that it was, by the express injunction of the Senate, decreed,

even in Caesar's life-time, that the Romans should bind themselves by this oath. The Senate also, as we learn from the same writer, [L. xliii.] upon receiving the news of his defeat of Pompey's sons, caused his statue to be set up, in the temple of Romulus, with this inscription, DEO INVICTO.

'Tis true, these and still greater honours had been long paid to the Roman governors in their provinces, by the abject, slavish Asiatics. And this, no doubt, facilitated the admission of such idolatries into the capitale. But that a people, from the highest notions of an independent republican equality, could so soon be brought to this prostrate adoration of their first Lord, is perfectly amazing! In this, they shewed themselves ripe for servitude. Nothing could keep them out of the hands of a master. And one can scarcely read such accounts, as these, without condemning the vain efforts of dying patriotism, which laboured so fruitlesly, may one not almost say, so weakly? to protract the liberty of such a people. Who can, after this, wonder

dv×ńty sygά.

b O Though, to com lete the farce, it was with the greatest shyness and reluctance, that the humility of these lords of the universe could permit itself to accept the ensigns of deity, as the court-historians of those times are forward to inform us. An affectation, which was thought to sit so well upon them, that we find it afterwards practised, in the absurdest and most impudent manner, by the worst of their successors.

c See a learned and accurate dissertation on the subject in HIST. DE L'ACAD. DES INSCR. &c. tom. i.

[ocr errors]

at the incense, offered up by a few court-poets? The adulation of Virgil, which has given so much offence, and of Horace, who kept pace with him, was, we see, but the authorized language of the times; presented indeed with address, but without the heightenings and privileged licence of their profession. For, to their credit, it must be owned, that, though in the office of poets, they were to comply with the popular voice, and echo it back to the ears of sovereignty; yet, as men, they had too much good sense, and too scrupulous a regard to the dignity of their characters, to exaggerate and go beyond it.

It should, in all reason, surprize and disgust us still more, that modern writers have not always shewn themselves so discrete. The grave and learned LIPSIUS was not ashamed, even without the convenient pretext of popular flattery, or poetic coloring, in so many words, to make a God of his patron: who though neither King, nor Pope, was yet the next best material for this manufacture, an Archbishop. For, though the critic knew, that it was not every wood, that will make a Mercury, yet no body would dispute the fitness of that, which grew so near the altar. In plain words, I am speaking of an Archbishop of MECHLIN, whom, after a deal of fulsome compliment (which was the vice of the man) he exalts at last, with a pagan complaisance, into the order of Deities. "Ad haec, says he, erga omnes

humanitas et facilitas me faciunt, ut omnes te

[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »