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AULUS PERSIUS FLACCUS was born at · Volaterræ, in Etruria (now Tuscany,) about the twentieth. year of the emperor Tiberius, that is to say, about two years after the death of Christ. Flaccus, his father, was a Rornan knight, whom he lost when he was but six years of age. His mother, Fulvia Sisennia, after ward married one Fusius, a Roman knight, and within a few years buried him also. Our poet studied, till the age of twelve years, at Volaterræ; he then came to Rome, where he put himself under the instruction of Remmius Palæmon, a grammarian, and Virginius Flaccus a rhetorician; to each of which he paid the highest attention. At sixteen he made a friendship with An. næus Cornutụs, (by country an African, by profession a Stoic philosopher,) from whom he got an insight into the Stoic philosophy. By means of Cornutus he be. came acquainted with Annæus Lucanus, who so admired the writings of Persius, that on hearing him read his verses, he could scarcely refrain from crying out publicly, that "they were absolute poems.”.
He was a young man of gentle manners, of great modesty, and of remarkable sobriety and frugality : dutiful and affectionate towards his mother, loving and kind to his sisters; a most strenuous friend and defender of virtue-- an irreconcileable eneiny to vice in all its shapes, as may appear from his Satires, which camę from his masterly pen in an early time of life, when dissipation, lewdness, and extravagance were cultivated and followed by so many of his age, and when, instead of making them his associates, he made them the ob. jects of his severest animadversion.
He died of a disorder in his stomach about the thir. tieth year of his age, and left behind him a large for. tune ; the bulk of which he bequeathed to his mother and sisters ; leaving an handsome legacy to his friend and instructor Cornutus, together with his study of books : Cornutus only accepted the books, and gave the money, which Persius had left him, to the surviving sisters of Persius.
Some have supposed, that Persius studied obscurity in his Satires, and that to this we owe the difficulty of unravelling his meaning ; that he did this, that he might with the greater safety attack and expose the vicious of his day, and particularly the emperor Nero, at whom some of his keenest shafts were aimed : however this may be, I have endeavoured to avail myself of the explanations which the learned have given, in order to faci. Jitate the forming of my own judgment, which, whether coincident with theirs or not, I have freely set down in
the following notes, in order that my readers may the more easily form theirs. · As to the comparisons which have been made, be tween Horace, Persius, and Juvenal, (the former of which is so often imitated by Persius,) I would refer the reader to Mr. Dryden's Dedication to the Earl of Dorset, which is prefixed to the translation of Juvenal and Persius, by himself and others, and where this matter is very fully considered. For my own part, I think it best to allow each his particular merit, and to avoid the invidious and disagreeable task of making comparisons where each is so excellent, and wherein prejudice and fancy too often supersede true taste and sound judgment.
However the comparative merit of Persius may be determined, his positive excellence can hardly escape the readers of his Satires, or incline them to differ from Quintilian, who says of him-Inst. Orator. lib. x. cap. i.
" Multum et vera gloria, quamvis uno libra Persius 66 meruit."
Martial seems of this opinion, lib. iv. epig. xxviii. 1. 7, 8.
• Sæpius in libro memoratur Persius uno,
On which the Scholiast observes, by way of note“ Gratior est parvus liber Satirarum Persii, quam ingens « volumen Marsi, quo bellum Herculis scripsit contra “ Amazonas.”
. Nor were the Satires of Persius in small esteem, even among some of the most learned of the early Christian writers—such as Cassiodore, Lactantius, Eusebius, St. Jerom, and St. Austin. This is observed by Holyday, who concludes his preface to his translation with these remarkable words" Reader, be courteous rs to thyself, and let not the example of an heathen con“ demn thee, but improve thee.”