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Nec pluteum cædit, nec demorsos sapit ungues.
M. Sed quid opus teneras mordaci radere vero
Mænas were always in people's mouths, mixed with their spittle, as it were.
106. Nor does he beat his desk, &c.] The penman of such verses as these is at very little pains about them. He knows nothing of those difficulties, which, at times, pains-taking poets are under, so as to make them smite the desk which they write upon, and gnaw their nails to the quick, with vexation. See Hor. lib. ii. sat. iii, 1. 7, 8.
Culpantur frustra calami, frustraque laborat
Iratis natus paries Dîs atque poetis.
In versu faciendo Sæpe caput scaberet, vivos et roderet ungues, 107. Where's the need, &c.] We are to recollect, that this Satire opens with a dialogue between Persius and his friend : that the latter persuades Persius against publishing ; that Persius says, he is naturally of a satirical turn of mind, and does not know how to refrain (1. 12.) and then launches forth into the severest censure on the writers of his day. His friend perceiving that what he first said against publishing would not have its effect, still farther dissuades him, by hinting at the danger he ran of getting the ill-will of the great.
" Where is the necessity, (says his friend,) supposing all you say « to be true, yet where is the necessity to hurt the ears of those ♡s who have been used to hear nothing but flattery, and therefore “ must be very tender and susceptible of the acutest feelings of un66 easiness and displeasure, on hearing such bitter and stinging truths “ as you deliver ? 108. See to it.] Vide sîs (i. e. si vis )--take care if you please.
Lest haply the thresholds, &c.7 Lest it fall out, that you should so offend some of the great folks, as to meet with a cool reception at their houses. .So Hor. sat, i, lib. ii. 1. 60---3
-- O puer, ut sis
Frigore te feriat. 109. Here.] i.e. In these Satires of yours, there is a disagreeable sound, like the snarling of a dog, very unpleasant to the ears of such people.
Nor does he beat his desk, nor taste his gnawn nails. :
M. But where's the need to grate tender ears with biting truth? See to it, lest haply the thresholds of the great Should grow cold to you: here from the nostril sounds the canine
letterP. For my part, truly, let every thing be henceforward white. 110 I hinder not. O brave ! all things, ye shall all be very wonderful. This pleases.--Here, say you, I forbid that any should make a pis.
sing place : : Paint two snakes : boys, the place is sacred: without Make water-I depart.-Lucilius cut the city,
109–10. From the nostril sounds the canine letter.] R is called the dog's letter, because the vibration of the tongue in pronouncing it resembles the snarling of a dog. See Alchymist, act ii. sc. vi.
110. For my part, truly, &c.] Well, answers Persius, if this be the case, I'll have nothing to do with them ; all they do and say shall be perfectly right, for me, from henceforward. The ancients put black for what was bad, and white for what was good, accord. ing to that of Pythagoras :
Το μεν λευκον της Αγαθε φυσεως, το δε μελαν κακά.
White is of the nature of good-black of evil. 111. I hinder not.] I shall say nothing to prevent its being thought so. Or nil moror may be rendered—I don't care about it. Comp. Hor. sat. iv. lib. i. 1. 13.
- O brave ! &c.] Well done! every thing, good people, that ye say and do shall be admirable. Iron. This wretched verse is supposed to be written as a banter on the bad poets.
112. This pleases.] Surely this concession pleases you, my friend.
- Here say you, I forbid, &c.] Metaph. It was unlawful to do their occasions, or to make water, in any sacred place; and it was customary to paint two snakes on the walls or doors of such places, in order to mark them out to the people. The poet is iro. nically comparing the persons and writings of the great (glancing, no doubt, at Nero) to such sacred places ; and as these were for. bidden to be defiled with urine and excrement, so he understands his friend to stay, that neither the persons or writings of the emperor and of the nobles were to be defiled with the abuse and reproofs of satirists. See Juv, sat. i. 131.
113. Paint two snakes.] These were representatives of the deity or genius of the sacred place, and painted there as signals to deter people, children especially, who were most apt to make free with such places, from the forbidden defilement. Mark out, says Persius, these sacred characters to me, that I may avoid defiling them, Iron.
114. I depart.] Says Persius, I am gone-I shall not tarry a mo. ment on forbidden ground, nor drop my Satires there. VOL. II.
Te, Lupe, te, Muti; et genuinum fregit in illis.
115 Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico Tangit; et admissus circum præcordia ludit, Callidus excusso populum suspendere naso. Men'mutire nefas ? Nec clam, nec cum scrobe ? M. Nusquam. P. Hic tamen infodiam : “Vidi, vidi ipse, libelle : , • Auriculas asini quis non habet ?"-Hoc ego opertum, Hoc ridere meum, tam nil, nullâ tibi vendo Iliade.-- Audaci quicunque afflate Cratino,
114, Lucilius cut the city.] Lucilius, whose works are not come down to us, was almost the father of the Roman satire. He was a very severe writer-hence our poet's saying, secuit urbem, he cut up, slashed as with a sword, the city, i. e. the people of Rome, from the highest to the lowest. So Juv. sat. i. 1. 156.
Ense velut stricto quoties Lucilius ardent
Persius seems to bethink himself - He has just said, I departi.e. I shall not meddle with the great people—“But why should I “ depart? Lucilius could lash all sorts of people, and why should • not I ?”
115. Thee, Lupus, thee, Mutius.} Pub. Rutilius Lupus, the con. sul, and Titus Mutius Albutius, a very powerful man.
9.d. Lucilius not only satirized the great, but did it by name.
- Brake his jaw-tooth, &c.] Metaph, from grinding food between the jaw-teeth, to express the severity with which he treated them, grinding them to pieces as it were-brake his very teeth upon them.
116. Sly Horace touches, &c.] Horace, though he spared not vice, even in his friends, yet he was shrewd enough to touch it in such a manner as to please even while he chastised.
117. And admitted, &c.] He insinuated himself into the affec. tions, and seemed in sport, having the happy art of improving, with. out the least appearance of severity or snearing.
118. Cunning to hang up, &c.] Suspendere--to hang them or hold them up to view, as the subjects of his satires.
Excusso naso, here, stands in opposition to narribus uncis, supr. 1. 41...-see note there, and to the naso adunco of Horace ; and means the unwrinkled and smooth appearance of the nose when in good-humour-and so, good-humour itself: Quasi-rugis excusso.
119. To mutter, &c.] If others, in their different ways, could openly satirize, may not I have the liberty of even muttering, secretly with myself, or among a few select friends privately?
-Nor with a ditch.] Alluding to the story of Midas's barber, who, when he saw the ass's ears which Apollo had placed on the head of Midas, not daring to tell it to others, he dug a ditch or furrow in the earth, and there vented his wish to speak of it, by whispering what he had seen.
Thee, Lupus, thee, Mutius; and he brake his jaw tooth upon them.
M. No where. P. Nevertheless I will dig here. “ I have seen, I myself have seen .“ O little book:- .
120 6. Who has not the ears of an ass ? I this hidden thing, This laugh of mine, such a nothing, I sell to thee for no Iliad. O thou whosoever art inspired by bold Cratinus,
120. Nevertheless I will dig here, &c.] Though I can't speak out, yet I will use my book as the barber did the ditch; I will secretly commit to it what I have seen. Infodiam relates to the manner of writing with the point of an iron bodkin, which was called a style, on tablets of wood smeared with wax, so that the writer might be said to dig or plough the wax as he made the letters.
oo little book.'] Here, with indignation, the poet relates, as it were, to his book (as the barber did to his ditch) what he had seen ; namely, the absurdity and folly of the modern taste for poetry, in Nero, in the nobles, and in all their flatterers.
121. •The ears of an ass.'] Alluding still to the story of Midas, who, finding fault with the judgment of the country deities, when they adjudged the prize to Apollo, in his contention with Pan, had asses' ears fixed on him by Apollo
Who, says the poet, does not judge of poetry as ill as Midas, judged of music? One would think they had all asses' ears given them for their folly. Suet. in Vit. Persii, says, that this line origi. nally stood for Mida rex habet, which Cornutus, his friend and in. tructor, advised him to change to quis non habet ? lest it should be thought to point too plainly at Nero.
I this hidden thing ] This secret joke of mine. 122. This daugh of mine.] Hoc ridere, for hunc risum, a Græcism meaning his Satires, in which he derides the objects of them. See l. 9, and note.
Such a nothing.] So insignificant and worthless in thine opi. nion, my friend, (comp: l. 2, 3.) and perhaps in the eyes of others, that they would not think them worth reading, as you told me.
I sell 10 thee, &c.] Nero, as well as Labeo, had written a poem on the destruction of Troy; to these the poet may be supposed to allude, when he says he would not sell his Satires-his nothing, as others esteemed them--for my Iliad : perhaps the word nulla may be understood as extending to Homer himself.
123. Othou whosoever, &c.] Afflate-hast read so much of Crati. nus, as to be influenced and inspired with his spirit. Cratinus was a Greek comic poet, who, with a peculiar boldness and energy, sa. tirized the evil manners of his time. The poet is about to describe
Iratum Eupolidem prægrandi cum sene palles,
what sort of readers he chooses for his Satires, and those whom he does not choose.
124. Art pale.] With reading and studying hast contracted that paleness of countenance, which is incident to studious people. See Juv. sat. vii. l. 97; and Pers. sat, v. 1. 62.
- Angry Eupolis.] This was another comic poet, who, incensed at the vices of the Athenians, lashed them in the severest manner. He is said to have been thrown into the sea by Alcibiades, for some verses written against him.
With the very great old man.) The poet here meant is A. ristophanes, who lived to a very great age. He was of a vehement spirit, had a genius turned to raillery, wit free and elevated, and cou. ràge not to fear the person when vice was to be reproved. He wrote thirty-four comedies, whereof eleven only remain.
Hor. lib. i. sat, iv. 1, l, mentions all these three poets together,
Persius gives him the epithet of prægrandi, either on account of his age, for he lived till he was fourscore, or on account of the great eminence of his writings, for he was the prince of the old comedy, as Menander was of the new ; but so as we must join, says Ainsworth, Eupolis and Cratinus with the former, Diphilus and Polemon with the latter. 125. These too behold.] Look also on these Satires of mine.
If haply any thing more refined, &c.] The poet speaks modestly of his own writings, si forte, (see before, 1. 44, 5.) if it should so happen, that thou shouldest meet with any thing more clear, well digested, pure, refined than ordinary. Metaph, taken from liquors, which, by being often boiled, lose much of their quanrity, but gain more strength and clearness. It is said of Virgil, that he would make fifty verses in a-morning, or more, and in the even. ing correct and purge them till they were reduced to about ten.
126. Let the reader glow, &C.] If, says Persius, there be any thing in my writings better than ordinary, let the reader, who has formed his taste on the writings of the poets above mentioned, glow with a fervour of delight towards the author. This I take to be the meaning of the line, which literally is
Let the reader glow towards me with an ear evaporated (i. c. purified from the false taste of the present times) from thence (1. c. from, or by, reading and studying the writings of Cratinus, &c.) such I wish to be my readers. Vaporo signifies to send out va