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Haud cuivis promptum est, murmurque humilesque susurros
Hæc sancte ut poscas, Tiberino in gurgite mergis
So Hor. lib. i. sat. i. l. 61. Bona pars hominum; a good many, as we say.
5 Tacit censer.] Acerra properly signifies the vessel, or pan, in which the incense is burnt in sacrifice ; they said their prayers as the smoke of the incense ascended ; but these nobles spake so low, as not to be heard by others, so that the incensé seemed silently to ascend, unaccompanied with any words of prayer. This seems to be the meaning of tacita libabit acerra. In short, their petitions were of such a nature, that they cared not to utter them lourd enough for other people to hear them; they themselves were ashamed of them.
6. It is not easy, &c.] As times go, people are not very ready to utter their wishes and prayers publicly, and to retinave from the temples of the gods those inward murmurs and low whispers in which their impious petitions are delivered.
7. And to live, &c.] i. e. To make it their practice to utter their vows and prayers openly, in the sight and hearing of all..
8. "A good mind, reputation,' &c.] These things, which are laud. able and commendable, and to be desired by virtuous people, these they will ask for with a clear and audible voice, so that any stander-by may hear them perfectly.
9. Those, &c.] i. e. Those things that follow (which are impious and scandalous) and which he does not care should be heard by others, he mutters inwardly.
Under his tongue.] Keeps them within his mouth, fearing to let them pass his lips.
10. • The pompous funeral.'] One prays for the death of a rich uncle. .
- Bubble up.'] i. e. Appear in all its pomp. Ebullit, for ebullierit-metaph. from water when boiling up, which swells, as it were, and runs over. : 11. • A pot of silver,' &c.] Another prays that he may find a vessel of hidden treasure, as he is raking his field. See Hor. lib. i. sat. vi. l. 10.
- Hercules,' &c.] He was supposed to preside over hidden treasures.
12. Or my ward, 66.7 If it were not to be his lot to have his ava. rice gratified by finding hidden treasure, yet, says this covetous supa
It is not easy to every one, their murmur, and low whispers To remove from the temples, and to live with open prayer. • A good mind, reputation, fidelity ;' these clearly, that a stranger
may hear. Those inwardly to himself and under his tongue he mutters— O if • The pompous funeral of my uncle might bubble up! O if 10 • Under my rake a pot of silver might chink, Hercules being propie
• tious . • To me! or my ward, whom I the next heir • Impel, I wish I could expunge! for he is scabby, and with sharp, • Bile he swells. A third wife is already married by Nerius.
That you may ask these things holily, in the river Tiber you dip 15 Your head in the morning two or three times, and purge the night
with the stream,
pliant, “ I have a rich orphan under my care, to whom I am heir at “ law, Othat I could but put him out of the way !" Expungam
blot him out.
13. • Impel.] A metaph, taken from one waye driving on another, and succeeding in its place.
- He is scabby,' &c.] Here is an instance of the petitioner's hypocrisyhe pretends not to wish his pupil's death, that he might inherit his estate, but out of compassion to an unhealthy young man ; pretends to wish him dead, that he may be released from his suffer. ings, from his scrophulous disorders.
14. • A third wife,' &c.] Another prays for the death of his wife, that he may be possessed of all she has, and that he may get a fresh fortune by marrying again, He thinks it very hard i hat he can't get rid of one, when Nerius, the usurer, has been so lucky as to bury two, and is now possessed of a third. On the death of the wife, her fortune went to the husband ; even what the father had settled out of his estate, if his daughter survived him.
15. hat you may ask, &c.] That the gods may be propitious, and give a favourable answer to your prayers, you leave no rite or ceremony unobserved, to sanctify your person, and render yourself acceptable.
In the river Tiber, &c.] It was a custom among the ancients, when they had vows, or prayers to make', or to go about any thing of the religious or sacred kind, to purify thenişelves by wash, ing in running water.
Attrectare nefas, dones me flumine vivo
See Æn. ii, 1. 719, 20. Hence the Romans washed in the river Tiber---sometimes the head, sometimes the hands, sometimes the whole body.
You dip.] Or put under water. Those who were to sacri. fice to the infernal gods only sprinkled themselves with water ; but the sacrificers to the heavenly deities plumged themselves into the ri. ver, and put their heads under water. See Juv. sai. vi. I. 524.
16. In the morning.) At the rising of the sun ; the time wher,
Heus age, responde ; minimum est quod scire laboro :
they observed this solemnity in honour of the celestial gods : their ablutions in honour of the Dii Manes, and infernal gods, were per. formed at the setting of the sun. Juv. ubi supra.
16. Two or three times.] The number three was looked upon as sacred in religious matters. Juv. ubi supra.
Terna tibi hæc primum triplici diversa colore
Virg.ecl. viii. I. 73--5; and note there, 75.
Delph. See G. i. 345, Purge the night, &c.] After nocturnal pollution they washed. Comp. Deut. xxiii. 10, 11,- The ancients thought themselves polluted by the night itself, as well as by bad dreams in the night, and therefore purified themselves by washing their hands and heads e. very morning; which custom the s'urks observe to this day."
17. Consider, mind, &c.] The poet, having stated the impiety of these worshippers, now remonstrates with them on their insult offered to the gods. See Ainsw. Heus, No. 3.
“ Come," says he, “ let me ask you a short question.”
18. What think you of Jove?] What are your notions, what your conceptions of the god which you pray to, and profess to honour ?
Is he, that you would care, &c.] Do you think him prefer, able to any mortal man? 19. To whom-] Do you prefer him ?
Will you to Ştaius ??] Will you prefer him to Staius ?
Do you doubt, &c.] Do you hesitate in determining which is the best judge, or the best guardian of orphans, Jupiter or Staius ?-From this it appears, that this Staius was some notorious wretch, who had behaved ill in both these capacities.
22. Say it to Staius.] As you must allow Staius not comparable to Jupiter, but, on the contrary, a very vile and wicked man, I would have you, that you may judge the better of the nature of your peti, tions, propose to Staius what you have proposed to Jupiter-how would Staius receive it?
O Jupiter ! &c. would he cry.] Even Staius, bad as he is, Consider, mind, answer, it is a small_thing which I labour to
know,) What think you of Jove? is he, that you would care to prefer Him to any one ? to whom ? will you to Staius? what !- do you
· doubt ? Who is the better judge ? who the fittest for orphan children? 20 This, therefore, with which you try to persuade the ear of Jove, Come, say it to Staius : O Jupiter ! O good Jupiter! would he cry: And may not Jupiter cry out upon himself? Do you think him to have forgiven, because, when he thunders, the
oak sooner Is thrown down, by the sacred sulphur, than both you, and your house?
25 Or because, with the bowels of sheep, Ergenna commanding, You do not lie a sad, and to-be-avoided bidental, in the groves, Therefore does Jupiter offer you his foolish beard to pluck ?
would be shocked and astonished, and call on Jupiter for vengeance on your head. : 23. And may not Jupiter, &c.] Think you that Jupiter, then, may not, with the highest justice, as well as indignation, call on himself for vengeance on you?
24. To have forgiven.) Do you suppose that Jupiter is reconciled to your treatment of him, because you and yours are visited with no marks of Divine vengeance ? 26. Bowels of sheep.] Offered in sacrifice by way of expiation.
Ergenna. ] Ergennas was the name of some famous soothsayer, whose office it was to divine, by inspecting the entrails of the sacrifices.
27. A sad bidental.] When any person was struck dead by light. ning, immediately the priest (aliquis senior qui publica fulgura condit, Juv. sat. vi. l. 586.) came and buried the body, enclosed the place, and erecting there an altar, sacrificed two two-year-old sheep (bidentes)-hence the word bidental is applied by authors, indiffer. ently, to the sacrifice, to the place, or (as here) to the person.
- In the groves.] Or woods, where the oak was rent with lightning, and where you remained unhurt. Comp. I. 24, 5.
28. Jupiter offer you, &c.] Because you have hitherto escaped, do you imagine that you are at full liberty to insult Jupiter as you please, and this with impunity, and even with the Divine permission and approbation ?
Plucking or pulling a person by the beard was one of the highest · marks of contempt and insult that could be offered-see sat. i.
1. 133, note; for the beard was cherished and respected as a mark of gravity and wisdom-see Juv. zat. xiv. 12, note; and Juv. vi. 1. 15, 16.
Jupiter ? Aut quidnam est, quâ tu mercede deorum
Ecce avia, aut metuens divớm matertera, cunis
29. Or what is it?] i. e. What hast thou done, that thou art in such high favour with the gods ?
- With what reward, &c.] With what bribe hast thou purchased the Divine attention ?
30. With lungs.] Contemptuously put here, per meton. for any of the larger intestines of beasts offered in sacrifice.
And with greasy entrails.] Lactes signifies the small guts, through which the meat passeth first out of the stomach : perhaps so called from the lacteals, or small vessels, the mouths of which open into them to receive the chyle, which is of a white or milky colour. The poet says, unctis lactibus, because they are surrounded with fat.
The poet mentions these too in a sneering way, as if he had said • What! do you think that you have corrupted the gods with lungs " and guts ?""
31. Lo!' a grandmother, &c.] The poet now proceeds to expose the folly of those prayers which old women make for children.
An aunt.] Matertera-quasi mater altera—the mother's sister, the aunt on the mother's side, as amita is on the father's side.
Fearing the Gods.] Metuens divům-superstitious; for all superstition proceeds from fear and terror; it is therefore that superstitious people are called in Greek occiderlores, from dów, to fear, and darsav, a dæmon, a god. See Actş xvii. 22. * 32. His forehead, &c.] Persius here ridicules the foolish and su. perstitious rites which women observed on these occasions.
First, after having taken the infant out of the cradle, they, before they began their prayers, wetted the middle finger with spittle, with which they anointed the forehead and lips of the child, by way of expiation, and preservative against magic.
- Wet lips.] ine. Of the child, which are usually wet with drivel from the mouth.
33. Infamous finger.] The middle finger, called infamis, from its being made use of in a way of scorn to point at infamous people, See sat. x. l. 53, and note.
-- Purifying spittle.] They thought fasting spittle to contain great virtue against fascination, or an evil eye ; therefore with that, mixed with dust, they rubbed the forehead and lips by way of pre