« PredošláPokračovať »
its refractions in Afranius and Pomponius, we come to the satiric exemplars of Persius–Lucilius and Horace. Mox ut a scholis et magistris divertit, lecto libro Lucilii decimo, vehementer saturas conponere instituit. This statement of the old Vita Persië is much more consonant with the character of Persius than his own affected mirthfulness. His "saucy spleen? had as little to do with his versewriting as righteous indignation with the rhetorical outpouring of Juvenal. His laughter was as much a part of the conventionalities of the satire as the Camena was of his confidences to Cornutus. School-boys all imitate circus-riders; here and there one mimics the clown; and Persins, who had not outgrown the tendencies of boyhood, straightway began to make copies of verses in the manner of Lucilius. At the same time he was too much under the influence of Horace to follow Lucilius in his negligences, and too little master of the form to strike the mean between slovenly dictation and painful composition. As an imitator of Lucilius he boldly lashes men of straw where Lucilius flogged Lupus and Mucius, and breaks his milk-teeth on Alkibiades and Dama where Lucilius broke his jaw-teeth on living and moving enemies. As an imitator of Horace he appropriates the garb of Horatian diction; but the easy movement of roguish Flaccus is lost, and the stiff stride of the young Stoic betrays him at every turn.
As in the case of the Old Attic Comedy, Persius's intellectual affinity with Lucilius was purely imaginary; and for the purposes of this study it is unnecessary to reproduce the lines of Horace's portrait of the 'great nursling of Aurunca,' or to attempt to form a mosaic out of the chipped chips of Lucian Müller's recent collection. The wide range of theme, the manly carelessness of style, the bold criticism, the bright humor, the biting wit-in short,
characteristic of Lucilius that we can distinguish, shows how little kindred there must have been between the two men. The dozen scattered verses of the Tenth Book of Lucilius, which is said to have suggested the theme of the First Satire of Persius, and the fragments of the Fourth Book, which is imitated by Persius in his Third Satire, though more significant, give us no clew to the manner or the extent of his indebtedness. Here and there a verse, a hemistich, a jingle may have been taken from Lucilius, and he may have enriched his vocabulary here and there from Lucilius’s store of drastic words; but his obligations to Lucilius, real and imaginary, are all as nothing in comparison with the large drafts which he drew on the treasury of Horace.
The obligations of Persius to Horace have been the theme of all the editors. The scholiasts themselves have quoted parallels, and Casaubon has written a special treatise on the subject, and commentators, with almost childish rivalry, have vied with each other in noting verbal coincidences and similar trains of thought. The fact of the imitation is too evident to need proof, and it would have been much more profitable to examine the causes and significance of this dependence, and to study the modifications of the language and the thought as they passed through the alembic of Persius's brain, than to multiply examples of words and phrases that are common, not only to Horace and Persius, but to the language of every-day life. Indeed, some go so far as to make Persius quibble on Horace; and 'How green you are,' of the modern street, and “What means that trump ?? of the modern card-table, are as much Shakespearian as some of Persius's 'borrowings' are Horatian.
Horace had long been a classic when Persius dodged his school-tasks and was a dab at marbles. Indeed, noth
ing is more remarkable about Roman literature than the rapidity with which the images of its Augustan heroes took on the patina of age. The half-century that lay between Horace and Persius drew itself out to a distant perspective, and Virgil and Horace had all the authority of veteres. They 'not only dictated the forms of poetry, but permeated and dominated prose. True, the hostility to Virgil and Horace had not ceased; the antiquarii were not dead; but the ground had been shifted. The admirers of republican poetry in the time of Horace were republicans—in the time of Persius they were imperialists; and the maintenance of the authors of the Augustan age as the true classics was a part of the programme of the opposition. The court literature of the Neronian period found its models in the earlier epic essays of Catullus rather than in the poems of Virgil. Virgil had modified the Greek norms to suit the Latin tongue; but these men went back of malice aforethought to the Greek standard, and emulated the proportions of the Greek versification of the Alexandrian period. They were impatient of the classic vocabulary, and found the classic rhythms tame; and so they betook themselves to the earlier language, and set it to more exact harmonies. It was no heresy with this set to consider Virgil at once light and rough. The mouth-filling words of the older and bolder period, marshaled in serried ranks, no gap, no break, as they kept time to a rhythmical cadence that was marked by all the music of consonance and assonance—this was the ideal of the school which Persius assailed, just as an admirer of Pope or Goldsmith might assail the dominant poetry of our day, with its sensuous melody and its revived archaisms. Surely the worshippers of recent poets might pause before accepting the narrow literary creed of Persius. But, not to imitate the example of Nied group
sard, and indulge in dangerous parallelisms, it is sufficient for our purpose to note that Persius's close study of the language of Horace was not only a part of a liberal education, but a necessity of the school to which he belonged. If he was to write satire at all, he must needs take Horace for his model. If he had written an epic, he would have taken Virgil.
Besides this, we may boldly say that reminiscence is no robbery. The verses, the phrases, the arguments that we know by heart often become so wholly ours that they weave themselves unconsciously into the texture of our speech. We use them as convenient forms of expression, without the least thought of plagiarism. We quote them, thinking that they are as familiar to others as they are to ourselves. They constitute, as it were, a sympathetic medium between men of culture. And so Persius repeat
after group of the words of Horace as innocently as the Augustan poets translated their Greek models, and thought no more harm than did the Emperor Julian when he Platonized, or Thackeray when he transfused the classics that he learned at the Charter House into his own matchless English. That he did it to excess is not to be denied. He never learned the lesson of Apelles-what is enough.
Having thus briefly disposed of those turns which are common to the Latin tongue, and those which ran freely into the
pen of the writer, we have now to deal with a considerable number of passages in which the memory of Persius must have lingered over the words of Horace, in which his painstaking genius has hammered the thoughts of Horace into a more compact or a more angular utterance. To the majority of readers his condensations and his amplifications will alike appear to be so many distortions of the original. So, notably, where he characterizes Horace
himself, and substitutes for the simple naso adunco the puzzling excusso naso, where 'the dreams of a sick man' become the dreams of a sick dotard,' where 'telling straight from crooked' is twisted into discerning the straight line where it makes its way up between crooked lines,' and where he wrings from the natural phrase "drink in with the ear' the odd combination bibulous ears.' In the longer passages the wresting is still more pronounced; and those who refuse to take into consideration the moral attitude of Persius may well wonder at the perversity with which he distorts the lines and overcharges the colors of the original. But it is tolerably evident that, with all Persius's admiration of Horace as an artist, he felt himself immeasurably superior to him morally, and looked upon these adaptations and alterations as so much gained for the effect of his discourse. The slyness of Horace might have answered well enough for his day and for the kind of vices that he reproved, but the depth over which Persius stood gave him a more than Stoic stature. Horace might have been content with a flute; nothing less resonant than a trumpet would have suited the moral elevation of Persius. Horace is a consummate artist, and not less an artist in the conduct of his life than in the composition of his poems. Persius is the prototype of the sensational preacher, and preachers of all centuries, from Augustin and Jerome to Macleane and Merivale, have had a weakness for him.
Aside from the moral tone, which is enough to give a different ring to the most similar expressions in the two poets, there is an artistic difference of great significance in the handling of the dramatic element, which they both recognized as fundamental in the satire. The dramatic satires of Horace will not bear dislocation without de