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PRO LO G U S
" The design of the author was to conceal his name and quality
He lived in the dangerous times of Nero, and aims particularly
equestrian dignity, and of a plentiful fortune, he would appear,
Line I. Caballine fountain.] A fountain near Helicon, a hill in Bæotia, sacred to the Muses and Apollo, which the horse Pegasus is said to have opened with his hoof; therefore sometimes called Hippocrene, from the Gr. ÍTTOs, an horse, and
a fountain. The poet in derision calls it caballinus, from caballus, which is a game for a sorry horse, a jade, a pack horse, and the like.
The poets feigned, that drinking of this sacred fountain inspired, as it were, poetic fancy, imagination, and abilities. --Thus Virg. Æn. vii. 641 ; and Æn. X. 163.
Pandite nune Helicona, Deæ, cantusque movete.
2. Have dreamed, &c.] Parnassus is a mountain of Phocis, in Achaia, in which is the Castalian spring, and temple of Apollo. It was a notion, that whosoever ascended this hill, and staid there for any time, immediately became a poet. It hath two tops, Cyrrha and Nisa, or, as others, Helicon and Cytheron, the former sacred to Apollo and the Muses, the latter to Bacchus. Hence our poet says --bicipiti Parnasso.
He is supposed to allude to the poet Ennius, who is said to have dreamed that he was on mount Parnassus, and that the soul of Han mer entered into him.
in this Prologue, but a beggarly poet, who writes for bread. After this he breaks into the business of the first Satire, which is chiefly to decry the poetry then in fashion, and the impudence of those who were endeavouring to pass their stuff upon the world."
HAVE neither moistened my lips with the Caballine fountain, Nor to have dreamed in two-headed Parnassus, Do I remember, that. thus I should suddenly come forth a poet. Both the Heliconides, and pale Pirene, I leave to those, whose images the pliant ivy-boughs
3. Suddenly.] i. e. All on a sudden-without anypains or study by immediate inspiration, as it were.
4. Heliconides.] The Muses, so called from Helicon. See l. 1, note.
Pirene.] Pirene was another fountain near Corinth, sacred to the Muses ; so called from Pirene, the daughter of Achelous, who is fabled to have wept forth from her eyes the fountain called by her name. The epithet pale, may refer to the complexion of Pi. rene pale with grief: 'or, as some think, is to be understood figura. tively, to denote the paleness of those poets who studied and laboured hard to make their verses. See sat. i. 1. 124, and note.
5. Those, whose images, &c.] The poet feigns himself to be an untutored rustic, and to writë merely from his own rude genius, without those assistances which others have derived from the Mu. ses and the sacred fountains : these, says he, I leave to such great men as have their images set up in the temple of the Muses, and crowned with ivy in token of honour.
Me doctar:m hederæ præmia frontium
Hor. ode i. lib. i. 1. 29, 30. The pliant ivy.] The ivy bends, and intwines whatever it is planted against, and may be said to follow the form and bent there.
Hederæ sequaces. Ipse semipaganus
Quis expedivit psittaco suum xocãge ?
Quod si dolosi spes refulserit nummi,
of: hence the epithet sequaces. So, when gathered and made into chaplets, it follows exactly the circular form of the head on which it is placed, easily bending and intwining it. Some think that sequaces here intimates its following distinguished poets as their reward.
6 Touch softly.] Lambo properly signifies to lick with the tongue - hence, to touch
gently or softly. 1, half a clown.] See above, note on l. 5. 7. Consecrated repositories, &c.] i. e. The temple of Apollo and the Muses built by Augustus on muunt Palatine, where the works of the poets were kept and recited. See Juv, sat. i. 1. 1, note. 8. Who has expedited, &c.] Expedivit-lit
. hastened.q. d. Who has made a parrot so ready at speaking the word Xaige. This, like salve, ave, or the like, was a salutation among the ancients at, meeting or parting : this they taught their parrots, or magpies, who used to utter them, as ours are frequently taught to speak some similar common word. See Mart. lib. xiv. ep. 73–6.
9. Taught magpies, &c.] The magpie, as we daily see, is another bird which is often taught to speak.
11. The belly.] i. c. Hunger, which is the teacher of this, as of many other arts--the giver of genius and capacity-skilful and cúnning to follow after the most difficult attainments from which it can hope for relief to its cravings.
Cunning.] Artifex-icis, adj. Sec Ainsw.
Denied words.] This hunger is a great artist in this way, of teaching birds to utter human language, which naturally is denied them.
The birds are, in a manner, starved into this kind of erudition, the masters of them keeping them very sharp, and rewarding them with a bit of food, when they shew a compliance with their endeavours, from time to time. On this principle we have, in our day, seen wonderful things, quite foreign to the nature of the animals, taught to horses, dogs, and even to swine.
The poet means, that as parrots and magpies are starved into learning to speak, which by nature is denied them, so the scribblers, which he here intends to satirize, are driven into writing verses, by their poverty and necessity, without any natural genius or talents whatsoever.
12. If the hope, &c.] These poor poets, who are without all na. tural genius, and would therefore never think of writing ; yet, such
Touch softly. I, half a clown,
Who has expedited to a parrot his younge ?
But if the hope of deceitful money should glitter,
is their poverty, that if they can once encourage themselves to hope for a little money by writing, they will instantly set about it.
12. Deceitful money.] Money may, on many accounts, deserve the epithet here given it. But here, in particular, it is so called, from its deceiving these scribblers into doing what they are not fit for, and by doing of which they expose themselves to the utmost contempt and derision.
13. Raven-poets, &c.] Once let the gilded bait come in view, you will hear such a recital of poetry, as would make you thipk that ravens and magpies were turned poets and poetesses, and had been taught to recite their performances.
14. Pegaseian melody ] They would do this with so much effrontery, that instead of the wretched stuff which they produced, you would think they were reciting something really poetical and sublíme, as if they had drunk of Hippocrene itself, (see above, note on 1. 1.) or had mounted and soared aloft on the winged Pegasus.
This Skire opens in form of a dialogue between Persius and a
friend.--We may suppose Persius to be just sealed in his study, and beginning to vent his indignation in satire. An acquaintance comes in, and, on hearing the first line, dissuades the poet from an undertaking so dangerous ; advising him, if he must write, to accommodate his vein to the taste of the times, and to write like
other people. Persius acknowledges, that this would be the means of gaining apo
plause; but adds, that the approbation of such patrons as this compliance would recommend him to, was a thing not to be desired.
Curas hominum ! ô quantum est in rebus inane !
Line 1. O the cares, &c.] Persius is supposed to be reading this line, the first of the Satire which he had composed, when his friend is entering and overhears it. Comp. Eccl. i. 2-14.
2. Who will read these?) Says his friend to himmi.e. Who, as the present taste at Rome is, will trouble themselves to read a work which begins with such serious reflections ? Your very first line will disgust them--they like nothing but trifles. Do you say that, &c.] Do you say that to me and
Nobody.) Yes I do, and aver that you will not have a sin. gle reader
5 này, I will swear it by Hercules--an usual oath among the Romans.
Nobody?] Says Persius--Do you literally mean what you 3. Perhaps two, &c.] It may be, replies the friend, that here and there, a few readers may be found; but I rather think that even this will not be the case : I grant this to be very hard, after the pains which
you have bestowed, and very shameful.
Wherefore ??] Wherefore do you call it a miserable, or a