« PredošláPokračovať »
partiality for that admirable moralist, by pointing out many passages in bis satires worthy of a great poet; but the length to which this Preface has already extended, obliges me to relinquish a task which I should have undertaken with pleasure. I cannot, however, resist the inclination I feel of recommending his fifth satire to the examination of those who have not already attentively considered that poem. The verses particularly addressed to Cornutus are beautiful and interesting: the explanation of the doctrine of the Stoics concerning liberty, is done in a masterly manner; and the de. scription of the effects produced on the human mind by the insubordination of the passions, is deserving of serious reflection perhaps in every
stage of life.
There is a knowledge of human nature, and of the constitution of the human mind, displayed by Persius, in treating of this last mentioned subject, which ought not to escape the observation of the reader. It must be evident to every man who has attended to the operations of intellect, that its energies are increased by the influence of passion;
and that even what are called the worst passions appear to have been originally intended by nature only as stimuli to the mind, to impel it to exertion. Anger is implanted in our breasts, in order to enable us to resist injury; and fear is made to influence uš, in order that we may attend to the preservation of our existence, by avoiding danger. It is then the excess of the stimulus; it is the extreme indulgence of the passions, against which we have to guard, and which we ought to consider as noxious to our mental constitution.
It seems to me, that the human passions may properly be classed under two heads; the first comprehending those which are more temporary; the second including those which are more durable in their nature.
reckon in the one class anger, desire, terror, &c.; in the other, envy, love, ambition, ava. rice, &c. The first may be called the acute, and the second the chronic diseases of the soul : the former occasion us the severest pangs; but the latter disturb, with little intermission, the repose and happiness of our lives. It is against the in
fluence of these last, that Persius directs the moral part of his fifth satire. He endeavours to show, that without vanquishing those tyrants of the mind, avarice, luxury, love, and ambition, the understanding will lose all its force, and at length sink in drivelling dotage into the vilest and most contemptible state of weakness.
I cannot conclude this Preface, without lament. ing that an early and untimely death should have prevented the Poet, whom I have translated, from giving a more finished appearance to his works. His short day was so truly glorious, that it must ever be lamented it was closed so soon. Above all, the fate of Persius must have been mourned by the friendly Cornutus. It was his bosom which had first received, and cherished the neglected plant-it was his hand which had long fostered it with such fond and assiduous culture it was his arm which had already warded off a thousand dangers. Alas! the flower had just put forth its leaves in full blossom to the morning sun, when the day overcast, and this promised pride of the garden perished by the relentless storm.
LIFE OF PERSIUS.
Aulus Persius FLACCUS, according to the fragment ascribed to Probus, was born on the day before the Nones of December, in the consulship of Fabius Persicus, and Lucius Vitellius; and died in that of Rubrius Marius, and Asinius Gallus, on the eighth of the Kalends of December. But as there were only twenty-eight years between these two consulships, the author of the fragment is afterwards guilty of a glaring mistake, in stating that Persius died at thirty years of age.
Persius was born at Volaterræ in Etruria. He was of the equestrian order, and was allied to some of the noblest families of Rome. The author of the fragment says, his father died when Persius was. scarcely six years old. But the account given by. our Poet himself, seems to contradict this. assertion.
Sæpe oculos memini tangebam parvus olivo, Grandia si nollem morituri verba Catonis Discere, ab insano multum laudanda magistro, Quæ pater adductis sudans audiret amicis. Jure etenim id summum, quid dexter senio ferret, Scire erat in votis, damnosa canicula quantum Raderet, &c.
What, could a child, not six years
of age, have occasioned his father a sweating, because he could not repeat Cato's dying speech? And was this same infant, who was to have publicly recited the dying words of the Roman patriot, in the habit of playing at hazard, and of making calculations of chances ?
Persius studied at Volaterræ, till he was twelve years of age. After that period, he was under the tuition of two masters at Rome, one of whom was a grammarian, and the other a rhetorician. The author of the fragment says, Persius did not be come the pupil of Cornutus, till he had reached his sixteenth year. But our Poet tells us, his