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Q. HORATII FLACCI Epistola ad PISONES,
DE ARTE POETICA.
THE ART OF POETRY AN EPISTLE TO THE PISOS.
TRANSLATED FROM HORACE
WITH NOTES BY GEORGE COLMAN.
[Transcriber's Note: Several ineligible words were found in several
languages throughout the text, these are marked with an asterisk.]
London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand
The Rev. JOSEPH WARTQN, D.D. MASTER of WINCHESTER SCHOOL; AND TO The
Rev. THOMAS WARTON, B.D. FELLOW of TRINITY COLLEGE, OXFORD.
MY DEAR FRIENDS!
In a conversation, some months ago, I happened to mention to you the
idea I had long entertained of that celebrated Epistle of Horace,
commonly distinguished by the title of THE ART OF POETRY. I will not say
that you acceded to my opinion; but I flattered myself that I at least
interested your curiosity, and engaged your attention: our discourse,
however, revived an intention I had once formed, of communicating my
thoughts on the subject to the Publick; an intention I had only dropt
for want of leisure and inclination to attempt a translation of the
Epistle, which I thought necessary to accompany the original, and my
remarks on it. In the original, Horace assumes the air and stile of an
affectionate teacher, admonishing and instructing his young friends and
pupils: but the following translation, together with the observations
annexed, I address to You as my Masters, from whom I look for sound
information, a well-grounded confirmation of my hypothesis, or a
solution of my doubts, and a correction of my errors.
It is almost needless to observe, that the Epistle in question has very
particularly exercised the critical sagacity of the literary world;
yet it is remarkable that, amidst the great variety of comments and
decisions on the work, it has been almost universally considered, except
by one acute and learned writer of this country, as a loose, vague,
and desultory composition; a mass of shining materials; like pearls
unstrung, valuable indeed, but not displayed to advantage.
Some have contended, with Scaliger at their head, that this pretended
_Art of Poetry_ is totally void of art; and that the very work, in which
the beauty and excellence of _Order_ (ordinis virtus et Venus!)
is strongly recommended, is in itself unconnected, confused, and
immethodical. The advocates for the writer have in great measure
confessed the charge, but pleaded in excuse and vindication, the
familiarity of an epistle, and even the genius of Poetry, in which the
formal divisions of a prosaick treatise on the art would have been
insupportable. They have also denied that Horace ever intended such a
treatise, or that he ever gave to this Epistle the title of _the Art of
Poetry_; on which title the attacks of Scaliger, and his followers, are
chiefly grounded. The title, however, is confessedly as old as the age
of Quintilian; and that the work itself has a perpetual reference to
_Poets and Poetry,_ is as evident, as that it is, from beginning to end,
in its manner, stile, address, and form, perfectly _Epistolary._
The learned and ingenious Critick distinguished above, an early ornament
to letters, and now a worthy dignitary of the church, leaving vain
comments, and idle disputes on the title of the work, sagaciously
directed his researches to scrutinize the work itself; properly
endeavouring to trace and investigate from the composition the end and
design of the writer, and remembering the axiom of the Poet, to whom his
friend had been appointed the commentator.
_In every work regard THE AUTHOR'S END!
For none can compass more than they intend. _ Pope.
With this view of illustrating and explaining Horace's Art of Poetry,
this shrewd and able writer, about thirty years ago, republished the
original Epistle, giving the text chiefly after Dr. Bentley, subjoining
an English Commentary and Notes, and prefixing an Introduction, from
which I beg leave to transcribe most part of the three first paragraphs,
"It is agreed on all hands, that the antients are our masters in the
_art_ of composition. Such of their writings, therefore, as deliver
instructions for the exercise of this _art_, must be of the highest
value. And, if any of them hath acquired a credit, in this respect,
superior to the rest, it is, perhaps, the _following work:_ which the
learned have long since considered as a kind of _summary_ of the rules
of good writing; to be gotten by heart by every young student; and to
whose decisive authority the greatest masters in taste and composition
must finally submit.
"But the more unquestioned the credit of this poem is, the more it will
concern the publick, that it be justly and accurately understood. The
writer of these sheets then believed it might be of use, if he took some
pains to clear the sense, connect the method, and ascertain the scope
and purpose, of this admired epistle. Others, he knew indeed, and some
of the first fame for critical learning, had been before him in this
attempt. Yet he did not find himself prevented by their labours; in
which, besides innumerable lesser faults, he, more especially, observed
two inveterate errors, of such a fort, as must needs perplex the genius,
and distress the learning, of _any_ commentator. The _one_ of these
respects the SUBJECT; the other, the METHOD of the _Art of Poetry_. It
will be necessary to say something upon each.
"1. That the _Art of Poetry_, at large, is not the _proper_ subject of
this piece, is so apparent, that it hath not escaped the dullest and
least attentive of its Criticks. For, however all the different _kinds_
of poetry might appear to enter into it, yet every one saw, that _some_
at least were very slightly considered: whence the frequent attempts, the
_artes et institutiones poetica_, of writers both at home and abroad, to
supply its deficiencies. But, though this truth was seen and confessed,
it unluckily happened, that the sagacity of his numerous commentators
went no further. They still considered this famous Epistle as a
_collection_, though not a _system_, of criticisms on poetry in general;
with this concession however, that the stage had evidently the largest
share in it [Footnote: Satyra hac est in fui faeculi poetas, praecipui
yero in Romanum Drama, Baxter.]. Under the influence of this prejudice,
several writers of name took upon them to comment and explain it: and
with the success, which was to be expected from so fatal a mistake on
setting out, as the not seeing, 'that the proper and sole purpose of the
Author, was, not to abridge the Greek Criticks, whom he probably never
thought of; nor to amuse himself with composing a short critical
system, for the general use of poets, which every line of it absolutely
confutes; but, simply to criticize the Roman drama.' For to this end,
not the tenor of the work only, but as will appear, every single precept
in it, ultimately refers. The mischiefs of this original error have been
long felt. It hath occasioned a constant perplexity in defining the
_general_ method, and in fixing the import of _particular_ rules. Nay
its effects have reached still further. For conceiving, as they did,
that the whole had been composed out of the Greek Criticks, the labour
and ingenuity of its interpreters have been misemployed in picking out
authorities, which were not wanted, and in producing, or, more properly,
by their studied refinements in _creating,_ conformities, which
were never designed. Whence it hath come to pass that, instead of
investigating the order of the Poet's own reflexions, and scrutinizing
the peculiar state of the Roman Stage (the methods, which common sense
and common criticism would prescribe) the world hath been nauseated
with, insipid lectures on _Aristotle_ and _Phalereus;_ whose solid sense
hath been so attenuated and subtilized by the delicate operation of
French criticism, as hath even gone some way towards bringing the _art_
itself into disrepute.
"2. But the wrong explications of this poem have arisen, not from the
misconception of the subject only, but from an inattention to the method
of it. The _latter_ was, in part the genuine consequence of the
_former._ For, not suspecting an unity of design in the subject it's
interpreters never looked for, or could never find, a consistency of
disposition in the method. And this was indeed the very block upon which
HEINSIUS, and, before him,. JULIUS SCALIGER, himself fumbled. These
illustrious Criticks, with all the force of genius, which is required to
disembarrass an involved subject, and all the aids of learning, that can
lend a ray to enlighten a dark one, have, notwithstanding, found
themselves utterly unable to unfold the order of this Epistle; insomuch,
that SCALIGER [Footnote: Praef. i x LIB. POET. ct 1. vi. p. 338] hath
boldly pronounced, the conduct of it to be _vicious;_ and HEINSIUS had
no other way to evade the charge, than by recurring to the forced and
uncritical expedient of a licentious transposition The truth is, they
were both in one common error, that the Poet's purpose had been to write
a criticism of the Art of Poetry at large, and not, as is here shewn of
the Roman Drama in particular."
The remainder of this Introduction, as well as the Commentary and Notes,
afford ample proofs of the erudition and ingenuity of the Critick: yet
I much doubt, whether he has been able to convince the learned world
of the truth of his main proposition, "than it was the proper and sole
purpose of the Author, simply to _criticise_ the Roman drama." His
Commentary is, it must be owned, extremely seducing yet the attentive
reader of Horace will perhaps often fancy, that he perceives a violence
and constraint offered to the composition, in order to accommodate it to
the system of the Commentator; who, to such a reader, may perhaps seem
to mark transitions, and point out connections, as well as to maintain
a _method_ in the Commentary, which cannot clearly be deduced from the
text, to which it refers.
This very-ingenious _Commentary_ opens as follows:
"The subject of this piece being, as I suppose, _one,_ viz. _the state
of the Roman Drama,_ and common sense requiring, even in the freest
forms of composition, some kind of _method._ the intelligent reader will
not be surprised to find the poet prosecuting his subject in a regular,
well-ordered _plan;_ which, for the more exact description of it, I
distinguish into three parts:
"I. The first of them [from 1. 1 to 89] is preparatory to the main
subject of the Epistle, containing some general rules and reflexions on
poetry, but principally with an eye to the following parts: by which
means it serves as an useful introduction to the poet's design, and
opens with that air of ease and elegance, essential to the epistolary
"II. The main body of the Epistle [from 1. 89. to 295] is laid out in
regulating the_ Roman_ Stage; but chiefly in giving rules for Tragedy;
not only as that was the sublimer species of the _Drama,_ but, as it
should seem, less cultivated and understood.
"III. The last part [from 1. 295 to the end] exhorts to correctness in
writing; yet still with an eye, principally, to the _dramatic species;_
and is taken up partly in removing the causes, that prevented it; and
partly in directing to the use of such means, as might serve to promote
it. Such is the general plan of the Epistle."
In this general summary, with which the Critick introduces his
particular Commentary, a very material circumstance is acknowledged,
which perhaps tends to render the system on which it proceeds extremely
doubtful, if not wholly untenable. The original Epistle consists of four
hundred and seventy-six lines; and it appears, from the above numerical
analysis, that not half of those lines, only two hundred and six verses,
[from v. 89 to 295] are employed on the subject of _the Roman Stage_.
The first of the three parts above delineated [from v. i to 89]
certainly _contains general rules and reflections on poetry,_ but
surely with no particular reference to the Drama. As to the second
part, the Critick, I think, might fairly have extended the Poet's
consideration of the Drama to the 365th line, seventy lines further than
he has carried it; but the last hundred and eleven lines of the Epistle
so little allude to the Drama, that the only passage in which a mention
of the Stage has been supposed to be implied, _[ludusque repertus,
&c.]_ is, by the learned and ingenious Critick himself, particularly
distinguished with a very different interpretation. Nor can this portion
of the Epistle be considered, by the impartial and intelligent reader,
as a mere exhortation "to correctness in writing; taken up partly in
removing the causes that prevented it; and partly in directing to the
use of such means, as might serve to promote it." Correctness is
indeed here, as in many other parts of Horace's Satires and Epistles,
occasionally inculcated; but surely the main scope of this animated
conclusion is to deter those, who are not blest with genius, from
attempting the walks of Poetry. I much approve what this writer has
urged on the _unity of subject, and beauty of epistolary method_
observed in this Work; but cannot agree that "the main subject and
intention was _the regulation of the Roman Stage_." How far I may differ
concerning particular passages, will appear from the notes at the end
of this translation. In controversial criticism difference of opinion
cannot but be expressed, (_veniam petimusque damusque vicissim_,) but
I hope I shall not be thought to have delivered my sentiments with
petulance, or be accused of want of respect for a character, that I most
sincerely reverence and admire.
I now proceed to set down in writing, the substance of what I suggested
to you in conversation, concerning my own conceptions of the end and
design of Horace in this Epistle. In this explanation I shall call upon
Horace as my chief witness, and the Epistle itself, as my principal
voucher. Should their testimonies prove adverse, my system must be
abandoned, like many that have preceded it, as vain and chimerical: and
if it should even, by their support, be acknowledged and received, it
will, I think, like the egg of Columbus, appear so plain, easy, and
obvious, that it will seem almost wonderful, that the Epistle has never
been considered in the same light, till now. I do not wish to dazzle
with the lustre of a new hypothesis, which requires, I think, neither
the strong opticks, nor powerful glasses, of a critical Herschel, to
ascertain the truth of it; but is a system, that lies level to common
apprehension, and a luminary, discoverable by the naked eye.
My notion is simply this. I conceive that one of the sons of Piso,
undoubtedly the elder, had either written, or meditated, a poetical
work, most probably a Tragedy; and that he had, with the knowledge of
the family, communicated his piece, or intention, to Horace: but Horace,
either disapproving of the work, or doubting of the poetical faculties
of the Elder Piso, or both, wished to dissuade him from all thoughts
of publication. With this view he formed the design of writing this
Epistle, addressing it, with a courtliness and delicacy perfectly
agreeable to his acknowledged character, indifferently to the whole
family, the father and his two sons. _Epistola ad Pisones, de Arte
He begins with general reflections, generally addressed to his _three_
friends. _Credite_, Pisones!--pater, & juvenes _patre digni!_--In these
preliminary rules, equally necessary to be observed by Poets of every
denomination, he dwells on the necessity of unity of design, the danger
of being dazzled by the splendor of partial beauties, the choice of
subjects, the beauty of order, the elegance and propriety of diction,
and the use of a thorough knowledge of the nature of the several
different species of Poetry: summing up this introductory portion of his
Epistle, in a manner perfectly agreeable to the conclusion of it.
Descriptas servare vices, operumque colores,
Cur ego si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salutor?
Cur nescire, pudens prave, quam discere malo?
From this general view of poetry, on the canvas of Aristotle, but
entirely after his own manner, the writer proceeds to give the rules and
history of the Drama; adverting principally to Tragedy, with all its
constituents and appendages of diction, fable, character, incidents,
chorus, measure, musick, and decoration. In this part of the work,
according to the interpretation of the best criticks, and indeed (I
think) according to the manifest tenor of the Epistle, he addresses
himself entirely to _the two young gentlemen_, pointing out to them the
difficulty, as well as excellence, of the Dramatick Art; insisting
on the avowed superiority of the Graecian Writers, and ascribing the
comparative failure of the Romans to negligence and avarice. The Poet,
having exhausted this part of his subject, suddenly drops a _second_, or
dismisses at once no less than _two_ of the _three_ Persons, to whom he
originally addressed his Epistle, and turning short _on the ELDER PISO_,
most earnestly conjures him to ponder on the danger of precipitate
publication, and the ridicule to which the author of wretched poetry
exposes himself. From the commencement of this partial address, o major
juvenum, _&c._ [v. 366] to the end of the Poem, _almost a fourth part of
the whole_, the second person plural, _Pisones!--Vos!--Vos, O Pompilius
Sanguis! _&c. is discarded, and the second person singular, _Tu, Te,
Tibi,_ &c. invariably takes its place. The arguments too are equally
relative and personal; not only shewing the necessity of study, combined
with natural genius, to constitute a Poet; but dwelling on the peculiar
danger and delusion of flattery, to a writer of rank and fortune; as
well as the inestimable value of an honest friend, to rescue him from
derision and contempt. The Poet, however, in reverence to the Muse,
qualifies his exaggerated description of an infatuated scribbler, with a
most noble encomium of the uses of Good Poetry, vindicating the dignity
of the Art, and proudly asserting, that the most exalted characters
would not be disgraced by the cultivation of it.
_Ne forte pudori
Sit _tibi _Musa, lyrae solers, & cantor Apollo_.
It is worthy observation, that in the satyrical picture of a frantick
bard, with which Horace concludes his Epistle, he not only runs counter
to what might be expected as a Corollary of an Essay on _the Art of
Poetry_, but contradicts his own usual practice and sentiments. In his
Epistle to Augustus, instead of stigmatizing the love of verse as an
abominable phrenzy, he calls it (_levis haec insania) a slight madness_,
and descants on its good effects--_quantas virtutes habeat, sic collige!_
In another Epistle, speaking of himself, and his addiction to poetry, he
_----ubi quid datur oti,
Illudo chartis; hoc est, mediocribus illis
Ex vitiis unum, _&c.
All which, and several other passages in his works, almost demonstrate
that it was not, without a particular purpose in view, that he dwelt so
forcibly on the description of a man resolved
Of nature and his stars to write._
To conclude, if I have not contemplated my system, till I am become
blind to its imperfections, this view of the Epistle not only preserves
to it all that _unity of subject, and elegance of method, _so much
insisted on by the excellent Critick, to whom I have so often referred;
but by adding to his judicious general abstract the familiarities of
personal address, so strongly marked by the writer, not a line appears
idle or misplaced: while the order and disposition of the Epistle to the
Pisos appears as evident and unembarrassed, as that of the Epistle to
Augustus; in which last, the actual state of the Roman Drama seems to
have been more manifestly the object of Horace's attention, than in the
Work now under consideration.
Before I leave you to the further examination of the original of Horace,
and submit to you the translation, with the notes that accompany it, I
cannot help observing, that the system, which I have here laid down, is
not so entirely new, as it may perhaps at first appear to the reader,
or as I myself originally supposed it. No Critick indeed has, to my
knowledge, directly considered _the whole Epistle_ in the same light
that I have now taken it; but yet _particular passages_ seem so strongly
to enforce such an interpretation, that the Editors, Translators, and
Commentators, have been occasionally driven to explanations of a similar
tendency; of which the notes annexed will exhibit several striking
Of the following version I shall only say, that I have not, knowingly,
adopted a single expression, tending to warp the judgement of the
learned or unlearned reader, in favour of my own hypothesis. I attempted
this translation, chiefly because I could find no other equally close
and literal. Even the Version of Roscommon, tho' in blank verse, is, in
some parts a paraphrase, and in others, but an abstract. I have myself,
indeed, endeavoured to support my right to that force and freedom of
translation which Horace himself recommends; yet I have faithfully
exhibited in our language several passages, which his professed
translators have abandoned, as impossible to be given in English.
All that I think necessary to be further said on the Epistle will appear
in the notes.
I am, my dear friends,
With the truest respect and regard,
Your most sincere admirer,
And very affectionate, humble servant,
March 8, 1783.
Q. HORATII FLACCI
EPISTOLA AD PISONES.
* * * * *
Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
Jungere si velit, et varias inducere plumas
Undique collatis membris, ut turpiter atrum
Definat in piscem mulier formosa superne;
Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici?
Credite, Pisones, ifti tabulae fore librum
Persimilem, cujus, velut aegri somnia, vanae
HORACE'S EPISTLE TO THE PISOS.
* * * * *
What if a Painter, in his art to shine,
A human head and horse's neck should join;
From various creatures put the limbs together,
Cover'd with plumes, from ev'ry bird a feather;
And in a filthy tail the figure drop,
A fish at bottom, a fair maid at top:
Viewing a picture of this strange condition,
Would you not laugh at such an exhibition?
Trust me, my Pisos, wild as this may seem,
The volume such, where, like a sick-man's dream,
Fingentur species: ut nec pes, nec caput uni
Reddatur formae. Pictoribus atque Poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit aequa potestas:
Scimus, et hanc veniam petimusque damusque *viciffim:
Sed non ut placidis coeant immitia, non ut
Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus agni.
* * * * *
Incoeptis gravibus plerumque et magna professis
Purpureus late qui splendeat unus et alter
Assuitur pannus; cum lucus et ara Dianae,
Et properantis aquae per amoenos ambitus agros,
Aut flumen Rhenum, aut pluvius describitur arcus.
Sed nunc non erat his locus: et fortasse cupressum
Scis simulare: quid hoc, si fractis enatat exspes
Extravagant conceits throughout prevail,
Gross and fantastick, neither head nor tail.
"Poets and Painters ever were allow'd
Some daring flight above the vulgar croud."
True: we indulge them in that daring flight,
And challenge in our turn, an equal right:
But not the soft and savage to combine,
Serpents to doves, to tigers lambkins join.
Oft works of promise large, and high attempt,
Are piec'd and guarded, to escape contempt,
With here and there a remnant highly drest,
That glitters thro' the gloom of all the rest.
Then Dian's grove and altar are the theme,
Then thro' rich meadows flows the silver stream;
The River Rhine, perhaps, adorns the lines,
Or the gay Rainbow in description shines.
These we allow have each their several grace;
But each and several now are out of place.
A cypress you can draw; what then? you're hir'd,
And from your art a sea-piece is requir'd;
Navibus, aere dato qui pingitur amphora coepit
Institui: currente rota cur urceus exit?
Denique sit quidvis simplex duntaxat et unum.
* * * * *
Maxima pars vatum, (pater, et juvenes patre digni)
Decipimur specie recti. Brevis esse laboro,
Obscurus sio: sectantem laevia, nervi
Desiciunt animique: prosessus grandia turget:
Serpit humi tutus nimium timidusque procellae.
Qui variare cupit rem prodigaliter unam,
Delphinum silvis appingit, fluctibus aprum.
In vitium dycit culpae fuga, si caret arte.
A shipwreck'd mariner, despairing, faint,
(The price paid down) you are ordain'd to paint.
Why dwindle to a cruet from a tun?
Simple be all you execute, and one!
Lov'd fire! lov'd sons, well worthy such a fire!
Most bards are dupes to beauties they admire.
Proud to be brief, for brevity must please,
I grow obscure; the follower of ease
Wants nerve and soul; the lover of sublime
Swells to bombast; while he who dreads that crime,
Too fearful of the whirlwind rising round,
A wretched reptile, creeps along the ground.
The bard, ambitious fancies who displays,
And tortures one poor thought a thousand ways,
Heaps prodigies on prodigies; in woods
Pictures the dolphin, and the boar in floods!
Thus ev'n the fear of faults to faults betrays,
Unless a master-hand conduct the lays.
Aemilium circa ludum faber imus et ungues
Exprimet, et molles imitabitur aere capillos,
Infelix operis summa, quia ponere totum
Nesciet: hunc ego me, si quid componere curem,
Non magis esse velim, quam pravo vivere naso,
Spectandum nigris oculis, nigroque capillo.
* * * * *
Sumite materiam vostris, qui scribitis, aequam
Viribus: et versate diu, quid ferre recusent
Quid valeant humeri. Cui lecta potenter erit res,
Nec facundia deferet hunc, nec lucidus ordo.
* * * * *
Ordinis haec virtus erit et venus, aut ego fallor,
Ut jam nunc dicat, jam nunc debentia dici
Pleraque differat, et praesens in tempus omittat.
An under workman, of th' Aemilian class,
Shall mould the nails, and trace the hair in brass,
Bungling at last; because his narrow soul
Wants room to comprehend _a perfect whole_.
To be this man, would I a work compose,
No more I'd wish, than for a horrid nose,
With hair as black as jet, and eyes as black as sloes.
* * * * *
Select, all ye who write, a subject fit,
A subject, not too mighty for your wit!
And ere you lay your shoulders to the wheel,
Weigh well their strength, and all their weakness feel!
He, who his subject happily can chuse,
Wins to his favour the benignant Muse;
The aid of eloquence he ne'er shall lack,
And order shall dispose and clear his track.
Order, I trust, may boast, nor boast in vain,
These Virtues and these Graces in her train.
What on the instant should be said, to say;
Things, best reserv'd at present, to delay;
Hoc amet, hoc spernat, promissi carminis auctor.
* * * * *
In verbis etiam tenuis cautusque ferendis,
Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum: si forte necesse est
Indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum;
Fingere cinctutis non exaudita Cethegis
Continget: dabiturque licentia sumpta pudenter.
Et nova factaque nuper habebunt verba fidem, si
Graeco fonte cadant, parce detorta. Quid autem?
Caecilio, Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum
Virgilio, Varioque? ego cur acquirere pauca
Guiding the bard, thro' his continu'd verse,
What to reject, and when; and what rehearse.
On the old stock of words our fathers knew,
Frugal and cautious of engrafting new,
Happy your art, if by a cunning phrase
To a new meaning a known word you raise:
If 'tis your lot to tell, at some chance time,
"Things unattempted yet in prose or rhime,"
Where you are driv'n perforce to many a word
Which the strait-lac'd Cethegi never heard,
Take, but with coyness take, the licence wanted,
And such a licence shall be freely granted:
New, or but recent, words shall have their course,
If drawn discreetly from the Graecian source.
Shall Rome, Caecilius, Plautus, fix _your_ claim,
And not to Virgil, Varius, grant the same?
Or if myself should some new words attain,
Shall I be grudg'd the little wealth I gain?
Si possum, invideor; cum lingua Catonis et Enni
Sermonem patrium ditaverit, et nova rerum
Nomina protulerit? Licuit, semperque licebit
Signatum praesente nota procudere nomen.
Ut silvae foliis pronos mutantur in annos;
Prima cadunt: ita verborum vetus interit aetas,
Et juvenum ritu florent modo nata vigentque.
Debemur morti nos, nostraque; sive receptus
Terra Neptunus, classes Aquilonibus arcet,
Regis opus; sterilisve diu palus, aptaque remis,
Vicinas urbes alit, et grave sentit aratrum:
Seu cursum mutavit iniquum frugibus amnis,
Doctus iter melius: mortalia facta peribunt,
Tho' Cato, Ennius, in the days of yore,
Enrich'd our tongue with many thousands more,
And gave to objects names unknown before?
No! it ne'er was, ne'er shall be, deem'd a crime,
To stamp on words the coinage of the time.
As woods endure a constant change of leaves,
Our language too a change of words receives:
Year after year drop off the ancient race,
While young ones bud and flourish in their place.
Nor we, nor all we do, can death withstand;
_Whether the Sea_, imprison'd in the land,
A work imperial! takes a harbour's form,
Where navies ride secure, and mock the storm;
_Whether the Marsh_, within whose horrid shore
Barrenness dwelt, and boatmen plied the oar,
Now furrow'd by the plough, a laughing plain,
Feeds all the cities round with fertile grain;
_Or if the River_, by a prudent force,
The corn once flooding, learns a better course.
Nedum sermonum stet honos, et gratia vivax.
Multa renascentur, quae jam cecidere; cadentque
Quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus,
Quem penes arbitrium est, et jus, et norma loquendi.
Res gestae regumque ducumque et tristia bella,
Quo scribi possent numero, monstravit Homerus.
Versibus impariter junctis querimonia primum,
Post etiam inclusa est voti sententia compos.
Quis tamen exiguos elegos emiserit auctor,
Grammatici certant, et adhuc sub judice lis est.
Archilochum proprio rabies armavit iambo.
Hunc socci cepere pedem, grandesque cothurni,
Alternis aptum sermonibus, et populares
Vincentem strepitus, et natum rebus agendis.
The works of mortal man shall all decay;
And words are grac'd and honour'd but a day:
Many shall rise again, that now are dead;
Many shall fall, that now hold high the head:
Custom alone their rank and date can teach,
Custom, the sov'reign, law, and rule of speech.
For deeds of kings and chiefs, and battles fought,
What numbers are most fitting, Homer taught:
Couplets unequal were at first confin'd
To speak in broken verse the mourner's mind.
Prosperity at length, and free content,
In the same numbers gave their raptures vent;
But who first fram'd the Elegy's small song,
Grammarians squabble, and will squabble long.
Archilochus, 'gainst vice, a noble rage
Arm'd with his own Iambicks to engage:
With these the humble Sock, and Buskin proud
Shap'd dialogue; and still'd the noisy croud;
Musa dedit fidibus divos, puerosque deorum,
Et pugilem victorem, et equum certamine primum,
Et juvenum curas, et libera vina referre.
Descriptas servare vices, operumque colores,
Cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salutor?
Cur nescire, pudens prave, quam discere malo?
Versibus exponi tragicis res comica non vult;
Indignatur item privatis ac prope socco
Dignis carminibus narrari coena Thyestae.
Singula quaeque locum teneant sortita decenter.
Embrac'd the measure, prov'd its ease and force,
And found it apt for business or discourse.
Gods, and the sons of Gods, in Odes to sing,
The Muse attunes her Lyre, and strikes the string;
Victorious Boxers, Racers, mark the line,
The cares of youthful love, and joys of wine.
The various outline of each work to fill,
If nature gives no power, and art no skill;
If, marking nicer shades, I miss my aim,
Why am I greeted with a Poet's name?
Or if, thro' ignorance, I can't discern,
Why, from false modesty, forbear to learn!
A comick incident loaths tragick strains:
Thy feast, Thyestes, lowly verse disdains;
Familiar diction scorns, as base and mean,
Touching too nearly on the comick scene.
Each stile allotted to its proper place,
Let each appear with its peculiar grace!
Interdum tamen et vocem comoedia tollit;
Iratusque Chremes tumido delitigat ore;
Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri.
Telephus aut Peleus, cum pauper et exul uterque,
Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,
Si curat cor spectantis tetigisse querela.
Non satis est pulchra esse poemata; dulcia sunto,
Et quocunque volent, animum auditoris agunto.
Ut ridentibus arrident, ita flentibus adflent
Humani vultus; si vis me flere, dolendum est
Primum ipsi tibi: tunc tua me infortunia laedent.
Telephe, vel Peleu, male si mandata loqueris,
Aut dormitabo, aut ridebo: tristia moestum
Vultum verba decent; iratum, plena minarum;
Yet Comedy at times exalts her strain,
And angry Chremes storms in swelling vein:
The tragick hero, plung'd in deep distress,
Sinks with his fate, and makes his language less.
Peleus and Telephus, poor, banish'd! each
Drop their big six-foot words, and sounding speech;
Or else, what bosom in their grief takes part,
Which cracks the ear, but cannot touch the heart?
'Tis not enough that Plays are polish'd, chaste,
Or trickt in all the harlotry of taste,
They must have _passion_ too; beyond controul
Transporting where they please the hearer's soul.
With those that smile, our face in smiles appears;
With those that weep, our cheeks are bath'd in tears:
To make _me_ grieve, be first _your_ anguish shown,
And I shall feel your sorrows like my own.
Peleus, and Telephus! unless your stile
Suit with your circumstance, I'll sleep, or smile.
Features of sorrow mournful words require;
Anger in menace speaks, and words of fire:
Ludentem, lasciva; severum, seria dictu.
Format enim Natura prius nos intus ad omnem
Fortunarum habitum; juvat, aut impellit ad iram,
Aut ad humum moerore gravi deducit, et angit:
Post effert animi motus interprete lingua.
Si dicentis erunt fortunis absona dicta,
Romani tollent equitesque patresque chachinnum.
Intererit multum, Divusne loquatur, an heros;
Maturusne senex, an adhuc florente juventa
Fervidus; an matrona potens, an sedula nutrix;
Mercatorne vagus, cultorne virentis agelli;
Colchus, an Assyrius; Thebis nutritus, an Argis.
The playful prattle in a frolick vein,
And the severe affect a serious strain:
For Nature first, to every varying wind
Of changeful fortune, shapes the pliant mind;
Sooths it with pleasure, or to rage provokes,
Or brings it to the ground by sorrow's heavy strokes;
Then of the joys that charm'd, or woes that wrung,
Forces expression from the faithful tongue:
But if the actor's words belie his state,
And speak a language foreign to his fate,
Romans shall crack their sides, and all the town
Join, horse and foot, to laugh th' impostor down.
Much boots the speaker's character to mark:
God, heroe; grave old man, or hot young spark;
Matron, or busy nurse; who's us'd to roam
Trading abroad, or ploughs his field at home:
If Colchian, or Assyrian, fill the scene,
Theban, or Argian, note the shades between!
Aut famam sequere, aut sibi convenientia finge,
Scriptor. Honoratum si forte reponis Achillem,
Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer,
Jura neget sibi nata, nihil non arroget armis.
Sit Medea ferox invictaque, flebilis Ino,
Perfidus Ixion, Io vaga, tristis Orestes.
Si quid inexpertum scenae committis, et audes
Personam formare novam; servetur ad imum
Qualis ab incepto processerit, et sibi constet.
Difficile est proprie communia dicere: tuque
Rectius Iliacum carmen deducis in actus,
Quam si proferres ignota indictaque primus.
Publica materies privati juris erit, si
Non circa vilem patulumque moraberis orbem;
Follow the Voice of Fame; or if you feign,
The fabled plan consistently sustain!
If great Achilles you bring back to view,
Shew him of active spirit, wrathful too;
Eager, impetuous, brave, and high of soul,
Always for arms, and brooking no controul:
Fierce let Medea seem, in horrors clad;
Perfidious be Ixion, Ino sad;
Io a wand'rer, and Orestes mad!
Should you, advent'ring novelty, engage
Some bold Original to walk the Stage,
Preserve it well; continu'd as begun;
True to itself in ev'ry scene, and one!
Yet hard the task to touch on untried facts:
Safer the Iliad to reduce to acts,
Than be the first new regions to explore,
And dwell on themes unknown, untold before.
Quit but the vulgar, broad, and beaten round,
The publick field becomes your private ground:
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere, fidus
Interpres; nec desilies imitator in arctum,
Unde pedem proferre pudor vetet aut operis lex.
Nec sic incipies, ut scriptor cyclicus olim:
fortunam priami cantabo, et nobile bellum.
Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu?
Parturiunt montes: nascetur ridiculus mus.
Quanto rectius hic, qui nil molitur inepte!
dic mihi, musa, virum, captae post moenia trojae,
qui mores hominum multorum vidit et urbes.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
Cogitat, ut speciosa dehinc miracula promat,
Antiphaten, Scyllamque, et cum Cylope Charibdin.
Nor word for word too faithfully translate;
Nor leap at once into a narrow strait,
A copyist so close, that rule and line
Curb your free march, and all your steps confine!
Be not your opening fierce, in accents bold,
Like the rude ballad-monger's chaunt of old;
"The fall of Priam, the great Trojan King!
Of the right noble Trojan War, I sing!"
Where ends this Boaster, who, with voice of thunder,
Wakes Expectation, all agape with wonder?
The mountains labour! hush'd are all the spheres!
And, oh ridiculous! a mouse appears.
How much more modestly begins HIS song,
Who labours, or imagines, nothing wrong!
"Say, Muse, the Man, who, after Troy's disgrace,
In various cities mark'd the human race!"
Not flame to smoke he turns, but smoke to light,
Kindling from thence a stream of glories bright:
Antiphates, the Cyclops, raise the theme;
Scylla, Charibdis, fill the pleasing dream.
Nec reditum Diomedis ab interitu Meleagri,
Nec gemino bellum Trojanum orditur ab ovo:
Semper ad eventum festinat; et in medias res,
Non secus ac notas, auditorem rapit: et quae
Desperat tractata nitescere posse, relinquit:
Atque ita mentitur, sic veris falsa remiscet,
Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum.
Tu, quid ego et populus mecum desideret, audi;
Si fautoris eges aulea manentis, et usque
Sessuri, donec cantor, Vos plaudite, dicat:
Aetatis cujusque notandi sunt tibi mores,
Mobilibusque decor naturis dandus et annis.
Reddere qui voces jam scit puer, et pede certo
Signat humum; gestit paribus colludere, et iram
Colligit ac ponit temere, et mutatur in horas.
He goes not back to Meleager's death,
With Diomed's return to run you out of breath;
Nor from the Double Egg, the tale to mar,
Traces the story of the Trojan War:
Still hurrying to th' event, at once he brings
His hearer to the heart and soul of things;
And what won't bear the light, in shadow flings.
So well he feigns, so well contrives to blend
Fiction and Truth, that all his labours tend
True to one point, persu'd from end to end.
Hear now, what I expect, and all the town,
If you would wish applause your play to crown,
And patient sitters, 'till the cloth goes down!
_Man's several ages _with attention view,
His flying years, and changing nature too.
_The Boy _who now his words can freely sound,
And with a steadier footstep prints the ground,
Places in playfellows his chief delight,
Quarrels, shakes hands, and cares not wrong or right:
Sway'd by each fav'rite bauble's short-liv'd pow'r,
In smiles, in tears, all humours ev'ry hour.
Imberbus juvenis, tandem custode remoto,
Gaudet equis canibusque et aprici gramine campi;
Cereus in vitium flecti, monitoribus asper,
Utilium tardus provisor, prodigus aeris,
Sublimis, cupidusque, et amata relinquere pernix.
Conversis studiis, aetas animusque virilis
Quaerit opes et amicitias, infervit honori;
Conmisisse cavet quod mox mutare laboret.
Multa senem circumveniunt incommoda; vel quod
Quaerit, et inventis miser abstinet, ac timet uti;
Vel quod res omnes timide gelideque ministrat,
Dilator, spe lentus, iners, pavidusque futuri;
_The beardless Youth_, at length from tutor free,
Loves horses, hounds, the field, and liberty:
Pliant as wax, to vice his easy soul,
Marble to wholesome counsel and controul;
Improvident of good, of wealth profuse;
High; fond, yet fickle; generous, yet loose.
To graver studies, new pursuits inclin'd,
_Manhood_, with growing years, brings change of mind:
Seeks riches, friends; with thirst of honour glows;
And all the meanness of ambition knows;
Prudent, and wary, on each deed intent,
Fearful to act, and afterwards repent.
Evil in various shapes _Old Age _surrounds;
Riches his aim, in riches he abounds;
Yet what he fear'd to gain, he dreads to lose;
And what he sought as useful, dares not use.
Timid and cold in all he undertakes,
His hand from doubt, as well as weakness, shakes;
Hope makes him tedious, fond of dull delay;
Dup'd by to-morrow, tho' he dies to-day;
Difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti
Se puero, censor, castigatorque minorum.
Multa ferunt anni venientes commoda secum,
Multa recedentes adimunt: ne forte seniles
Mandentur juveni partes, pueroque viriles.
Semper in adjunctis aevoque morabimur aptis.
Aut agitur res In scenis, aut acta refertur:
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem,
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quae
Ipse sibi tradit spectator: non tamen intus
Digna geri promes in scenam: multaque tolles
Ex oculis, quae mox narret facundia praesens:
Ill-humour'd, querulous; yet loud in praise
Of all the mighty deeds of former days;
When _he_ was young, good heavens, what glorious times!
Unlike the present age, that teems with crimes!
Thus years advancing many comforts bring,
And, flying, bear off many on their wing:
Confound not youth with age, nor age with youth,
But mark their several characters with truth!
Events are on the stage in act display'd,
Or by narration, if unseen, convey'd.
Cold is the tale distilling thro' the ear,
Filling the soul with less dismay and fear,
Than where spectators view, like standers-by,
The deed submitted to the faithful eye.
Yet force not on the stage, to wound the sight,
Asks that should pass within, and shun the light!
Many there are the eye should ne'er behold,
But touching Eloquence in time unfold:
Ne pueros coram populo Medea trucidet;
Aut humana palam coquat exta nefarius Atreus;
Aut in avem Procne vertatur, Cadmus in anguem.
Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi.
* * * * *
Neve minor, neu sit quinto productior actu
Fabula, quae posci vult, et spectata reponi
Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Inciderit: nec quarta loqui persona laboret.
* * * * *
Actoris partes Chorus, officiumque virile
Defendat: neu quid medios intercinat actus,
Quod non proposito conducat et haereat apte.
Ille bonis faveatque, et concilietur amicis,
Et regat iratos, et amet peccare timentes:
Who on Medea's parricide can look?
View horrid Atreus human garbage cook?
If a bird's feathers I see Progne take,
If I see Cadmus slide into a snake,
My faith revolts; and I condemn outright
The fool that shews me such a silly sight.
Let not your play have fewer _acts_ than _five_,
Nor _more_, if you would wish it run and thrive!
_Draw down no God_, unworthily betray'd,
Unless some great occasion ask his aid!
Let no _fourth person_, labouring for a speech,
Make in the dialogue a needless breach!
An actor's part the Chorus should sustain,
Gentle in all its office, and humane;
Chaunting no Odes between the acts, that seem
Unapt, or foreign to the general theme.
Let it to Virtue prove a guide and friend,
Curb tyrants, and the humble good defend!
Ille dapes laudet mensae brevis, ille salubrem
Justitiam, legesque, et apertis otia portis:
Ille tegat commisia, Deosque precetur et oret,
Ut redeat miseris, abeat fortuna superbis.
Tibia non, ut nunc, orichalco vincta, tubaeque
aemula; sed tenuis, simplexque foramine pauco,
Aspirare et adesse choris erat utilis, atque
Nondum spissa nimis complere sedilia flatu:
Quo fane populus numerabilis, utpote parvus
Et frugi castusque verecundusque coibat.
Postquam coepit agros extendere victor, et urbem
Laxior amplecti murus, vinoque diurno
Placari Genius sestis impune diebus,
Loud let it praise the joys that Temperance waits;
Of Justice sing, the real health of States;
The Laws; and Peace, secure with open gates!
Faithful and secret, let it heav'n invoke
To turn from the unhappy fortune's stroke,
And all its vengeance on the proud provoke!
_The Pipe_ of old, as yet with brass unbound,
Nor rivalling, as now, the Trumpet's sound,
But slender, simple, and its stops but few,
Breath'd to the Chorus; and was useful too:
For feats extended, and extending still,
Requir'd not pow'rful blasts their space to fill;
When the thin audience, pious, frugal, chaste,
With modest mirth indulg'd their sober taste.
But soon as the proud Victor spurns all bounds,
And growing Rome a wider wall surrounds;
When noontide cups, and the diurnal bowl,
Licence on holidays a flow of soul;
Accessit numerisque modisque licentia major.
Indoctus quid enim saperet liberque laborum,
Rusticus urbano confusus, turpis honesto?
Sic priscae motumque et luxuriem addidit arti
Tibicen, traxitque vagus per pulpita vestem:
Sic etiam fidibus voces crevere feveris,
Et tulit eloquium insolitum facundia praeceps;
Utiliumque sagax rerum, et divina futuri,
Sortilegis non discrepuit sententia Delphis.
* * * * *
Carmine qui tragico vilem certavit ob hircum,
Mox etiam agrestes Satyros nudavit, et asper
Incolumi gravitate jocum tentavit: eo quod
A richer stream of melody is known,
Numbers more copious, and a fuller tone.
----For what, alas! could the unpractis'd ear
Of rusticks, revelling o'er country cheer,
A motley groupe! high, low; and froth, and scum;
Distinguish but shrill squeak, and dronish hum?----
The Piper, grown luxuriant in his art,
With dance and flowing vest embellishes his part!
Now too, its pow'rs increas'd, _the Lyre severe_
With richer numbers smites the list'ning ear:
Sudden bursts forth a flood of rapid song,
Rolling a tide of eloquence along:
Useful, prophetic, wise, the strain divine
Breathes all the spirit of the Delphick shrine.
He who the prize, a filthy goat, to gain,
At first contended in the tragick strain,
Soon too--tho' rude, the graver mood unbroke,--
Stript the rough satyrs, and essay'd a joke:
Illecebris erat et grata novitate morandus
Spectator functusque sacris, et potus, et exlex.
Verum ita risores, ita commendare dicaces
Conveniet Satyros, ita vertere seria ludo;
Ne quicunque Deus, quicunque adhibebi tur heros [sic]
Regali conspectus in auro nuper et ostro,
Migret in obscuras humili sermone tabernas
Aut, dum vitat humum, nubes et inania captet [sic]
Effutire leves indigna tragoedia versus,
Ut festis matrona moveri jussa diebus,
Intererit Satyris paulum pudibunda protervis.
Non ego inornata et dominantia nomina solum
Verbaque, Pisones, Satyrorum scriptor amabo
Nec sic enitar tragico differre colori,
For holiday-spectators, flush'd, and wild,
With new conceits, and mummeries, were beguil'd.
Yet should the Satyrs so chastise their mirth,
Temp'ring the jest that gives their sallies birth;
Changing from grave to gay, so keep the mean,
That God or Heroe of the lofty scene,
In royal gold and purple seen but late,
May ne'er in cots obscure debase his state,
Lost in low language; nor in too much care
To shun the ground, grasp clouds, and empty air.
With an indignant pride, and coy disdain,
Stern Tragedy rejects too light a vein:
Like a grave Matron, destin'd to advance
On solemn festivals to join the dance,
Mixt with the shaggy tribe of Satyrs rude,
She'll hold a sober mien, and act the prude.
Let me not, Pisos, in the Sylvan scene,
Use abject terms alone, and phrases mean;
Nor of high Tragick colouring afraid,
Neglect too much the difference of shade!
Ut nihil intersit Davusne loquatur et audax
Pythias emuncto lucrata Simone talentum,
An custos famulusque Dei Silenus alumni.
Ex noto fictum carmen sequar: ut sibi quivis
Speret idem; sudet multum, frustraque laboret
Ausus idem: tantum series juncturaque pollet:
Tantum de medio sumtis accedit honoris.
Silvis deducti caveant, me judice, Fauni,
Ne velut innati triviis, ac pene forenses,
Aut nimium teneris juvenentur versibus umquam,
Aut immunda crepent ignominiosaque dicta.
Offenduntur enim, quibus est equus, et pater, et res;
Nec, si quid fricti ciceris probat et nucis emtor,
Aequis accipiunt animis, donantve corona.
Davus may jest, pert Pythias may beguile
Simo of cash, in a familiar style;
The same low strain Silenus would disgrace,
Servant and guardian of the Godlike race.
Let me on subjects known my verse so frame,
So follow it, that each may hope the same;
Daring the same, and toiling to prevail,
May vainly toil, and only dare to fail!
Such virtues order and connection bring,
From common arguments such honours spring.
The woodland Fauns their origin should heed,
Take no town stamp, nor seem the city breed:
Nor let them, aping young gallants, repeat
Verses that run upon too tender feet;
Nor fall into a low, indecent stile,
Breaking dull jests to make the vulgar smile!
For higher ranks such ribaldry despise,
Condemn the Poet, and withhold the prize.
Syllaba longa brevi subjecta, vocatur Iambus,
Pes citus: unde etiam Trimetris accrescere jussit
Nomen Iambeis, cum senos redderet ictus
Primus ad extremum similis sibi; non ita pridem,
Tardior ut paulo graviorque veniret ad aures,
Spondeos stabiles in jura paterna recepit
Commodus et patiens: non ut de sede secunda
Cederet, aut quarta socialiter. Hic et in Acci
Nobilibus Trimetris apparet rarus, et Enni.
In scenam missus cum magno pondere versus,
Aut operae celeris nimium curaque carentis,
Aut ignoratae premit artis crimine turpi.
Non quivis videt immodulata poemata judex:
Et data Romanis venia est indigna poetis.
To a short Syllable a long subjoin'd
Forms an Iambick foot; so light a kind,
That when six pure Iambicks roll'd along,
So nimbly mov'd, so trippingly the song,
The feet to half their number lost their claim,
And _Trimeter Iambicks_ was their name.
Hence, that the measure might more grave appear,
And with a slower march approach the ear,
From the fourth foot, and second, not displac'd,
The steady spondee kindly it embrac'd;
Then in firm union socially unites,
Admitting the ally to equal rights.
Accius, and Ennius lines, thus duly wrought,
In their bold Trimeters but rarely sought:
Yet scenes o'erloaded with a verse of lead,
A mass of heavy numbers on their head,
Speak careless haste, neglect in ev'ry part.
Or shameful ignorance of the Poet's art.
"Not ev'ry Critick spies a faulty strain,
And pardon Roman Poets should disdain."
Idcircone vager, scribamque licenter? ut omnes
Visuros peccata putem mea; tutus et intra
Spem veniae cautus? vitavi denique culpam,
Non laudem merui.
Vos exemplaria Graeca
Nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.
At vestri proavi Plautinos et numeros, et
Laudavere sales; nimium patienter utrumque
(Ne dicam stulte) mirati: si modo ego et vos
Scimus inurbanum lepido seponere dicto,
Legitimumque sonum digitis callemus et aure.
Ignotum tragicae genus invenisse Camenae
Dicitur, et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis
Quae canerent agerentque, peruncti faecibus ora.
Shall I then all regard, all labour slight,
Break loose at once, and all at random write?
Or shall I fear that all my faults descry,
Viewing my errors with an Eagle eye,
And thence correctness make my only aim,
Pleas'd to be safe, and sure of 'scaping blame?
Thus I from faults indeed may guard my lays;
But neither they, nor I, can merit praise.
Pisos! be Graecian models your delight!
Night and day read them, read them day and night!
"Well! but our fathers Plautus lov'd to praise,
Admir'd his humour, and approv'd his lays."
Yes; they saw both with a too partial eye,
Fond e'en to folly sure, if you and I
Know ribaldry from humour, chaste and terse,
Or can but scan, and have an ear for verse.
A kind of Tragick Ode unknown before,
Thespis, 'tis said, invented first; and bore
Cart-loads of verse about, and with him went
A troop begrim'd, to sing and represent,
Post hunc personae pallaeque repertor honestae
Aeschylus et modicis instravit pulpita tignis,
Et docuit magnumque loqui, nitique cothurno.
Successit Vetus his Comoedia, non sine multa
Laude: sed in vitium libertas excidit, et vim
Dignam lege regi: lex est accepta; Chorusque
Turpiter obticuit, sublato jure nocendi.
Nil intentatum nostri liquere poetae:
Nec nimium meruere decus, vestigia Graeca
Ausi deserere, et celebrare domestica facta,
Vel qui Praetextas, vel qui docuere Togatas:
Nec virtute foret clarisve potentius armis,
Quam lingua, Latium; si non offenderet unum--
Next, Aeschylus, a Mask to shroud the face,
A Robe devis'd, to give the person grace;
On humble rafters rais'd a Stage, and taught
The buskin'd actor, with _his_ spirit fraught,
To breathe with dignity the lofty thought.
To these th' old comedy of ancient days
Succeeded, and obtained no little praise;
'Till Liberty, grown rank and run to seed,
Call'd for the hand of Law to pluck the weed:
The Statute past; the sland'rous Chorus, drown'd
In shameful silence, lost the pow'r to wound.
Nothing have Roman Poets left untried,
Nor added little to their Country's pride;
Daring their Graecian Masters to forsake,
And for their themes Domestick Glories take;
Whether _the Gown_ prescrib'd a stile more mean,
Or the _Inwoven Purple_ rais'd the scene:
Nor would the splendour of the Latian name
From arms, than Letters, boast a brighter fame,
Quemque poetarum limae labor et mora. Vos o
Pompilius sanguis, carmen reprehendite, quod non
Multa dies et multa litura coercuit, atque
Praesectum decies non castigavit ad unguem.
Ingenium misera quia fortunatius arte
Credit, et excludit sanos Helicone poetas
Democritus; bona pars non ungues ponere curat,
Non barbam, secreta petit loca, balnea vitat;
Nanciscetur enim pretium nomenque poetae,
Si tribus Anticyris caput insanabile numquam
Tonsori Licino commiserit. O ego laevus,
Qui purgor bilem sub verni temporis horam!
Non alius faceret meliora poemata: verum
Had they not, scorning the laborious file,
Grudg'd time, to mellow and refine their stile.
But you, bright hopes of the Pompilian Blood,
Never the verse approve and hold as good,
'Till many a day, and many a blot has wrought
The polish'd work, and chasten'd ev'ry thought,
By tenfold labour to perfection brought!
Because Democritus thinks wretched Art
Too mean with Genius to sustain a part,
To Helicon allowing no pretence,
'Till the mad bard has lost all common sense;
Many there are, their nails who will not pare,
Or trim their beards, or bathe, or take the air:
For _he_, no doubt, must be a bard renown'd,
_That_ head with deathless laurel must be crown'd,
Tho' past the pow'r of Hellebore insane,
Which no vile Cutberd's razor'd hands profane.
Ah luckless I, each spring that purge the bile!
Or who'd write better? but 'tis scarce worth while:
Nil tanti est: ergo fungar vice cotis, acutum
Reddere quae ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi.
Munus et officium, nil scribens ipse, docebo;
Unde parentur opes; quid alat formetque poetam;
Quid deceat, quid non; quo virtus, quo ferat error,
Scribendi recte, sapere est et principium et fons.
Rem tibi Socraticae poterunt ostendere chartae;
Verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur.
Qui didicit patriae quid debeat, et quid amicis;
Quo fit amore parens, quo frater amandus et hospes;
Quod fit conscripti, quod judicis officium; quae
Partes in bellum missi ducis; ille profecto
Reddere personae scit convenientia cuique.
So as mere hone, my services I pledge;
Edgeless itself, it gives the steel an edge:
No writer I, to writers thus impart
The nature and the duty of their art:
Whence springs the fund; what forms the bard, to know;
What nourishes his pow'rs, and makes them grow;
What's fit or unfit; whither genius tends;
And where fond ignorance and dulness ends.
In Wisdom, Moral Wisdom, to excell,
Is the chief cause and spring of writing well.
Draw elements from the Socratick source,
And, full of matter, words will rise of course.
He who hath learnt a patriot's glorious flame;
What friendship asks; what filial duties claim;
The ties of blood; and secret links that bind
The heart to strangers, and to all mankind;
The Senator's, the Judge's peaceful care,
And sterner duties of the Chief in war!
These who hath studied well, will all engage
In functions suited to their rank and age.
Respicere exemplar vitae morumque jubebo
Doctum imitatorem, et veras hinc ducere voces.
Interdum speciosa locis, morataque recte
Fabula, nullius veneris, sine pondere et arte,
Valdius oblectat populum, meliusque moratur,
Quam versus inopes rerum, nugaeque canorae.
Graiis ingenium, Graiis dedit ore rotundo
Musa loqui, praeter laudem, nullius avaris.
Romani pueri longis rationibus assem
Discunt in partes centum diducere. Dicat
Filius Albini, si de quincunce remota est
Uncia, quid superet? poteras dixisse, triens. Eu!
Rem poteris servare tuam. Redit uncia: quid fit?
On Nature's pattern too I'll bid him look,
And copy manners from her living book.
Sometimes 'twill chance, a poor and barren tale,
Where neither excellence nor art prevail,
With now and then a passage of some merit,
And Characters sustain'd, and drawn with spirit,
Pleases the people more, and more obtains,
Than tuneful nothings, mere poetick strains.
_The Sons of Greece_ the fav'ring Muse inspir'd,
Inflam'd their souls, and with true genius fir'd:
Taught by the Muse, they sung the loftiest lays,
And knew no avarice but that of praise.
_The Lads of Rome_, to study fractions bound,
Into an hundred parts can split a pound.
"Say, Albin's Hopeful! from five twelfths an ounce,
And what remains?"--"a Third."--"Well said, young Pounce!
You're a made man!--but add an ounce,--what then?"
"A Half." "Indeed! surprising! good again!"
Semis. An haec animos aerugo et cura peculi
Cum semel imbuerit speramus carmina singi
Posse linenda cedro, et levi servanda cupresso?
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetae;
Aut simul et jucunda et idonea dicere vitae.
Quicquid praecipies, esto brevis: ut eito dicta
Percipiant animi dociles, tencantque fideles.
Omni supervacuum pleno de pectore manat.
Ficta voluptatis causa sint proxima veris:
Ne, quodcumque volet, poscat fibi fabula credi;
Neu pransea Lamiae vivum puerum extrahat alvo.
Centuriae seniorum agitant expertia frugis:
Celsi praetereunt austera poemata Rhamnes.
Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci,
Lectorem delectando, pariterque monendo
From minds debas'd with such a sordid lust,
Canker'd and eaten up with this vile rust,
Can we a verse, that gives the Genius scope,
Worthy the Cedar, and the Cypress, hope?
Instruction to convey and give delight,
Or both at once to compass, Poets write:
Short be your precepts, and th' impression strong,
That minds may catch them quick, and hold them long!
The bosom full, and satisfied the taste,
All that runs over will but run to waste.
Fictions, to please, like truths must meet the eye,
Nor must the Fable tax our faith too high.
Shall Lamia in our fight her sons devour,
And give them back alive the self-same hour?
The Old, if _Moral's_ wanting, damn the Play;
And _Sentiment_ disgusts the Young and Gay.
He who instruction and delight can blend,
Please with his fancy, with his moral mend,
Hic meret aera liber Sofiis, hic et mare transit,
Et longum noto scriptori prorogat aevum.
Sunt delicta tamen, quibus ignovisse velimus.
Nam neque chorda sonum reddit, quem vult manus et mens;
Poscentique gravem persaepe remittit acutum:
Nec semper feriet, quodcumque minabitur, arcus.
Verum ubi plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura quid ergo est?
Ut scriptor si peccat idem librarius usque,
Quamvis est monitus, venia caret; ut citharoedus
Ridetur, chorda qui semper oberrat eadem;
Hits the nice point, and every vote obtains:
His work a fortune to the Sosii gains;
Flies over seas, and on the wings of Fame
Carries from age to age the writer's deathless name.
Yet these are faults that we may pardon too:
For ah! the string won't always answer true;
But, spite of hand and mind, the treach'rous harp
Will sound a flat, when we intend a sharp:
The bow, not always constant and the same,
Will sometimes carry wide, and lose its aim.
But in the verse where many beauties shine,
I blame not here and there a feeble line;
Nor take offence at ev'ry idle trip,
Where haste prevails, or nature makes a slip.
What's the result then? Why thus stands the case.
As _the Transcriber_, in the self-same place
Who still mistakes, tho' warn'd of his neglect,
No pardon for his blunders can expect;
Or as _the Minstrel_ his disgrace must bring,
Who harps for ever on the same false string;
Sic mihi qui multum cessat, fit Choerilus ille,
Quem bis terve bonum, cum risu miror; et idem
Indignor, quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.
Verum operi longo fas est obrepere somnum.
Ut pictura, poesis: erit quae, si propius stes,
Te capiat magis; et quaedam, si longius abstes:
Haec amat obscurum; volet haec sub luce videri,
Judicis argutum quae non formidat acumen:
Haec placuit semel; haec decies repetita placebit.
O major juvenum, quamvis et voce paterna
Fingeris ad rectum, et per te sapis; hoc tibi dictum
Tolle memor: certis medium et tolerabile rebus
_The Poet_ thus, from faults scarce ever free,
Becomes a very Chaerilus to me;
Who twice or thrice, by some adventure rare,
Stumbling on beauties, makes me smile and stare;
_Me_, who am griev'd and vex'd to the extreme,
If Homer seem to nod, or chance to dream:
Tho' in a work of length o'erlabour'd sleep
At intervals may, not unpardon'd, creep.
Poems and Pictures are adjudg'd alike;
Some charm us near, and some at distance strike:
_This_ loves the shade; _this_ challenges the light,
Daring the keenest Critick's Eagle sight;
_This_ once has pleas'd; _this_ ever will delight.
O thou, my Piso's elder hope and pride!
tho' well a father's voice thy steps can guide;
tho' inbred sense what's wise and right can tell,
remember this from me, and weigh it well!
In certain things, things neither high nor proud,
_Middling_ and _passable_ may be allow'd.
Recte concedi: consultus juris, et actor
Causarum mediocris, abest virtute diserti
Messallae, nec scit quantum Cascellius Aulus;
Sed tamen in pretio est: mediocribus esse poetis
Non homines, non Di, non concessere columnae.
Ut gratas inter mensas symphonia discors,
Et crassum unguentum, et Sardo cum melle papaver
Offendunt, poterat duci quia coena sine istis;
Sic animis natum inventumque poema juvandis,
Si paulum summo decessit, vergit ad imum.
* * * * *
Ludere qui nescit, campestribus abstinet armis;
Indoctusque pilae, discive, trochive, quiescit;
Ne spissae risum tollant impune coronae:
Qui nescit versus, tamen audet fingere. Quid ni?
A _moderate_ proficient in the laws,
A _moderate_ defender of a cause,
Boasts not Messala's pleadings, nor is deem'd
Aulus in Jurisprudence; yet esteem'd:
But _middling Poet's, or degrees in Wit,_
Nor men, nor Gods, nor niblick-polls admit.
At festivals, as musick out of tune,
Ointment, or honey rank, disgust us soon,
Because they're not essential to the guest,
And might be spar'd, Unless the very best;
Thus Poetry, so exquisite of kind,
Of Pleasure born, to charm the soul design'd,
If it fall short but little of the first,
Is counted last, and rank'd among the worst.
The Man, unapt for sports of fields and plains,
From implements of exercise abstains;
For ball, or quoit, or hoop, without the skill,
Dreading the croud's derision, he sits still:
In Poetry he boasts as little art,
And yet in Poetry he dares take part:
Liber et ingenuus; praesertim census equestrem
Summam nummorum, vitioque remotus ab omni.
* * * * *
Tu nihil invita dices faciesve Minerva:
Id tibi judicium est, ea mens: si quid tamen olim
Scripseris, in Metii descendat judicis aures,
Et patris, et nostras; nonumque prematur in annum.
Membranis intus positis, delere licebit
Quod non edideris: nescit vox missa reverti.
* * * * *
Silvestres homines sacer interpresque Deorum
Caedibus et victu foedo deterruit Orpheus;
Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres rabidosque leones.
Dictus et Amphion, Thebanae conditor arcis,
Saxa movere sono testudinis, et prece blanda.
And why not? he's a Gentleman, with clear
Good forty thousand sesterces a year;
A freeman too; and all the world allows,
"As honest as the skin between his brows!"
Nothing, in spite of Genius, YOU'LL commence;
Such is your judgment, such your solid sense!
But if you mould hereafter write, the verse
To _Metius_, to your _Sire_ to _me_, rehearse.
Let it sink deep in their judicious ears!
Weigh the work well; _and keep it back nine years_!
Papers unpublish'd you may blot or burn:
A word, once utter'd, never can return.
The barb'rous natives of the shaggy wood
From horrible repasts, and ads of blood,
Orpheus, a priest, and heav'nly teacher, brought,
And all the charities of nature taught:
Whence he was said fierce tigers to allay,
And sing the Savage Lion from his prey,
Within the hollow of AMPHION'S shell
Such pow'rs of found were lodg'd, so sweet a spell!
Ducere quo vellet suit haec sapientia quondam,
publica privatis secernere, sacra profanis;
concubitu prohibere vago; dare jura maritis;
Oppida moliri; leges incidere ligno.
Sic honor et nomen divinis vatibus atque
Carminibus venit post hos insignis Homerus
Tyrtaeusque mares animos in Martia bella
Versibus exacuit dictae per carmina sortes,
Et vitae monstrata via est; et gratia regum
That stones were said to move, and at his call,
Charm'd to his purpose, form'd the Theban Wall.
The love of Moral Wisdom to infuse
_These_ were the Labours of THE ANCIENT MUSE.
"To mark the limits, where the barriers stood
'Twixt Private Int'rest, and the Publick Good;
To raise a pale, and firmly to maintain
The bound, that fever'd Sacred from Profane;
To shew the ills Promiscuous Love should dread,
And teach the laws of the Connubial Bed;
Mankind dispers'd, to Social Towns to draw;
And on the Sacred Tablet grave the Law."
Thus fame and honour crown'd the Poet's line;
His work immortal, and himself divine!
Next lofty Homer, and Tyrtaeus strung
Their Epick Harps, and Songs of Glory sung;
Sounding a charge, and calling to the war
The Souls that bravely feel, and nobly dare,
In _Verse_ the Oracles their sense make known,
In Verse the road and rule of life is shewn;
Pieriis tentata modis, ludusque repertus,
Et longorum operum finis j ne forte pudori
Sit tibi Musa lyne folers, et cantor Apollo,
Natura sieret laudabile carmen, an arte,
Quaesitum ess. Ego nec studium sine divite vena,
Nec rude quid possit video ingenium: alterius sic
Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice.
Qui studet optatam cursu contingere metam,
Multa tulit fecitque puer; sudavit et alsit;
Abstinuit venere et vino, qui Pythia cantat
_Verse_ to the Poet royal favour brings,
And leads the Muses to the throne of Kings;
_Verse_ too, the varied Scene and sports prepares,
Brings rest to toil, and balm to all our cares.
deem then with rev'rence of the glorious fire,
breath'd by the muse, the mistress of the lyre!
blush not to own her pow'r, her glorious flame;
nor think Apollo, lord of song, thy shame!
Whether good verse of Nature is the fruit,
Or form'd by Art, has long been in dispute.
But what can Labour in a barren foil,
Or what rude Genius profit without toil?
The wants of one the other must supply
Each finds in each a friend and firm ally.
Much has the Youth, who pressing in the race
Pants for the promis'd goal and foremost place,
Suffer'd and done; borne heat, and cold's extremes,
And Wine and Women scorn'd, as empty dreams,
Tibicen, didicit prius, extimuitque magistrum.
Nunc satis est dixisse, Ego mira poemata pango:
Occupet extremum scabies: mihi turpe relinqui est,
Et quod non didici, sane nescire sateri.
* * * * *
Ut praeco, ad merces turbam qui cogit emendas;
Assentatores jubet ad lucrum ire poeta
Dives agris, dives positis in foenore nummis.
Si vero est, unctum qui recte ponere possit,
Et spondere levi pro paupere, et eripere artis
Litibus implicitum; mirabor, si sciet inter--
Noscere mendacem verumque beatus amicum.
The Piper, who the Pythian Measure plays,
In fear of a hard matter learnt the lays:
But if to desp'rate verse I would apply,
What needs instruction? 'tis enough to cry;
"I can write Poems, to strike wonder blind!
Plague take the hindmost! Why leave _me_ behind?
Or why extort a truth, so mean and low,
That what I have not learnt, I cannot know?"
As the sly Hawker, who a sale prepares,
Collects a croud of bidders for his Wares,
The Poet, warm in land, and rich in cash,
Assembles flatterers, brib'd to praise his trash.
But if he keeps a table, drinks good wine,
And gives his hearers handsomely to dine;
If he'll stand bail, and 'tangled debtors draw
Forth from the dirty cobwebs of the law;
Much shall I praise his luck, his sense commend,
If he discern the flatterer from the friend.
Tu seu donaris seu quid donare voles cui;
Nolito ad versus tibi factos ducere plenum
Laetitiae; clamabit enim, Pulchre, bene, recte!
Pallescet; super his etiam stillabit amicis
Ex oculis rorem; saliet; tundet pede terram.
Ut qui conducti plorant in funere, dicunt
Et faciunt prope plura dolentibus ex animo: sic
Derisor vero plus laudatore movetur.
Reges dicuntur multis urgere culullis,
Et torquere mero quem perspexisse laborant
An sit amicitia dignus: si carmina condes,
Nunquam te fallant animi sub vulpe latentes.
Quintilio si quid recitares: Corrige sodes
Hoc, aiebat, et hoc: melius te posse negares
Is there a man to whom you've given aught?
Or mean to give? let no such man be brought
To hear your verses! for at every line,
Bursting with joy, he'll cry, "Good! rare! divine!"
The blood will leave his cheek; his eyes will fill
With tears, and soon the friendly dew distill:
He'll leap with extacy, with rapture bound;
Clap with both hands; with both feet beat the ground.
As mummers, at a funeral hir'd to weep,
More coil of woe than real mourners keep,
More mov'd appears the laugher in his sleeve,
Than those who truly praise, or smile, or grieve.
Kings have been said to ply repeated bowls,
Urge deep carousals, to unlock the souls
Of those, whose loyalty they wish'd to prove,
And know, if false, or worthy of their love:
You then, to writing verse if you're inclin'd,
Beware the Spaniel with the Fox's mind!
Quintilius, when he heard you ought recite,
Cried, "prithee, alter _this_! and make _that _right!"
Bis terque expertum frustra? delere jubebat,
Et male ter natos incudi reddere versus.
Si defendere delictum, quam vortere, malles;
Nullum ultra verbum, aut operam insumebat inanem,
Quin sine rivali teque et tua folus amares.
Vir bonus et prudens versus reprehendet inertes;
Culpabit duros; incomptis allinet atrum
Transverso calamo signum; ambitiosa recidet
Ornamenta; parum claris lucem dare coget;
Arguet ambigue dictum; mutanda notabit;
Fiet Aristarchus; non dicet, Cur ego amicum
Offendam in nugis? Hae migae feria ducent
But if your pow'r to mend it you denied,
Swearing that twice and thrice in vain you tried;
"Then blot it out! (he cried) it must be terse:
Back to the anvil with your ill-turn'd verse!"
Still if you chose the error to defend,
Rather than own, or take the pains to mend,
He said no more; no more vain trouble took;
But left you to admire yourself and book.
The Man, in whom Good Sense and Honour join,
Will blame the harsh, reprove the idle line;
The rude, all grace neglected or forgot,
Eras'd at once, will vanish at his blot;
Ambitious ornaments he'll lop away;
On things obscure he'll make you let in day,
Loose and ambiguous terms he'll not admit,
And take due note of ev'ry change that's fit,
A very ARISTARCHUS he'll commence;
Not coolly say--"Why give my friend offence?
These are but trifles!"--No; these trifles lead
To serious mischiefs, if he don't succeed;
In mala derisum semel, exceptumque sinistre,
Ut mala quem scabies aut morbus regius urget,
Aut fanaticus error, et iracunda Diana;
Vesanum tetigisse timent fugiuntque poetam,
Qui sapiunt: agitant pueri, incautique sequuntur.
Hic, dum sublimis versus ructatur, et errat,
Si veluti menilis intentus decidit auceps
In puteum, soveamve; licet, Succurrite, longum
Clamet, in cives: non sit qui tollere curet.
Si curet quis opem serre, et demittere sunem;
Qui scis, an prudens huc se projecerit, atque
Servari nolet? dicam: Siculique poetae
While the poor friend in dark disgrace sits down,
The butt and laughing-stock of all the town,
As one, eat up by Leprosy and Itch,
Moonstruck, Posses'd, or hag-rid by a Witch,
A Frantick Bard puts men of sense to flight;
His slaver they detest, and dread his bite:
All shun his touch; except the giddy boys,
Close at his heels, who hunt him down with noise,
While with his head erect he threats the skies,
Spouts verse, and walks without the help of eyes;
Lost as a blackbird-catcher, should he pitch
Into some open well, or gaping ditch;
Tho' he call lustily "help, neighbours, help!"
No soul regards him, or attends his yelp.
Should one, too kind, to give him succour hope,
Wish to relieve him, and let down a rope;
Forbear! (I'll cry for aught that you can tell)
By sheer design he jump'd into the well.
He wishes not you should preserve him, Friend!
Know you the old Sicilian Poet's end?
Deus immortalis haberi.
Dum cupit Empedocles, ardeatem frigidus aetnam
Infiluit. sit fas, liceatque perire poetis.
Invitum qui fervat, idem facit occidenti.
Nec semel hoc fecit; nec si retractus erit jam,
Fiet homo, et ponet famosae mortis amorem.
Nec fatis apparet, cur versus factitet; utrum
Minxerit in patrios cineres, an triste bidental
Moverit incestus: certe furit, ac velut ursus
Objectos caveae valuit e srangere clathros,
* * * * *
Empedocles, ambitious to be thought
A God, his name with Godlike honours fought,
Holding a worldly life of no account,
Lead'p coldly into aetna's burning mount.---
Let Poets then with leave resign their breath,
Licens'd and priveleg'd to rush on death!
Who gives a man his life against his will,
Murders the man, as much as those who kill.
'Tis not once only he hath done this deed;
Nay, drag him forth! your kindness wo'n't succeed:
Nor will he take again a mortal's shame,
And lose the glory of a death of fame.
Nor is't apparent, _why_ with verse he's wild:
Whether his father's ashes he defil'd;
Whether, the victim of incestuous love,
The Blasted Monument he striv'd to move:
Whate'er the cause, he raves; and like a Bear,
Burst from his cage, and loose in open air,
Indoctum doctumque fugat recitator acerbus.
Quem vero arripuit, tenet, occiditque legendo,
Non miffura cutem, nisi plena cruroris, hirudo.
* * * * *
Learn'd and unlearn'd the Madman puts to flight,
They quick to fly, he bitter to recite!
What hapless soul he seizes, he holds fast;
Rants, and repeats, and reads him dead at last:
Hangs on him, ne'er to quit, with ceaseless speech.
Till gorg'd and full of blood, a very Leech!
Notes on the EPISTLE to the PISOS Notes
I have referred the Notes to this place, that the reader might be left
to his genuine feelings, and the natural impression on reading the
Epistle, whether adverse or favourable to the idea I ventured to
premise, concerning its Subject and Design. In the address to my learned
and worthy friends I said little more than was necessary so open my
plan, and to offer an excuse for my undertaking. The Notes descend to
particulars, tending to illustrate and confirm my hypothesis; and adding
occasional explanations of the original, chiefly intended for the use
of the English Reader. I have endeavoured, according to the best of my
ability, to follow the advice of Roscommon in the lines, which I have
ventured to prefix to these Notes. How far I may be entitled to the
_poetical blessing_ promised by the Poet, the Publick must determine:
but were I, avoiding arrogance, to renounce all claim to it, such an
appearance of _Modesty_ would includes charge of _Impertinence_ for
having hazarded this publication._Take pains the_ genuine meaning _to
There sweat, there strain, tug the laborious oar:
_Search ev'ry comment_, that your care can find;
Some here, some there, may hit the Poet's mind:
Yet be not blindly guided by the _Throng_;
The Multitude is always in the _Wrong_.
When things appear _unnatural_ or _hard_,
_Consult your_ author, _with_ himself compar'd!
Who knows what Blessing Phoebus may bestow,
And future Ages to your labour owe?
Such _Secrets_ are not easily found out,
But once _discoverd_, leave no room for doubt.
truth stamps _conviction_ in your ravish'd breast,
And _Peace_ and _Joy_ attend _the_ glorious guest.
Essay on Translated Verse ART of POETRY, an EPISTLE, &c.
Q. HORATII FLACCI EPISTOLA AD PISONES.
The work of Horace, now under consideration, has been so long known, and
so generally received, by the name of The Art of Poetry, that I have, on
account of that notoriety, submitted this translation to the Publick,
under that title, rather than what I hold to be the true one, viz.
Horace's Epistle to The Pisos. The Author of the English Commentary has
adopted the same title, though directly repugnant to his own system;
and, I suppose, for the very same reason.
The title, in general a matter of indifference, is, in the present
instance, of much consequence. On the title Julius Scaliger founded his
invidious, and injudicious, attack. De arte quares quid sentiam. Quid?
eqvidem quod de arte, sine arte tradita. To the Title all the editors,
and commentators, have particularly adverted; commonly preferring the
Epistolary Denomination, but, in contradiction to that preference,
almost universally inscribing the Epistle, the Art of Poetry. The
conduct, however, of Jason De Nores, a native of Cyprus, a learned and
ingenious writer of the 16th century, is very remarkable. In the year
1553 he published at Venice this work of Horace, accompanied with a
commentary and notes, written in elegant Latin, inscribing it, after
Quintilian, Q. Horatii Flacci Liber De Arte Poetica. [Foot note: I think
it right to mention that I have never seen the 1st edition, published
at Venice. With a copy of the second edition, printed in Paris, I was
favoured by Dr. Warton of Winchester.] The very-next year, however,
he printed at Paris a second edition, enriching his notes with many
observations on Dante and Petrarch, and changing the title, after mature
consideration, to _Q. Horatii Flacii_ EPISTOLA AD PISONES, _de Arte
Poetica._ His motives for this change he assigns in the following terms.
_Quare adductum me primum sciant ad inscriptionem operis immutandam non
levioribus de causis,& quod formam epistolae, non autem libri, in quo
praecepta tradantur, vel ex ipso principio prae se ferat, & quod in
vetustis exemplaribus Epistolarum libros subsequatur, & quad etiam summi
et praestantissimi homines ita sentiant, & quod minime nobis obstet
Quintiliani testimonium, ut nonnullis videtur. Nam si librum appellat
Quintilianus, non est cur non possit inter epistolas enumerari, cum et
illae ab Horatio in libros digestae fuerint. Quod vero DE ARTE POETICA
idem Quintilianus adjangat, nihil commaveor, cum et in epistolis
praecepta de aliqua re tradi possint, ab eodemque in omnibus pene, et
in iis ad Scaevam & Lollium praecipue jam factum videatur, in quibus
breviter eos instituit, qua ratione apud majores facile versarentur._
Desprez, the Dauphin Editor, retains both titles, but says, inclining to
the Epistolary, _Attamen artem poeticam vix appellem cum Quintiliano et
aliis: malim vero epistolam nuncupare cum nonnullis eruditis._ Monsieur
Dacier inscribes it, properly enough, agreable to the idea of Porphyry,
Q. Horatii Flacci DE ARTE POETICA LIBER; feu, EPISTOLA AD PISONES,
patrem, et filios._
Julius Scaliger certainly stands convicted of critical malice by his
poor cavil at _the supposed title_; and has betrayed his ignorance of
the ease and beauty of Epistolary method, as well as the most gross
misapprehension, by his ridiculous analysis of the work, resolving it
into thirty-six parts. He seems, however, to have not ill conceived the
genius of the poem, in saying that _it relished satire_. This he has
urged in many parts of his Poeticks, particularly in the Dedicatory
Epistle to his son, not omitting, however, his constant charge of _Art
without Art_. Horatius artem cum inscripsit, adeo sine ulla docet arte,
ut satyrae propius totum opus illud esse videatur. This comes almost
home to the opinion of the Author of the elegant commentaries on the two
Epistles of Horace to the Pisos and to Augustus, as expressed in the
Dedication to the latter: With the recital of that opinion I shall
conclude this long note. "The genius of Rome was bold and elevated: but
Criticism of any kind, was little cultivated, never professed as an
_art_, by this people. The specimens we have of their ability in this
way (of which the most elegant, beyond all dispute, are the two epistles
to _Augustus_ and the _Pisos_) _are slight occasional attempts_, made in
the negligence of common sense, _and adapted to the peculiar exigencies
of their own taste and learning_; and not by any means the regular
productions of _art_, professedly bending itself to this work, and
ambitious to give the last finishing to the critical system."
[_Translated from Horace._] In that very entertaining and instructive
publication, entitled _An Essay on the Learning and Genius of Pope_,
the Critick recommends, as the properest poetical measure to render in
English the Satires and Epistles of Horace, that kind of familiar blank
verse, used in a version of Terence, attempted some years since by the
Author of this translation. I am proud of the compliment; yet I have
varied from the mode prescribed: not because Roscommon has already given
such a version; or because I think the satyrical hexameters of Horace
less familiar than the irregular lambicks of Terence. English Blank
Verse, like the lambick of Greece and Rome, is peculiarly adapted to
theatrical action and dialogue, as well as to the Epick, and the more
elevated Didactick Poetry: but after the models left by Dryden and Pope,
and in the face of the living example of Johnson, who shall venture to
reject rhime in the province of Satire and Epistle?
9.--TRUST ME, MY PISOS!] _Credite Pisones!_
Monsieur Dacier, at a very early period, feels the influence of _the
personal address_, that governs this Epistle. Remarking on this passage,
he observes that Horace, anxious to inspire _the Pisos _with a just
taste, says earnestly _Trust me, my Pisos! Credite Pisones! _an
expression that betrays fear and distrust, lest _the young Men _should
fall into the dangerous error of bad poets, and injudicious criticks,
who not only thought the want of unity of subject a pardonable effect
of Genius, but even the mark of a rich and luxuriant imagination.
And although this Epistle, continues Monsieur Dacier, is addressed
indifferently to Piso the father, and his Sons, as appears by v. 24 of
the original, yet it is _to the sons in particular _that these precepts
are directed; a consideration which reconciles the difference mentioned
by Porphyry. _Scribit ad Pisones, viros nobiles disertosque, patrem et
filios; vel, ut alii volunt,_ ad pisones fratres.
Desprez, the Dauphin Editor, observes also, in the same strain, Porro
_scribit Horatius ad patrem et ad filios Pisones, _praesertim vero ad
The family of the _Pisos_, to whom Horace addresses this Epistle, were
called Calpurnii, being descended from Calpus, son of Numa Pompilius,
whence, he afterwards stiles them _of the Pompilian Blood. Pompilius
10.--THE VOLUME SUCH] Librum _persimilem. Liber_, observes Dacier, is a
term applied to all literary productions, of whatever description. This
remark is undoubtedly just, confirms the sentiments of Jason de Nores,
and takes off the force of all the arguments founded on Quintilian's
having stiled his Epistle LIBER de _arte poetica_.
Vossius, speaking of the censure of Scaliger, "_de arte, sine arte_,"
subsoins sed fallitur, cum [Greek: epigraphaen] putat esse ab Horatio;
qui inscipserat EPISTOLAM AD PISONES. Argumentum vero, ut in Epistolarum
raeteris, ita in bac etiam, ab aliis postea appositum fuit.
l9.----OFT WORKS OF PROMISE LARGE, AND HIGH ATTEMPT.] Incaeptis gra-
nibus plerumque, &c. Buckingham's _Essay on Poetry_, Roscommon's _Essay
on Translated Verse_, as well as the Satires, and _Art Poetique_ of
Boileau, and Pope's _Essay on Criticism_, abound with imitations of
Horace. This passage of our Author seems to have given birth to the
following lines of Buckingham.
'Tis not a slash of fancy, which sometimes,
Dazzling our minds, sets off the slighted rhimes;
Bright as a blaze, but in a moment done;
True Wit is everlasting, like the Sun;
Which though sometimes behind a cloud retir'd,
Breaks out again, and is the more admir'd.
The following lines of Pope may perhaps appear to bear a nearer
resemblance this passage of Horace.
Some to _Conceit_ alone their taste confine,
And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line;
Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit;
One glaring chaos, and wild heap of wit.
_Essay on Criticism._
49.---Of th' Aemilian class ] _Aemilium circa ludum_--literally, near
the Aemilian School; alluding to the Academy of Gladiators of Aemilius
Lentulus, in whose neighbourhood lived many Artists and Shopkeepers.
This passage also is imitated by Buckingham.
Number and Rhime, and that harmonious found,
Which never _does_ the ear with _harshness_ wound,
Are _necessary_, yet but _vulgar_ arts;
For all in vain these superficial parts
Contribute to the structure of the whole
Without a _Genius_ too; for that's the _Soul_:
A _Spirit_ which inspires the work throughout
As that of _Nature_ moves the world about.
_Essay on Poetry._
Pope has given a beautiful illustration of this thought,
Survey THE WHOLE, nor seek slight faults to find
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
In wit, as Nature, what affects our hearts,
Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome,
(The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!)
No single parts unequally surprise,
All comes united to th' admiring eyes;
No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear;
THE WHOLE at once is bold and regular.
_Essay on Criticism._
56.--SELECT, ALL YE WHO WRITE, A SUBJECT FIT] _Sumite materiam, &c._
This passage is well imitated by Roscommon in his Essay on Translated
The first great work, (a task perform'd by few)
Is, that _yourself_ may to _yourself_ be true:
No mask, no tricks, no favour, no reserve!
_Dissect_ your mind, examine ev'ry _nerve_.
Whoever vainly on his strength depends,
_Begins_ like Virgil, but like Maevius _ends_.
* * * * *
Each poet with a different talent writes,
One _praises_, one _instructs_, another _bites_.
Horace did ne'er aspire to Epick Bays,
Nor lofty Maro stoop to Lyrick Lays.
Examine how your _humour_ is inclin'd,
And which the ruling passion of your mind:
Then, seek a Poet who your way does bend,
And chuse an Author as you chuse a friend.