John Dryden (16311700). The Poems of John Dryden. 1913.
From Aulus Persius Flaccus: The Sixth Satyr
Argument of the Sixth Satyr
This Sixth Satyr Treats an admirable Common-place of Moral Philosophy; Of the true Use of Riches. They are certainly intended, by the Power who bestows them, as Instruments and Helps of living Commodiously our selves, and of Administring to the Wants of others who are oppressd by Fortune. There are two Extreams in the Opinions of Men concerning them. One Error, though on the right hand, yet a great one, is, That they are no Helps to a Virtuous Life; The other places all our Happiness in the Acquisition and Possession of them: and his is undoutedly, the worse Extream. The Mean betwixt these, is the Opinion of the Stoicks: Which is, That Riches may be Useful to the leading a Virtuous Life; in case we rightly understand how to Give according to right Reason; and how to receive what is given us by others. The Virtue of Giving Well, is calld Liberality; and tis of this Virtue that Persius writes in this Satyr: Wherein he not only shows the lawful Use of Riches, but also sharply inveighs against the Vices which are opposd to it: And especially of those, which consist in the Defects of Giving or Spending, or in the Abuse of Riches. He writes to Cæsius Bassus, his Friend, and a Poet also. Enquires first of his Health and Studies; and afterwards informs him of his own, and where he is now resident. He gives an account of himself, that he is endeavouring by little and little to wear off his Vices; and particularly, that he is combating Ambition and the Desire of Wealth. He dwells upon the latter Vice; And being sensible that few Men either Desire, or Use Riches as they ought, he endeavours to convince them of their Folly; which is the main Design of the whole Satyr.
The Sixth Satyr
To Cæsius Bassus, a Lyrick Poet
HAS Winter causd thee, Friend, to change thy Seat,
Note 1. And seek in Sabine Air, &c. All the Studious, and particularly the Poets, about the end of August, began to set themselves on Work; Refraining from Writing during the Heats of the Summer. They wrote by Night, and sate up the greatest part of it. For which Reason the Product of their Studies was calld their Elucubrations, or Nightly Labours. They who had Country Seats retird to them, while they Studied: As Persius did to his, which was near the Port of the Moon in Etruria; and Bassus to his, which was in the Country of the Sabines, nearer Rome. [back]
Note 2. Now Sporting on thy Lyre, &c. This proves Cæsius Bassus to have been a Lyrick Poet: Tis said of him, that by an Eruption of the Flameing Mountain Vesuvius, near which the greatest part of his Fortune lay, he was Burnt himself together with all his Writings. [back]
Note 4. Who, in a Drunken Dream, &c. I call it a Drunken Dream of Ennius; not that my Author in this place gives me any encouragement for the Epithete; but because Horace, and all who mention Ennius, say he was an Excessive Drinker of Wine. In a Dream, or Vision, call you it which you please, he thought it was reveald to him, that the Soul of Pithagoras was Transmigrated into him: As Pithagoras before him believd that himself had been Euphorbus in the Wars of Troy. Commentators differ in placing the order of this Soul, and who had it first. I have here given it to the Peacock, because it looks more according to the Order of Nature that it shoud lodge in a Creature of an Inferiour Species, and so by Gradation rise to the informing of a Man. And Persius favours me, by saying that Ennius was the Fifth from the Pithagorean Peacock. [back]
Note 5. My Friend is Shipwreckd on, &c. Perhaps this is only a fine Transition of the Poet to introduce the business of the Satyr, and not that any such Accident had happend to one of the Friends of Persius. But, however, this is the most Poetical Description of any in our Author: And since he and Lucan were so great Friends, I know not but Lucan might help him in two or three of these Verses, which seem to be written in his stile; certain it is that besides this Description of a Shipwreck, and two Lines more, which are at the End of the Second Satyr, our Poet has written nothing Elegantly. I will therefore Transcribe both the passages, to justifie my Opinion. The following are the last Verses saving one of the Second Satyr.
Compositum jus, fasque animi; sanctosque recessus
Mentis, & incoctum generoso pectus honesto:
The others are those in this present Satyr, which are subjoynd.
Note 7. From thy new hope, &c. The Latin is, Nunc & de Cespite vivo, frange aliquid. Casaubon only opposes the Cespes vivus, which word for word is the living Turf, to the Harvest or Annual Income; I suppose the Poet rather means, sell a piece of Land already Sown, and give the Money of it to my Friend who has lost all by Shipwreck; That is, do not stay till thou hast Reapd, but help him immediately, as his Wants require. [back]
Note 8. Not Beg with a Blue Table, &c. Holiday Translates it a Green Table: The sence is the same, for the Table was painted of the Sea Colour; which the Shipwrecked Person carried on his back, expressing his Losses thereby, to excite the Charity of the Spectators. [back]
Note 9. Or without Spices, &c. The Bodies of the Rich, before they were burnt, were Imbalmd with Spices, or rather Spices were put into the Urn, with the Relicks of the Ashes. Our Author here Names Cinnamon and Cassia, which Cassia was sophisticated with Cherry Gum: And probably enough by the Jews, who Adulterate all things which they sell. But whether the Ancients were acquainted with the Spices of the Molucca Islands, Ceylon, and other parts of the Indies; or whether their Pepper and Cinnamon &c. were the same with ours, is another Question. As for Nutmegs and Mace, tis plain that the Latin Names of them are Modern. [back]
Note 10. Cæsar salutes, &c. The Cæsar here mentiond is Caius Caligula, who affected to Triumph over the Germans, whom he never Conquerd, as he did over the Britains; and accordingly sent Letters, wrapt about with Laurels, to the Senate, and the Empress Cæsonia, whom I here call Queen, though I know that name was not usd amongst the Romans; but the word Empress woud not stand in that Verse: For which reason I Adjournd it to another. The Dust which was to be swept away from the Altars, was either the Ashes which were left there, after the last Sacrifice for Victory, or might perhaps mean the Dust or Ashes which were left on the Altars since some former Defeat of the Romans by the Germans: After which overthrow, the Altars had been neglected. [back]
Note 11. Cæsonia, Wife to Caius Caligula, who afterwards, in the Reign of Claudius, was proposd, but ineffectually, to be Marryd to him, after he had Executed Messalina for Adultery. [back]
Note 12. The Captive Germans, &c. He means only such as were to pass for Germans in the Triumph; Large-Bodyd Men, as they are still, whom the Empress Cloathd new, with Course Garments, for the greater Ostentation of the Victory. [back]
Note 13. Know, I have vowd Two Hundred Gladiators. A hundred pair of Gladiators were beyond the Purse of a private Man to give; therefore this is only a threatning to his Heir, that he coud do what he pleasd with his Estate. [back]
Note 15. Shouldst thou demand of me my Torch, &c. Why shouldst thou, who art an Old Fellow, hope to outlive me, and be my Heir, who am much Younger. He who was first in the Course, or Race, delivered the Torch, which he carried, to him who was Second. [back]
Note 16. Well Fed, and Fat as Cappadocian Slaves. Who were Famous for their Lustiness, and being, as we call it, in good likeing. They were set on a Stall when they were exposd to Sale, to show the good Habit of their Body, and made to play Tricks before the Buyers, to show their Activity and Strength. [back]
Note 17. Then say, Chrysippus, &c. Chrysippus, the Stoick, invented a kind of Argument, consisting of more than three Propositions, which is called Sorites, or a heap. But as Chrysippus coud never bring his propositions to a certain stint, so neither can a Covetous Man bring his Craving Desires to any certain Measure of Riches, beyond which he coud not wish for any more. [back]