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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
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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 oppress’d 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 call’d 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 oppos’d 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 caus’d thee, Friend, to change thy Seat,
And seek, in Sabine Air, 1 a warm retreat?
Say, do’st thou yet the Roman Harp command?
Do the Strings Answer to thy Noble hand?
Great Master of the Muse, inspir’d to Sing        5
The Beauties of the first Created Spring;
The Pedigree of Nature to rehearse;
And sound the Maker’s Work, in equal Verse.
Now, sporting on thy Lyre 2 the Loves of Youth,
Now Virtuous Age, and venerable Truth;        10
Expressing justly Sapho’s wanton Art
Of Odes, and Pindar’s more Majestick part.
  For me, my warmer Constitution wants
More cold, than our Ligurian Winter grants;
And, therefore, to my Native Shores retir’d,        15
I view the Coast old Ennius once admir’d;
Where Clifts on either side their points display;
And, after, 3 opening in an ampler way,
Afford the pleasing Prospect of the Bay.
’Tis worth your while, O Romans, to regard        20
The Port of Luna, says our Learned Bard:
Who, in a Drunken Dream, 4 beheld his Soul
The Fifth within the Transmigrating roul;
Which first a Peacock, then Euphorbus was,
Then Homer next, and next Pythagoras;        25
And last of all the Line did into Ennius pass.
  Secure and free from Business of the State;
And more secure of what the vulgar Prate,
Here I enjoy my private Thoughts; nor care
What Rots for Sheep the Southern Winds prepare:        30
Survey the Neighb’ring Fields, and not repine,
When I behold a larger Crop than mine:
To see a Beggar’s Brat in Riches flow,
Adds not a Wrinckle to my even Brow;
Nor, envious at the sight, will I forbear        35
My plentious Bowl, nor bate my bounteous Cheer:
Nor yet unseal the Dregs of Wine that stink
Of Cask; nor in a nasty Flaggon Drink;
Let others stuff their Guts with homely fare:
For Men of diff’rent Inclinations are;        40
Tho born, perhaps, beneath one common Star.
In minds and manners Twins oppos’d we see
In the same Sign, almost the same Degree:
One, Frugal, on his Birth-Day fears to dine,
Does at a Penny’s cost in Herbs repine,        45
And hardly dares to dip his Fingers in the Brine.
Prepar’d as Priest of his own Rites to stand,
He sprinkles Pepper with a sparing hand.
His Jolly Brother, opposite in sence,
Laughs at his Thrift; and, lavish of Expence,        50
Quaffs, Crams, and Guttles, in his own defence.
  For me, I’le use my own; and take my share;
Yet will not Turbots for my Slaves prepare:
Nor be so nice in taste my self to know
If what I swallow be a Thrush, or no.        55
Live on thy Annual Income! Spend thy store;
And freely grind, from thy full Threshing-Floor;
Next Harvest promises as much, or more.
  Thus I wou’d live: But Friendship’s holy Band,
And Offices of kindness hold my hand:        60
My Friend is Shipwreck’d 5 on the Brutian 6 Strand,
His Riches in th’ Ionian Main are lost;
And he himself stands shiv’ring on the Coast;
Where, destitute of help, forlorn, and bare,
He wearies the Deaf Gods with Fruitless Pray’r.        65
Their Images, the Relicks of the Wrack,
Torn from the Naked Poop, are tided back,
By the Wild Waves, and rudely thrown ashore,
Lye impotent: Nor can themselves restore.
The Vessel sticks, and shows her open’d side,        70
And on her shatter’d Mast the Mews in Triumph ride.
From thy new hope, 7 and from thy growing store,
Now lend Assistance, and relieve the Poor.
Come; do a Noble Act of Charity;
A Pittance of thy Land will set him free.        75
Let him not bear the Badges of a Wrack
Nor beg with a blue Table 8 on his back.
Nor tell me that thy frowning Heir will say,
’Tis mine that Wealth thou squander’st thus away:
What is’t to thee, if he neglect thy Urn,        80
Or without Spices 9 lets thy Body burn?
If Odours to thy Ashes he refuse,
Or buys Corrupted Cassia from the Jews?
All these, the wiser Bestius will reply,
Are empty Pomp, and Deadmen’s Luxury:        85
We never knew this vain Expence, before
Th’ effeminated Grecians brought it o’re:
Now Toys and Trifles from their Athens come;
And Dates and Pepper have unsinnew’d Rome.
Our sweating Hinds their Sallads, now, defile,        90
Infecting homely Herbs with fragrant Oyl.
But, to thy Fortune be not thou a Slave;
For what hast thou to fear beyond the Grave?
And thou who gap’st for my Estate, draw near;
For I wou’d whisper somewhat in thy Ear.        95
Hear’st thou the News, my Friend? th’ Express is come
With Laurell’d Letters from the Camp to Rome;
Cæsar Salutes 10 the Queen and Senate thus:
My Arms are, on the Rhine, Victorious.
From Mourning Altars sweep the Dust away:        100
Cease Fasting, and proclaim a Fat Thanks-giving Day.
The goodly Empress, 11 Jollily inclin’d,
Is, to the welcome Bearer, wond’rous kind:
And, setting her Goodhousewifry aside,
Prepares for all the Pageantry of Pride.        105
The Captive Germans, 12 of Gygantick size,
Are ranck’d in order, and are clad in frize:
The Spoils of Kings, and Conquer’d Camps we boast,
Their Arms in Trophies hang, on the Triumphal post.
  Now, for so many Glorious Actions done        110
In Foreign parts, and mighty Battels won;
For Peace at Home, and for the publick Wealth,
I mean to Crown a Bowl to Cæsar’s Health:
Besides, in Gratitude for such high matters,
Know I have vow’d two hundred Gladiators. 13        115
Say, wou’dst thou hinder me from this Expence?
I Disinherit thee, if thou dar’st take Offence.
Yet more a publick Largess I design
Of Oyl and Pyes to make the People dine:
Controul me not, for fear I change my Will;        120
  And yet methinks I hear thee grumbling still,
You give as if you were the Persian King;
Your Land does no such large Revenues bring.
Well; on my Terms thou wilt not be my Heir;
If thou car’st little, less shall be my care:        125
Were none of all my Father’s Sisters left
Nay, were I of my Mother’s Kin bereft;
None by an Uncle’s or a Grandam’s side
Yet I cou’d some adopted Heir provide.
I need but take my Journey half a day        130
From haughty Rome, and at Aricea 14 stay,
Where Fortune throws poor Manius in my way.
Him will I chuse: What him, of humble Birth,
Obscure, a Foundling, and a Son of Earth?
Obscure! Why prithee what am I? I know        135
My Father, Grandsire, and great Grandsire too:
If farther I derive my Pedigree,
I can but guess beyond the fourth degree.
The rest of my forgotten Ancestors
Were Sons of Earth, like him, or Sons of Whores.        140
  Yet why shou’d’st thou, old covetous Wretch, aspire
To be my Heir, who might’st have been my Sire?
In Nature’s Race, shou’d’st thou demand of me
My Torch, 15 when I in course run after thee?
Think I approach thee like the God of Gain,        145
With Wings on Head, and Heels, as Poets feign:
Thy mod’rate Fortune from my Gift receive;
Now fairly take it, or as fairly leave.
But take it as it is, and ask no more.
What, when thou hast embezel’d all thy store?        150
Where’s all thy Father left? ’Tis true, I grant,
Some I have mortgag’d, to supply my want:
The Legacies of Tadius too are flown:
All spent, and on the selfsame Errand gone.
How little then to my poor share will fall?        155
Little indeed; but yet that little’s all.
  Nor tell me, in a dying Father’s tone,
Be careful still of the main chance, my Son;
Put out the Principal, in trusty hands:
Live of the Use; and never dip thy Lands:        160
But yet what’s left for me? What’s left, my Friend!
Ask that again, and all the rest I spend.
Is not my Fortune at my own Command?
Pour Oyl; and pour it with a plenteous hand,
Upon my Sallads, Boy: Shall I be fed        165
With sodden Nettles, and a sing’d Sow’s head?
’Tis Holyday; provide me better Cheer;
’Tis Holyday, and shall be round the Year.
Shall I my Household Gods, and Genius, cheat,
To make him rich, who grudges me my Meat,        170
That he may loll at ease; and pamper’d high,
When I am laid, may feed on Giblet Pye?
And when his throbbing Lust extends the Vein,
Have wherewithall his Whores to entertain?
Shall I in homespun Cloath be clad, that he        175
His Paunch in triumph may before him see?
  Go Miser, go; for Lucre sell thy Soul;
Truck Wares for Wares, and trudge from Pole to Pole:
That Men may say, when thou art dead and gone,
See what a vast Estate he left his Son!        180
How large a Family of Brawny Knaves,
Well fed, and fat as Capadocian Slaves! 16
Increase thy Wealth, and double all thy Store;
’Tis done: Now double that, and swell the score;
To ev’ry thousand add ten thousand more.        185
Then say, Chrysippus, 17 thou who wou’dst confine
Thy Heap, where I shall put an end to mine.

The End of the Sixth Satyr.
 
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 call’d their Elucubrations, or Nightly Labours. They who had Country Seats retir’d 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 3. after,] The editors wrongly omit the comma. [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 reveal’d to him, that the Soul of Pithagoras was Transmigrated into him: As Pithagoras before him believ’d 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 shou’d 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 Shipwreck’d 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 happen’d 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 subjoyn’d.
        ——trabe ruptâ, Bruttia Saxa Prendi, Amicu inops Remque omnem, surdaque vota
Condidit Ionio: Jacet ipse in Littore; & unà
Ingentes de puppe Dei: Jamque obvia Mergis Costa Vatis laceræ.
 [back]
Note 6. Brutian] The editors correct the spelling. [back]
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 Reap’d, 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 Imbalm’d 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 mention’d is Caius Caligula, who affected to Triumph over the Germans, whom he never Conquer’d, 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 us’d amongst the Romans; but the word Empress wou’d not stand in that Verse: For which reason I Adjourn’d 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 propos’d, but ineffectually, to be Marry’d 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-Body’d Men, as they are still, whom the Empress Cloath’d new, with Course Garments, for the greater Ostentation of the Victory. [back]
Note 13. Know, I have vow’d 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 cou’d do what he pleas’d with his Estate. [back]
Note 14. Aricea] The editors correct the spelling [back]
Note 15. Should’st thou demand of me my Torch, &c. Why should’st 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 expos’d 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 cou’d 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 cou’d not wish for any more. [back]
 
 
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