Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
From Juvenal: The First Satyr
ARGUMENT of the first Satyr
  The Poet 1 gives us first a kind of humorous Reason for his Writing: That being provok’d by hearing so many ill Poets rehearse their Works, he does himself Justice on them, by giving them as bad as they bring. But since no man will rank himself with ill Writers, ’tis easie to conclude, that if such Wretches cou’d draw an Audience, he thought it no hard matter to excel them, and gain a greater esteem with the Publick. Next he informs us more openly, why he rather addicts himself to Satyr, than any other kind of Poetry. And here he discovers that it is not so much his indignation to ill Poets, as to ill Men, which has prompted him to write. He therefore gives us a summary and general view of the Vices and Follies reigning in his time. So that this first Satyr is the natural Groundwork of all the rest. Herein he confines himself to no one Subject, but strikes indifferently at all Men in his way: In every following Satyr he has chosen some particular Moral which he wou’d inculcate; and lashes some particular Vice or Folly, (An Art with which our Lampooners are not much acquainted.) But our Poet being desirous to reform his own Age, and not daring to attempt it by an Overt act of naming living Persons, inveighs onely against those who were infamous in the times immediately preceding his, whereby he not only gives a fair warning to Great Men, that their Memory lies at the mercy of future Poets and Historians, but also with a finer stroke of his Pen, brands ev’n the living, and personates them under dead mens Names.
  I have avoided as much as I cou’d possibly the borrowed Learning of Marginal Notes and Illustrations, and for that reason have Translated this Satyr somewhat largely. And freely own (if it be a fault) that I have likewise omitted most of the Proper Names, because I thought they wou’d not much edifie the Reader. To conclude, if in two or three places I have deserted all the Commentators, ’tis because I thought they first deserted my Author, or at least have left him in so much obscurity, that too much room is left for guessing.

The First Satyr

STILL shall I hear, and never quit the Score,
Stun’d with hoarse Codrus Theseid, 2 o’re and o’re?
Shall this man’s Elegies and t’other’ Play
Unpunish’d Murther a long Summer’s day?
Huge Telephus, 3 a formidable page,        5
Cries Vengeance; and Orestes’s 4 bulky rage,
Unsatisfy’d with Margins closely writ,
Foams o’re the Covers, and not finish’d yet.
No Man can take a more familiar note
Of his own Home, than I of Vulcan’s Grott,        10
Or Mars his Grove, 5 or hollow winds that blow
From Ætna’s top, or tortur’d Ghosts below.
I know by rote the Fam’d Exploits of Greece;
The Centaurs fury, and the Golden Fleece;
Through the thick shades th’ Eternal Scribler bauls;        15
And shakes the Statues on their Pedestals.
The best and worst 6 on the same Theme employs
His Muse, and plagues us with an equal noise.
  Provok’d by these Incorrigible Fools,
I left declaiming in pedantick Schools;        20
Where, with Men-boys, I strove to get Renown,
Advising Sylla 7 to a private Gown.
But, since the World with Writing is possest,
I’ll versifie in spite; and do my best
To make as much waste Paper as the rest.        25
  But why I lift aloft the Satyrs Rod,
And tread the Path which fam’d Lucilius 8 trod,
Attend the Causes which my Muse have led:
When Sapless Eunuchs mount the Marriage-bed,
When Mannish Mevia, 9 that two-handed Whore,        30
Astride on Horse-back hunts the Tuscan Boar;
When all our Lords are by his Wealth outvy’d,
Whose Razour 10 on my callow-beard was try’d;
When I behold the Spawn of conquer’d Nile
Crispinus 11 both in Birth and Manners vile,        35
Pacing in pomp, with Cloak of Tyrian dye,
Chang’d oft a day for needless Luxury;
And finding oft occasion to be fan’d,
Ambitious to produce his Lady-hand;
Charg’d with light Summer-rings 12 his fingers sweat,        40
Unable to support a Gem of weight:
Such fulsom Objects meeting every where,
’Tis hard to write, but harder to forbear.
  To view so lewd a Town, and to refrain,
What Hoops of Iron cou’d my Spleen contain!        45
When pleading Matho, 13 born abroad for Air,
With his Fat Paunch fills his new fashion’d Chair,
And after him the Wretch in Pomp convey’d,
Whose Evidence his Lord and Friend betray’d,
And but the wish’d Occasion does attend        50
From the poor Nobles the last Spoils to rend,
Whom ev’n Spies dread as their Superiour Fiend,
And bribe with Presents, or, when Presents fail,
They send their prostituted Wives for bail:
When Night-performance holds the place of Merit,        55
And Brawn and Back the next of Kin disherit;
For such good Parts are in Preferment’s way,
The Rich Old Madam never fails to pay; 14
Her Legacies by Nature’s Standard giv’n,
One gains an Ounce, another gains Eleven:        60
A dear-bought Bargain, all things duly weigh’d,
For which their thrice Concocted Blood is paid.
With looks as wan, as he who in the Brake
At unawares has trod upon a Snake;
Or play’d at Lions 15 a declaiming Prize,        65
For which the Vanquish’d Rhetorician Dyes.
  What Indignation boils within my Veins,
When perjur’d Guardians, proud with Impious Gains,
Choak up the Streets, too narrow for their Trains!
Whose Wards by want betray’d, to Crimes are led        70
Too foul to Name, too fulsom to be read!
When he who pill’d his Province scapes the Laws,
And keeps his Money though he lost his Cause:
His Fine begg’d off, contemns his Infamy,
Can rise at twelve, and get him Drunk e’re three:        75
Enjoys his Exile, and, Condemn’d in vain,
Leaves thee, prevailing Province, 16 to complain!
  Such Villanies rous’d Horace 17 into Wrath
And ’tis more Noble to pursue his Path,
Than an Old Tale of Diomede to repeat,        80
Or lab’ring after Hercules to sweat,
Or wandring in the winding Maze of Creet;
Or with the winged Smith aloft to fly,
Or flutt’ring Perish with his foolish Boy.
  With what Impatience must the Muse behold        85
The Wife by her procuring Husband sold?
For though the Law makes Null th’ Adulterer’s Deed
Of Lands to her, the Cuckold may succeed;
Who his taught Eyes up to the Cieling throws,
And sleeps all over but his wakeful Nose.        90
When he dares hope a Colonel’s Command,
Whose Coursers kept, ran out his Father’s Land;
Who yet a Stripling Nero’s Chariot drove,
Whirl’d o’re the Streets, while his vain Master strove
With boasted Art to please his Eunuch-Love. 18        95
  Wou’d it not make a modest Author dare
To draw his Table-Book within the Square,
And fill with Notes, when lolling at his ease,
Mecenas-like, 19 the happy Rogue he sees
Born by Six weary’d Slaves in open View,        100
Who Cancell’d an old Will, and forg’d a New;
Made wealthy at the small expence of Signing
With a wet Seal, and a fresh Interlining?
  The Lady, next, requires a lashing Line,
Who squeez’d a Toad into her Husband’s Wine:        105
So well the fashionable Med’cine thrives,
That now ’tis Practis’d ev’n by Country Wives:
Poys’ning without regard of Fame or Fear:
And spotted Corps are frequent on the Bier.
Wou’dst thou to Honours and Preferments climb,        110
Be bold in Mischief, dare some mighty Crime,
Which Dungeons, Death, or Banishment deserves:
For Virtue is but dryly Prais’d, and Sterves.
Great Men, to great Crimes, owe their Plate Embost,
Fair Palaces, and Furniture of Cost;        115
And high Commands: A Sneaking Sin is lost.
Who can behold that rank Old Letcher keep
His Son’s Corrupted Wife, and hope to sleep? 20
Or that Male-Harlot, or that unfledg’d Boy,
Eager to Sin, before he can enjoy?        120
If Nature cou’d not, Anger would indite
Such woeful stuff as I or S——ll write.
  Count from the time, since Old Deucalion’s 21 Boat,
Rais’d by the Flood, did on Parnassus Float;
And scarcely Mooring on the Cliff, implor’d        125
An Oracle how Man might be restor’d;
When soften’d Stones and Vital Breath ensu’d,
And Virgins Naked were by Lovers View’d;
What ever since that Golden Age was done,
What Humane Kind desires, and what they shun,        130
Rage, Passions, Pleasures, Impotence of Will,
Shall this Satyrical Collection fill.
  What Age so large a Crop of Vices bore,
Or when was Avarice extended more?
When were the Dice with more Porfusion thrown?        135
The well fill’d Fob not empty’d now alone,
But Gamesters for whole Patrimonies play;
The Steward brings the Deeds which must convey
The lost Estate: What more than Madness reigns,
When one short sitting many Hundreds Drains,        140
And not enough is left him to supply
Board-Wages, or a Footman’s Livery?
  What Age so many Summer-Seats did see?
Or which of our Forefathers far’d so well
As on seven Dishes, at a private Meal?        145
Clients of Old were Feasted; now a poor
Divided Dole is dealt a th’ outward Door
Which by the Hungry Rout is soon dispatch’d
The Paltry Largess, too, severely watch’d
E’re given; and ev’ry Face observ’d with Care,        150
That no intruding Guest Usurp a share.
Known, you Receive: The Cryer calls aloud
Our Old Nobility of Trojan Blood,
Who gape among the Croud for their precarious Food.
The Prætors, and the Tribunes Voice is heard;        155
The Freedman justles and will be preferr’d;
First come, first serv’d he Cries; and I, in spight
Of your Great Lordships, will Maintain my Right.
Tho born a Slave tho my torn Ears are bor’d, 22
’Tis not the Birth, tis Mony makes the Lord.        160
The Rents of Five fair Houses I received
What greater Honours can the Purple give
The Poor Patrician 23 is reduc’d to keep
In Melancholly Walks a Grazier’s Sheep;
Not Pallas nor Licinius 24 had my Treasure;        165
Then let the Sacred Tribunes wait my leasure.
Once a Poor Rogue, ’tis true, I trod the Street.
And trudg’d to Rome upon my Naked Feet
Gold is the greatest God; though yet we see
No Temples rais’d to Mony’s Majesty,        170
No Altars fuming to her Pow’r Divine.
Such as to Valour, Peace, and Virtue Shine
And Faith, and Concord: where the Stork on high 25
Seems to Salute her Infant Progeny,
Presaging Pious Love with her Auspicious Cry,        175
  But since our Knights and Senate account
To what their sordid begging Vails amount,
Judge what a wretched share the Poor attends,
Whose whole Subsistence on those Alms depends!
Their Household-Fire, their Rayment, and their Food,        180
Prevented by those Harpies; 26 when a wood
Of Litters thick besiege the Donor’s Gate,
And begging Lords, and teeming Ladies wait
The promis’d Dole: Nay some have learn’d the trick
To beg for absent persons; feign them sick,        185
Close mew’d in their Sedans, for fear of air:
And for their Wives produce an empty Chair.
This is my Spouse: Dispatch her with her share.
’Tis Galla: 27 Let her Ladyship but peep:
No, Sir, ’tis pity to disturb her sleep.        190
  Such fine Employments our whole days divide:
The Salutations of the Morning-tide
Call up the Sun; those ended, to the Hall
We wait the Patron, hear the Lawyers baul;
Then to the Statues; 28 where amidst the Race        195
Of Conqu’ring Rome, some Arab shews his Face
Inscrib’d with Titles, and profanes the place;
Fit to be piss’d against, and somewhat more.
The Great Man, home conducted, shuts his door;
Old Clients, weary’d out with fruitless care,        200
Dismiss their hopes of eating, and despair:
Though much against the grain, forc’d to retire,
Buy Roots for Supper, and provide a Fire.
  Mean time his Lordship lolls within at ease,
Pamp’ring his Paunch with Foreign Rarities;        205
Both Sea and Land are ransack’d for the Feast;
And his own Gut the sole invited Guest.
Such Plate, such Tables, Dishes dress’d so well,
That whole Estates are swallow’d at a Meal.
Ev’n Parasites are banish’d from his Board:        210
(At once a sordid and luxurious Lord:)
Prodigious Throat, for which whole Boars are drest;
(A Creature form’d to furnish out a Feast.)
But present Punishment pursues his Maw,
When surfeited and swell’d, the Peacock raw        215
He bears into the Bath; whence want of Breath,
Repletions, Apoplex, intestate Death.
His Fate makes Table-talk, divulg’d with scorn,
And he, a Jeast, into his Grave is born.
  No Age can go beyond us: Future Times        220
Can add no farther to the present Crimes.
Our Sons but the same things can wish and do;
Vice is at stand, and at the highest flow.
Then Satyr spread thy Sails; take all the winds can blow.
Some may, perhaps, demand what Muse can yield        225
Sufficient strength for such a spacious Field?
From whence can be deriv’d so large a Vein,
Bold Truths to speak, and spoken to maintain;
When God-like Freedom is so far bereft
The Noble Mind, that scarce the Name is left?        230
E’re Scandalum Magnatum was begot,
No matter if the Great forgave or not
But if that honest license now you take,
If, into Rogues Omnipotent you rake,
Death is your Doom, impail’d upon a Stake:        235
Smear’d o’re with Wax, and set on fire, to light
The Streets, and make a dreadful blaze by night.
  Shall They, who drench’d three Uncles in a draught
Of poys’nous Juice, be then in Triumph brought,
Make Lanes among the People where they go,        240
And, mounted high on downy Chariots, throw
Disdainful glances on the Crowd below?
Be silent, and beware, if such you see;
’Tis Defamation but to say, That’s He!
  Against bold Turnus 29 the Great Trojan Arm,        245
Amidst their strokes the Poet gets no harm:
Achilles may in Epique Verse be slain,
And none of all his Myrmidons complain:
Hylas may drop his Pitcher, none will cry;
Not if he drown himself for company:        250
But when Lucilius brandishes his Pen,
And flashes in the face of Guilty Men,
A cold Sweat stands in drops on ev’ry part;
And Rage succeeds to Tears, Revenge to Smart.
Muse, be advis’d; ’tis past consid’ring time        255
When enter’d once the dangerous Lists of Rhime:
Since none the Living-Villains dare implead,
Arraign them in the Persons of the Dead.

The End of the First Satyr.
Note 1. Text from the original edition, 1693. The current texts have several bad errors, especially in VI. 797 and 861, and X. 517. [back]
Note 2. Codrus, or it may be Cordus, a bad Poet who wrote the Life and Actions of Theseus. [back]
Note 3. Telephus, the Name of a Tragedy. [back]
Note 4. Orestes, another Tragedy. [back]
Note 5. Mars his Grove. Some Commentators take this Grove to be a Place where Poets were us’d to repeat their Works to the People, but more probably both this and Vulcan’s Grott or Cave, and the rest of the Places and Names here mention’d, are only meant for the Common Places of Homer in his Iliads and Odysses. [back]
Note 6. The best and worst; that is, the best and the worst Poets. [back]
Note 7. Advising Sylla, &c. This was one of the Themes given in the Schools of Rhetoricians, in the deliberative kind; Whether Sylla should lay down the Supreme Power of Dictatorship, or still keep it. [back]
Note 8. Lucilius, the first Satyrist of the Romans, who wrote long before Horace. [back]
Note 9. Mevia, a Name put for any Impudent or Mannish Woman. [back]
Note 10. Whose Razour, &c. Juvenal’s Barber now grown Wealthy. [back]
Note 11. Crispinus, an Egyptian Slave; now by his Riches transform’d into a Nobleman. [back]
Note 12. Charg’d with light Summer Rings, &c. The Romans were grown so Effeminate in Juvenal’s time, that they wore light Rings in the Summer, and heavier in Winter. [back]
Note 13. Matho, a famous Lawyer, mention’d in other Places by Juvenal and Martial. [back]
Note 14. pay;] The editors delete the semi-colon, but are probably wrong. [back]
Note 15. At Lyons; a City in France, where Annual Sacrifices and Games were made in Honour of Augustus Cæsar. [back]
Note 16. Prevailing Province, &c. Here the Poet complains that the Governours of Provinces being accus’d for their unjust Exactions, though they were condemned at their Tryals, yet got off by Bribery. [back]
Note 17. Horace, who wrote Satyrs: ’Tis more Noble, says our Author, to imitate him in that way, than to write the Labours of Hercules, the Sufferings of Diomedes and his Followers, or the Flight of Dedalus who made the Labyrinth, and the Death of his Son Icarus. [back]
Note 18. His Eunuch-Love. Nero Marry’d Sporus an Eunuch; though it may be the Poet meant Nero’s Mistress in Man’s Apparel. [back]
Note 19. Mecenas-like: Mecenas is often Tax’d by Seneca and others for his Effeminacy. [back]
Note 20. And hope to sleep: The Meaning is, that the very consideration of such a Crime will hinder a Virtuous Man from taking his Repose. [back]
Note 21. Deucalion and Pyrrha, when the World was drown’d, escap’d to the top of Mount Parnassus, and were commanded to restore Mankind by throwing Stones over their Heads: The Stones he threw became Men, and those she threw became Women. [back]
Note 22. Though my torn Ears are bor’d: The Ears of all Slaves were bor’d as a Mark of their Servitude; which Custom is still usual in the East-Indies, and in other Parts, even for whole Nations, who bore Prodigious holes in their Ears, and wear vast Weights at them. [back]
Note 23. The poor Patrician; the poor Nobleman. [back]
Note 24. Pallas or Licinius. Pallas, a Slave freed by Claudius Cæsar, and rais’d by his Favour to great Riches. Licinius was another Wealthy Freedman, belonging to Augustus. [back]
Note 25. Where the Stork on high, &c. Perhaps the Storks were us’d to build on the top of the Temple dedicated to Concord. [back]
Note 26. Prevented by those Harpies: He calls the Roman Knights, &c., Harpies, or Devourers: In those Days the Rich made Doles intended for the Poor: But the Great were either so Covetous, or so Needy, that they came in their Litters to demand their shares of the Largess; and thereby prevented and consequently starv’d the Poor. [back]
Note 27. ’Tis Galla, &c. The meaning is, that Noblemen wou’d cause empty Litters to be carried to the Giver’s Door, pretending their Wives were within them: ’Tis Galla, that is, my Wife: the next words Let her Ladyship but peep, are of the Servant who distributes the Dole; Let me see her, that I may be sure she is within the Litter. The Husband answers, she is asleep, and to open the Litter would disturb her Rest. [back]
Note 28. Next to the Statues, &c. The Poet here tells you how the Idle pass’d their time; in going first to the Levees of the Great, then to the Hall, that is, to the Temple of Apollo, to hear the Lawyers plead, then to the Market-place of Augustus, where the Statues of the Famous Romans were set in Ranks on Pedestals: Amongst which Statues were seen those of Foreigners, such as Arabs, &c. who for no desert, but only on the Account of their Wealth, or Favour, were plac’d amongst the Noblest. [back]
Note 29. Against bold Turnus, &c. A Poet may safely write an Heroick Poem, such as that of Virgil, who describes the Duel of Turnus and Æneas; or of Homer, who writes of Achilles and Hector; or the death of Hylas the Calamite of Hercules; who stooping for Water dropt his Pitcher, and fell into the Well after it. But ’tis dangerous to write Satyr like Lucilius. [back]

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.