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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
From Aulus Persius Flaccus: The Fourth Satyr
Argument of the Fourth Satyr
  Our Author, living in the time of Nero, was Contemporary and Friend to the Noble Poet Lucan; both of them were sufficiently sensible, with all Good Men, how Unskilfully he manag’d the Commonwealth: And perhaps might guess at his future Tyranny, by some Passages, during the latter part of his first five years; tho he broke not out, into his great Excesses, while he was restrain’d by the Counsels and Authority of Seneca. Lucan has not spar’d him in the Poem of his Pharsalia: for his very Complement look’d asquint, as well as Nero. Persius has been bolder, but with Caution likewise. For here, in the Person of young Alcibiades, he arraigns his Ambition of meddling with State Affairs, without Judgment or Experience. ’Tis probable that he makes Seneca, in this Satyr, sustain the part of Socrates, under a borrow’d Name. And, withal, discovers some secret Vices of Nero, concerning his Lust, his Drunkenness, and his Effeminacy, which had not yet arriv’d to publick Notice. He also reprehends the Flattery of his Courtiers, who endeavour’d to make all his Vices pass for Virtues. Covetousness was undoubtedly none of his Faults; but it is here described as a Veil cast over the True Meaning of the Poet, which was to Satyrize his Prodigality and Voluptuousness: to which he makes a transition. I find no Instance in History of that Emperor’s being a Pathique, though Persius seems to brand him with it. From the two dialogues of Plato, both call’d Alcibiades, the Poet took the Arguments of the Second and Third Satyr, but he inverted the order of them: For the Third Satyr is taken from the first of those Dialogues.
  The Commentatours before Casaubon were ignorant of our Author’s secret meaning; and thought he had only written against Young Noblemen in General, who were too forward in aspiring to publick Magistracy: But this Excellent Scholiast has unravell’d the whole Mystery: And made it apparent, that the Sting of this Satyr was particularly aim’d at Nero.

The Fourth Satyr

WHO-E’RE thou art, whose forward years are bent
On State-Affairs, to guide the Government;
Hear, first, what Socrates 1 of old has said
To the lov’d Youth, whom he, at Athens bred.
  Tell me, thou Pupil to great Pericles, 2        5
Our second hope, my Alcibiades,
What are the grounds, from whence thou dost prepare
To undertake so young, so vast a Care?
Perhaps thy Wit: (A Chance not often heard,
That Parts and Prudence shou’d prevent the Beard:)        10
’Tis seldom seen that Senators so young
Know when to speak, and when to hold their Tongue.
Sure thou art born to some peculiar Fate;
When the mad People rise against the State,
To look them into Duty; and 3 command        15
An awful Silence with thy lifted hand.
Then to bespeak ’em thus: Athenians, know
Against right Reason all your Counsels go;
This is not Fair; nor Profitable that;
Nor t’other Question Proper for Debate.        20
But thou, no doubt, can’st set the business right,
And give each Argument its proper weight:
Know’st, with an equal hand, to hold the Scale:
See’st where the Reasons pinch, and where they fail,
And where Exceptions, o’re the general Rule, prevail.        25
And, taught by Inspiration, in a trice,
Can’st punish Crimes, 4 and brand offending Vice.
  Leave; leave to fathom such high points as these,
Nor be ambitious, e’re thy time, to please:
Unseasonably Wise, till Age, and Cares,        30
Have form’d thy Soul, to manage Great Affairs.
Thy Face, thy Shape, thy Outside, are but vain;
Thou hast not strength such Labours to sustain:
Drink Hellebore, 5 my Boy, drink deep, and purge thy brain.
  What aim’st thou at, and whither tends thy Care,        35
In what thy utmost Good? Delicious Fare;
And, then, to Sun thy self in open air.
  Hold, hold; are all thy empty Wishes such?
A good old Woman wou’d have said as much.
But thou art nobly born; ’tis true; go boast        40
Thy Pedigree, the thing thou valu’st most:
Besides thou art a Beau: What’s that, my Child?
A Fop, well drest, extravagant, and wild:
She that cries Herbs, has less impertinence;
And, in her Calling, more of common sense.        45
  None, none descends into himself, to find
The secret Imperfections of his Mind:
But ev’ry one is Eagle-ey’d, to see
Another’s Faults, and his Deformity.
Say, do’st thou know Vectidius? 6 Who, the Wretch        50
Whose Lands beyond the Sabines largely stretch;
Cover the Country, that a sailing Kite
Can scarce o’reflye ’em in a day and night;
Him, do’st thou mean, who, spight of all his store,
Is ever Craving, and will still be Poor?        55
Who cheats for Half-pence, and who doffs his Coat,
To save a Farthing in a Ferry-Boat?
Ever a Glutton, at another’s Cost,
But in whose Kitchin 7 dwells perpetual Frost?
Who eats and drinks with his Domestick Slaves;        60
A verier Hind than any of his Knaves?
Born with the Curse and Anger of the Gods,
And that indulgent Genius he defrauds?
At Harvest-home, and on the Sheering-Day,
When he shou’d Thanks 8 to Pan and Pales pay,        65
And better Ceres; trembling to approach
The little Barrel, which he fears to broach:
He ’says the Wimble, often draws it back,
And deals to thirsty Servants but a smack.
To a short Meal, he makes a tedious Grace,        70
Before the Barly Pudding comes in place:
Then, bids fall on; himself, for saving charges,
A peel’d slic’d Onyon eats, and tipples Verjuice.
  Thus fares the Drudge: But thou, whose life’s a Dream
Of Lazy Pleasures, tak’st a worse Extream.        75
’Tis all thy bus’ness, bus’ness how to shun;
To bask thy naked Body in the Sun;
Suppl’ng thy stiffen’d Joints with fragrant Oyl:
Then, in thy spacious Garden, walk a while,
To suck the Moisture up, and soak it in:        80
And this, thou think’st, but vainly think’st, unseen.
But, know, thou art observ’d: And there are those
Who, if they durst, would all thy secret sins expose.
The depilation 9 of thy modest part:
Thy Catamite, the Darling of thy Heart,        85
His Engine-hand, and ev’ry leuder Art.
When prone to bear, and patient to receive,
Thou tak’st the pleasure which thou canst not give.
With odorous Oyl thy head and hair are sleek;
And then thou kemb’st the Tuzzes on thy Cheek:        90
Of these thy Barbers take a costly care,
While thy salt Tail is overgrown with hair.
Not all thy Pincers, nor unmanly Arts,
Can smooth the roughness of thy shameful parts.
Not five, the strongest 10 that the Circus breeds,        95
From the rank Soil can root those wicked Weeds:
Though suppled first with Soap, to ease thy pain,
The stubborn Fern springs up, and sprouts again.
Thus others we with Defamations wound,
While they stab us; and so the Jest goes round.        100
Vain are thy Hopes, to scape censorious Eyes;
Truth will appear, through all the thin Disguise:
Thou hast an Ulcer which no Leach can heal,
Though thy broad Shoulder-belt the Wound conceal.
Say thou art sound and hale in ev’ry part,        105
We know, we know thee rotten at thy heart.
We know thee sullen, impotent, and proud:
Nor canst thou cheat thy Nerve, 11 who cheat’st the Croud.
  But when they praise me, in the Neighbourhood,
When the pleas’d People take me for a God,        110
Shall I refuse their Incense? Not receive
The loud Applauses which the Vulgar give?
  If thou do’st Wealth, with longing Eyes, behold;
And, greedily, art gaping after Gold;
If some alluring Girl, in gliding by,        115
Shall tip the wink, with a lascivious Eye,
And thou, with a consenting glance, reply;
If thou, thy own Sollicitor become,
And bid’st arise the lumpish Pendulum:
If thy lewd Lust provokes an empty storm,        120
And prompts to more than Nature can perform;
If, with thy Guards, 12 thou scour’st the Streets by night,
And do’st in Murthers, Rapes, and Spoils delight;
Please not thy self, the flatt’ring Crowd to hear;
’Tis fulsom stuff, to feed thy itching Ear.        125
Reject the nauseous Praises of the Times:
Give thy base Poets back their cobbled Rhymes:
Survey thy Soul, 13 not what thou do’st appear,
But what thou art; and find the Beggar there.

The End of the Fourth Satyr.
Note 1. Socrates, whom the Oracle of Delphos prais’d as the wisest Man of his Age, liv’d in the time of the Peloponnesian War. He, finding the Uncertainty of Natural Philosophy, appli’d himself wholly to the Moral. He was Master to Xenophon and Plato, and to many of the Athenian Young Noblemen; amongst the rest to Alcibiades, the most lovely Youth then living; Afterwards a Famous Captain, whose Life is written by Plutarch. [back]
Note 2. Pericles was Tutor, or rather Overseer of the Will of Clinias, Father to Alcibiades. While Pericles liv’d, who was a wise Man, and an Excellent Orator, as well as a Great General, the Athenians had the better of the War. [back]
Note 3. and] And 1693. [back]
Note 4. Can’st punish Crimes, &c. That is by Death. When the Judges would Condemn a Male-factor, they cast their Votes into an Urn; as according to the Modern Custom, a Ballotting-Box. If the Suffrages were mark’d with [Theta] they signify’d the Sentence of Death to the Offendor, as being the first Letter of [Greek], which in English is Death. [back]
Note 5. Drink Hellebore, &c. The Poet wou’d say, that such an ignorant Young Man, as he here describes, is fitter to be govern’d himself, than to govern others. He therefore advises him to drink Hellebore, which purges the Brain. [back]
Note 6. Say, dost thou know Vectidius, &c. The Name of Vectidius is here us’d Appellatively to signifie any Rich Covetous Man; though perhaps there might be a Man of that Name then living. I have Translated this passage paraphrastically, and loosely: And leave it to those to look on, who are not unlike the Picture. [back]
Note 7. Kitchin] Kithin 1693. [back]
Note 8. When He shou’d thanks, &c. Pan the God of Shepherds, and Pales the Goddess presiding over rural Affairs; whom Virgil invocates in the beginning of his Second Georgique. I give the Epithete of Better to Ceres, because she first taught the Use of Corn for Bread, as the Poets tell us; Men, in the first rude Ages, feeding only on Acorns or Mast instead of Bread. [back]
Note 9. [Note suppressed.] [back]
Note 10. Not five the Strongest, &c. The Learned Holiday, (who has made us amends for his bad Poetry in this and the rest of these Satyrs with his excellent Illustrations,) here tells us, from good Authority, that the Number Five does not allude to the Five Fingers of one Man, who us’d them all in taking off the Hairs before mention’d; but to Five Strong Men, such as were skillful in the five robust Exercises then in Practice at Rome, and were perform’d in the Circus, or publick place, ordain’d for them. These five he reckons up in this manner. 1 The Cæstus, or Whirlbatts, describ’d by Virgil, in his fifth Eneid: And this was the most dangerous of all the rest. The 2d was the Foot-race. The Third the Discus, like the throwing a weighty Ball, a sport now us’d in Cornwall, and other parts of England: We may see it daily practis’d in Red-Lyon-Fields. The Fourth was the Saltus, or Leaping: And the fifth Wrastling Naked and besmear’d with Oyl. They who were Practis’d in these five Manly Exercises were call’d [Greek]. [back]
Note 11. [Note suppressed.] [back]
Note 12. If, with thy Guards, &c. Persius durst not have been so bold with Nero, as I dare now; and therefore there is only an intimation of that in him, which I publickly speak; I mean of Nero’s walking the Streets by Night in disguise; and committing all sorts of Outrages: For which he was sometimes well beaten. [back]
Note 13. Survey thy Soul, &c. That is, look into thy self, and examine thy own Conscience, there thou shalt find, that how wealthy soever thou appear’st to the World, yet thou art but a Beggar: because thou art destitute of all Virtues, which are the Riches of the Soul. This also was a Paradox of the Stoick School. [back]

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