Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SATIRE: 1, by AULUS PERSIUS FLACCUS



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SATIRE: 1, by            
First Line: I never did on cleft pernassus dream
Last Line: On dice, and drink, and drabs, they spend their afternoon.
Alternate Author Name(s): Persius
Subject(s): Poetry & Poets; Speech; Oratory; Orators


PROLOGUE TO THE FIRST SATYR.

I NEVER did on cleft Pernassus dream,
Nor taste the sacred Heliconian Stream;
Nor can remember when my Brain inspir'd,
Was, by the Muses, into madness fir'd.
My share in Pale Pyrene I resign;
And claim no part in all the Mighty Nine.
Statues, with winding Ivy crown'd, belong
To nobler Poets, for a nobler Song:
Heedless of Verse, and hopeless of the Crown,
Scarce half a Wit, and more than half a Clown,
Before the Shrine I lay my rugged Numbers down.
Who taught the Parrot Human Notes to try,
Or with a Voice endu'd the chatt'ring Pye?
'Twas witty Want, fierce Hunger to appease:
Want taught their Masters, and their Masters these.
Let Gain, that gilded Bait, be hung on high,
The hungry Witlings have it in their Eye;
Pies, Crows, and Daws, Poetick Presents bring:
You say they squeak; but they will swear they Sing.

THE FIRST SATYR
In Dialogue betwixt the Poet and his friend or Monitor.

PERSIUS.

How anxious are our Cares, and yet how vain
The bent of our desires!

FRIEND.

Thy Spleen contain:
For none will read thy Satyrs.

PERSIUS.

This to me?

FRIEND.

None; or what's next to none, but two or three.
'Tis hard, I grant.

PERSIUS.

'Tis nothing; I can bear
That paltry Scriblers have the Publick Ear:
That this vast universal Fool, the Town,
Shou'd cry up Labeo's Stuff, and cry me down.
They damn themselves; nor will my Muse descend
To clap with such, who Fools and Knaves commend:
Their Smiles and Censures are to me the same:
I care not what they praise, or what they blame.
In full Assemblies let the Crowd prevail:
I weigh no Merit by the common Scale.
The Conscience is the Test of ev'ry Mind;
Seek not thy self, without thy self, to find.
But where's that Roman? -- Somewhat I wou'd say,
But Fear; -- let Fear, for once, to Truth give way.
Truth lends the Stoick Courage: when I look
On Humane Acts, and read in Nature's Book,
From the first Pastimes of our Infant Age,
To elder Cares, and Man's severer Page;
When stern as Tutors, and as Uncles hard,
We lash the Pupil, and defraud the Ward:
Then, then I say, -- or wou'd say, if I durst --
But thus provok'd, I must speak out, or burst.

FRIEND.

Once more forbear.

PERSIUS.

I cannot rule my Spleen;
My scorn Rebels, and tickles me within.
First, to begin at Home, our Authors write
In lonely Rooms, secur'd from publick sight;
Whether in Prose, or Verse, 'tis all the same:
The Prose is Fustian, and the Numbers lame.
All Noise, and empty Pomp, a storm of words,
Lab'ring with sound, that little Sence affords.
They Comb, and then they order ev'ry Hair:
A Gown, or White, or Scour'd to whiteness, wear:
A Birth-day Jewel bobbing at their Ear.
Next, gargle well their Throats; and thus prepar'd,
They mount, a God's Name, to be seen and heard,
From their high Scaffold, with a Trumpet Cheek,
And Ogling all their Audience e're they speak.
The nauseous Nobles, ev'n the Chief of Rome,
With gaping Mouths to these Rehearsals come,
And pant with Pleasure, when some lusty line
The Marrow pierces, and invades the Chine.
At open fulsom Bawdry they rejoice,
And slimy Jests applaud with broken Voice.
Base Prostitute, thus dost thou gain thy Bread?
Thus dost thou feed their Ears, and thus art fed?
At his own filthy stuff he grins and brays:
And gives the sign where he expects their praise.
Why have I Learn'd, say'st thou, if thus confin'd,
I choak the Noble Vigour of my Mind?
Know, my wild Fig-Tree, which in Rocks is bred,
Will split the Quarry, and shoot out the Head.
Fine Fruits of Learning! Old Ambitious Fool,
Dar'st thou apply that Adage of the School;
As if 'tis nothing worth that lies conceal'd,
And Science is not Science till Reveal'd?
Oh, but 'tis Brave to be Admir'd, to see
The Crowd, with pointing Fingers, cry, That's he:
That's he, whose wondrous Poem is become
A Lecture for the Noble Youth of Rome!
Who, by their Fathers, is at Feasts Renown'd;
And often quoted, when the Bowls go round.
Full gorg'd and flush'd, they wantonly Rehearse;
And add to Wine the Luxury of Verse.
One, clad in Purple, not to lose his time,
Eats, and recites some lamentable Rhime:
Some Senceless Phyllis, in a broken Note,
Snuffling at Nose, or croaking in his Throat:
Then Graciously the mellow Audience Nod:
Is not th' Immortal Authour made a God?
Are not his Manes blest, such Praise to have?
Lies not the Turf more lightly on his Grave?
And Roses (while his lowd Applause they Sing)
Stand ready from his Sepulcher to spring?
All these, you cry, but light Objections are;
Meer Malice, and you drive the Jest too far.
For does there Breathe a Man, who can reject
A general Fame, and his own Lines neglect?
In Cedar Tablets worthy to appear,
That need not Fish, or Franckincense to fear?
Thou, whom I make the adverse part to bear,
Be answer'd thus: If I, by chance, succeed
In what I Write, (and that's a chance indeed;)
Know, I am not so stupid, or so hard,
Not to feel Praise, or Fame's deserv'd Reward:
But this I cannot grant, that thy Applause
Is my Works ultimate, or only Cause.
Prudence can ne're propose so mean a prize;
For mark what Vanity within it lies.
Like Labeo's Iliads, in whose Verse is found
Nothing but trifling care, and empty sound:
Such little Elegies as Nobles Write,
Who wou'd be poets, in Apollo's spight.
Them and their woful Works the Muse defies:
Products of Citron Beds and Golden Canopies.
To give thee all thy due, thou hast the Heart
To make a Supper, with a fine dessert;
And to thy threed-bare Friend, a cast old Sute impart.
Thus Brib'd, thou thus bespeak'st him, Tell me Friend
(For I love Truth, nor can plain Speech offend,)
What says the World of me and of my Muse?
The Poor dare nothing tell but flatt'ring News:
But shall I speak? thy Verse is wretched Rhyme;
And all thy Labours are but loss of time.
Thy strutting Belly swells, thy Paunch is high;
Thou Writ'st not, but thou Pissest Poetry.
All Authours to their own defects are blind;
Hadst thou but, Janus like, a Face behind,
To see the people, what splay-Mouths they make;
To mark their Fingers, pointed at thy back:
Their Tongues loll'd out, a foot beyond the pitch,
When most athirst, of an Apulian Bitch:
But Noble Scriblers are with Flatt'ry fed;
For none dare find their faults, who Eat their Bread.
To pass the Poets of Patrician Blood,
What is't the common Reader takes for good?
The Verse in fashion is, when Numbers flow,
Soft without Sence, and without Spirit slow:
So smooth and equal, that no sight can find
The Rivet, where the polish'd piece was join'd.
So even all, with such a steady view,
As if he shut one Eye to level true.
Whether the Vulgar Vice his Satyr stings,
The Peoples Riots, or the Rage of Kings,
The gentle Poet is alike in all;
His Reader hopes no rise, and fears no fall.

FRIEND.

Hourly we see some Raw Pin-feather'd thing
Attempt to mount, and Fights, and Heroes sing;
Who, for false quantities, was whipt at School
Butt' other day, and breaking Grammar Rule,
Whose trivial Art was never try'd, above
The bare description of a Native Grove:
Who knows not how to praise the Country store,
The Feasts, the Baskets, not the fatted Bore;
Nor paint the flowry Fields, that paint themselves before.
Where Romulus was Bred, and Quintius Born,
Whose shining Plough-share was in Furrows worn,
Met by his trembling Wife, returning Home,
And Rustically Joy'd, as Chief of Rome:
She wip'd the Sweat from the Dictator's Brow;
And o're his Back, his Robe did rudely throw;
The Lictors bore, in State, their Lord's Triumphant Plough.
Some love to hear the Fustian Poet roar;
And some on Antiquated Authours pore:
Rummage for Sense; and think those only good
Who labour most, and least are understood.
When thou shalt see the Blear-Ey'd Fathers teach
Their Sons, this harsh and mouldy sort of Speech;
Or others new affected ways to try,
Of wanton smoothness, Female Poetry;
One would enquire, from whence this motley Stile
Did first our Roman Purity defile:
For our Old Dotards cannot keep their Seat;
But leap and catch at all that's obsolete.
Others, by Foolish Ostentation led,
When call'd before the Bar, to save their Head,
Bring trifling Tropes, instead of solid Sence:
And mind their Figures more than their Defence,
Are pleas'd to hear their thick-scull'd Judges cry,
Well mov'd, oh finely said, and decently!
Theft (says th' Accuser) to thy Charge I lay,
O Pedius! What does gentle Pedius say?
Studious to please the Genius of the Times,
With Periods, Points, and Tropes, he slurs his Crimes:
"He Robb'd not, but he Borrow'd from the Poor;
"And took but with intention to restore.
He lards with flourishes his long Harangue;
'Tis fine, say'st thou; What, to be Prais'd and Hang?
Effeminate Roman, shall such Stuff prevail
To tickle thee, and make thee wag thy Tail?
Say, shou'd a Shipwrack'd Saylorsing his woe,
Wou'dst thou be mov'd to pity, or bestow
An Alms? What's more prepost'rous than to see
A Merry Beggar? Mirth in misery?

PERSIUS.

He seems a Trap, for Charity, to lay:
And cons, by Night, his Lesson for the day.

FRIEND.

But to raw Numbers, and unfinished Verse,
Sweet sound is added now, to make it Terse:
"'Tis tagg'd with Rhyme, like Berecynthian Atys,
"The mid part chimes with Art, which never flat is.
"The Dolphin brave, that cut the liquid Wave,
"Or He who in his line, can chine the long-rib'd Apennine.

PERSIUS.

All this is Dogrel Stuff:

FRIEND.

What if I bring
A Nobler Verse? Arms and the Man I sing.

PERSIUS.

Why name you Virgil with such Fops as these?
He's truly great, and must for ever please.
Not fierce, but awful is his Manly Page;
Bold is his Strength, but sober is his Rage.

FRIEND.

What Poems think you soft? and to be read
With languishing regards, and bending Head?

PERSIUS.

"Their crooked Horns the Mimallonian Crew
"With Blasts inspir'd; and Bassaris who slew
"The scornful Calf, with Sword advanc'd on high,
"Made from his Neck his haughty Head to fly.
"And Moenas, when with Ivy-bridles bound,
"She led the spotted Lynx, then Evion rung around;
"Evion from Woods and Floods repairing Ecchos sound.
Cou'd such rude Lines a Roman Mouth become,
Were any Manly Greatness left in Rome?
Moenas and Atys in the Mouth were bred;
And never hatch'd within the lab'ring Head:
No Blood, from bitten Nails, those. Poems drew:
But churn'd, like Spettle, from the Lips they flew.

FRIEND.

'Tis Fustian all; 'tis execrably bad:
But if they will be Fools, must you be mad?
Your Satyrs, let me tell you, are too fierce;
The Great will never bear so blunt a Verse.
Their Doors are barr'd against a bitter flout:
Snarl, if you please, but you shall snarl without.
Expect such Pay as railing Rhymes deserve,
Y'are in a very hopeful way to sterve.

PERSIUS.

Rather than so, uncensur'd let em be
All, all is admirably well, for me.
My harmless Rhyme shall scape the dire disgrace
Of Common-shore, and ev'ry pissing-place.
Two painted Serpents shall, on high, appear;
'Tis Holy Ground; you must not Urine here.
This shall be writ to fright the Fry away,
Who draw their little Bawbles, when they play.
Yet old Lucilius never fear'd the times,
But lash'd the City, and dissected Crimes.
Mutius and Lupus both by Name he brought;
He mouth'd em, and betwixt his Grinders caught.
Unlike in method, with conceal'd design,
Did crafty Horace his low Numbers joyn:
And, with a sly insinuating Grace,
Laugh'd at his Friend, and look'd him in the Face:
Would raise a Blush, where secret Vice he found;
And tickle, while he gently prob'd the Wound.
With seeming Innocence the Crowd beguil'd;
But made the desperate Passes, when he smil'd.
Could he do this, and is my Muse controll'd
By Servile Awe? Born free, and not be bold?
At least, I'll dig a hole within the Ground;
And to the trusty Earth commit the sound:
The Reeds shall tell you what the poet Fears,
King Midas has a Snout, and Asses Ears.
This mean conceit, this darling Mystery,
Which thou think'st nothing, Friend, thou shalt not buy,
Nor will I change, for all the flashy Wit,
That flatt'ring Labeo in his Iliads writ.
Thou, if there be a thou, in this base Town,
Who dares, with angry Eupolis, to frown;
He, who, with bold Cratinus, is inspir'd
With Zeal, and equal Indignation fir'd;
Who, at enormous Villany, turns pale,
And steers against it with a full-blown Sail,
Like Aristophanes; let him but smile
On this my honest Work, tho writ in homely Stile:
And if two Lines or three in all the Vein
Appear less drossy, read those Lines again.
May they perform their Author's just Intent,
Glow in thy Ears, and in thy Breast ferment.
But from the reading of my Book and me,
Be far ye Foes of Virtuous Poverty:
Who Fortune's fault upon the Poor can throw;
Point at the tatter'd Coat, and ragged Shooe:
Lay nature's failings to their Charge, and jeer
The dim week Eye-sight, when the Mind is clear.
When thou thy self, thus insolent in State,
Art but, perhaps, some Country Magistrate;
Whose Pow'r extends no farther than to speak
Big on the Bench, and scanty Weights to break.
Him, also, for my Censor I disdain,
Who thinks all Science, as all Virtue vain;
Who counts Geometry, and Numbers, Toys;
And with his Foot the Sacred Dust destroys:
Whose Pleasure is to see a Strumpet tear
A Cynicks Beard, and lug him by the Hair.
Such, all the Morning, to the Pleadings run;
But when the Bus'ness of the Day is done,
On Dice, and Drink, and Drabs, they spend their Afternoon.





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