Discourses on Satire and Epic Poetry
John Dryden

Part 2 out of 4

am satisfied that he says no more than truth; the rest is almost all
frivolous. For he says that Horace, being the son of a tax-gatherer
(or a collector, as we call it) smells everywhere of the meanness of
his birth and education; his conceits are vulgar, like the subjects
of his satires; that he does plebeium sepere, and writes not with
that elevation which becomes a satirist; that Persius, being nobly
born and of an opulent family, had likewise the advantage of a
better master (Cornutus being the most learned of his time, a man of
a most holy life, the chief of the Stoic sect at Rome, and not only
a great philosopher, but a poet himself, and in probability a
coadjutor of Persius: that as for Juvenal, he was long a declaimer,
came late to poetry, and had not been much conversant in philosophy.

It is granted that the father of Horace was libertinus--that is, one
degree removed from his grandfather, who had been once a slave. But
Horace, speaking of him, gives him the best character of a father
which I ever read in history; and I wish a witty friend of mine, now
living, had such another. He bred him in the best school, and with
the best company of young noblemen; and Horace, by his gratitude to
his memory, gives a certain testimony that his education was
ingenuous. After this he formed himself abroad by the conversation
of great men. Brutus found him at Athens, and was so pleased with
him that he took him thence into the army, and made him Tribunus
Militum (a colonel in a legion), which was the preferment of an old
soldier. All this was before his acquaintance with Maecenas, and
his introduction into the court of Augustus, and the familiarity of
that great emperor; which, had he not been well bred before, had
been enough to civilise his conversation, and render him
accomplished and knowing in all the arts of complacency and good
behaviour; and, in short, an agreeable companion for the retired
hours and privacies of a favourite who was first minister. So that
upon the whole matter Persius may be acknowledged to be equal with
him in those respects, though better born, and Juvenal inferior to
both. If the advantage be anywhere, it is on the side of Horace, as
much as the court of Augustus Caesar was superior to that of Nero.
As for the subjects which they treated, it will appear hereafter
that Horace wrote not vulgarly on vulgar subjects, nor always chose
them. His style is constantly accommodated to his subject, either
high or low. If his fault be too much lowness, that of Persius is
the fault of the hardness of his metaphors and obscurity; and so
they are equal in the failings of their style, where Juvenal
manifestly triumphs over both of them.

The comparison betwixt Horace and Juvenal is more difficult, because
their forces were more equal. A dispute has always been, and ever
will continue, betwixt the favourers of the two poets. Non nostrum
est tantas componere lites. I shall only venture to give my own
opinion, and leave it for better judges to determine. If it be only
argued in general which of them was the better poet, the victory is
already gained on the side of Horace. Virgil himself must yield to
him in the delicacy of his turns, his choice of words, and perhaps
the purity of his Latin. He who says that Pindar is inimitable, is
himself inimitable in his odes; but the contention betwixt these two
great masters is for the prize of satire, in which controversy all
the odes and epodes of Horace are to stand excluded. I say this
because Horace has written many of them satirically against his
private enemies; yet these, if justly considered, are somewhat of
the nature of the Greek silli, which were invectives against
particular sects and persons. But Horace had purged himself of this
choler before he entered on those discourses which are more properly
called the Roman satire. He has not now to do with a Lyce, a
Canidia, a Cassius Severus, or a Menas; but is to correct the vices
and the follies of his time, and to give the rules of a happy and
virtuous life. In a word, that former sort of satire which is known
in England by the name of lampoon is a dangerous sort of weapon, and
for the most part unlawful. We have no moral right on the
reputation of other men; it is taking from them what we cannot
restore to them. There are only two reasons for which we may be
permitted to write lampoons, and I will not promise that they can
always justify us. The first is revenge, when we have been
affronted in the same nature, or have been anywise notoriously
abused, and can make ourselves no other reparation. And yet we know
that in Christian charity all offences are to be forgiven, as we
expect the like pardon for those which we daily commit against
Almighty God. And this consideration has often made me tremble when
I was saying our Saviour's prayer, for the plain condition of the
forgiveness which we beg is the pardoning of others the offences
which they have done to us; for which reason I have many times
avoided the commission of that fault, even when I have been
notoriously provoked. Let not this, my lord, pass for vanity in me;
for it is truth. More libels have been written against me than
almost any man now living; and I had reason on my side to have
defended my own innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which I have
wholly given up to the critics--let them use it as they please--
posterity, perhaps, may be more favourable to me; for interest and
passion will lie buried in another age, and partiality and prejudice
be forgotten. I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently
aspersed--that only sort of reputation ought to be dear to every
honest man, and is to me. But let the world witness for me that I
have been often wanting to myself in that particular; I have seldom
answered any scurrilous lampoon when it was in my power to have
exposed my enemies; and, being naturally vindicative, have suffered
in silence, and possessed my soul in quiet.

Anything, though never so little, which a man speaks of himself, in
my opinion, is still too much; and therefore I will waive this
subject, and proceed to give the second reason which may justify a
poet when he writes against a particular person, and that is when he
is become a public nuisance. All those whom Horace in his satires,
and Persius and Juvenal have mentioned in theirs with a brand of
infamy, are wholly such. It is an action of virtue to make examples
of vicious men. They may and ought to be upbraided with their
crimes and follies, both for their own amendment (if they are not
yet incorrigible), and for the terror of others, to hinder them from
falling into those enormities, which they see are so severely
punished in the persons of others. The first reason was only an
excuse for revenge; but this second is absolutely of a poet's office
to perform. But how few lampooners are there now living who are
capable of this duty! When they come in my way, it is impossible
sometimes to avoid reading them. But, good God! how remote they are
in common justice from the choice of such persons as are the proper
subject of satire, and how little wit they bring for the support of
their injustice! The weaker sex is their most ordinary theme; and
the best and fairest are sure to be the most severely handled.
Amongst men, those who are prosperously unjust are entitled to a
panegyric, but afflicted virtue is insolently stabbed with all
manner of reproaches; no decency is considered, no fulsomeness
omitted; no venom is wanting, as far as dulness can supply it, for
there is a perpetual dearth of wit, a barrenness of good sense and
entertainment. The neglect of the readers will soon put an end to
this sort of scribbling. There can be no pleasantry where there is
no wit, no impression can be made where there is no truth for the
foundation. To conclude: they are like the fruits of the earth in
this unnatural season; the corn which held up its head is spoiled
with rankness, but the greater part of the harvest is laid along,
and little of good income and wholesome nourishment is received into
the barns. This is almost a digression, I confess to your lordship;
but a just indignation forced it from me. Now I have removed this
rubbish I will return to the comparison of Juvenal and Horace.

I would willingly divide the palm betwixt them upon the two heads of
profit and delight, which are the two ends of poetry in general. It
must be granted by the favourers of Juvenal that Horace is the more
copious and more profitable in his instructions of human life; but
in my particular opinion, which I set not up for a standard to
better judgments, Juvenal is the more delightful author. I am
profited by both, I am pleased with both; but I owe more to Horace
for my instruction, and more to Juvenal for my pleasure. This, as I
said, is my particular taste of these two authors. They who will
have either of them to excel the other in both qualities, can scarce
give better reasons for their opinion than I for mine. But all
unbiassed readers will conclude that my moderation is not to be
condemned; to such impartial men I must appeal, for they who have
already formed their judgment may justly stand suspected of
prejudice; and though all who are my readers will set up to be my
judges, I enter my caveat against them, that they ought not so much
as to be of my jury; or; if they be admitted, it is but reason that
they should first hear what I have to urge in the defence of my

That Horace is somewhat the better instructor of the two is proved
from hence--that his instructions are more general, Juvenal's more
limited. So that, granting that the counsels which they give are
equally good for moral use, Horace, who gives the most various
advice, and most applicable to all occasions which can occur to us
in the course of our lives--as including in his discourses not only
all the rules of morality, but also of civil conversation--is
undoubtedly to be preferred to him, who is more circumscribed in his
instructions, makes them to fewer people, and on fewer occasions,
than the other. I may be pardoned for using an old saying, since it
is true and to the purpose: Bonum quo communius, eo melius.
Juvenal, excepting only his first satire, is in all the rest
confined to the exposing of some particular vice; that he lashes,
and there he sticks. His sentences are truly shining and
instructive; but they are sprinkled here and there. Horace is
teaching us in every line, and is perpetually moral; he had found
out the skill of Virgil to hide his sentences, to give you the
virtue of them without showing them in their full extent, which is
the ostentation of a poet, and not his art. And this Petronius
charges on the authors of his time as a vice of writing, which was
then growing on the age: ne sententiae extra corpus orationis
emineant; he would have them weaved into the body of the work, and
not appear embossed upon it, and striking directly on the reader's
view. Folly was the proper quarry of Horace, and not vice; and as
there are but few notoriously wicked men in comparison with a shoal
of fools and fops, so it is a harder thing to make a man wise than
to make him honest; for the will is only to be reclaimed in the one,
but the understanding is to be informed in the other. There are
blind sides and follies even in the professors of moral philosophy,
and there is not any one sect of them that Horace has not exposed;
which, as it was not the design of Juvenal, who was wholly employed
in lashing vices (some of them the most enormous that can be
imagined), so perhaps it was not so much his talent.

"Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
Tangit, et admissus circum praecordia ludit."

This was the commendation which Persius gave him; where by vitium he
means those little vices which we call follies, the defects of human
understanding, or at most the peccadilloes of life, rather than the
tragical vices to which men are hurried by their unruly passions and
exorbitant desires. But in the word omne, which is universal, he
concludes with me that the divine wit of Horace left nothing
untouched; that he entered into the inmost recesses of nature; found
out the imperfections even of the most wise and grave, as well as of
the common people; discovering even in the great Trebatius (to whom
he addresses the first satire) his hunting after business and
following the court, as well as in the prosecutor Crispinus, his
impertinence and importunity. It is true, he exposes Crispinus
openly as a common nuisance; but he rallies the other, as a friend,
more finely. The exhortations of Persius are confined to noblemen,
and the Stoic philosophy is that alone which he recommends to them;
Juvenal exhorts to particular virtues, as they are opposed to those
vices against which he declaims; but Horace laughs to shame all
follies, and insinuates virtue rather by familiar examples than by
the severity of precepts.

This last consideration seems to incline the balance on the side of
Horace, and to give him the preference to Juvenal, not only in
profit, but in pleasure. But, after all, I must confess that the
delight which Horace gives me is but languishing (be pleased still
to understand that I speak of my own taste only); he may ravish
other men, but I am too stupid and insensible to be tickled. Where
he barely grins himself, and, as Scaliger says, only shows his white
teeth, he cannot provoke me to any laughter. His urbanity--that is,
his good manners--are to be commended; but his wit is faint, and his
salt (if I may dare to say so) almost insipid. Juvenal is of a more
vigorous and masculine wit; he gives me as much pleasure as I can
bear; he fully satisfies my expectation; he treats his subject home;
his spleen is raised, and he raises mine. I have the pleasure of
concernment in all he says; he drives his reader along with him, and
when he is at the end of his way, I willingly stop with him. If he
went another stage, it would be too far; it would make a journey of
a progress, and turn delight into fatigue. When he gives over, it
is a sign the subject is exhausted, and the wit of man can carry it
no farther. If a fault can be justly found in him, it is that he is
sometimes too luxuriant, too redundant; says more than he needs,
like my friend "the Plain Dealer," but never more than pleases. Add
to this that his thoughts are as just as those of Horace, and much
more elevated; his expressions are sonorous and more noble; his
verse more numerous; and his words are suitable to his thoughts,
sublime and lofty. All these contribute to the pleasure of the
reader; and the greater the soul of him who reads, his transports
are the greater. Horace is always on the amble, Juvenal on the
gallop, but his way is perpetually on carpet-ground. He goes with
more impetuosity than Horace, but as securely; and the swiftness
adds a more lively agitation to the spirits. The low style of
Horace is according to his subject--that is, generally grovelling.
I question not but he could have raised it, for the first epistle of
the second book, which he writes to Augustus (a most instructive
satire concerning poetry), is of so much dignity in the words, and
of so much elegancy in the numbers, that the author plainly shows
the sermo pedestris in his other satires was rather his choice than
his necessity. He was a rival to Lucilius, his predecessor, and was
resolved to surpass him in his own manner. Lucilius, as we see by
his remaining fragments, minded neither his style, nor his numbers,
nor his purity of words, nor his run of verse. Horace therefore
copes with him in that humble way of satire, writes under his own
force, and carries a dead weight, that he may match his competitor
in the race. This, I imagine, was the chief reason why he minded
only the clearness of his satire, and the cleanness of expression,
without ascending to those heights to which his own vigour might
have carried him. But limiting his desires only to the conquest of
Lucilius, he had his ends of his rival, who lived before him, but
made way for a new conquest over himself by Juvenal his successor.
He could not give an equal pleasure to his reader, because he used
not equal instruments. The fault was in the tools, and not in the
workman. But versification and numbers are the greatest pleasures
of poetry. Virgil knew it, and practised both so happily that, for
aught I know, his greatest excellency is in his diction. In all
other parts of poetry he is faultless, but in this he placed his
chief perfection. And give me leave, my lord, since I have here an
apt occasion, to say that Virgil could have written sharper satires
than either Horace or Juvenal if he would have employed his talent
that way. I will produce a verse and half of his, in one of his
Eclogues, to justify my opinion, and with commas after every word,
to show that he has given almost as many lashes as he has written
syllables. It is against a bad poet, whose ill verses he describes

"Non tu, in triviis indocte, solebas
Stridenti, miserum, stipula, disperdere carmen?"

But to return to my purpose. When there is anything deficient in
numbers and sound, the reader is uneasy and unsatisfied; he wants
something of his complement, desires somewhat which he finds not:
and this being the manifest defect of Horace, it is no wonder that,
finding it supplied in Juvenal, we are more delighted with him. And
besides this, the sauce of Juvenal is more poignant, to create in us
an appetite of reading him. The meat of Horace is more nourishing,
but the cookery of Juvenal more exquisite; so that, granting Horace
to be the more general philosopher, we cannot deny that Juvenal was
the greater poet--I mean, in satire. His thoughts are sharper, his
indignation against vice is more vehement, his spirit has more of
the commonwealth genius; he treats tyranny, and all the vices
attending it, as they deserve, with the utmost rigour; and
consequently a noble soul is better pleased with a zealous
vindicator of Roman liberty than with a temporising poet, a well-
mannered court slave, and a man who is often afraid of laughing in
the right place--who is ever decent, because he is naturally

After all, Horace had the disadvantage of the times in which he
lived; they were better for the man, but worse for the satirist. It
is generally said that those enormous vices which were practised
under the reign of Domitian were unknown in the time of Augustus
Caesar; that therefore Juvenal had a larger field than Horace.
Little follies were out of doors when oppression was to be scourged
instead of avarice; it was no longer time to turn into ridicule the
false opinions of philosophers when the Roman liberty was to be
asserted. There was more need of a Brutus in Domitian's days to
redeem or mend, than of a Horace, if he had then been living, to
laugh at a fly-catcher. This reflection at the same time excuses
Horace, but exalts Juvenal. I have ended, before I was aware, the
comparison of Horace and Juvenal upon the topics of instruction and
delight; and indeed I may safely here conclude that commonplace:
for if we make Horace our minister of state in satire, and Juvenal
of our private pleasures, I think the latter has no ill bargain of
it. Let profit have the pre-eminence of honour in the end of
poetry; pleasure, though but the second in degree, is the first in
favour. And who would not choose to be loved better rather than to
be more esteemed! But I am entered already upon another topic,
which concerns the particular merits of these two satirists.
However, I will pursue my business where I left it, and carry it
farther than that common observation of the several ages in which
these authors flourished.

When Horace writ his satires, the monarchy of his Caesar was in its
newness, and the government but just made easy to the conquered
people. They could not possibly have forgotten the usurpation of
that prince upon their freedom, nor the violent methods which he had
used in the compassing of that vast design; they yet remembered his
proscriptions, and the slaughter of so many noble Romans their
defenders--amongst the rest, that horrible action of his when he
forced Livia from the arms of her husband (who was constrained to
see her married, as Dion relates the story), and, big with child as
she was, conveyed to the bed of his insulting rival. The same Dion
Cassius gives us another instance of the crime before mentioned--
that Cornelius Sisenna, being reproached in full senate with the
licentious conduct of his wife, returned this answer: that he had
married her by the counsel of Augustus (intimating, says my author,
that Augustus had obliged him to that marriage, that he might under
that covert have the more free access to her). His adulteries were
still before their eyes, but they must be patient where they had not
power. In other things that emperor was moderate enough; propriety
was generally secured, and the people entertained with public shows
and donatives, to make them more easily digest their lost liberty.
But Augustus, who was conscious to himself of so many crimes which
he had committed, thought in the first place to provide for his own
reputation by making an edict against lampoons and satires, and the
authors of those defamatory writings, which my author Tacitus, from
the law-term, calls famosos libellos.

In the first book of his Annals he gives the following account of it
in these words:- Primus Augustus cognitionem de famosis libellis,
specie legis ejus, tractavit; commotus Cassii Severi libidine, qua
viros faeminasque illustres procacibus scriptis diffamaverat. Thus
in English:- "Augustus was the first who, under the colour of that
law, took cognisance of lampoons, being provoked to it by the
petulancy of Cassius Severus, who had defamed many illustrious
persons of both sexes in his writings." The law to which Tacitus
refers was Lex laesae majestatis; commonly called, for the sake of
brevity, majestas; or, as we say, high-treason. He means not that
this law had not been enacted formerly (for it had been made by the
Decemviri, and was inscribed amongst the rest in the Twelve Tables,
to prevent the aspersion of the Roman majesty, either of the people
themselves, or their religion, or their magistrates; and the
infringement of it was capital--that is, the offender was whipped to
death with the fasces which were borne before their chief officers
of Rome), but Augustus was the first who restored that intermitted
law. By the words "under colour of that law" he insinuates that
Augustus caused it to be executed on pretence of those libels which
were written by Cassius Severus against the nobility, but in truth
to save himself from such defamatory verses. Suetonius likewise
makes mention of it thus:- Sparsos de se in curia famosos libellos,
nec exparit, et magna cura redarguit. Ac ne requisitis quidem
auctoribus, id modo censuit, cognoscendum posthac de iis qui
libellos aut carmina ad infamiam cujuspiam sub alieno nomine edant.
"Augustus was not afraid of libels," says that author, "yet he took
all care imaginable to have them answered, and then decreed that for
the time to come the authors of them should be punished." But
Aurelius makes it yet more clear, according to my sense, that this
emperor for his own sake durst not permit them:- Fecit id Augustus
in speciem, et quasi gratificaretur populo Romano, et primoribus
urbis; sed revera ut sibi consuleret: nam habuit in animo
comprimere nimiam quorundam procacitatem in loquendo, a qua nec ipse
exemptus fuit. Nam suo nomine compescere erat invidiosum, sub
alieno facile et utile. Ergo specie legis tractavit, quasi populi
Romani majestas infamaretur. This, I think, is a sufficient comment
on that passage of Tacitus. I will add only by the way that the
whole family of the Caesars and all their relations were included in
the law, because the majesty of the Romans in the time of the Empire
was wholly in that house: Omnia Caesar erat; they were all
accounted sacred who belonged to him. As for Cassius Severus, he
was contemporary with Horace, and was the same poet against whom he
writes in his epodes under this title, In Cassium Severum, maledicum
poctam--perhaps intending to kill two crows, according to our
proverb, with one stone, and revenge both himself and his emperor

From hence I may reasonably conclude that Augustus, who was not
altogether so good as he was wise, had some by-respect in the
enacting of this law; for to do anything for nothing was not his
maxim. Horace, as he was a courtier, complied with the interest of
his master; and, avoiding the lashing of greater crimes, confined
himself to the ridiculing of petty vices and common follies,
excepting only some reserved cases in his odes and epodes of his own
particular quarrels (which either with permission of the magistrate
or without it, every man will revenge, though I say not that he
should; for prior laesit is a good excuse in the civil law if
Christianity had not taught us to forgive). However, he was not the
proper man to arraign great vices; at least, if the stories which we
hear of him are true--that he practised some which I will not here
mention, out of honour to him. It was not for a Clodius to accuse
adulterers, especially when Augustus was of that number. So that,
though his age was not exempted from the worst of villainies, there
was no freedom left to reprehend them by reason of the edict; and
our poet was not fit to represent them in an odious character,
because himself was dipped in the same actions. Upon this account,
without further insisting on the different tempers of Juvenal and
Horace, I conclude that the subjects which Horace chose for satire
are of a lower nature than those of which Juvenal has written.

Thus I have treated, in a new method, the comparison betwixt Horace,
Juvenal, and Persius. Somewhat of their particular manner,
belonging to all of them, is yet remaining to be considered.
Persius was grave, and particularly opposed his gravity to lewdness,
which was the predominant vice in Nero's court at the time when he
published his satires, which was before that emperor fell into the
excess of cruelty. Horace was a mild admonisher, a court satirist,
fit for the gentle times of Augustus, and more fit for the reasons
which I have already given. Juvenal was as proper for his times as
they for theirs; his was an age that deserved a more severe
chastisement; vices were more gross and open, more flagitious, more
encouraged by the example of a tyrant, and more protected by his
authority. Therefore, wheresoever Juvenal mentions Nero, he means
Domitian, whom he dares not attack in his own person, but scourges
him by proxy. Heinsius urges in praise of Horace that, according to
the ancient art and law of satire, it should be nearer to comedy
than to tragedy; not declaiming against vice, but only laughing at
it. Neither Persius nor Juvenal was ignorant of this, for they had
both studied Horace. And the thing itself is plainly true. But as
they had read Horace, they had likewise read Lucilius, of whom
Persius says, Secuit urbem; . . . et genuinum fregit in illis;
meaning Mutius and Lupus; and Juvenal also mentions him in these

"Ense velut stricto, quoties Lucilius ardens
Infremuit, rubet auditor, cui frigida mens est
Criminibus, tacita sulant praecordia culpa."

So that they thought the imitation of Lucilius was more proper to
their purpose than that of Horace. "They changed satire," says
Holyday, "but they changed it for the better; for the business being
to reform great vices, chastisement goes farther than admonition;
whereas a perpetual grin, like that of Horace, does rather anger
than amend a man."

Thus far that learned critic Barten Holyday, whose interpretation
and illustrations of Juvenal are as excellent as the verse of his
translation and his English are lame and pitiful; for it is not
enough to give us the meaning of a poet (which I acknowledge him to
have performed most faithfully) but he must also imitate his genius
and his numbers as far as the English will come up to the elegance
of the original. In few words, it is only for a poet to translate a
poet. Holyday and Stapleton had not enough considered this when
they attempted Juvenal; but I forbear reflections: only I beg leave
to take notice of this sentence, where Holyday says, "a perpetual
grin, like that of Horace, rather angers than amends a man." I
cannot give him up the manner of Horace in low satire so easily.
Let the chastisements of Juvenal be never so necessary for his new
kind of satire, let him declaim as wittily and sharply as he
pleases, yet still the nicest and most delicate touches of satire
consist in fine raillery. This, my lord, is your particular talent,
to which even Juvenal could not arrive. It is not reading, it is
not imitation of, an author which can produce this fineness; it must
be inborn; it must proceed from a genius, and particular way of
thinking, which is not to be taught, and therefore not to be
imitated by him who has it not from nature. How easy it is to call
rogue and villain, and that wittily! but how hard to make a man
appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave, without using any of those
opprobrious terms! To spare the grossness of the names, and to do
the thing yet more severely, is to draw a full face and to make the
nose and cheeks stand out, and yet not to employ any depth of
shadowing. This is the mystery of that noble trade, which yet no
master can teach to his apprentice; he may give the rules, but the
scholar is never the nearer in his practice. Neither is it true
that this fineness of raillery is offensive; a witty man is tickled,
while he is hurt in this manner; and a fool feels it not. The
occasion of an offence may possibly be given, but he cannot take it.
If it be granted that in effect this way does more mischief; that a
man is secretly wounded, and though he be not sensible himself, yet
the malicious world will find it for him; yet there is still a vast
difference betwixt the slovenly butchering of a man, and the
fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body and
leaves it standing in its place. A man may be capable, as Jack
Ketch's wife said of his servant, of a plain piece of work, a bare
hanging; but to make a malefactor die sweetly was only belonging to
her husband. I wish I could apply it to myself, if the reader would
be kind enough to think it belongs to me. The character of Zimri,
in my "Absalom" is, in my opinion, worth the whole poem; it is not
bloody, but it is ridiculous enough; and he for whom it was intended
was too witty to resent it as an injury. If I had railed, I might
have suffered for it justly; but I managed my own work more happily,
perhaps more dexterously. I avoided the mention of great crimes,
and applied myself to the representing of blind-sides and little
extravagances; to which the wittier a man is, he is generally the
more obnoxious. It succeeded as I wished; the jest went round, and
he was laughed at in his turn who began the frolic.

And thus, my lord, you see I have preferred the manner of Horace and
of your lordship in this kind of satire to that of Juvenal, and, I
think, reasonably. Holyday ought not to have arraigned so great an
author for that which was his excellency and his merit; or, if he
did, on such a palpable mistake he might expect that some one might
possibly arise (either in his own time, or after him) to rectify his
error, and restore to Horace that commendation of which he has so
unjustly robbed him. And let the manes of Juvenal forgive me if I
say that this way of Horace was the best for amending manners, as it
is the most difficult. His was an ense rescindendum; but that of
Horace was a pleasant cure, with all the limbs preserved entire,
and, as our mountebanks tell us in their bills, without keeping the
patient within doors for a day. What they promise only, Horace has
effectually performed. Yet I contradict not the proposition which I
formerly advanced. Juvenal's times required a more painful kind of
operation; but if he had lived in the age of Horace, I must needs
affirm that he had it not about him. He took the method which was
prescribed him by his own genius, which was sharp and eager; he
could not railly, but he could declaim: and as his provocations
were great, he has revenged them tragically. This, notwithstanding
I am to say another word which, as true as it is, will yet displease
the partial admirers of our Horace; I have hinted it before, but it
is time for me now to speak more plainly.

This manner of Horace is indeed the best; but Horace has not
executed it altogether so happily--at least, not often. The manner
of Juvenal is confessed to be inferior to the former; but Juvenal
has excelled him in his performance. Juvenal has railed more
wittily than Horace has rallied. Horace means to make his reader
laugh, but he is not sure of his experiment. Juvenal always intends
to move your indignation, and he always brings about his purpose.
Horace, for aught I know, might have tickled the people of his age,
but amongst the moderns he is not so successful. They who say he
entertains so pleasantly, may perhaps value themselves on the
quickness of their own understandings, that they can see a jest
farther off than other men; they may find occasion of laughter in
the wit-battle of the two buffoons Sarmentus and Cicerrus, and hold
their sides for fear of bursting when Rupilius and Persius are
scolding. For my own part, I can only like the characters of all
four, which are judiciously given; but for my heart I cannot so much
as smile at their insipid raillery. I see not why Persius should
call upon Brutus to revenge him on his adversary; and that because
he had killed Julius Caesar for endeavouring to be a king, therefore
he should be desired to murder Rupilius, only because his name was
Mr. King. A miserable clench, in my opinion, for Horace to record;
I have heard honest Mr. Swan make many a better, and yet have had
the grace to hold my countenance. But it may be puns were then in
fashion, as they were wit in the sermons of the last age, and in the
court of King Charles the Second. I am sorry to say it, for the
sake of Horace; but certain it is, he has no fine palate who can
feed so heartily on garbage.

But I have already wearied myself, and doubt not but I have tired
your lordship's patience, with this long, rambling, and, I fear,
trivial discourse. Upon the one-half of the merits, that is,
pleasure, I cannot but conclude that Juvenal was the better
satirist. They who will descend into his particular praises may
find them at large in the dissertation of the learned Rigaltius to
Thuanus. As for Persius, I have given the reasons why I think him
inferior to both of them; yet I have one thing to add on that

Barten Holyday, who translated both Juvenal and Persius, has made
this distinction betwixt them, which is no less true than witty--
that in Persius, the difficulty is to find a meaning; in Juvenal, to
choose a meaning; so crabbed is Persius, and so copious is Juvenal;
so much the understanding is employed in one, and so much the
judgment in the other; so difficult is it to find any sense in the
former, and the best sense of the latter.

If, on the other side, any one suppose I have commended Horace below
his merit, when I have allowed him but the second place, I desire
him to consider if Juvenal (a man of excellent natural endowments,
besides the advantages of diligence and study, and coming after him
and building upon his foundations) might not probably, with all
these helps, surpass him; and whether it be any dishonour to Horace
to be thus surpassed, since no art or science is at once begun and
perfected but that it must pass first through many hands and even
through several ages. If Lucilius could add to Ennius and Horace to
Lucilius, why, without any diminution to the fame of Horace, might
not Juvenal give the last perfection to that work? Or rather, what
disreputation is it to Horace that Juvenal excels in the tragical
satire, as Horace does in the comical? I have read over attentively
both Heinsius and Dacier in their commendations of Horace, but I can
find no more in either of them for the preference of him to Juvenal
than the instructive part (the part of wisdom, and not that of
pleasure), which therefore is here allowed him, notwithstanding what
Scaliger and Rigaltius have pleaded to the contrary for Juvenal.
And to show I am impartial I will here translate what Dacier has
said on that subject:-

"I cannot give a more just idea of the two books of satires made by
Horace than by comparing them to the statues of the Sileni, to which
Alcibiades compares Socrates in the Symposium. They were figures
which had nothing of agreeable, nothing of beauty on their outside;
but when any one took the pains to open them and search into them,
he there found the figures of all the deities. So in the shape that
Horace presents himself to us in his satires we see nothing at the
first view which deserves our attention; it seems that he is rather
an amusement for children than for the serious consideration of men.
But when we take away his crust, and that which hides him from our
sight, when we discover him to the bottom, then we find all the
divinities in a full assembly--that is to say, all the virtues which
ought to be the continual exercise of those who seriously endeavour
to correct their vices."

It is easy to observe that Dacier, in this noble similitude, has
confined the praise of his author wholly to the instructive part the
commendation turns on this, and so does that which follows:-

"In these two books of satire it is the business of Horace to
instruct us how to combat our vices, to regulate our passions, to
follow nature, to give bounds to our desires, to distinguish betwixt
truth and falsehood, and betwixt our conceptions of things and
things themselves; to come back from our prejudicate opinions, to
understand exactly the principles and motives of all our actions;
and to avoid the ridicule into which all men necessarily fall who
are intoxicated with those notions which they have received from
their masters, and which they obstinately retain without examining
whether or no they be founded on right reason.

"In a word, he labours to render us happy in relation to ourselves;
agreeable and faithful to our friends; and discreet, serviceable,
and well-bred in relation to those with whom we are obliged to live
and to converse. To make his figures intelligible, to conduct his
readers through the labyrinth of some perplexed sentence or obscure
parenthesis, is no great matter; and, as Epictetus says, there is
nothing of beauty in all this, or what is worthy of a prudent man.
The principal business, and which is of most importance to us, is to
show the use, the reason, and the proof of his precepts.

"They who endeavour not to correct themselves according to so exact
a model are just like the patients who have open before them a book
of admirable receipts for their diseases, and please themselves with
reading it without comprehending the nature of the remedies or how
to apply them to their cure."

Let Horace go off with these encomiums, which he has so well

To conclude the contention betwixt our three poets I will use the
words of Virgil in his fifth AEneid, where AEneas proposes the
rewards of the foot-race to the three first who should reach the

"Tres praemia primi . . .
Accipient, flauaque caput nectentur oliva."

Let these three ancients be preferred to all the moderns as first
arriving at the goal; let them all be crowned as victors with the
wreath that properly belongs to satire. But after that, with this
distinction amongst themselves:-

"Primus equum phaleris insignem victor habeto."

Let Juvenal ride first in triumph.

"Alter Amazoniam pharetram, plenamque sagittis
Threiciis, lato quam circumplectitur auro
Balteus, et tereti subnectit fibula gemma."

Let Horace, who is the second (and but just the second), carry off
the quiver and the arrows as the badges of his satire, and the
golden belt and the diamond button.

"Tertius Argolico hoc clypeo contentus abito."

And let Persius, the last of the first three worthies, be contented
with this Grecian shield, and with victory--not only over all the
Grecians, who were ignorant of the Roman satire--but over all the
moderns in succeeding ages, excepting Boileau and your lordship.

And thus I have given the history of satire, and derived it as far
as from Ennius to your lordship--that is, from its first rudiments
of barbarity to its last polishing and perfection; which is, with
Virgil, in his address to Augustus -

"Nomen fama tot ferre per annos, . . .
Tithoni prima quot abest ab origine Caesar."

I said only from Ennius, but I may safely carry it higher, as far as
Livius Andronicus, who, as I have said formerly, taught the first
play at Rome in the year ab urbe condita CCCCCXIV. I have since
desired my learned friend Mr. Maidwell to compute the difference of
times betwixt Aristophanes and Livius Andronicus; and he assures me
from the best chronologers that Plutus, the last of Aristophanes'
plays, was represented at Athens in the year of the 97th Olympiad,
which agrees with the year urbis conditae CCCLXIV. So that the
difference of years betwixt Aristophanes and Andronicus is 150; from
whence I have probably deduced that Livius Andronicus, who was a
Grecian, had read the plays of the old comedy, which were satirical,
and also of the new; for Menander was fifty years before him, which
must needs be a great light to him in his own plays that were of the
satirical nature. That the Romans had farces before this, it is
true; but then they had no communication with Greece; so that
Andronicus was the first who wrote after the manner of the old
comedy, in his plays: he was imitated by Ennius about thirty years
afterwards. Though the former writ fables, the latter, speaking
properly, began the Roman satire, according to that description
which Juvenal gives of it in his first:-

"Quicquid agunt homines, votum, timor, ira voluptas,
Gaudia, discurses, nostri est farrago libelli."

This is that in which I have made hold to differ from Casaubon,
Rigaltius, Dacier, and indeed from all the modern critics--that not
Ennius, but Andronicus, was the first who, by the archaea comedia of
the Greeks, added many beauties to the first rude and barbarous
Roman satire; which sort of poem, though we had not derived from
Rome, yet nature teaches it mankind in all ages and in every

It is but necessary that, after so much has been said of satire,
some definition of it should be given. Heinsius, in his
Dissertations on Horace, makes it for me in these words:- "Satire is
a kind of poetry, without a series of action, invented for the
purging of our minds; in which human vices, ignorance, and errors,
and all things besides which are produced from them in every man,
are severely reprehended--partly dramatically, partly simply, and
sometimes in both kinds of speaking, but for the most part
figuratively and occultly; consisting, in a low familiar way,
chiefly in a sharp and pungent manner of speech, but partly also in
a facetious and civil way of jesting, by which either hatred or
laughter or indignation is moved." Where I cannot but observe that
this obscure and perplexed definition, or rather description of
satire, is wholly accommodated to the Horatian way, and excluding
the works of Juvenal and Persius as foreign from that kind of poem.
The clause in the beginning of it, "without a series of action,"
distinguishes satire properly from stage-plays, which are all of one
action and one continued series of action. The end or scope of
satire is to purge the passions; so far it is common to the satires
of Juvenal and Persius. The rest which follows is also generally
belonging to all three, till he comes upon us with the excluding
clause, "consisting, in a low familiar way of speech" which is the
proper character of Horace, and from which the other two (for their
honour be it spoken) are far distant. But how come lowness of style
and the familiarity of words to be so much the propriety of satire
that without them a poet can be no more a satirist than without
risibility he can be a man? Is the fault of Horace to be made the
virtue and standing rule of this poem? Is the grande sophos of
Persius, and the sublimity of Juvenal, to be circumscribed with the
meanness of words and vulgarity of expression? If Horace refused
the pains of numbers and the loftiness of figures are they bound to
follow so ill a precedent? Let him walk afoot with his pad in his
hand for his own pleasure, but let not them be accounted no poets
who choose to mount and show their horsemanship. Holyday is not
afraid to say that there was never such a fall as from his odes to
his satires, and that he, injuriously to himself, untuned his harp.
The majestic way of Persius and Juvenal was new when they began it,
but it is old to us; and what poems have not, with time, received an
alteration in their fashion?--"which alteration," says Holyday, "is
to after-times as good a warrant as the first." Has not Virgil
changed the manners of Homer's heroes in his AEneis? Certainly he
has, and for the better; for Virgil's age was more civilised and
better bred, and he writ according to the politeness of Rome under
the reign of Augustus Caesar, not to the rudeness of Agamemnon's age
or the times of Homer. Why should we offer to confine free spirits
to one form when we cannot so much as confine our bodies to one
fashion of apparel? Would not Donne's satires, which abound with so
much wit, appear more charming if he had taken care of his words and
of his numbers? But he followed Horace so very close that of
necessity he must fall with him; and I may safely say it of this
present age, that if we are not so great wits as Donne, yet
certainly we are better poets.

But I have said enough, and it may be too much, on this subject.
Will your lordship be pleased to prolong my audience only so far
till I tell you my own trivial thoughts how a modern satire should
be made? I will not deviate in the least from the precepts and
examples of the ancients, who were always our best masters; I will
only illustrate them, and discover some of the hidden beauties in
their designs, that we thereby may form our own in imitation of
them. Will you please but to observe that Persius, the least in
dignity of all the three, has, notwithstanding, been the first who
has discovered to us this important secret in the designing of a
perfect satire--that it ought only to treat of one subject; to be
confined to one particular theme, or, at least, to one principally?
If other vices occur in the management of the chief, they should
only be transiently lashed, and not be insisted on, so as to make
the design double. As in a play of the English fashion which we
call a tragicomedy, there is to be but one main design, and though
there be an under-plot or second walk of comical characters and
adventures, yet they are subservient to the chief fable, carried
along under it and helping to it, so that the drama may not seem a
monster with two heads. Thus the Copernican system of the planets
makes the moon to be moved by the motion of the earth, and carried
about her orb as a dependent of hers. Mascardi, in his discourse of
the "Doppia Favola," or double tale in plays, gives an instance of
it in the famous pastoral of Guarini, called Il Pastor Fido, where
Corisca and the Satyr are the under-parts; yet we may observe that
Corisca is brought into the body of the plot and made subservient to
it. It is certain that the divine wit of Horace was not ignorant of
this rule--that a play, though it consists of many parts, must yet
be one in the action, and must drive on the accomplishment of one
design--for he gives this very precept, Sit quod vis simplex
duntaxat, et unum; yet he seems not much to mind it in his satires,
many of them consisting of more arguments than one, and the second
without dependence on the first. Casaubon has observed this before
me in his preference of Persius to Horace, and will have his own
beloved author to be the first who found out and introduced this
method of confining himself to one subject.

I know it may be urged in defence of Horace that this unity is not
necessary, because the very word satura signifies a dish plentifully
stored with all variety of fruits and grains. Yet Juvenal, who
calls his poems a farrago (which is a word of the same signification
with satura), has chosen to follow the same method of Persius and
not of Horace; and Boileau, whose example alone is a sufficient
authority, has wholly confined himself in all his satires to this
unity of design. That variety which is not to be found in any one
satire is at least in many, written on several occasions; and if
variety be of absolute necessity in every one of them, according to
the etymology of the word, yet it may arise naturally from one
subject, as it is diversely treated in the several subordinate
branches of it, all relating to the chief. It may be illustrated
accordingly with variety of examples in the subdivisions of it, and
with as many precepts as there are members of it, which all together
may complete that olla or hotch-potch which is properly a satire.

Under this unity of theme or subject is comprehended another rule
for perfecting the design of true satire. The poet is bound, and
that ex officio, to give his reader some one precept of moral
virtue, and to caution him against some one particular vice or
folly. Other virtues, subordinate to the first, may be recommended
under that chief head, and other vices or follies may be scourged,
besides that which he principally intends; but he is chiefly to
inculcate one virtue, and insist on that. Thus Juvenal, in every
satire excepting the first, ties himself to one principal
instructive point, or to the shunning of moral evil. Even in the
sixth, which seems only an arraignment of the whole sex of
womankind, there is a latent admonition to avoid ill women, by
showing how very few who are virtuous and good are to be found
amongst them. But this, though the wittiest of all his satires, has
yet the least of truth or instruction in it; he has run himself into
his old declamatory way, and almost forgotten that he was now
setting up for a moral poet.

Persius is never wanting to us in some profitable doctrine, and in
exposing the opposite vices to it. His kind of philosophy is one,
which is the Stoic, and every satire is a comment on one particular
dogma of that sect, unless we will except the first, which is
against bad writers; and yet even there he forgets not the precepts
of the "porch." In general, all virtues are everywhere to be
praised and recommended to practice, and all vices to be reprehended
and made either odious or ridiculous, or else there is a fundamental
error in the whole design.

I have already declared who are the only persons that are the
adequate object of private satire, and who they are that may
properly be exposed by name for public examples of vices and
follies, and therefore I will trouble your lordship no further with
them. Of the best and finest manner of satire, I have said enough
in the comparison betwixt Juvenal and Horace; it is that sharp well-
mannered way of laughing a folly out of countenance, of which your
lordship is the best master in this age. I will proceed to the
versification which is most proper for it, and add somewhat to what
I have said already on that subject. The sort of verse which is
called "burlesque," consisting of eight syllables or four feet, is
that which our excellent Hudibras has chosen. I ought to have
mentioned him before when I spoke of Donne, but by a slip of an old
man's memory he was forgotten. The worth of his poem is too well
known to need my commendation, and he is above my censure. His
satire is of the Varronian kind, though unmixed with prose. The
choice of his numbers is suitable enough to his design as he has
managed it; but in any other hand the shortness of his verse, and
the quick returns of rhyme, had debased the dignity of style. And
besides, the double rhyme (a necessary companion of burlesque
writing) is not so proper for manly satire, for it turns earnest too
much to jest, and gives us a boyish kind of pleasure. It tickles
awkwardly, with a kind of pain to the best sort of readers; we are
pleased ungratefully, and, if I may say so, against our liking. We
thank him not for giving us that unseasonable delight, when we know
he could have given us a better and more solid. He might have left
that task to others who, not being able to put in thought, can only
makes us grin with the excrescence of a word of two or three
syllables in the close. It is, indeed, below so great a master to
make use of such a little instrument. But his good sense is
perpetually shining through all he writes; it affords us not the
time of finding faults: we pass through the levity of his rhyme,
and are immediately carried into some admirable useful thought.
After all, he has chosen this kind of verse, and has written the
best in it, and had he taken another he would always have excelled;
as we say of a court favourite, that whatsoever his office be, he
still makes it uppermost and most beneficial to himself.

The quickness of your imagination, my lord, has already prevented
me; and you know beforehand that I would prefer the verse of ten
syllables, which we call the English heroic, to that of eight. This
is truly my opinion, for this sort of number is more roomy; the
thought can turn itself with greater ease in a larger compass. When
the rhyme comes too thick upon us, it straitens the expression; we
are thinking of the close when we should be employed in adorning the
thought. It makes a poet giddy with turning in a space too narrow
for his imagination; he loses many beauties without gaining one
advantage. For a burlesque rhyme I have already concluded to be
none; or, if it were, it is more easily purchased in ten syllables
than in eight. In both occasions it is as in a tennis-court, when
the strokes of greater force are given, when we strike out and play
at length. Tassoni and Boileau have left us the best examples of
this way in the "Seechia Rapita" and the "Lutrin," and next them
Merlin Cocaius in his "Baldus." I will speak only of the two
former, because the last is written in Latin verse. The "Secchia
Rapita" is an Italian poem, a satire of the Varronian kind. It is
written in the stanza of eight, which is their measure for heroic
verse. The words are stately, the numbers smooth; the turn both of
thoughts and words is happy. The first six lines of the stanza seem
majestical and severe, but the two last turn them all into a
pleasant ridicule. Boileau, if I am not much deceived, has modelled
from hence his famous "Lutrin." He had read the burlesque poetry of
Scarron with some kind of indignation, as witty as it was, and found
nothing in France that was worthy of his imitation; but he copied
the Italian so well that his own may pass for an original. He
writes it in the French heroic verse, and calls it an heroic poem;
his subject is trivial, but his verse is noble. I doubt not but he
had Virgil in his eye, for we find many admirable imitations of him,
and some parodies, as particularly this passage in the fourth of the
AEneids -

"Nec tibi diva parens, generis nec Dardanus auctor,
Perfide; sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens
Caucasus, Hyrrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres:"

which he thus translates, keeping to the words, but altering the

"Non, ton pere a Paris, ne fut point boulanger:
Et tu n'es point du sang de Gervais, l'horloger;
Ta mere ne fut point la maitresse d'un coche;
Caucase dans ses flancs te forma d'une roche;
Une tigresse affreuse, en quelque antre ecarte,
Te fit, avec son lait, succer sa cruaute."

And as Virgil in his fourth Georgic of the bees, perpetually raises
the lowness of his subject by the loftiness of his words, and
ennobles it by comparisons drawn from empires and from monarchs -

"Admiranda tibi levium spectacula rerum,
Magnanimosque duces, totiusque ordine gentis
Mores et studia, et populos, et praelia dicam;"

and again -

"At genus immortale manet, multosque per annos
Stat fortuna domus, et avi numerantur avorum;"

we see Boileau pursuing him in the same flights, and scarcely
yielding to his master. This I think, my lord, to be the most
beautiful and most noble kind of satire. Here is the majesty of the
heroic finely mixed with the venom of the other, and raising the
delight, which otherwise would be flat and vulgar, by the sublimity
of the expression. I could say somewhat more of the delicacy of
this and some other of his satires, but it might turn to his
prejudice if it were carried back to France.

I have given your lordship but this bare hint--in what verse and in
what manner this sort of satire may be best managed. Had I time I
could enlarge on the beautiful turns of words and thoughts which are
as requisite in this as in heroic poetry itself, of which the satire
is undoubtedly a species. With these beautiful turns I confess
myself to have been unacquainted till about twenty years ago. In a
conversation which I had with that noble wit of Scotland, Sir George
Mackenzie, he asked me why I did not imitate in my verses the turns
of Mr. Waller and Sir John Denham, of which he repeated many to me.
I had often read with pleasure, and with some profit, those two
fathers of our English poetry, but had not seriously enough
considered those beauties which give the last perfection to their
works. Some sprinklings of this kind I had also formerly in my
plays; but they were casual, and not designed. But this hint, thus
seasonably given me, first made me sensible of my own wants, and
brought me afterwards to seek for the supply of them in other
English authors. I looked over the darling of my youth, the famous
Cowley; there I found, instead of them, the points of wit and quirks
of epigram, even in the "Davideis" (an heroic poem which is of an
opposite nature to those puerilities), but no elegant turns, either
on the word or on the thought. Then I consulted a greater genius
(without offence to the manes of that noble author)--I mean Milton;
but as he endeavours everywhere to express Homer, whose age had not
arrived to that fineness, I found in him a true sublimity, lofty
thoughts which were clothed with admirable Grecisms and ancient
words, which he had been digging from the minds of Chaucer and
Spenser, and which, with all their rusticity, had somewhat of
venerable in them. But I found not there neither that for which I
looked. At last I had recourse to his master, Spenser, the author
of that immortal poem called the "Faerie Queen," and there I met
with that which I had been looking for so long in vain. Spenser had
studied Virgil to as much advantage as Milton had done Homer, and
amongst the rest of his excellences had copied that. Looking
farther into the Italian, I found Tasso had done the same; nay,
more, that all the sonnets in that language are on the turn of the
first thought--which Mr. Walsh, in his late ingenious preface to his
poems, has observed. In short, Virgil and Ovid are the two
principal fountains of them in Latin poetry. And the French at this
day are so fond of them that they judge them to be the first
beauties; delicate, et bien tourne, are the highest commendations
which they bestow on somewhat which they think a masterpiece.

An example of the turn of words, amongst a thousand others, is that
in the last book of Ovid's "Metamorphoses":-

"Heu! quantum scelus est, in viscera, viscera condi!
Congestoque avidum pinguescere corpore corpus;
Alteriusque animantem animantis vivere leto."

An example on the turn both of thoughts and words is to be found in
Catullus in the complaint of Ariadne when she was left by Theseus:-

"Tum jam nulla viro juranti faemina credat;
Nulla viri speret sermones esse fideles;
Qui, dum aliquid cupiens animus praegestit apisci,
Nil metuunt jurare, nihil promittere parcunt:
Sed simul ac cupidae mentis satiata libido est,
Dicta nihil metuere, nihil perjuria curant."

An extraordinary turn upon the words is that in Ovid's "Epistolae
Heroidum" of Sappho to Phaon:-

"Si, nisi quae forma poterit te digna videri,
Nulla futura tua est, nulla futura tua est."

Lastly a turn, which I cannot say is absolutely on words--for the
thought turns with them--is in the fourth Georgic of Virgil, where
Orpheus is to receive his wife from hell on express condition not to
look on her till she was come on earth:-

"Cum subita incautum dementia cepit amantem;
Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere Manes."

I will not burthen your lordship with more of them, for I write to a
master who understands them better than myself; but I may safely
conclude them to be great beauties. I might descend also to the
mechanic beauties of heroic verse; but we have yet no English
Prosodia, not so much as a tolerable dictionary or a grammar (so
that our language is in a manner barbarous); and what Government
will encourage any one, or more, who are capable of refining it, I
know not: but nothing under a public expense can go through with
it. And I rather fear a declination of the language than hope an
advancement of it in the present age.

I am still speaking to you, my lord, though in all probability you
are already out of hearing. Nothing which my meanness can produce
is worthy of this long attention. But I am come to the last
petition of Abraham: if there be ten righteous lines in this vast
preface, spare it for their sake; and also spare the next city,
because it is but a little one.

I would excuse the performance of this translation if it were all my
own; but the better, though not the greater, part being the work of
some gentlemen who have succeeded very happily in their undertaking,
let their excellences atone for my imperfections and those of my
sons. I have perused some of the Satires which are done by other
hands, and they seem to me as perfect in their kind as anything I
have seen in English verse. The common way which we have taken is
not a literal translation, but a kind of paraphrase; or somewhat
which is yet more loose, betwixt a paraphrase and imitation. It was
not possible for us, or any men, to have made it pleasant any other
way. If rendering the exact sense of these authors, almost line for
line, had been our business, Barten Holyday had done it already to
our hands; and by the help of his learned notes and illustrations,
not only Juvenal and Persius, but, what yet is more obscure, his own
verses might be understood.

But he wrote for fame, and wrote to scholars; we write only for the
pleasure and entertainment of those gentlemen and ladies who, though
they are not scholars, are not ignorant--persons of understanding
and good sense, who, not having been conversant in the original (or,
at least, not having made Latin verse so much their business as to
be critics in it), would be glad to find if the wit of our two great
authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world. We
have therefore endeavoured to give the public all the satisfaction
we are able in this kind.

And if we are not altogether so faithful to our author as our
predecessors Holyday and Stapleton, yet we may challenge to
ourselves this praise--that we shall be far more pleasing to our
readers. We have followed our authors at greater distance, though
not step by step as they have done; for oftentimes they have gone so
close that they have trod on the heels of Juvenal and Persius, and
hurt them by their too near approach. A noble author would not be
pursued too close by a translator. We lose his spirit when we think
to take his body. The grosser part remains with us, but the soul is
flown away in some noble expression, or some delicate turn of words
or thought. Thus Holyday, who made this way his choice, seized the
meaning of Juvenal, but the poetry has always escaped him.

They who will not grant me that pleasure is one of the ends of
poetry, but that it is only a means of compassing the only end
(which is instruction), must yet allow that without the means of
pleasure the instruction is but a bare and dry philosophy, a crude
preparation of morals which we may have from Aristotle and Epictetus
with more profit than from any poet. Neither Holyday nor Stapleton
have imitated Juvenal in the poetical part of him, his diction, and
his elocution. Nor, had they been poets (as neither of them were),
yet in the way they took, it was impossible for them to have
succeeded in the poetic part.

The English verse which we call heroic consists of no more than ten
syllables; the Latin hexameter sometimes rises to seventeen; as, for
example, this verse in Virgil:-

"Pulverulenta putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum."

Here is the difference of no less than seven syllables in a line
betwixt the English and the Latin. Now the medium of these is about
fourteen syllables, because the dactyl is a more frequent foot in
hexameters than the spondee. But Holyday (without considering that
he writ with the disadvantage of four syllables less in every verse)
endeavours to make one of his lines to comprehend the sense of one
of Juvenal's. According to the falsity of the proposition was the
success. He was forced to crowd his verse with ill-sounding
monosyllables (of which our barbarous language affords him a wild
plenty), and by that means he arrived at his pedantic end, which was
to make a literal translation. His verses have nothing of verse in
them, but only the worst part of it--the rhyme; and that, into the
bargain, is far from good. But, which is more intolerable, by
cramming his ill-chosen and worse-sounding monosyllables so close
together, the very sense which he endeavours to explain is become
more obscure than that of his author; so that Holyday himself cannot
be understood without as large a commentary as that which he makes
on his two authors. For my own part, I can make a shift to find the
meaning of Juvenal without his notes, but his translation is more
difficult than his author. And I find beauties in the Latin to
recompense my pains; but in Holyday and Stapleton my ears, in the
first place, are mortally offended, and then their sense is so
perplexed that I return to the original as the more pleasing task as
well as the more easy.

This must be said for our translation--that if we give not the whole
sense of Juvenal, yet we give the most considerable part of it; we
give it, in general, so clearly that few notes are sufficient to
make us intelligible. We make our author at least appear in a
poetic dress. We have actually made him more sounding and more
elegant than he was before in English, and have endeavoured to make
him speak that kind of English which he would have spoken had he
lived in England and had written to this age. If sometimes any of
us (and it is but seldom) make him express the customs and manners
of our native country rather than of Rome, it is either when there
was some kind of analogy betwixt their customs and ours, or when (to
make him more easy to vulgar understandings) we gave him those
manners which are familiar to us. But I defend not this innovation;
it is enough if I can excuse it. For (to speak sincerely) the
manners of nations and ages are not to be confounded; we should
either make them English or leave them Roman. If this can neither
be defended nor excused, let it be pardoned at least, because it is
acknowledged; and so much the more easily as being a fault which is
never committed without some pleasure to the reader.

Thus, my lord, having troubled you with a tedious visit, the best
manners will be shown in the least ceremony. I will slip away while
your back is turned, and while you are otherwise employed; with
great confusion for having entertained you so long with this
discourse, and for having no other recompense to make you than the
worthy labours of my fellow-undertakers in this work, and the
thankful acknowledgments, prayers, and perpetual good wishes of,

My Lord,
Your Lordship's
Most obliged, most humble, and
Most obedient servant,


An heroic poem (truly such) is undoubtedly the greatest work which
the soul of man is capable to perform. The design of it is to form
the mind to heroic virtue by example; it is conveyed in verse that
it may delight while it instructs. The action of it is always one,
entire, and great. The least and most trivial episodes or under-
actions which are interwoven in it are parts either necessary or
convenient to carry on the main design--either so necessary that
without them the poem must be imperfect, or so convenient that no
others can be imagined more suitable to the place in which they are.
There is nothing to be left void in a firm building; even the
cavities ought not to be filled with rubbish which is of a
perishable kind--destructive to the strength--but with brick or
stone (though of less pieces, yet of the same nature), and fitted to
the crannies. Even the least portions of them must be of the epic
kind; all things must be grave, majestical, and sublime; nothing of
a foreign nature, like the trifling novels which Ariosto and others
have inserted in their poems, by which the reader is misled into
another sort of pleasure, opposite to that which is designed in an
epic poem. One raises the soul and hardens it to virtue; the other
softens it again and unbends it into vice. One conduces to the
poet's aim (the completing of his work), which he is driving on,
labouring, and hastening in every line; the other slackens his pace,
diverts him from his way, and locks him up like a knight-errant in
an enchanted castle when he should be pursuing his first adventure.
Statius (as Bossu has well observed) was ambitions of trying his
strength with his master, Virgil, as Virgil had before tried his
with Homer. The Grecian gave the two Romans an example in the games
which were celebrated at the funerals of Patroclus. Virgil imitated
the invention of Homer, but changed the sports. But both the Greek
and Latin poet took their occasions from the subject, though (to
confess the truth) they were both ornamental, or, at best,
convenient parts of it, rather than of necessity arising from it.
Statius (who through his whole poem is noted for want of conduct and
judgment), instead of staying, as he might have done, for the death
of Capaneus, Hippomedon, Tydeus, or some other of his Seven
Champions (who are heroes all alike), or more properly for the
tragical end of the two brothers whose exequies the next successor
had leisure to perform when the siege was raised, and in the
interval betwixt the poet's first action and his second, went out of
his way--as it were, on prepense malice--to commit a fault; for he
took his opportunity to kill a royal infant by the means of a
serpent (that author of all evil) to make way for those funeral
honours which he intended for him. Now if this innocent had been of
any relation to his Thebais, if he had either farthered or hindered
the taking of the town, the poet might have found some sorry excuse
at least for detaining the reader from the promised siege. On these
terms this Capaneus of a poet engaged his two immortal predecessors,
and his success was answerable to his enterprise.

If this economy must be observed in the minutest parts of an epic
poem, which to a common reader seem to be detached from the body,
and almost independent of it, what soul, though sent into the world
with great advantages of nature, cultivated with the liberal arts
and sciences, conversant with histories of the dead, and enriched
with observations on the living, can be sufficient to inform the
whole body of so great a work? I touch here but transiently,
without any strict method, on some few of those many rules of
imitating nature which Aristotle drew from Homer's "Iliads" and
"Odysses," and which he fitted to the drama--furnishing himself also
with observations from the practice of the theatre when it
flourished under AEschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles (for the
original of the stage was from the epic poem). Narration,
doubtless, preceded acting, and gave laws to it. What at first was
told artfully was in process of time represented gracefully to the
sight and hearing. Those episodes of Homer which were proper for
the stage, the poets amplified each into an action. Out of his
limbs they formed their bodies; what he had contracted, they
enlarged; out of one Hercules were made infinity of pigmies, yet all
endued with human souls; for from him, their great creator, they
have each of them the divinae particulam aurae. They flowed from
him at first, and are at last resolved into him. Nor were they only
animated by him, but their measure and symmetry was owing to him.
His one, entire, and great action was copied by them, according to
the proportions of the drama. If he finished his orb within the
year, it sufficed to teach them that their action being less, and
being also less diversified with incidents, their orb, of
consequence, must be circumscribed in a less compass, which they
reduced within the limits either of a natural or an artificial day.
So that, as he taught them to amplify what he had shortened, by the
same rule applied the contrary way he taught them to shorten what he
had amplified. Tragedy is the miniature of human life; an epic poem
is the draft at length. Here, my lord, I must contract also, for
before I was aware I was almost running into a long digression to
prove that there is no such absolute necessity that the time of a
stage-action should so strictly be confined to twenty-four hours as
never to exceed them (for which Aristotle contends, and the Grecian
stage has practised). Some longer space on some occasions, I think,
may be allowed, especially for the English theatre, which requires
more variety of incidents than the French. Corneille himself, after
long practice, was inclined to think that the time allotted by the
ancients was too short to raise and finish a great action; and
better a mechanic rule were stretched or broken than a great beauty
were omitted. To raise, and afterwards to calm, the passions; to
purge the soul from pride by the examples of human miseries which
befall the greatest; in few words, to expel arrogance and introduce
compassion, are the great effects of tragedy--great, I must confess,
if they were altogether as true as they are pompous. But are habits
to be introduced at three hours' warning? Are radical diseases so
suddenly removed? A mountebank may promise such a cure, but a
skilful physician will not undertake it. An epic poem is not in so
much haste; it works leisurely: the changes which it makes are
slow, but the cure is likely to be more perfect. The effects of
tragedy, as I said, are too violent to be lasting. If it be
answered, that for this reason tragedies are often to be seen, and
the dose to be repeated, this is tacitly to confess that there is
more virtue in one heroic poem than in many tragedies. A man is
humbled one day, and his pride returns the next. Chemical medicines
are observed to relieve oftener than to cure; for it is the nature
of spirits to make swift impressions, but not deep. Galenical
decoctions, to which I may properly compare an epic poem, have more
of body in them; they work by their substance and their weight.

It is one reason of Aristotle's to prove that tragedy is the more
noble, because it turns in a shorter compass--the whole action being
circumscribed within the space of four-and-twenty hours. He might
prove as well that a mushroom is to be preferred before a peach,
because it shoots up in the compass of a night. A chariot may be
driven round the pillar in less space than a large machine, because
the bulk is not so great. Is the moon a more noble planet than
Saturn, because she makes her revolution in less than thirty days,
and he in little less than thirty years? Both their orbs are in
proportion to their several magnitudes; and consequently the
quickness or slowness of their motion, and the time of their
circumvolutions, is no argument of the greater or less perfection.
And besides, what virtue is there in a tragedy which is not
contained in an epic poem, where pride is humbled, virtue rewarded,
and vice punished, and those more amply treated than the narrowness
of the drama can admit? The shining quality of an epic hero, his
magnanimity, his constancy, his patience, his piety, or whatever
characteristical virtue his poet gives him, raises first our
admiration; we are naturally prone to imitate what we admire, and
frequent acts produce a habit. If the hero's chief quality be
vicious--as, for example, the choler and obstinate desire of
vengeance in Achilles--yet the moral is instructive; and besides, we
are informed in the very proposition of the "Iliads" that this anger
was pernicious, that it brought a thousand ills on the Grecian camp.
The courage of Achilles is proposed to imitation, not his pride and
disobedience to his general; nor his brutal cruelty to his dead
enemy, nor the selling his body to his father. We abhor these
actions while we read them, and what we abhor we never imitate; the
poet only shows them, like rocks or quicksands to be shunned.

By this example the critics have concluded that it is not necessary
the manners of the hero should be virtuous (they are poetically good
if they are of a piece); though where a character of perfect virtue
is set before us, it is more lovely; for there the whole hero is to
be imitated. This is the AEneas of our author; this is that idea of
perfection in an epic poem which painters and statuaries have only
in their minds, and which no hands are able to express. These are
the beauties of a God in a human body. When the picture of Achilles
is drawn in tragedy, he is taken with those warts and moles and hard
features by those who represent him on the stage, or he is no more
Achilles; for his creator, Homer, has so described him. Yet even
thus he appears a perfect hero, though an imperfect character of
virtue. Horace paints him after Homer, and delivers him to be
copied on the stage with all those imperfections. Therefore they
are either not faults in an heroic poem, or faults common to the

After all, on the whole merits of the cause, it must be acknowledged
that the epic poem is more for the manners, and tragedy for the
passions. The passions, as I have said, are violent; and acute
distempers require medicines of a strong and speedy operation. Ill
habits of the mind are, like chronical diseases, to be corrected by
degrees, and cured by alteratives; wherein, though purges are
sometimes necessary, yet diet, good air, and moderate exercise have
the greatest part. The matter being thus stated, it will appear
that both sorts of poetry are of use for their proper ends. The
stage is more active, the epic poem works at greater leisure; yet is
active too when need requires, for dialogue is imitated by the drama
from the more active parts of it. One puts off a fit, like the
quinquina, and relieves us only for a time; the other roots out the
distemper, and gives a healthful habit. The sun enlightens and
cheers us, dispels fogs, and warms the ground with his daily beams;
but the corn is sowed, increases, is ripened, and is reaped for use
in process of time and in its proper season.

I proceed from the greatness of the action to the dignity of the
actors--I mean, to the persons employed in both poems. There
likewise tragedy will be seen to borrow from the epopee; and that
which borrows is always of less dignity, because it has not of its
own. A subject, it is true, may lend to his sovereign; but the act
of borrowing makes the king inferior, because he wants and the
subject supplies. And suppose the persons of the drama wholly
fabulous, or of the poet's invention, yet heroic poetry gave him the
examples of that invention, because it was first, and Homer the
common father of the stage. I know not of any one advantage which
tragedy can boast above heroic poetry but that it is represented to
the view as well as read, and instructs in the closet as well as on
the theatre. This is an uncontended excellence, and a chief branch
of its prerogative; yet I may be allowed to say without partiality
that herein the actors share the poet's praise. Your lordship knows
some modern tragedies which are beautiful on the stage, and yet I am
confident you would not read them. Tryphon the stationer complains
they are seldom asked for in his shop. The poet who flourished in
the scene is damned in the ruelle; nay, more, he is not esteemed a
good poet by those who see and hear his extravagances with delight.
They are a sort of stately fustian and lofty childishness. Nothing
but nature can give a sincere pleasure; where that is not imitated,
it is grotesque painting; the fine woman ends in a fish's tail.

I might also add that many things which not only please, but are
real beauties in the reading, would appear absurd upon the stage;
and those not only the speciosa miracula, as Horace calls them, of
transformations of Scylla, Antiphates, and the Laestrygons (which
cannot be represented even in operas), but the prowess of Achilles
or AEneas would appear ridiculous in our dwarf-heroes of the
theatre. We can believe they routed armies in Homer or in Virgil,
but ne Hercules contra duos in the drama. I forbear to instance in
many things which the stage cannot or ought not to represent; for I
have said already more than I intended on this subject, and should
fear it might be turned against me that I plead for the pre-eminence
of epic poetry because I have taken some pains in translating
Virgil, if this were the first time that I had delivered my opinion
in this dispute; but I have more than once already maintained the
rights of my two masters against their rivals of the scene, even
while I wrote tragedies myself and had no thoughts of this present
undertaking. I submit my opinion to your judgment, who are better
qualified than any man I know to decide this controversy. You come,
my lord, instructed in the cause, and needed not that I should open
it. Your "Essay of Poetry," which was published without a name, and
of which I was not honoured with the confidence, I read over and
over with much delight and as much instruction, and without
flattering you, or making myself more moral than I am, not without
some envy. I was loth to be informed how an epic poem should be
written, or how a tragedy should be contrived and managed, in better
verse and with more judgment than I could teach others. A native of
Parnassus, and bred up in the studies of its fundamental laws, may
receive new lights from his contemporaries, but it is a grudging
kind of praise which he gives his benefactors. He is more obliged
than he is willing to acknowledge; there is a tincture of malice in
his commendations: for where I own I am taught, I confess my want
of knowledge. A judge upon the bench may, out of good nature, or,
at least, interest, encourage the pleadings of a puny counsellor,
but he does not willingly commend his brother-serjeant at the bar,
especially when he controls his law, and exposes that ignorance
which is made sacred by his place. I gave the unknown author his
due commendation, I must confess; but who can answer for me, and for
the rest of the poets who heard me read the poem, whether we should
not have been better pleased to have seen our own names at the
bottom of the title-page? Perhaps we commended it the more that we
might seem to be above the censure. We are naturally displeased
with an unknown critic, as the ladies are with a lampooner, because
we are bitten in the dark, and know not where to fasten our revenge;
but great excellences will work their way through all sorts of
opposition. I applauded rather out of decency than affection; and
was ambitious, as some yet can witness, to be acquainted with a man
with whom I had the honour to converse, and that almost daily, for
so many years together. Heaven knows if I have heartily forgiven
you this deceit. You extorted a praise, which I should willingly
have given had I known you. Nothing had been more easy than to
commend a patron of a long standing. The world would join with me
if the encomiums were just, and if unjust would excuse a grateful
flatterer. But to come anonymous upon me, and force me to commend
you against my interest, was not altogether so fair, give me leave
to say, as it was politic; for by concealing your quality you might
clearly understand how your work succeeded, and that the general
approbation was given to your merit, not your titles. Thus, like
Apelles, you stood unseen behind your own Venus, and received the
praises of the passing multitude. The work was commended, not the
author; and, I doubt not, this was one of the most pleasing
adventures of your life.

I have detained your lordship longer than I intended in this dispute
of preference betwixt the epic poem and the drama, and yet have not
formally answered any of the arguments which are brought by
Aristotle on the other side, and set in the fairest light by Dacier.
But I suppose without looking on the book, I may have touched on
some of the objections; for in this address to your lordship I
design not a treatise of heroic poetry, but write in a loose
epistolary way somewhat tending to that subject, after the example
of Horace in his first epistle of the second book to Augustus
Caesar, and of that to the Pisos, which we call his "Art of Poetry,"
in both of which he observes no method that I can trace, whatever
Scaliger the father, or Heinsius may have seen, or rather think they
had seen. I have taken up, laid down, and resumed, as often as I
pleased, the same subject, and this loose proceeding I shall use
through all this prefatory dedication. Yet all this while I have
been sailing with some side-wind or other toward the point I
proposed in the beginning--the greatness and excellence of an heroic
poem, with some of the difficulties which attend that work. The
comparison therefore which I made betwixt the epopee and the tragedy
was not altogether a digression, for it is concluded on all hands
that they are both the masterpieces of human wit.

In the meantime I may be bold to draw this corollary from what has
been already said--that the file of heroic poets is very short; all
are not such who have assumed that lofty title in ancient or modern
ages, or have been so esteemed by their partial and ignorant

There have been but one great "Ilias" and one "AEneis" in so many
ages; the next (but the next with a long interval betwixt) was the
"Jerusalem"--I mean, not so much in distance of time as in
excellence. After these three are entered, some Lord Chamberlain
should be appointed, some critic of authority should be set before
the door to keep out a crowd of little poets who press for
admission, and are not of quality. Maevius would be deafening your
lordship's ears with his

"Fortunam Priami cantabo, et nobile bellum."

Mere fustian (as Horace would tell you from behind, without pressing
forward), and more smoke than fire. Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto
would cry out, "Make room for the Italian poets, the descendants of
Virgil in a right line." Father Le Moine with his "Saint Louis,"
and Scudery with his "Alaric" (for a godly king and a Gothic
conqueror); and Chapelain would take it ill that his "Maid" should
be refused a place with Helen and Lavinia. Spenser has a better
plea for his "Faerie Queen," had his action been finished, or had
been one; and Milton, if the devil had not been his hero instead of
Adam; if the giant had not foiled the knight, and driven him out of
his stronghold to wander through the world with his lady-errant; and
if there had not been more machining persons than human in his poem.
After these the rest of our English poets shall not be mentioned; I
have that honour for them which I ought to have; but if they are
worthies, they are not to be ranked amongst the three whom I have
named, and who are established in their reputation.

Before I quitted the comparison betwixt epic poetry and tragedy I
should have acquainted my judge with one advantage of the former
over the latter, which I now casually remember out of the preface of
Segrais before his translation of the "AEneis," or out of Bossu--no
matter which: "The style of the heroic poem is, and ought to be,
more lofty than that of the drama." The critic is certainly in the
right, for the reason already urged--the work of tragedy is on the
passions, and in dialogue; both of them abhor strong metaphors, in
which the epopee delights. A poet cannot speak too plainly on the
stage, for volat irrevocabile verbum (the sense is lost if it be not
taken flying) but what we read alone we have leisure to digest.
There an author may beautify his sense by the boldness of his
expression, which if we understand not fully at the first we may
dwell upon it till we find the secret force and excellence. That
which cures the manners by alterative physic, as I said before, must
proceed by insensible degrees; but that which purges the passions
must do its business all at once, or wholly fail of its effect--at
least, in the present operation--and without repeated doses. We
must beat the iron while it is hot, but we may polish it at leisure.
Thus, my lord, you pay the fine of my forgetfulness,; and yet the
merits of both causes are where they were, and undecided, till you
declare whether it be more for the benefit of mankind to have their
manners in general corrected, or their pride and hard-heartedness

I must now come closer to my present business, and not think of
making more invasive wars abroad, when, like Hannibal, I am called
back to the defence of my own country. Virgil is attacked by many
enemies; he has a whole confederacy against him; and I must
endeavour to defend him as well as I am able. But their principal
objections being against his moral, the duration or length of time
taken up in the action of the poem, and what they have to urge
against the manners of his hero, I shall omit the rest as mere
cavils of grammarians--at the worst but casual slips of a great
man's pen, or inconsiderable faults of an admirable poem, which the
author had not leisure to review before his death. Macrobius has
answered what the ancients could urge against him, and some things I
have lately read in Tannegui le Febvre, Valois, and another whom I
name not, which are scarce worth answering. They begin with the
moral of his poem, which I have elsewhere confessed, and still must
own, not to be so noble as that of Homer. But let both be fairly
stated, and without contradicting my first opinion I can show that
Virgil's was as useful to the Romans of his age as Homer's was to
the Grecians of his, in what time soever he may be supposed to have
lived and flourished. Homer's moral was to urge the necessity of
union, and of a good understanding betwixt confederate states and
princes engaged in a war with a mighty monarch; as also of
discipline in an army, and obedience in the several chiefs to the
supreme commander of the joint forces. To inculcate this, he sets
forth the ruinous effects of discord in the camp of those allies,
occasioned by the quarrel betwixt the general and one of the next in
office under him. Agamemnon gives the provocation, and Achilles
resents the injury. Both parties are faulty in the quarrel, and
accordingly they are both punished; the aggressor is forced to sue
for peace to his inferior on dishonourable conditions; the deserter
refuses the satisfaction offered, and his obstinacy costs him his
best friend. This works the natural effect of choler, and turns his
rage against him by whom he was last affronted, and most sensibly.
The greater anger expels the less, but his character is still
preserved. In the meantime the Grecian army receives loss on loss,
and is half destroyed by a pestilence into the bargain:-

"Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi."

As the poet in the first part of the example had shown the bad
effects of discord, so after the reconcilement he gives the good
effects of unity; for Hector is slain, and then Troy must fall. By
this it is probable that Homer lived when the Median monarchy was
grown formidable to the Grecians, and that the joint endeavours of
his countrymen were little enough to preserve their common freedom
from an encroaching enemy. Such was his moral, which all critics
have allowed to be more noble than that of Virgil, though not
adapted to the times in which the Roman poet lived. Had Virgil
flourished in the age of Ennius and addressed to Scipio, he had
probably taken the same moral, or some other not unlike it; for then
the Romans were in as much danger from the Carthaginian commonwealth
as the Grecians were from the Assyrian or Median monarchy. But we
are to consider him as writing his poem in a time when the old form
of government was subverted, and a new one just established by
Octavius Caesar--in effect, by force of arms, but seemingly by the
consent of the Roman people. The commonwealth had received a deadly
wound in the former civil wars betwixt Marius and Sylla. The
commons, while the first prevailed, had almost shaken off the yoke
of the nobility; and Marius and Cinna (like the captains of the
mob), under the specious pretence of the public good and of doing
justice on the oppressors of their liberty, revenged themselves
without form of law on their private enemies. Sylla, in his turn,
proscribed the heads of the adverse party. He, too, had nothing but
liberty and reformation in his mouth; for the cause of religion is
but a modern motive to rebellion, invented by the Christian
priesthood refining on the heathen. Sylla, to be sure, meant no
more good to the Roman people than Marius before him, whatever he
declared; but sacrificed the lives and took the estates of all his
enemies to gratify those who brought him into power. Such was the
reformation of the government by both parties. The senate and the
commons were the two bases on which it stood, and the two champions
of either faction each destroyed the foundations of the other side;
so the fabric, of consequence, must fall betwixt them, and tyranny
must be built upon their ruins. THIS COMES OF ALTERING FUNDAMENTAL
LAWS AND CONSTITUTIONS; like him who, being in good health, lodged
himself in a physician's house, and was over-persuaded by his
landlord to take physic (of which be died) for the benefit of his
doctor. "Stavo ben," was written on his monument, "ma, per star
meglio, sto qui."

After the death of those two usurpers the commonwealth seemed to
recover, and held up its head for a little time, but it was all the
while in a deep consumption, which is a flattering disease. Pompey,
Crassus, and Caesar had found the sweets of arbitrary power, and
each being a check to the other's growth, struck up a false
friendship amongst themselves and divided the government betwixt
them, which none of them was able to assume alone. These were the
public-spirited men of their age--that is, patriots for their own
interest. The commonwealth looked with a florid countenance in
their management; spread in bulk, and all the while was wasting in
the vitals. Not to trouble your lordship with the repetition of
what you know, after the death of Crassus Pompey found himself
outwitted by Caesar, broke with him, overpowered him in the senate,
and caused many unjust decrees to pass against him. Caesar thus
injured, and unable to resist the faction of the nobles which was
now uppermost (for he was a Marian), had recourse to arms, and his
cause was just against Pompey, but not against his country, whose
constitution ought to have been sacred to him, and never to have
been violated on the account of any private wrong. But he
prevailed, and Heaven declaring for him, he became a providential
monarch under the title of Perpetual Dictator. He being murdered by
his own son (whom I neither dare commend nor can justly blame,
though Dante in his "Inferno" has put him and Cassius, and Judas
Iscariot betwixt them, into the great devil's mouth), the
commonwealth popped up its head for the third time under Brutus and
Cassius, and then sank for ever.

Thus the Roman people were grossly gulled twice or thrice over, and
as often enslaved, in one century, and under the same pretence of
reformation. At last the two battles of Philippi gave the decisive
stroke against liberty, and not long after the commonwealth was
turned into a monarchy by the conduct and good fortune of Augustus.
It is true that the despotic power could not have fallen into better
hands than those of the first and second Caesar. Your lordship well
knows what obligations Virgil had to the latter of them. He saw,
beside, that the commonwealth was lost without resource; the heads
of it destroyed; the senate, new moulded, grown degenerate, and
either bought off or thrusting their own necks into the yoke out of
fear of being forced. Yet I may safely affirm for our great author
(as men of good sense are generally honest) that he was still of
republican principles in heart.

"Secretosque pios; his dantem jura Catonem."

I think I need use no other argument to justify my opinion than that
of this one line taken from the eighth book of the AEneis. If he
had not well studied his patron's temper it might have ruined him
with another prince. But Augustus was not discontented (at least,
that we can find) that Cato was placed by his own poet in Elysium,
and there giving laws to the holy souls who deserved to be separated
from the vulgar sort of good spirits; for his conscience could not
but whisper to the arbitrary monarch that the kings of Rome were at
first elective, and governed not without a senate; that Romulus was
no hereditary prince, and though after his death he received divine
honours for the good he did on earth, yet he was but a god of their
own making; that the last Tarquin was expelled justly for overt acts
of tyranny and mal-administration (for such are the conditions of an
elective kingdom, and I meddle not with others, being, for my own
opinion, of Montange's principles--that an honest man ought to be
contented with that form of government, and with those fundamental
constitutions of it, which he received from his ancestors, and under
which himself was born, though at the same time he confessed freely
that if he could have chosen his place of birth it should have been
at Venice, which for many reasons I dislike, and am better pleased
to have been born an Englishman).

But to return from my long rambling; I say that Virgil having
maturely weighed the condition of the times in which he lived; that
an entire liberty was not to be retrieved; that the present
settlement had the prospect of a long continuance in the same family
or those adopted into it; that he held his paternal estate from the
bounty of the conqueror, by whom he was likewise enriched, esteemed,
and cherished; that this conqueror, though of a bad kind, was the
very best of it; that the arts of peace flourished under him; that
all men might be happy if they would be quiet; that now he was in
possession of the whole, yet he shared a great part of his authority
with the senate; that he would be chosen into the ancient offices of
the commonwealth, and ruled by the power which he derived from them,
and prorogued his government from time to time, still, as it were,
threatening to dismiss himself from public cares, which he exercised
more for the common good than for any delight he took in greatness--
these things, I say, being considered by the poet, he concluded it
to be the interest of his country to be so governed, to infuse an
awful respect into the people towards such a prince, by that respect
to confirm their obedience to him, and by that obedience to make
them happy. This was the moral of his divine poem; honest in the
poet, honourable to the emperor (whom he derives from a divine
extraction), and reflecting part of that honour on the Roman people
(whom he derives also from the Trojans), and not only profitable,
but necessary, to the present age, and likely to be such to their
posterity. That it was the received opinion that the Romans were
descended from the Trojans, and Julius Caesar from Iulus, the son of
AEneas, was enough for Virgil, though perhaps he thought not so
himself, or that AEneas ever was in Italy, which Bochartus
manifestly proves. And Homer (where he says that Jupiter hated the
house of Priam, and was resolved to transfer the kingdom to the
family of AEneas) yet mentions nothing of his leading a colony into
a foreign country and settling there. But that the Romans valued
themselves on their Trojan ancestry is so undoubted a truth that I
need not prove it. Even the seals which we have remaining of Julius
Caesar (which we know to be antique) have the star of Venus over
them--though they were all graven after his death--as a note that he
was deified. I doubt not but one reason why Augustus should be so
passionately concerned for the preservation of the "AEneis," which
its author had condemned to be burnt as an imperfect poem by his
last will and testament, was because it did him a real service as
well as an honour; that a work should not be lost where his divine
original was celebrated in verse which had the character of
immortality stamped upon it.

Neither were the great Roman families which flourished in his time
less obliged by him than the emperor. Your lordship knows with what
address he makes mention of them as captains of ships or leaders in
the war; and even some of Italian extraction are not forgotten.
These are the single stars which are sprinkled through the "AEneis,"
but there are whole constellations of them in the fifth book; and I
could not but take notice, when I translated it, of some favourite
families to which he gives the victory and awards the prizes, in the
person of his hero, at the funeral games which were celebrated in
honour of Anchises. I insist not on their names, but am pleased to
find the Memmii amongst them, derived from Mnestheus, because
Lucretius dedicates to one of that family, a branch of which
destroyed Corinth. I likewise either found or formed an image to
myself of the contrary kind--that those who lost the prizes were
such as had disobliged the poet, or were in disgrace with Augustus,
or enemies to Maecenas; and this was the poetical revenge he took,
for genus irritabile vatum, as Horace says. When a poet is
thoroughly provoked, he will do himself justice, how ever dear it
cost him, animamque in vulnere ponit. I think these are not bare
imaginations of my own, though I find no trace of them in the
commentators; but one poet may judge of another by himself. The
vengeance we defer is not forgotten. I hinted before that the whole
Roman people were obliged by Virgil in deriving them from Troy, an
ancestry which they affected. We and the French are of the same
humour: they would be thought to descend from a son, I think, of
Hector; and we would have our Britain both named and planted by a
descendant of AEneas. Spenser favours this opinion what he can.
His Prince Arthur, or whoever he intends by him, is a Trojan. Thus
the hero of Homer was a Grecian; of Virgil, a Roman; of Tasso, an

I have transgressed my bounds and gone farther than the moral led
me; but if your lordship is not tired, I am safe enough.

Thus far, I think, my author is defended. But as Augustus is still
shadowed in the person of AEneas (of which I shall say more when I
come to the manners which the poet gives his hero), I must prepare
that subject by showing how dexterously he managed both the prince
and people, so as to displease neither, and to do good to both--
which is the part of a wise and an honest man, and proves that it is
possible for a courtier not to be a knave. I shall continue still
to speak my thoughts like a free-born subject, as I am, though such
things perhaps as no Dutch commentator could, and I am sure no
Frenchman durst. I have already told your lordship my opinion of
Virgil--that he was no arbitrary man. Obliged he was to his master
for his bounty, and he repays him with good counsel how to behave
himself in his new monarchy so as to gain the affections of his
subjects, and deserve to be called the "Father of His Country."
From this consideration it is that he chose for the groundwork of
his poem one empire destroyed, and another raised from the ruins of
it. This was just the parallel. AEneas could not pretend to be
Priam's heir in a lineal succession, for Anchises, the hero's
father, was only of the second branch of the royal family, and
Helenus, a son of Priam, was yet surviving, and might lawfully claim
before him. It may be, Virgil mentions him on that account.
Neither has he forgotten Priamus, in the fifth of his "AEneis," the
son of Polites, youngest son to Priam, who was slain by Pyrrhus in
the second book. AEneas had only married Creusa, Priam's daughter,
and by her could have no title while any of the male issue were
remaining. In this case the poet gave him the next title, which is
that of an Elective King. The remaining Trojans chose him to lead
them forth and settle them in some foreign country. Ilioneus in his
speech to Dido calls him expressly by the name of king. Our poet,
who all this while had Augustus in his eye, had no desire he should
seem to succeed by any right of inheritance derived from Julius
Caesar, such a title being but one degree removed from conquest:
for what was introduced by force, by force may be removed. It was
better for the people that they should give than he should take,
since that gift was indeed no more at bottom than a trust. Virgil
gives us an example of this in the person of Mezentius. He governed
arbitrarily; he was expelled and came to the deserved end of all
tyrants. Our author shows us another sort of kingship in the person
of Latinus. He was descended from Saturn, and, as I remember, in
the third degree. He is described a just and a gracious prince,
solicitous for the welfare of his people, always consulting with his
senate to promote the common good. We find him at the head of them
when he enters into the council-hall--speaking first, but still
demanding their advice, and steering by it, as far as the iniquity
of the times would suffer him. And this is the proper character of
a king by inheritance, who is born a father of his country. AEneas,
though he married the heiress of the crown, yet claimed no title to
it during the life of his father-in-law. Socer arma Latinus hebeto,
&c., are Virgil's words. As for himself, he was contented to take
care of his country gods, who were not those of Latium; wherein our
divine author seems to relate to the after-practice of the Romans,
which was to adopt the gods of those they conquered or received as
members of their commonwealth. Yet, withal, he plainly touches at
the office of the high-priesthood, with which Augustus was invested
and which made his person more sacred and inviolable than even the
tribunitial power. It was not therefore for nothing that the most
judicious of all poets made that office vacant by the death of
Pantheus, in the second book of the "AEneis," for his hero to
succeed in it, and consequently for Augustus to enjoy. I know not
that any of the commentators have taken notice of that passage. If
they have not, I am sure they ought; and if they have, I am not
indebted to them for the observation. The words of Virgil are very

"Sacra suosque tibi commendat Troja Penates."

As for Augustus or his uncle Julius claiming by descent from AEneas,
that title is already out of doors. AEneas succeeded not, but was
elected. Troy was fore-doomed to fall for ever:-

"Postquam res Asiae, Priamique evertere gentem,
Immeritam visum superis."--AENEIS, I. iii., line 1.

Augustus, it is true, had once resolved to rebuild that city, and
there to make the seat of the Empire; but Horace writes an ode on
purpose to deter him from that thought, declaring the place to be
accursed, and that the gods would as often destroy it as it should
be raised. Hereupon the emperor laid aside a project so ungrateful
to the Roman people. But by this, my lord, we may conclude that he
had still his pedigree in his head, and had an itch of being thought
a divine king if his poets had not given him better counsel.

I will pass by many less material objections for want of room to
answer them. What follows next is of great importance, if the
critics can make out their charge, for it is levelled at the manners
which our poet gives his hero, and which are the same which were
eminently seen in his Augustus. Those manners were piety to the
gods and a dutiful affection to his father, love to his relations,
care of his people, courage and conduct in the wars, gratitude to
those who had obliged him, and justice in general to mankind.

Piety, as your lordship sees, takes place of all as the chief part
of his character; and the word in Latin is more full than it can
possibly be expressed in any modern language, for there it
comprehends not only devotion to the gods, but filial love and
tender affection to relations of all sorts. As instances of this
the deities of Troy and his own Penates are made the companions of
his flight; they appear to him in his voyage and advise him, and at
last he replaces them in Italy, their native country. For his
father, he takes him on his back. He leads his little son, his wife
follows him; but losing his footsteps through fear or ignorance he
goes back into the midst of his enemies to find her, and leaves not
his pursuit till her ghost appears to forbid his farther search. I
will say nothing of his duty to his father while he lived, his
sorrow for his death, of the games instituted in honour of his
memory, or seeking him by his command even after death in the
Elysian fields. I will not mention his tenderness for his son,
which everywhere is visible; of his raising a tomb for Polydorus;
the obsequies for Misenus; his pious remembrance of Deiphobus; the
funerals of his nurse; his grief for Pallas, and his revenge taken
on his murderer, whom otherwise, by his natural compassion, he had
forgiven: and then the poem had been left imperfect, for we could
have had no certain prospect of his happiness while the last
obstacle to it was unremoved.

Of the other parts which compose his character as a king or as a
general I need say nothing; the whole "AEneis" is one continued
instance of some one or other of them; and where I find anything of
them taxed, it shall suffice me (as briefly as I can) to vindicate
my divine master to your lordship, and by you to the reader. But
herein Segrais, in his admirable preface to his translation of the
"AEneis," as the author of the Dauphin's "Virgil" justly calls it,
has prevented me. Him I follow, and what I borrow from him am ready
to acknowledge to him, for, impartially speaking, the French are as
much better critics than the English as they are worse poets. Thus
we generally allow that they better understand the management of a
war than our islanders, but we know we are superior to them in the
day of battle; they value themselves on their generals, we on our
soldiers. But this is not the proper place to decide that question,
if they make it one. I shall say perhaps as much of other nations
and their poets (excepting only Tasso), and hope to make my
assertion good, which is but doing justice to my country--part of
which honour will reflect on your lordship, whose thoughts are
always just, your numbers harmonious, your words chosen, your
expressions strong and manly, your verse flowing, and your turns as
happy as they are easy. If you would set us more copies, your
example would make all precepts needless. In the meantime that
little you have written is owned, and that particularly by the poets
(who are a nation not over-lavish of praise to their
contemporaries), as a principal ornament of our language; but the
sweetest essences are always confined in the smallest glasses.

When I speak of your lordship, it is never a digression, and
therefore I need beg no pardon for it, but take up Segrais where I
left him, and shall use him less often than I have occasion for him.
For his preface is a perfect piece of criticism, full and clear, and
digested into an exact method; mine is loose and, as I intended it,
epistolary. Yet I dwell on many things which he durst not touch,
for it is dangerous to offend an arbitrary master, and every patron
who has the power of Augustus has not his clemency. In short, my
lord, I would not translate him because I would bring you somewhat
of my own. His notes and observations on every book are of the same
excellency, and for the same reason I omit the greater part.

He takes no notice that Virgil is arraigned for placing piety before
valour, and making that piety the chief character of his hero. I
have said already from Bossu, that a poet is not obliged to make his
hero a virtuous man; therefore neither Homer nor Tasso are to be
blamed for giving what predominant quality they pleased to their
first character. But Virgil, who designed to form a perfect prince,
and would insinuate that Augustus (whom he calls AEneas in his poem)
was truly such, found himself obliged to make him without blemish--
thoroughly virtuous; and a thorough virtue both begins and ends in
piety. Tasso without question observed this before me, and
therefore split his hero in two; he gave Godfrey piety, and Rinaldo
fortitude, for their chief qualities or manners. Homer, who had
chosen another moral, makes both Agamemnon and Achilles vicious; for
his design was to instruct in virtue by showing the deformity of
vice. I avoid repetition of that I have said above. What follows
is translated literally from Segrais:-

"Virgil had considered that the greatest virtues of Augustus
consisted in the perfect art of governing his people, which caused
him to reign for more than forty years in great felicity. He
considered that his emperor was valiant, civil, popular, eloquent,
politic, and religious; he has given all these qualities to AEneas.
But knowing that piety alone comprehends the whole duty of man
towards the gods, towards his country, and towards his relations, he
judged that this ought to be his first character whom he would set
for a pattern of perfection. In reality, they who believe that the
praises which arise from valour are superior to those which proceed
from any other virtues, have not considered, as they ought, that
valour, destitute of other virtues, cannot render a man worthy of
any true esteem. That quality, which signifies no more than an
intrepid courage, may he separated from many others which are good,
and accompanied with many which are ill. A man may be very valiant,
and yet impious and vicious; but the same cannot be said of piety,
which excludes all ill qualities, and comprehends even valour
itself, with all other qualities which are good. Can we, for
example, give the praise of valour to a man who should see his gods
profaned, and should want the courage to defend them? to a man who
should abandon his father, or desert his king, in his last

Thus far Segrais, in giving the preference to piety before valour; I
will now follow him where he considers this valour or intrepid
courage singly in itself; and this also Virgil gives to his AEneas,
and that in a heroical degree.

Having first concluded that our poet did for the best in taking the
first character of his hero from that essential virtue on which the
rest depend, he proceeds to tell us that in the ten years' war of
Troy he was considered as the second champion of his country,
allowing Hector the first place; and this even by the confession of
Homer, who took all occasions of setting up his own countrymen the
Grecians, and of undervaluing the Trojan chiefs. But Virgil (whom
Segrais forgot to cite) makes Diomede give him a higher character
for strength and courage. His testimony is this, in the eleventh

"Stetimus tela aspera contra,
Contulimusque manus: experto credite, quantus
In clypeum adsurgat, quo turbine torqueat hastam.
Si duo praeterea tales Inachias venisset ad urbes
Dardanus, et versis lugeret Graecia fatis.
Quicquid apud durae cessatum est maenia Trojae,


Back to Full Books