Verse > John Dryden > Poems
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Translations
From Aulus Persius Flaccus: The Fifth Satyr
 
        
Argument of the Fifth Satyr
  The judicious Casaubon, in his Proem to this Satyr, tells us, that Aristophanes, the Grammarian, being ask’d, what poem of Archilochus his Iambicks he preferr’d before the rest; answer’d, the longest. His answer may justly be apply’d to this Fifth Satyr; which, being of a greater length than any of the rest, is also, by far, the most instructive. For this Reason I have selected it from all the others, and inscribed it to my Learned Master, Doctor Busby; to whom I am not only oblig’d myself for the best part of my own Education, and that of my two Sons, but have also receiv’d from him the first and truest Taste of Persius. May he be pleased to find in this Translation, the Gratitude, or at least some small Acknowledgment of his un-worthy Scholar, at the distance of 42 Years, from the time when I departed from under his Tuition.
  This Satyr consists of two distinct Parts: The first contains the Praises of the Stoick philosopher Cornutus, Master and Tutor to our Persius. It also declares the Love and Piety of Persius, to his well-deserving Master; And the Mutual Friendship which continu’d betwixt them, after Persius was now grown a Man. As also his Exhortation to Young Noblemen, that they would enter themselves into his Institution. From hence he makes an artful Transition into the second Part of his Subject: Wherein he first complains of the Sloath of Scholars, and afterwards persuades them to the pursuit of their true Liberty: Here our Author excellently Treats that Paradox of the Stoicks, which affirms, that the Wise or Virtuous Man is only Free, and that all Vicious Men are Naturally Slaves. And, in the Illustration of this Dogma, he takes up the remaining part of this inimitable Satyr.

The Fifth Satyr
Inscrib’d to The Reverend Dr. Busby

The Speakers Persius and Cornutus.

PERS.  OF ancient use to Poets it belongs,
To wish themselves an hundred Mouths and Tongues:
Whether to the well-lung’d Tragedians Rage
They recommend their Labours of the Stage,
Or sing the Parthian, when transfix’d he lies,        5
Wrenching the Roman Javelin from his thighs.
 
CORN.
  And why wou’dst thou these mighty Morsels chuse,
Of Words unchaw’d, and fit to choak the Muse?
Let Fustian Poets with their Stuff be gone,
And suck the Mists that hang o’re Helicon:        10
When Progne’s 1 or Thyestes’s 2 Feast they write;
And, for the mouthing Actor, Verse indite.
Thou neither, like a Bellows, swell’st thy Face,
As if thou wert to blow the burning Mass
Of melting Ore; nor can’st thou strain thy Throat,        15
Or murmur in an undistinguish’d Note;
Like rowling Thunder, till it breaks the Cloud,
And rattling Nonsense is discharg’d aloud.
Soft Elocution does thy Stile renown,
And the sweet Accents of the peaceful Gown:        20
Gentle or sharp, according to thy choice,
To laugh at Follies, or to lash at Vice.
Hence draw thy Theme, and to the Stage permit
Raw-head and Bloody-Bones, and Hands and Feet,
Ragousts for Tereus or Thyestes drest;        25
’Tis Task enough for theet’ expose a Roman Feast.
 
PERS.
  ’Tis not, indeed, my Talent to engage
In lofty Trifles, or to swell my Page
With Wind and Noise; but freely to impart,
As to a Friend, the Secrets of my heart;        30
And, in familiar Speech, to let thee know
How much I love thee, and how much I owe.
Knock on my Heart: for thou hast skill to find
If it sound solid, or be fill’d with Wind;
And, thro the veil of words, thou view’st the naked Mind.        35
  For this a hundred Voices I desire,
To tell thee what an hundred Tongues wou’d tire;
Yet never cou’d be worthily exprest,
How deeply thou art seated in my Breast.
  When first my Childish Robe 3 resign’d the charge;        40
And left me, unconfin’d, to live at large;
When now my golden Bulla (hung on high
To House-hold Gods) declar’d me past a Boy;
And my white Shield 4 proclaim’d my Liberty;
When with my wild Companions, I could rowl        45
From Street to Street, and sin without controul;
Just at that Age, when Manhood set me free,
I then depos’d my self, and left the Reins to thee.
On thy wise Bosom I repos’d my Head;
And by my better Socrates 5 was bred.        50
Then, thy streight Rule set Virtue in my sight,
The crooked Line reforming by the right.
My Reason took the bent of thy Command,
Was form’d and polish’d by thy skilful hand:
Long Summer-days thy Precepts I reherse;        55
And Winter-nights were short in our converse:
One was our Labour, one was our Repose;
One frugal Supper did our Studies close.
  Sure on our Birth some friendly Planet shone:
And, as our Souls, our Horoscope 6 was one        60
Whether the mounting Twins 7 did Heav’n adorn,
Or with the rising Ballance 8 we were born;
Both have the same Impressions from above;
And both have Saturn’s rage repell’d by Jove. 9
What Star I know not, but some Star I find,        65
Has given Thee an Ascendant o’re my Mind.
 
CORN.
  Nature is ever various in her Frame:
Each has a different Will; and few the same:
The greedy Merchants, led by lucre, run
To the parch’d Indies, and the rising Sun;        70
From thence hot Pepper, and rich Drugs they bear,
Bart’ring for Spices their Italian Ware:
The lazy Glutton safe at home will keep,
Indulge his Sloth, and batten with his Sleep:
One bribes for high Preferments in the State;        75
A second shakes the Box, and sits up late
Another shakes the Bed; dissolving there,
Till knots upon his Gouty Joints appear,
And Chalk is in his crippled Fingers found;
Rots like a Doddard 10 Oke, and piecemeal falls to ground.        80
Then, his lewd Follies he wou’d late repent;
And his past years, that in a Mist were spent.
 
PERS.
  But thou art pale, in nightly Studies, grown,
To make the Stoick 11 Institutes thy own;
Thou long, with studious Care, hast till’d our Youth,        85
And sown our well-purg’d Ears with wholesom Truth:
From thee both old and young, with profit, learn
The bounds of Good and Evil to discern.
 
CORN.
  Unhappy he who does this Work ad-journ;
And to To Morrow would the search delay:        90
His lazy Morrow will be like to day.
 
PERS.
But is one day of Ease too much to borrow?
 
CORN.
  Yes, sure: For Yesterday was once To Morrow.
That Yesterday is gone, and nothing gain’d:
And all thy fruitless days will thus be drain’d;        95
For thou hast more To Morrows yet to ask,
And wilt be ever to begin thy Task;
Who, like the hindmost Chariot Wheels, art curst;
Still to be near; but ne’re to reach the first.
  O Freedom! first Delight of Humane Kind!        100
Not that which Bondmen from their Masters find,
The Priviledge of Doles; 12 not yet’t inscribe
Their Names in this or t’other Roman Tribe: 13
That false Enfranchisement, with ease is found:
Slaves are made Citizens, 14 by turning round.        105
How, replies one, can any be more free?
Here’s Dama, once a Groom of low degree
Not worth a Farthing, and a Sot beside;
So true a Rogue, for lying’s sake he ly’d:
But, with a turn, a Freeman he became;        110
Now Marcus Dama 15 is his Worship’s Name:
Good Gods! who wou’d refuse to lend a Sum,
If Wealthy Marcus Surety will become!
Marcus is made a Judge, and for a Proof
Of certain Truth, He said it, is enough.        115
A Will is to be prov’d; put in your Claim;
’Tis clear, if Marcus has subscrib’d his Name. 16
This is true Liberty, 17 as I believe;
What farther can we from our Caps receive,
Than as we please, without Control to live?        120
Not more to Noble Brutus 18 could belong.
Hold, says the Stoick, you Assumption’s wrong:
I grant true Freedom you have well defin’d:
But living as you list, and to your mind,
Are loosely tack’d; and must be left behind.        125
What, since the Prætor did my Fetters loose,
And left me freely at my own dispose,
May I not live without Control or 19 Awe,
Excepting still the Letter of the Law? 20
  Hear me with patience, while thy Mind I free        130
From those fond Notions of false Liberty:
’Tis not the Prætor’s Province to bestow
True Freedom; nor to teach Mankind to know
What to our selves, or to our Friends we owe.
He cou’d not set thee free from Cares and Strife;        135
Nor give the Reins to a lewd vicious life:
As well he for an Ass a Harp might string,
Which is against the Reason of the thing;
For Reason still is whisp’ring in your Ear,
Where you are sure to fail, th’ Attempt forbear.        140
No need of Publick Sanctions this to bind,
Which Nature has implanted in the Mind:
Not to pursue th Work, to which we’re not design’d.
  Unskill’d in Hellebore, if thou shou’d’st try
To mix it, and mistake the Quantity,        145
The Rules of Physick wou’d against thee cry.
The High-shoo’d Ploughman, shou’d he quit the Land,
To take the Pilot’s Rudder in his hand,
Artless of Stars, and of the moving Sand,
The Gods wou’d leave him to the Waves and Wind,        150
And think all Shame was lost in Human-Kind.
  Tell me, my Friend, from whence hadst thou the skill,
So nicely to distinguish Good from Ill?
Or by the sound to judge of Gold and Brass;
What piece is Tinkers Metal, what will pass?        155
And what thou art to follow, what to flye,
This to condemn, and that to ratifie?
When to be Bountiful, and when to Spare,
But never Craving, or oppress’d with Care?
The Baits of Gifts, and Money to despise,        160
And look on Wealth with undesiring Eyes?
When thou can’st truly call these Virtues thine,
Be Wise and Free, by Heav’n’s consent and mine.
  But thou, who lately of the common strain,
Wert one of us, if still thou do’st retain        165
The same ill Habits, the same Follies too,
Gloss’d over only with a Saint-like show,
Then I resume the freedom which I gave,
Still thou art bound to Vice, and still a Slave.
Thou can’st not wag thy Finger, or begin        170
The least light motion, but it tends to sin.
  How’s this? Not wag my Finger, he replies?
No, Friend; nor fuming Gums, nor Sacrifice,
Can ever make a Madman free, or wise.
“Virtue and Vice 21 are never in one Soul:        175
“A Man is wholly Wise, or wholly is a Fool.
A heavy Bumpkin, taught with daily care,
Can never dance three steps with a becoming air.
 
PERS.
In spight of this, my Freedom still remains.
 
CORN.
  Free, what and fetter’d with so many Chains?
        180
Can’st thou no other Master understand
Than him that freed thee by the Prætor’s Wand? 22
Shou’d he, who was thy Lord, command thee now,
With a harsh Voice, and supercilious Brow,
To servile Duties, thou wou’d’st fear no more;        185
The Gallows and the Whip are out of door.
But if thy Passions lord it in thy Breast,
Art thou not still a Slave, and still opprest?
  Whether alone, or in thy Harlot’s Lap,
When thou wou’dst take a lazy Morning’s Nap;        190
Up, up, says Avarice; thou snor’st again,
Stretchest thy Limbs, and yawn’st, but all in vain;
The Tyrant Lucre no denyal takes;
At his Command th’ unwilling Sluggard wakes.
What must I do? he cries: What? says his Lord:        195
Why rise, make ready, and go streight aboord:
With Fish, from Euxine Seas, thy Vessel freight;
Flax, Castor, Coan Wines, the precious Weight
Of Pepper, and Sabean Incense, take
With thy own hands, from the tir’d Camel’s back:        200
And with Post-haste thy running Markets make.
Be sure to turn the Penny: lye and swear;
’Tis wholesom sin: But Jove, thou say’st, will hear:
Swear, Fool, or starve; for the Dilemma’s even:
A Tradesman thou! and hope to go to Heav’n?        205
  Resolv’d for Sea, the Slaves thy Baggage pack,
Each saddled, with his Burden on his back;
Nothing retards thy Voyage, now; unless
Thy other Lord forbids, Voluptuousness:
And he may ask this civil Question: Friend,        210
What do’st thou make a Shipboord? to what end?
Art thou of Bethlem’s Noble College free?
Stark, staring mad; that thou wou’dst tempt the Sea?
Cubb’d in a Cabin, on a Mattress laid,
On a Brown George, with lowsie Swobbers, fed,        215
Dead Wine, that stinks of the Borrachio, sup
From a foul Jack, or greasie Maple Cup?
Say, wou’d’st thou bear all this, to raise thy store
From Six i’ th’ Hundred, to Six Hundred more?
Indulge, and to thy Genius freely give;        220
For, not to live at ease, is not to live;
Death stalks behind thee: and each flying Hour
Does some loose Remnant of thy Life devour.
Live, while thou liv’st: For Death will make us all
A Name, a nothing but an Old Wife’s Tale.        225
  Speak; wilt thou Avarice, or Pleasure chuse
To be thy Lord? Take one, and one refuse.
But both, by turns, the Rule of thee will have;
And thou, betwixt ’em both, wilt be a Slave.
  Nor think when once thou hast resisted one,        230
That all thy Marks of Servitude are gone:
The strugling Greyhound gnaws his Leash in vain;
If, when ’tis broken, still he drags the Chain.
  Says Phædria 23 to his Man, Believe me, Friend,
To this uneasie Love I’le put an End:        235
Shall I run out of all? My Friends disgrace,
And be the first lewd Unthrift of my Race?
Shall I the Neighbours Nightly rest invade
At her deaf Doors, with some vile Serenade?
Well hast thou freed thy self, his Man replies;        240
Go, thank the Gods, and offer Sacrifice.
Ah, says the Youth, if we unkindly part,
Will not the Poor fond Creature break her Heart?
Weak Soul! And blindly to Destruction led!
She break her Heart! She’ll sooner break your Head.        245
She knows her Man, and when you Rant and Swear,
Can draw you to her with a single Hair.
But shall I not return? Now, when she Sues?
Shall I my own, and her Desires refuse?
Sir, take your Course: But my Advice is plain:        250
Once freed, ’tis Madness to resume your Chain.
  Ay; there’s the Man, who loos’d from Lust and Pelf,
Less to the Prætor owes, than to himself.
But write him down a Slave, who, humbly proud,
With Presents begs Preferments from the Crowd;        255
That early Suppliant, 24 who salutes the Tribes,
And sets the Mob to scramble for his Bribes:
That some old Dotard, sitting in the Sun,
On Holydays may tell, that such a Feat was done:
In future times this will be counted rare.        260
  Thy Superstition too may claim a share:
When Flow’rs are strew’d, and Lamps in order plac’d,
And Windows with Illuminations grac’d,
On Herod’s 25 Day; when sparkling Bouls go round,
And Tunny’s Tails in savoury Sauce are drown’d,        265
Thou mutter’st Prayers obscene; nor do’st refuse
The Fasts and Sabbaths of the curtail’d Jews.
Then a crack’d Eggshell 26 thy sick Fancy frights,
Besides the Childish Fear of Walking Sprights.
Of o’regrown Guelding Priests thou art afraid:        270
The Timbrel, and the Squintifego Maid
Of Isis, awe thee: lest the Gods, for sin,
Shou’d, with a swelling Dropsie, stuff thy skin:
Unless three Garlick Heads the Curse avert,
Eaten each Morn, devoutly, next thy heart.        275
  Preach this among the brawny Guards, say’st thou,
And see if they thy Doctrine will allow:
The dull fat Captain, with a Hound’s deep throat,
Wou’d bellow out a Laugh, in a Base Note;
And prize a hundred Zeno’s just as much        280
As a clipt Sixpence, or a Schilling Dutch.

The End of the Fifth Satyr.
 
Note 1. Progne was Wife to Tereus, King of Thracia: Tereus fell in Love with Philomela, Sister to Progne, ravish’d her, and cut out her Tongue: In Revenge of which, Progne kill’d Itys, her own Son by Tereus, and serv’d him up at a Feast, to be eaten by his Father.
  All the English editors give Progne. They have consulted neither Dryden’s text nor Persius, hardly even Dryden’s note which they print. [back]
Note 2. Thyestes and Atreus were Brothers, both Kings: Atreus, to Revenge himself of his unnatural Brother, kill’d the Sons of Thyestes, and invited him to eat them. [back]
Note 3. By the Childish Robe is meant the Prætexta, or first Gowns which the Roman Children of Quality wore: These were Welted with Purple: And on those Welts were fasten’d the Bullæ, or little Bells, which when they came to the Age of Puberty were hung up and consecrated to the Lares, or Household Gods. [back]
Note 4. The first Shields which the Roman Youths wore, were white, and without any Impress or Device on them, to shew they had yet Atchiev’d nothing in the Wars. [back]
Note 5. Socrates by the Oracle was declar’d to be the wisest of Mankind: He instructed many of the Athenian Young Noblemen in Morality, and amongst the rest Alcibiades. [back]
Note 6. Astrologers divide the Heaven into Twelve parts, according to the Number of the 12 Signs of the Zodiack: The Sign or Constellation which rises in the East, at the Birth of any Man, is call’d the Ascendant: Persius, therefore, judges that and he Cornutus had the same or a like Nativity. [back]
Note 7. The Sign of Gemini. [back]
Note 8. The Sign of Libra. [back]
Note 9. Astrologers have an Axiome, that whatsoever Saturn ties is loos’d by Jupiter: They account Saturn to be a Planet of a Malevolent Nature, and Jupiter of a Propitious Influence. [back]
Note 10. Doddard] The editor’s wrongly print dodder’d. [back]
Note 11. Zeno was the great Master of the Stoick Philosophy: And Cleanthes was second to him in Reputation: Cornutus, who was Master or Tutor to Persius, was of the same School. [back]
Note 12. When a Slave was made free, he had the Priviledge of a Roman Born, which was to have a share in the Donatives or Doles of Bread, &c. which were Distributed by the Magistrates amongst the People. [back]
Note 13. The Roman People was Distributed into several Tribes: He who was made free was inroll’d into some one of them, and thereupon enjoy’d the common Priviledges of a Roman Citizen. [back]
Note 14. The Master, who intended to infranchise a Slave, carried him before the City Prætor, and turn’d him round, using these words, I will that this Man be free. [back]
Note 15. Slaves had only one Name before their Freedom: After it they were admitted to a Prænomen, like our Christen’d Names; so Dama is call’d Marcus Dama. [back]
Note 16. At the Proof of a Testament, the Magistrates were to subscribe their Names, as allowing the Legality of the Will. [back]
Note 17. Slaves, when they were set free, had a Cap given them, in Sign of their Liberty. [back]
Note 18. Brutus freed the Roman People from the Tyranny of the Tarquins, and chang’d the Form of the Government into a glorious Common-wealth. [back]
Note 19. or] Some editors wrongly give and. [back]
Note 20. The Text of the Roman Laws was written in Red Letters; which was call’d the Rubrick; Translated here, in more general words, The Letter of the Law. [back]
Note 21. The Stoicks held this Paradox, That any one Vice, or Notorious Folly, which they call’d Madness, hinder’d a Man from being Virtuous: That a Man was of a Piece, without a Mixture, either wholly Vicious or Good; one Virtue or Vice, according to them, including all the rest. [back]
Note 22. The Prætor held a Wand in his hand, with which he softly struck the Slave on the Head when he declar’d him free. [back]
Note 23. This alludes to the Play of Terence, call’d the Eunuch, which was excellently imitated of late in English by Sir Charles Sedley: In the first Scene of that Comedy, Phædria was introduc’d with his Man Pamphilus, Discoursing, whether he shou’d leave his Mistress Thais, or return to her, now that she had invited him. [back]
Note 24. He who sued for any Office amongst the Romans was called a Candidate, because he wore a white Gown: And sometimes Chalk’d it to make it appear whiter. He rose early, and went to the Levees of those who headed the People: Saluted also the Tribes severally, when they were gather’d together to chuse their Magistrates; and Distributed a Largess amongst them, to engage them for their Voices: Much resembling our Elections of Parliament-Men. [back]
Note 25. The Commentators are divided, what Herod this was, whom our Author mentions: Whether Herod the Great, whose Birth-day might possibly be celebrated, after his Death, by the Herodians, a Sect amongst the Jews, who thought him their Messiah; or Herod Agrippa, living in the Author’s time and after it. The latter seems the more probable opinion. [back]
Note 26. The Ancients had a Superstition, contrary to ours concerning Egg-shells: They thought that if an Egg-shell were crack’d, or a Hole bor’d in the bottom of it, they were Subject to the Power of Sorcery: We as vainly break the Bottom of an Egg-shell, and cross it when we have eaten the Egg, lest some Hag shou’d make use of it in bewitching us, or sailing over the sea in it, if it were whole.
  The rest of the Priests of Isis, and her one-ey’d or squinting Priestess is more largely treated in the Sixth Satyr of Juvenal, where the Superstitions of Women are related. [back]
 
 
CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors