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ufual warmth and earneftnefs; I am prepar'd (replied Maternus, in a milder tone and with an air of pleafantry) to draw up a charge against the orators, no less copious than my friend's panegyric in their behalf, I fufpected, indeed, he would turn out of his road, in order to attack the poets; tho, I must own at the fame time, he has fomewhat softened the feverity of his fatire, by certain conceffions he is pleased to make in their favor. He is willing, I perceive, to allow thofe whofe genius does not point to oratory, to apply themselves to poetry. Nevertheless, I do not fcruple to acknowledge, that with some talents, perhaps, for the forum, I chose to build my reputation on dramatic poetry. The first attempt I made for this purpose, was by expofing the dangerous power of Vatinius: a power which even Nero himself disapproved, and which that infamous favorite abused, to the profanation of the facred Mufes. And I am perfuaded, if I enjoy any share of fame, it is to poetry rather than to oratory that I am indebted for the acquifition. It my fixed purpose, therefore, entirely tọ withdraw myself from the fatigue of the
bar. I am by no means ambitious of that fplendid concourse of clients, which Aper has represented in fuch pompous colors, any more than I am of those sculptured honors which he mentioned; tho I must confefs, they have made their way into my family, notwithstanding my inclinations to the contrary. Innocence is, now at least, a furer guard than eloquence; and I am in no apprehenfion I fhall ever have occafion to open my lips in the fenate, unless, perhaps, in defence of a friend.
WOODS and groves and folitude, the objects of Aper's invective, afford me, I will own to him, the moft exquifite fatisfaction. Accordingly, I esteem it one of the great privileges of poetry, that it is not carried on in the noife and tumult of the world, amidst the painful importunity of anxious fuitors, and the affecting tears of diftreffed criminals. On the contrary, a mind enamored of the Mufes, retires into fcenes of innocence and repofe, and enjoys the facred haunts of filence and contemplation. Here genuine Eloquence received her birth, and bere the fixed her facred and fequeftered manfion. 'Twas bere, in de
cent and becoming garb, the recommended herself to the early notice of mortals, infpiring the breafts of the blameless and the good: bere firft the voice divine of oracles was heard. But he of modern growth, offspring of lucre and contention, was born in evil days, and employed (as Aper very justly exprefsed it) instead of a weapon: whilst happier times, or, in the language of the Muses, the golden age, free alike from orators and from crimes, abounded with infpired poets, who exerted their noble talents, not in defending the guilty, but in celebrating the good. Accordingly no character was ever more eminently distinguished, or more auguftly honored: first by the gods themselves, to whom the poets were supposed to serve as minifters at their feafts, and meffengers of their high behefts; and afterwards by that facred offspring of the gods, the first venerable race of legislators. In that glorious lift we read the names, not of orators indeed, but of Orpheus, and Linus, or, if we are inclined to trace the illustrious roll still higher, even of Apollo himself.
BUT thefe, perhaps, will be treated by Aper as heroes of Romance. He cannot however
however deny, that Homer has received as fignal honors from pofterity, as Demofthenes; or that the fame of Sophocles or Euripides is as extenfive, as that of Lyfias or Hyperides; that Cicero's merit is lefs univerfally confeffed than Virgil's; or that not one of the compofitions of Afinius or Meffala is in fo much request, as the Medea of Ovid, or the Thyeftes of Varius. I will advance even farther, and venture to compare the unenvied fortune and happy selfconverse of the poet, with the anxious and bufy life of the orator; notwithstanding the hazardous contentions of the latter, may poffibly raise him even to the confular dignity. Far more defirable, in my eftimation, was the calm retreat of Virgil: where yet he lived not unhonored by his prince, nor unregarded by the world. If the truth of either of thefe affertions should be queftioned, the letters of Auguftus will witness the former; as the latter is evident from the conduct of the whole Roman people, who when some verses of that divine poet were repeated in the theatre, where he happened to be prefent, rose up to a man, and faluted him with the fame refpect they
would have paid to Auguftus himself. But to mention our own times: I would afk whether Secundus Pomponius is any thing inferior, either in dignity of life, or folidity of reputation, to Aper Domitius? As to Crifpus or Marcellus, to whom Aper refers me for an animating example, what is there in their prefentexalted fortunes really defirable? Is it that they pass their whole lives either in being alarmed for themselves, or in ftriking terror into others? Is it that they are daily under a neceffity of courting the very men they hate; that holding their dignities by unmanly adulation, their mafters never think them fufficiently flaves, nor the peo ple fufficiently free? And, after all, what is this their fo much envied power? Nothing more, in truth, than what many a paltry freedman has frequently enjoyed. But-" ME let the lovely Mufes lead (as
Virgil fings) to filent groves and heaven
ly haunted streams, remote from bufi"nefs and from care; and ftill fuperior to "the painful neceffity of acting in wretche "ed oppofition to my better heart. Nor "let me more, with anxious fteps and "dangerous, purfue pale fame amidft the