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THE FIRST EPISTLE
SECOND BOOK OF HORACE;
With this Motto in the first Edition, in folio, 1737:
“Ne rubeam pingui donatus munere.”
THE Reflections of Horace, and the Judgments
paffed in his Epiftle to Auguftus, feemed fo feafonable to the present Times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own Country. The Author thought them confiderable enough to address them to his Prince; whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a Monarch, upon whom the Romans depended for the Increase of an Abfolute Empire. But to make the Poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the Happiness of a Free People, and are more confiftent with the Welfare of our Neighbours.
This Epistle will fhew the learned World to have fallen into two mistakes: one, that Auguftus was a Patron of Poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the Best Writers to name him, but recommended that Care even to the Civil Magiftrate: Admonebat Prætores, ne paterentur Nomen fuum obfolefieri, &c. The other, that this Piece was only a general Difcourfe of Poetry; whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Auguftus more their Patron. Horace here pleads the Cause of his Cotemporaries, first against the Taste of the Town, whose humour it was to magnify the Authors of the preceding Age; fecondly against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the Writers for the Theatre; and
and lastly against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little Ufe to the Government. He fhews (by a View of the Progrefs of Learning, and the Change of Taste among the Romans) that the Introduction of the Polite Arts of Greece had given the Writers of his Time great advantages over their Predeceffors; that their Morals were much improved, and the Licence of thofe ancient Poets reftrained: that Satire and Comedy were become more just and ufeful; that whatever extravagancies were left on the Stage, were owing to the Ill Taste of the Nobility; that Poets, under due Regulations, were in many refpects useful to the State; and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself muft depend, for his Fame with Posterity.
We may further learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his Court to this Great Prince by writing with a decent Freedom toward him, with a just Contempt of his low Flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own Character.
VER. 1. While you, great Patron] All those naufeous and outrageous compliments, which Horace, in a strain of abject adulation, degraded himself by paying to Auguftus, Pope has converted into bitter and pointed farcafms, conveyed under the form of the most artful irony.
"Horace," fays Pope, in the advertisement to this piece, "made his court to this great prince, (or rather this cool and fubtle tyrant,) by writing with a decent freedom towards him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character." Surely he forgot the 15th and 16th lines:
Jurandafque tibi per numen ponimus aras,
Nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes, &c.
We fometimes fpeak incorrectly of what are called the writers of the Auguftan age. Terence, Lucretius, Catullus, Tully, J. Cæfar, and Salluft, wrote before the time of Auguftus; and Livy, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, and Propertius, were by no means made good writers by his patronage and encouragement. The reigns of Auguftus and Louis XIV. are often faid to resemble each other, in the number of illuftrious men, of every fpecies of literature, that appeared together in thofe reigns. But, (fays the Prefident Henault, with his usual fagacity and judgment,) "On ne doit pas croire foit l'effet du hafard; & fi ces deux regnes ont de que ce grands rapports, c'eft qu'ils ont été accompagnés à peu près des mêmes circonstances. Ces deux Princes fortoient des guerres civiles; de ce tems ou les peuples toujours armés, nourris fans ceffe au milieu des périls, entétés des plus hardis deffeins, ne voyent rien ou ils ne puiffent atteindre; de ce tems ou les évènemens
HILE you, great Patron of Mankind! fuftain
heureux & malheureux, mille fois répétés, etendent les idées, fortifient l'âme, à force d'épreuves, augmentent son reffort, & lui donnent le defir de gloire qui ne manque jamais de produire de grandes chofes." Abrégé. 4to. p. 613.
I beg leave to add, that one of the moft unaccountable prejudices that ever obtained, seems to be that of celebrating Augustus for clemency." Clementiam non voco, laffam crudelitatem,” Lays Seneca. Can we poffibly forget his cruel profcriptions, and unjuft banishment of Ovid? or the infamous obfcenity of his verfes? In the fecond line of the Original, Bentley would read manibus inftead of moribus. If we place an interrogation point after Cæfar in the fourth line, it will vindicate the Poet from the feeming inconfiftency of, longo fermone: Dr. Hurd imagines, but perhaps without just grounds, that by fermone we are to underftand, not the body of the epiftle, but the proëme or introduction only. This interpertation appears to be one of those refinements in which this learned Critic has rather too freely indulged himfelf in his Commentaries and Notes on this Epiftle, and on the Art of Poetry. Sec, for inftance, the interpretation he has adopted and amplified, from Catrou, of the temple Virgil has described, as prefiguring the Æneid, in the beginning of the Third Georgic. Notes on the Epistle to Auguftus, p. 43.
A noted French Writer calls Auguftus, "Un fourbe, un affaffin, nommé Octave, parvenu à l'Empire par des crimes qui meritaient le dernier fupplice."
VER. 2. Open all the Main ;] A very obfcure expreffion; as it was fuggefted to me by a judge of good writing, Lord Macart