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cent and becoming garb, the recommended herself to the early notice of mortals, infpiring the breafts of the blameless and the good: bere first 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 juftly expreffed 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 augustly honored first by the gods themselves, to whom the poets were fuppofed 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 legiflators. 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 illuftrious roll ftill higher, even of Apollo himself.
BUT these, perhaps, will be treated by Aper as heroes of Romance. He cannot
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 Meffalla is in so 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 felfconverse 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 estimation, 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 these affertions fhould be queftioned, the letters of Augustus will witness the former; as the latter is evident from the conduct of the whole Roman people, who, when fome 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 respect they would
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 present exalted 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 masters never think them fufficiently flaves, nor the people fufficiently free? And, after all, what is this their so much envied power? Nothing more, in truth, than what many a paltry freed-man has frequently enjoyed. But-" ME let the lovely Mufes lead (as
Virgil fings) to filent groves and heavenly haunted ftreams, remote from bufi"ness and from care; and ftill fuperior to "the painful neceffity of acting in wretch"ed oppofition to my better heart. Nor "let me more, with anxious steps and “ dangerous, pursue pale fame amidst the
noify forum! May never clamorous fuit"ors, nor panting freed-men with offici"ous haste, awake my peaceful flumbers! "Uncertain of futurity, and equally un"concerned, ne'er may I bribe the favor "of the great, by rich bequests to avarice "infatiate; nor, accumulation vain! amafs "more wealth than I may transfer as in"clination prompts, whenever shall arrive "my life's laft fatal period: And then, "not in horrid guife of mournful pomp, "but crowned with chaplets gay, may I be "entombed; nor let a friend, with unavailing zeal, folicit the useless tribute of post"humous memorials!"
MATERNUS had scarce finished these words, which he uttered with great emotion and with an air of infpiration, when Meffalla entered the room: who, obferving much attention in our countenances, and imagining the converfation turned upon fomething of more than ordinary import; Perhaps, faid he, you are engaged in a confultation, and, I doubt, I am guilty of an unseasonable interruption. By no means, anfwered Secundus: on the contrary, I wish you had given us your company fooner; for,
I am perfuaded, you would have been extremely entertained. Our friend Aper has, with great eloquence, been exhorting Maternus, to turn the whole ftrength of his genius and his ftudies to the business of the forum: while Maternus, on the other hand,
agreeably to the character of one who was pleading the caufe of the Mufes, has defended his favorite art with a boldnefs and elevation of ftyle more fuitable to a poet than an orator.
Ir would have afforded me infinite pleafure, replied Meffalla, to have been present at a debate of this kind. And I cannot but express my fatisfaction, in finding the most eminent orators of our times, not confining their geniufes to points relating to their profeffion; but canvaffing fuch other topics in their converfation, as give a very advantageous exercise to their faculties, at the fame time that it furnishes an entertainment of the most instructive kind, not only to themselves, but to those who have the privilege of being joined in their party. And believe me, Secundus, the world received with much approbation your history of J. Afiaticus, as an earneft that you intend to publish