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ARGUMENT. The Poet's design in this Satire, which deservedly holds the first
rank among all performances of the kind, is to represent the various wishes and desires of mankind, and to shew the folly of them. He mentions riches, honours, eloquence, fame for mar.
tial achievements, long life, and beauty, and gives instances of OMNIBUS in terris, quæ sunt a Gadibus usque Auroram et Gangem, pauci dignoscere possunt Vera bona, atque illis multum diversa, remotâ Erroris nebulâ ; quid enim ratione timemus, Aut cupimus ? quid tam dextro pede concipis, ut te
5 Conatûs non poeniteat, votique peracti? Evertêre domos totas optantibus ipsis
* This Satire has been always admired; bishop Burnet goes so far, as to recommend it (together with Persius) to the serious perusal and practice of the divines in his diocese, as the best common places for their sermons, as the store houses and magazines of moral virtues, from whence they may draw out, as they have occasion, all manner of assistance for the accomplishment of a virtuous life. The tenth Satire (says Crusius in his Lives of the Roman Poets) is inimitable for the excellence of its morality, and sublime sentiments.
Line. 1. Gades.] An island without the Streights of Gibraltar in the south part of Spain, divided from the continent by a small creek. Now called Cadiz, by corruption Cales.
2. The East.] Aurora, (quasi aurea hora, from the golden-coloured splendour of day-break,) metonym. the East.
-Ganges.] The greatest river in the East, dividing India into two parts.
3.-4. Cloud of error.] That veil of darkness and ignorance which is over the human mind, and hides from it, as it were, the faculty of perceiving our real and best interests, as distinguished from those which are deceitful and imaginary.
4. What, with reason, &c.] According to the rules of right and sober reason,
SATIRE X*. their having proved ruinous to the possessors of them. He concludes, therefore, that we should leave it to the gods to make a choice for us, they knowing what is most for our good. All that we can safely ask, is, health of body and mind : possessed of these, we have enough to make
us happy, and therefore it is not much matter what we want besides. In all lands, which are from Gades to The East and the Ganges, few can distinguish True good things, and those greatly different from them, the cloud Of error removed : for what, with reason do we fear, Or desire? what do you contrive so prosperously, that you 5 May not repent of your endeavour, and of your accomplished wish ? The easy gods have overturned whole houses, themselves
5. So prosperously, &c.] Tam dextro pedeon 30 prosperous a footing with ever such hope and prospect of success, that you may not repent your endeavour (conatus) and pains to accomplish it, and
your desires and wishes being fully completed and answered ? votique peracti.
The right and left were ominous-dexter-a-um, therefore, signi. fies lucky, favourable, fortunate, propitious was lævus-a-um, unlucky, inconvenient, unseasonable.
Tam dextro pede is equivalent to tam fausto-secúndo--prospero pede.
I pede fausto-go on and prosper. Hor. lib. ii. epist. ï. l. 37. So Virg. Æn. viii. 1. 302.
Et nos et tua dexter adi pede sacra secundo. " Approach us, and thy sacred rites, with thy favourable presence.". Pes--it. a foot, that member of the body on which we standsometimes means the foundation of any thing--a plot for building; -so, in a moral sense, those conceptions and contrivances of the mind, which are the foundations of human action, on which men build for profit or happiness :--this seems to be its meaning here.
7. The easy gods, &c.] The gods, by yielding to the prayers
Di facilco. Nocitura toga, nocitura petuntur
and wishes of mankind, have often occasioned their ruin, by granting such things, as, in the end, proved hurtful. So that, in truth, men, by wishing for what appeared to them desirable, have, in effect, themselves wished their own destruction.
8. By the gown, &c.] Toga here being opposed to militia, may allude to the gown worn by the senators and magistrates of Rome; and so, by meton. signify their civil offices in the government of the state.q. d. Many have wished for a share in the government and administration of civil affairs, others for high rank and posts mand in the army, each of which have been attended with damage to those who have eagerly sought after them. .
9. 4 fluent copiousness, &c.] Many covet a great degree of eloquence ; but how fatal has this proved to possessors of it! Witness Demosthenes and Cicero, who both came to violent deaths ;-the former driven, by the malice of his enemies, to poison himself; the latter slain by order of M. Antony. See KEYSLER's Travels, vol. ii.
p. 342, note. 10. To his strength, &c.] Alluding to Milo, the famous wrestler, born at Croton, in Italy, who presuming too much on his great strength, would try whether he could not rend asunder a tree which was cleft as it grew in the forest; it yielded at first to his violence, but it closed presently again, and, catching his hands, held him till the wolves devoured him.
12. Destroys.] Lit. strangles. Met, ruins, destroys.
The poet is here shewing, that of all things which prove ruinous to the possessors, money, and especially an overgrown fortune, is one of the most fatal.and yet, with what care is this heaped together!
13. Exceeding, &c.] i. e. Beyond the rate of a common fortune. 14. A British whale.] A whale found in the British seas.
16. Longinus.] Cassius Longinus, put to death by Nero : his pretended crime was, that he had in his chamber, an image of Cassius, one of Julius Cæsar's murderers ; but that which really made him a delinquent, was his great wealth, which the emperor seized,
Wishing it. Things hurtful by the gown, hurtful by warfære,
15 A whole troop Longinus, and the large gardens of wealthy Seneca, Surrounded, and besieged the stately buildings of the LateraniThe soldier seldom comes into a garret. Tho' you should carry a few small vessels of
pure silver, Going on a journey by night, you will fear the sword and the pole, 20 And tremble at the shadow of a reed moved, by moon-light. AN EMPTY TRAVÉLLER WILL SING BEFORE A ROBBER.
16. Seneca, &c.] Tutor to Nero—supposed to be one in Piso's conspiracy, but put to death for his great riches. Sylvanus the tribune, by order of Nero, surrounded Seneca's magnificent villa, near Rome, with a troop of soldiers, and then sent in a centurion to acquaint him with the emperor's orders, that he should put himself to death. On the receipt of this, he opened the veins of his arms and legs, then was put into a hot bath, but this not finishing him, he drank poison. 17. Surrounded.] Beset-encompassed.
Laterani. Plautius Lateranus had a sumptuous palace, in which he was beset by order of Nero, and killed so suddenly, by Thurius the tribune, that he had not a moment's time allowed him to take leave of his children and family. He had been designed consul.
18. The soldier, &c.] Conaculum signifies a place to sup in—a12 upper chamber—also a garret, a cockloft in the top of the house, commonly let to poor people, the inhabitants of which were too poor to run any risk of the emperor's sending soldiers, to murder them for what they have.
19. Tho' you should carry, &c.] Though not so rich as to become an object of the emperor's avarice and cruelty, yet you can't travel by night, with the paltry charge of a little silver plate, without fear of your life from robbers, who may either stab you with a sword, or knock you down with a bludgeon, in order to rob you.
20. Pole.] Contus signifies a long pole or staff_also a weapon, where with they used to fight beasts upon the stage. It is probable that the robbers about Rome armed themselves with these, as ours, about London, arm themselves with large sticks or bludgeons.
21. Tremble, &c.] They are alarmed at the least appearance of any thing moving near them, even the trembling and nodding of a bulrush, when its shadow appears by moonlight.
22. Empty traveller, &c.] Having nothing to lose, he has nothing to fear, and therefore has nothing to interrupt his jollity as he travels along, though in the presence of a robber.
Prima fere vota, et cunctis notissima templis, Divitiæ ut crescant, ut ope's ; ut maxima toto Nostra sit arca foro : sed nulla aconita bibuntur Fictilibus : tunc illa time, cum pocula sumes Gemmata, et lato Setinum ardebit in auro. Jamne igitur laudas, quod de sapientibus alter Ridebat, quoties a limine moverat unum Protuleratque pedem : flebat contrarius alter ? Sed facilis cuivis rigidi censura cachinni : Mirandum est, unde ille oculis suffecerit humor. Perpetuo risu pulmonem agitare solebat Democritus, quanquam non essent urbibus illis Prætexta, et trabeæ, fasces, lectica, tribunal. Quid, si videsset Prætorem in curribus altis
23. Temples, &c.] Where people go to make prayers to the gods, and to implore the fulfilment of their desires and wishes.
25. The greatest, &c.] The forum, or market-place, at Rome, was the place where much money-business was transacted, and where money-lenders and borrowers met together; and he that was riehest, and had most to lend, was sure to make the greatest sums by interest on his money, and perhaps was most respected. Hence the poet may be understood to mean, that it was the chief wish of most people to be richer than others.-Or, he may here allude to the chests of money belonging to the senators, and other rich men, which were laid up for safety in some of the buildings about the forum, as the temple of Castor, and others. Comp. sat. xiv. 1. 258, 9.
No poisons, &c.] The poorer sort of people might drink out of their coarse cups of earthen ware, without
fear of being poi. soned for what they had.
26. Them.] Poisons. 27. Set with gems.] See sat. v. 1. 37-45. This was a mark of
- Setine wine.] So called from Setia, a city of Campania. It was a most delicious wine, preferred by Augustus, and the succeeding emperors, to all other. Glows with a fine red colour, and sparkles
Wide gold.] Large golden cups. Those who were rich enough to afford these things, might indeed reasonably fear being poisoned by somebody, in order to get their estates.
28. Do you approve.] Laudas“ praise or commend his conduct ; for while these philosophers lived, many accounted them mad.
One of the wise men, &c.] Meaning Democritus of Abdera, who always laughed, because he believed our actions to be folly : whereas Heraclitus of Ephesus, the other of the wise men here al. luded to, always wept, because he thought them to be misery.
in the cup: