Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

A poet's beverage humbly cheap,

(Should great Mæcenas be my guest)
The vintage of the Sabine grape,
But yet in sober

cups

shall crown the feast :
'Twas rack'd into a Grecian cask,

Its rougher juice to melt away;
I seal'd it too—a pleasing task !

With annual joy to mark the glorious day,
When in applausive shouts thy name

Spread from the theatre around,
Floating on thy own Tiber's stream,

And Echo, playful nymph, return'd the sound. -FRANCIS.

We here easily remark the intertexture of a happy compliment with an humble invitation ; but certainly are less delighted than those, to whom the mention of the applause bestowed upon Mæcenas, gave occasion to recount the actions or words that produced it.

Two lines which have exercised the ingenuity of modern critics, may, I think, be reconciled to the judgment, by an easy supposition: Horace thus addresses Agrippa :

Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium
Victor, Mæonii carminis alite.

Varius, a swan of Homer's wing,
Shall brave Agrippa's conquests sing.

1

That Varius should be called " A bird of Homeric

song," appears so harsh to modern ears, that an emendation of the text has been proposed : but surely the learning of the ancients had been long ago obliterated, had every man thought himself at

liberty to corrupt the lines which he did not understand. If we imagine that Varius had been by any of his cotemporaries celebrated under the appellation of Musarum Ales, the swan of the Muses, the language of Horace becomes graceful and familiar; and that such a compliment was at least possible, we know from the transformation feigned by Horace of himself.

The most elegant compliment that was paid to Addison, is of this obscure and perishable kind;

When panting Virtue her last efforts made,
You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.

These lines must please as long as they are understood; but can be understood only by those that have observed Addison's signatures in the Spectator.

The nicety of these minute allusions I shall exemplify by another instance, which I take this occasion to mention, because, as I am told, the commentators have omitted it. Tibullus addresses Cynthia in this

manner:

Te spectem, suprema mihi cùm venerit hora,

Te teneam moriens deficiente manu.

Before my closing eyes, dear Cynthia stand,
Held weakly by my fainting trembling hand.

To these lines Ovid thus refers in his elegy on the death of Tibullus :

Cynthia decedens, felicius, inquit, amata

Sum tibi ; vixisti dum tuus ignis eram,
Cui Nemesis, quid, ait, tibi sunt mea damna dolori ?

Me tenuit moriens deficiente manu.

[ocr errors]

Blest was my reign, retiring Cynthia cry'd :
Not till he left my breast, Tibullus dy'd.
Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan,
The fainting trembling hand was mine alone.

The beauty of this passage, which consists in the

appropriation made by Nemesis of the line originally directed to Cynthia, had been wholly imperceptible to succeeding ages, had chance, which has destroyed so many greater volumes, deprived us likewise of the poems of Tibullus.

No 62. SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 1753.

O fortuna viris invida fortibus
Quam non æqua bonis præmia dividis.--SENEOA.

Capricious Fortune ever joys,
With partial hand to deal the prize,
To crush the brave and cheat the wise.

}

TO THE ADVENTURER.

SIR,

Fleet, June 6.

To the account of such of my companions as are imprisoned without being miserable, or are miserable without any claim to compassion ; I promised to add the histories of those, whose virtue has made them unhappy, or whose misfortunes are at least without a crime. That this catalogue should be very numerous, neither you nor your readers ought to expect; “ rari

quippe boni;” “the good are few." Virtue is uncommon in all the classes of humanity; and I suppose it will scarcely be imagined more frequent in a prison than in other places.

Yet in these gloomy regions is to be found the tenderness, the generosity, the philanthropy of Serenus, who might have lived in competence and ease, if he could have looked without emotion on the miseries of another. Serenus was one of those exalted minds, whom knowledge and sagacity could not make suspicious; who poured out his soul in boundless intimacy, and thought community of possessions the law of friendship. The friend of Serenus was arrested for debt, and after many endeavours to soften his creditor, sent his wife to solicit that assistance which never was refused. The tears and importunity of female distress were more than was necessary to move the heart of Serenus; he hasted immediately away, and conferring a long time with his friend, found him confident that if the present pressure was taken off, he should soon be able to reestablish his affairs. Serenus, accustomed to believe, and afraid to aggravate distress, did not attempt to detect the fallacies of hope, nor reflect that every man overwhelmed with calamity believes, that if that was removed he shall immediately be happy; he, therefore, with little hesitation offered himself as surety.

In the first raptures of escape all was joy, gratitude, and confidence; the friend of Serenus displayed

his prospects, and counted over the sums of which he should infallibly be master before the day of payment. Serenus in a short time began to find his danger, but could not prevail with himself to repent of beneficence; and therefore suffered himself still to be amused with projects which he durst not consider, for fear of finding them impracticable. The debtor, after he had tried every method of raising money which art or indigence could prompt, wanted either fidelity or resolution to surrender himself to prison, and left Serenus to take his place.

Serenus has often proposed to the creditor, to pay him whatever he shall appear to have lost by the flight of his friend; but however reasonable this

proposal may be thought, avarice and brutality have been hitherto inexorable, and Serenus still continues to languish in prison.

In this place, however, where want makes almost every man selfish, or desperation gloomy, it is the good fortune of Serenus not to live without a friend; he passes most of his hours in the conversation of Candidus, a man whom the same virtuous ductility has with some difference of circumstances made equally unhappy. Candidus, when he was young, helpless, and ignorant, found a patron that educated, protected and supported him: his patron being more vigilant for others than himself, left at his death an only son, destitute and friendless. Candidus was eager to repay the benefits he had received ; and having maintained the youth for a few years at his own house, afterwards placed him with a merchant of eminence, and gave bonds to a great value as a security for his conduct.

[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »