The Tenth Satire of Juvenal
translated by John Dryden, 1631-1700
Dr. Johnson in Lives of the Poets:
Of Juvenal there had been a translation by Stapylton, and another by Holyday; neither of them is very poetical. Stapylton is more smooth; and Holyday is more esteemed for the learning of his notes. A new version was proposed to the poets of that time, and undertaken by them in conjunction. The main design was conducted by Dryden, whose reputation was such that no man was unwilling to serve the Muses under him.
The general character of this translation will be given, when it is said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity, of the original. The peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed sentences, and declamatory grandeur. His points have not been neglected; but his grandeur none of the band seemed to consider as necessary to be imitated, except Creech, who undertook the thirteenth satire. It is therefore perhaps possible to give a better representation of that great satirist, even in those parts which Dryden himself has translated, some passages excepted, which will never be excelled.
Dryden himself translated the first, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires for the book Juvenal and Persius, which came out in 1693, Dryden's 63rd year. (Persius was another Roman satirist, of the generation before Juvenal.) This was the last phase of Dryden's career, when he had fallen out of favor at court, and lost his government sinecure, by having converted to Roman Catholicism at precisely the wrong moment.
Of other translations, the best-known is one by the Tory journalist William Gifford, published in 1800 when Gifford was in his mid-forties.
The tenth satire is 366 lines in Latin. Dryden's translation goes to 561 lines, so that there is more than one and a half lines of English per line of Latin.
The thematic breaks correspond as follows.
|1||The things we most desire often lead to our ruin.||1-40||1-27|
|2||Both the philosopher Heraclitus and the philosopher Democritus observed the follies of mankind; but the first wept, while the second laughed.||41-84||28-55|
|3||The hollowness of political power, with Sejanus and the First Triumvirate as examples.||85-179||56-113|
|4||Schoolboys dream of attaining great eloquence, like Demosthenes and Cicero; but both men were put to death for their words.||180-205||114-132|
|5||Military glory is shown to be empty by the examples of Hannibal, Alexander, and Xerxes.||206-300||133-187|
|6||Everyone prays for long life, but old age is a miserable state.||301-378||188-239|
|7||The miseries of old age (cont.): even if you keep your mental powers, you'll get to see your loved ones die.||379-443||240-288|
|8||The perils of beauty and sexual desire.||444-532||289-345|
|9||Submit to the will of the gods. Pray for health, reason, and courage. Seek happiness through virtue.||533-561||346-366|
• Notes on the first theme (lines 1-40)
"the brawny fool" — "Milo of Crotona, who, for a trial of his strength, going to rend an oak, perished in the attempt; for his arms were caught in the trunk of it, and he was devoured by wild beasts." (Dryden)
"the British whale" — Romans associated the whale and Britain both with cold northern seas, and therefore with each other.
• Notes on the second theme (lines 41-84)
"his country-town" — Democritus's home town was Abdera, way over in the eastern panhandle of modern Greece.
"lictor, tribune, pretor" — civil officials in ancient Rome, each with specific duties. "Pretor" is more usually spelt "praetor." Rods and axes were symbols of office.
"What had he done …" — i.e. "What would he have done if he could have seen …" Then these twenty lines describe the grand procession held at the opening of the Circensian Games (that is, the games held at the Circus Maximus in Rome, featuring chariot races and the like). Handy here to remember that the English word "pompous" comes from Latin pompa, a procession.
"a land of bogs" — Democritus's home town again. That region of the north Aegean shore was proverbially foggy; and that kind of atmosphere was supposed to make people stupid. Obviously Juvenal doesn't think that Democtitus was stupid; but he thinks Democritus came from a place whose inhabitants were mostly stupid; and being from that place was what gave him his well-developed sense of the ridiculous.
• Notes on the third theme (lines 85-179)
"Down go the titles …" — These eleven lines describe the destruction of his statues when a person falls from high power, as Sejanus did. In ancient Rome, the statue of a great man often showed him standing in a triumphal chariot.
"Adorn your doors with laurels" — Sejanus was widely hated, so when he was overthrown, people celebrated, wreathing their doorposts with laurel.
"Milk white" — a sacrificial bull was supposed to be white, the whiter the better. Since white bulls are hard to find, the bull was oftened whitened with chalk.
"with a rope is dragg'd" — by a hook fixed under the chin.
"a noisy letter" — the emperor Tiberius sent the senate a long letter ("shameful and pitiable," says Suetonius) hinting at Sejanus's conspiracy against him.
"the freedom of their choice" — Tiberius deprived the Roman people of the right to vote.
"Brutidius" — a famous orator.
"Coop'd in a narrow isle" — For the last half of his 24-year reign (a.d.14-37) the emperor Tiberius rarely left his pleasure-palace on the island of Capri, where he dabbled in the occult, keeping company with fortune-tellers, interpreters of dreams, and the like.
"To pound false weights" — Dryden's "mayor" is "aedile" in the Latin. In the old Roman republic the aediles were public officials one of whose duties was to supervise merchants' weights and measures. "Pound" here means "impound."
"him, who, greater than the Great" — Julius Cæsar, Pompey's rival in the civil war of 49 b.c.. "The Great" means Pompey — Magnus was his actual cognomen. Cæsar, who won the civil war, was therefore "greater than the Great."
• Notes on the fourth theme (lines 180-205)
"Tully" — Cicero, from his gens. "Cicero" was his cognomen, the last of the three names a Roman gentleman usually had. It means "chickpea."
"Fortune fortun'd …" — From a poem of Cicero's, celebrating his own consulship, "famous for the vanity and the ill poetry of it" (Dryden). Though a great orator, Cicero was apparently not much of a poet.
"Mævius" — "belonged to a group of poetasters who criticized Horace and Virgil and incurred their contempt and enmity" (Oxford Classical Dictionary). Wikipedia has an entry here.
"Philippic" — Cicero's orations against Mark Antony led at last to Mark Antony having him murdered. Cicero himself called these orations "Philippics," after the similar orations of Demosthenes against Philip of Macedon. After Philip's death, his son Alexander sent agents to kill Demosthenes, but Demosthenes took poison before they found him.
"a boding horoscope" — Demosthenes was orphaned at seven, and his inheritance from his father was squandered by the estate's executors.
"His sire … Vulcan … Mars … Minerva" — Demosthenes' father owned a sword factory and was rich. Dryden, following Juvenal, describes him toiling at the forge (which, since he's making swords, belongs to Mars, god of war), but this is not likely. Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, so unless I'm missing something, "Minerva's schools" is a pleonasm.
• Notes on the fifth theme (lines 206-300)
"Feretrian Jove" — Feretrius was one of the surnames of Jupiter (a.k.a. Jove), the supreme god in the Roman pantheon. There was a temple to Jupiter Feretrius on the Capitoline hill, where the spoils (arms and armor) of enemy leaders killed in single combat by Roman generals were dedicated and displayed. Dryden is stretching Juvenal, who just refers to a tropaeum, an arrangement formed by hanging the captured arms etc. on a tree near the scene of the fight. There's a good description of a tropaeum at the beginning of the eleventh book of the Aeneid.
"beaver" — the part of a helmet that covers the cheeks (Latin buccula). These lines are a mocking account of a Roman general's triumph.
"the windy satisfaction of the brain" — what a marvelous phrase! "Brain" here means the imagination.
"corroding juices" — Livy tells us that when Hannibal found his path blocked by a mass of rock, he would have a fire lit on it. When the rock was sufficiently hot, vinegar would be poured on to soften the rock so that it could be cut away more easily.
"one deciding battle" — this one.
"Begs refuge in a foreign court" — Hannibal, exiled from Carthage, took service at several courts in the eastern Mediterranean, ending up in the court of Prusias, king of Bithynia (northwest Anatolia). The image here is of Hannibal reduced to a petitioner, a client, of Prusias, going to the king's door first thing in the morning to present his salutatio — his greeting — as the client of a great man at Rome would do, but being turned away by the king's servants.
"a theme at school" — Hannibal's career was a favorite set subject for declamation in Roman schools.
"the brick-built town" — Babylon, where Alexander died.
"a tale of Athos" — Athos is a peninsula in northeast Greece, joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. When Xerxes was planning his invasion of Greece in 483-480 b.c., he cut a canal through the isthmus to let his fleet through, an earlier Persian fleet having been wrecked off the peninsula. Juvenal considers the story (which is in Herodotus 7.22-24) about Xerxes cutting this canal to be a tall tale the Greeks like to tell — "make out" — but in fact traces of the canal can still be seen.
"The channel" — the Hellespont, to cross which Xerxes made a bridge of boats 1,350 yards long (Herodotus 7.34).
"Rivers … Drunk" — Herodotus, keen for us to know how vast the army of Xerxes was, tells us that on three different occasions they drank a river dry: Herodotus 7.43, 7.58, 7.108).
"romantic" — extravagantly imaginative, as in one of the old romances. Juvenal takes the stories of Xerxes' tremendous deeds with a grain of salt.
"whipt the winds" — Xerxes' first attempt at a boat-bridge across the Hellespont was broken up by a storm. Xerxes, enraged, ordered the sea to receive 300 lashes (Herodotus 7.35). I don't see him whipping the winds in Herodotus, but perhaps this is a different source.
"Eurus" — strictly speaking, the south-east wind, but here probably just winds in general.
"Æolian" — in Roman myth, Jupiter feared the storm winds for their power to destroy the world, so he imprisoned them in deep caves on the floating island of Æolia and set Æolus, the ruler of the island, to watch over them. In Book I of The Aeneid the goddes Juno bribes Æolus to let the winds out, to destroy the Trojan fleet.
"e'en he who points the way" — Mercury was considered a low-ranking god, running errands for the other gods. Statues of him were placed on roads as signposts, his fingers pointing the directions.
"a poor skiff" — Juvenal is saying that Xerxes escaped from the battle of Salamis with just one ship. Herodotus says he watched the battle from the shore, then when it was over marched his army back to Thessaly (Herodotus 8.113).
• Notes on the sixth theme (lines 301-378)
"a stitch-fall'n cheek" — the original meaning of "stitch" was "a stab, a dagger-thrust." By extension, it came to mean the sensation of receiving a stab, i.e. any sudden sharp pain. I think the meaning here, by a slight further extension, is a stroke, so that "stitch-fall'n" means the drooping asymmetrical look on the face of one who's suffered a stroke.
"The limber nerve" — the penis.
"salt Hippia" — Hippia is apparently a generic name for an adultress. (It's "Oppia" in the Latin; the 16th-century poet John Marston uses Oppia in this sense in The Scourge of Villanie.) For "salt," the OED gives the following secondary adjectival meaning, though it flags the meaning as obsolete: "Of bitches: in heat … transf. of persons: lecherous, salacious."
"Basilus" — generic for a shyster lawyer.
"How many boys" — an allusion to pederasty.
"hackney jade" — prostitute.
• Notes on the seventh theme (lines 379-443)
"must of wine" — new, unfermented wine.
"clue" — ball of yarn.
"midmost sister" — Decima.
"the Pylian king" — Nestor.
"on his right hand" — the ancients had a way of counting units and tens by positions of fingers of the left hand, hundreds and thousands by corresponding positions on the right hand.
"his brave son" — Antilochus.
"Ulysses' father" — Laertes. Ulysses was away at the Trojan War for so long, his father had the right to mourn him as if he was dead.
"Priam" — the 18 lines beginning with this one re-tell the death of Priam, as in Book II of The Aeneid.
"a barking body" — Priam's wife Hecuba, according to one legend, went insane at seeing her children murdered by the Greeks, and began barking like a dog.
"I hasten to our own" — i.e. to our own time (which is to say, the late Roman republic and early empire).
"Mithridates" — this one, supposed to have ruled the kingdom of Pontus (northern Anatolia) for nearly sixty years.
"Crœsus … Solon" — the story is told in Herodotus 1.30-32. Crœsus, king of Lydia, was visited by Solon, famously wise. Fishing for compliments, Crœsus asked Solon if he knew of anyone "who surpasses all others in happiness and prosperity." Solon named three men. Miffed, Crœsus asked why Solon hadn't named him. Solon replied (though at considerable length): "Call no man happy until he's dead." In Dryden's time, "happy" overlapped in meaning with "lucky."
"Marius … Carthage" — the reference is to this episode.
"the Cimbrian captives" — a reference to Marius' triumph in 101 b.c..
"Campania" — the region of southern Italy containing Naples. Pompey fell ill here in 50 b.c.. Many cities offered up prayers for him — he was immensely popular. He duly recovered; but the following year, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy to make war against him. The year after that saw the battle of Pharsalus, which Pompey lost to Caesar. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated and decapitated. The point here again is Pompey's age — he lived to almost sixty.
"Cethegus … Sergius" — A reference to the Catiline conspiracy that shook Rome in 64-62 b.c.. Cethegus was one of the conspirators, mentioned here because he died young. "Sergius" is Catiline, also spoken of here as one who died fighting at his peak, though he seems to have been well into his forties.
• Notes on the eighth theme (lines 444-532)
"Latona" — mother (by Jupiter) of Apollo and Diana.
"Lucretia" — killed herself after losing her honor. The story is here.
"Virginia" — killed by her father to preserve her honor. The story is here.
"her faultless make" — "make" is a noun here, meaning "form" or "build."
"Rutila" — a generic hunchback. Virginia would trade fates with the hunchback if she could.
"Sabine" — the Sabines were proverbial for their simplicity and chastity.
"who gelt a boy deformed" — who castrated an ugly boy.
"Nero … Sporus" — Sporus was a slave boy the emperor Nero fell in love with. Nero had the boy castrated, dressed him in women's clothes, and married him.
"springal" — young man.
"Makes colon suffer" — "by clystering" says Dryden's note. "Clyster" is an old word for an enema. The ancient world was tolerant of sexual revenge for sexual offenses. A traditional Roman method for avenging oneself on an adulterer was to force a large fish into his anus. In ancient Athens they favored a radish for this purpose — Greek ραφανιδοω.
"Did it not cost …" — these nine lines refer to handsome young men who came to grief because they declined the advances of powerful older women. The "modest youth" is Hyppolytus (Anthony Perkins to us sixties survivors); the "other stripling," Bellerophon.
"Silius" — these twenty lines refer to a story about the emperor Claudius. Claudius' wife Messalina was famous for her promiscuity. She persuaded one of her lovers, Gaius Silius, to divorce his wife and marry her. A formal marriage ceremony was performed while Claudius was away performing a religious observance. When the emperor found out, he had both Messalina and Silius put to death.
"Aruspex" — a fortune-teller, usually spelt haruspex.
• Notes on the ninth theme (lines 533-561)
"To health of body …" — this translates the most famous line in Juvenal's poem: orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano — "a sound mind in a sound body is a thing to be prayed for."
• Play the reading
Note: The reading lasts 41 minutes 15 seconds.
• Text of the poem.
The Tenth Satire of Juvenal, translated by John Dryden
[First theme, lines 1-40: The things we most desire often lead to our ruin.]
Look round the habitable world, how few
Know their own good; or knowing it, pursue.
How void of reason are our hopes and fears!
What in the conduct of our life appears
So well design'd, so luckily begun,
But, when we have our wish, we wish undone?
Whole houses, of their whole desires possest,
Are often ruin'd, at their own request.
In wars, and peace, things hurtful we require,
When made obnoxious to our own desire.
With laurels some have fatally been crown'd;
Some, who the depths of eloquence have found,
In that unnavigable stream, were drown'd.
The brawny fool, who did his vigour boast,
In that presuming confidence was lost:
But more have been by avarice opprest,
And heaps of money crowded in the chest:
Unwieldy sums of wealth, which higher mount
Than files of marshall'd figures can account.
To which the stores of Crœsus, in the scale,
Would look like little dolphins, when they sail
In the vast shadow of the British whale.
For this, in Nero's arbitrary time,
When virtue was a guilt, and wealth a crime,
A troop of cut-throat guards were sent to seize
The rich men's goods, and gut their palaces:
The mob, commission'd by the government,
Are seldom to an empty garret sent.
The fearful passenger, who travels late,
Charg'd with the carriage of a paltry plate,
Shakes at the moonshine shadow of a rush;
And sees a red-coat rise from every bush:
The beggar sings, e'en when he sees the place
Beset with thieves, and never mends his pace.
Of all the vows, the first and chief request
Of each is, to be richer than the rest:
And yet no doubts the poor man's draughts control,
He dreads no poison in his homely bowl,
Then fear the deadly drug, when gems divine
Enchase the cup, and sparkle in the wine.
[Second theme, lines 41-84: Both the philosopher Heraclitus and the philosopher Democritus observed the follies of mankind; but the first wept, while the second laughed.]
Will you not now the pair of sages praise,
Who the same end pursu'd, by several ways?
One pitied, one contemn'd the woful times:
One laugh'd at follies, one lamented crimes:
Laughter is easy; but the wonder lies,
What store of brine supplied the weeper's eyes.
Democritus could feed his spleen, and shake
His sides and shoulders till he felt 'em ake;
Though in his country-town no lictors were,
Nor rods, nor axe, nor tribune did appear;
Nor all the foppish gravity of show,
Which cunning magistrates on crowds bestow:
What had he done, had he beheld, on high
Our pretor seated, in mock majesty;
His chariot rolling o'er the dusty place,
While, with dumb pride, and a set formal face,
He moves, in the dull ceremonial track,
With Jove's embroidr'd coat upon his back:
A suit of hangings had not more opprest
His shoulders, than that long laborious vest:
A heavy gewgaw, (call'd a crown) that spread
About his temples, drown'd his narrow head:
And would have crush'd it with the massy freight,
But that a sweating slave sustain'd the weight:
A slave in the same chariot seen to ride,
To mortify the mighty madman's pride.
Add now th' imperial eagle, rais'd on high,
With golden beak (the mark of majesty),
Trumpets before, and on the left and right,
A cavalcade of nobles, all in white:
In their own natures false and flatt'ring tribes,
But made his friends, by places and by bribes.
In his own age, Democritus could find
Sufficient cause to laugh at human kind:
Learn from so great a wit; a land of bogs
With ditches fenc'd, a heaven fat with fogs,
May form a spirit fit to sway the state;
And make the neighb'ring monarchs fear their fate.
He laughs at all the vulgar cares and fears;
At their vain triumphs, and their vainer tears:
An equal temper in his mind he found,
When Fortune flatter'd him, and when she frown'd.
'Tis plain, from hence, that what our vows request,
Are hurtful things, or useless at the best.
[Third theme, lines 85-179: The hollowness of political power, with Sejanus and the First Triumvirate as examples.]
Some ask for envied pow'r; which public hate
Pursues, and hurries headlong to their fate:
Down go the titles; and the statue crown'd,
Is by base hands in the next river drown'd.
The guiltless horses, and the chariot wheel,
The same effects of vulgar fury feel:
The smith prepares his hammer for the stroke,
While the lung'd bellows hissing fire provoke;
Sejanus, almost first of Roman names,
The great Sejanus crackles in the flames:
Form'd in the forge, the pliant brass is laid
On anvils; and of head and limbs are made
Pans, cans, and pisspots, a whole kitchen trade.
Adorn your doors with laurels; and a bull,
Milk white, and large, lead to the Capitol;
Sejanus with a rope is dragg'd along,
The sport and laughter of the giddy throng!
Good Lord, they cry, what Ethiop lips he has,
How foul a snout, and what a hanging face!
By heaven, I never could endure his sight;
But say, how came his monstrous crimes to light?
What is the charge, and who the evidence,
(The saviour of the nation and the prince?)
Nothing of this; but our old Caesar sent
A noisy letter to his parliament:
Nay, Sirs, if Caesar writ, I ask no more,
He's guilty; and the question's out of door.
How goes the mob? (for that's a mighty thing,)
When the king's trump, the mob are for the king:
They follow fortune, and the common cry
Is still against the rogue condemn'd to die.
But that same very mob, that rascal crowd,
Had cried Sejanus, with a shout as loud;
Had his designs (by fortune's favour blest)
Succeeded, and the prince's age opprest,
But long, long since, the times have chang'd their face,
The people grown degenerate and base;
Not suffer'd now the freedom of their choice,
To make their magistrates, and sell their voice.
Our wise forefathers, great by sea and land,
Had once the power and absolute command;
All offices of trust, themselves dispos'd;
Rais'd whom they pleas'd, and whom they pleas'd depos'd.
But we, who give our native rights away,
And our enslav'd posterity betray,
Are now reduc'd to beg an alms, and go
On holidays to see a puppet-show.
There was a damn'd design, cries one, no doubt;
For warrants are already issued out:
I met Brutidius in a mortal fright;
He's dipt for certain, and plays least in sight:
I fear the rage of our offended prince,
Who thinks the senate slack in his defence!
Come let us haste, our loyal zeal to show,
And spurn the wretched corps of Cæsar's foe:
But let our slaves be present there, lest they
Accuse their masters, and for gain betray.
Such were the whispers of those jealous times,
About Sejanus' punishment and crimes.
Now tell me truly, wouldst thou change thy fate
To be, like him, first minister of state?
To have thy levees crowded with resort,
Of a depending, gaping, servile court:
Dispose all honours of the sword and gown,
Grace with a nod, and ruin with a frown:
To hold thy prince in pupil-age, and sway
That monarch, whom the master'd world obey?
While he, intent on secret lusts alone,
Lives to himself, abandoning the throne;
Coop'd in a narrow isle, observing dreams
With flattering wizards, and erecting schemes!
I well believe, thou wouldst be great as he;
For every man's a fool to that degree;
All wish the dire prerogative to kill;
E'en they would have the power, that want the will:
But wouldst thou have thy wishes understood,
To take the bad together with the good,
Wouldst thou not rather choose a small renown,
To be the mayor of some poor paltry town,
Bigly to look, and barbarously to speak;
To pound false weights, and scanty measures break?
Then, grant we that Sejanus went astray
In ev'ry wish, and knew not how to pray:
For he who grasp'd the world's exhausted store,
Yet never had enough, but wish'd for more,
Rais'd a top-heavy tower, of monstrous height,
Which mould'ring, crush'd him underneath the weight.
What did the mighty Pompey's fall beget?
It ruin'd him, who, greater than the Great,
The stubborn pride of Roman nobles broke;
And bent their haughty necks beneath his yoke;
What else but his immoderate lust of power,
Prayers made and granted in a luckless hour?
For few usurpers to the shades descend
By a dry death, or with a quiet end.
[Fourth theme, lines 180-205: Schoolboys dream of being great orators, like Demosthenes and Cicero; but both men were put to death for their eloquence.]
The boy, who scarce has paid his entrance down
To his proud pedant, or declin'd a noun,
(So small an elf, that when the days are foul,
He and his sachel must be borne to school,)
Yet prays, and hopes, and aims at nothing less,
To prove a Tully, or Demosthenes:
But both those orators, so much renown'd,
In their own depths of eloquence were drown'd:
The hand and head were never lost, of those
Who dealt in doggerel, or who punn'd in prose.
"Fortune foretun'd the dying notes of Rome:
Till I, thy consul sole, consol'd thy doom."
His fate had crept below the lifted swords,
Had all his malice been to murder words.
I rather would be Mævius, thrash for rhymes
Like his, the scorn and scandal of the times,
Than that Philippic, fatally divine,
Which is inscrib'd the second, should be mine.
Nor he, the wonder of the Grecian throng,
Who drove them with the torrent of his tongue,
Who shook the theatres, and sway'd the state
Of Athens, found a more propitious fate.
Whom, born beneath a boding horoscope,
His sire, the blear-ey'd Vulcan of a shop,
From Mars his forge, sent to Minerva's schools,
To learn the unlucky art of wheedling fools.
[Fifth theme, lines 206-300: Military glory is shown to be empty by the examples of Hannibal, Alexander, and Xerxes.]
With itch of honour, and opinion, vain,
All things beyond their native worth we strain:
The spoils of war, brought to Feretrian Jove,
An empty coat of armour hung above
The conqueror's chariot, and in triumph borne,
A streamer from a boarded galley torn,
A chap-fall'n beaver loosely hanging by
The cloven helm, an arch of victory,
On whose high convex sits a captive foe,
And sighing casts a mournful look below;
Of every nation, each illustrious name,
Such toys as these have cheated into fame:
Exchanging solid quiet, to obtain
The windy satisfaction of the brain.
So much the thirst for honour fires the blood;
So many would be great, so few be good.
For who would Virtue for herself regard,
Or wed, without the portion of reward?
Yet this mad chase of fame, by few pursu'd,
Has drawn destruction on the multitude:
This avarice of praise in times to come,
Those long inscriptions, crowded on the tomb,
Should some wild fig-tree take her native bent,
And heave below the gaudy monument,
Would crack the marble tiles, and disperse
The characters of all the lying verse.
For sepulchres themselves must crumbling fall
In time's abyss, the common grave of all.
Great Hannibal within the balance lay;
And tell how many pounds his ashes weigh;
Whom Afric was not able to contain,
Whose length runs level with the Atlantic main,
And wearies fruitful Nilus, to convey
His sun-beat waters by so long a way;
Which Ethiopia's double clime divides,
And elephants in other mountains hides.
Spain first he won, the Pyrenæans past,
And steepy Alps, the mounds that Nature cast:
And with corroding juices, as he went,
A passage through the living rocks he rent.
Then, like a torrent, rolling from on high,
He pours his headlong rage on Italy;
In three victorious battles over-run;
Yet still uneasy, cries, There's nothing done,
Till level with the ground their gates are laid;
And Punic flags on Roman towers display'd.
Ask what a face belong'd to his high fame:
His picture scarcely would deserve a frame:
A signpost dauber would disdain to paint
The one-ey'd hero on his elephant.
Now what's his end, O charming Glory! say,
What rare fifth act to crown this huffing play?
In one deciding battle overcome,
He flies, is banished from his native home:
Begs refuge in a foreign court, and there
Attends, his mean petition to prefer;
Repuls'd by surly grooms, who wait before
The sleeping tyrant's interdicted door.
What wondrous sort of death has heaven design'd,
Distinguish'd from the herd of human kind,
For so untam'd, so turbulent a mind!
Nor swords at hand, nor hissing darts afar,
Are doom'd to avenge the tedious bloody war;
But poison, drawn through a ring's hollow plate,
Must finish him; a sucking infant's fate.
Go, climb the rugged Alps, ambitious fool,
To please the boys, and be a theme at school.
One world suffic'd not Alexander's mind;
Coop'd up, he seem'd in earth and seas confin'd:
And, struggling, stretch'd his restless limbs about
The narrow globe, to find a passage out.
Yet, enter'd in the brick-built town, he tried
The tomb, and found the strait dimensions wide:
"Death only this mysterious truth unfolds,
The mighty soul, how small a body holds."
Old Greece a tale of Athos would make out,
Cut from the continent, and sail'd about;
Seas hid with navies, chariots passing o'er
The channel, on a bridge from shore to shore:
Rivers, whose depth no sharp beholder sees,
Drunk at an army's dinner, to the lees;
With a long legend of romantic things,
Which in his cups the bowsy poet sings.
But how did he return, this haughty brave,
Who whipt the winds, and made the sea his slave?
(Though Neptune took unkindly to be bound;
And Eurus never such hard usage found
In his Æolian prisons under ground;)
What god so mean, e'en he who points the way,
So merciless a tyrant to obey!
But how return'd he? let us ask again:
In a poor skiff he pass'd the bloody main,
Chok'd with the slaughter'd bodies of his train.
For fame he pray'd, but let the event declare
He had no mighty penn'worth of his pray'r.
[Sixth theme, lines 301-378: Everyone prays for long life, but old age is a miserable state.]
Jove, grant me length of life and years good store
Heap on my bending back, I ask no more.
Both sick and healthful, old and young, conspire
In this one silly, mischievous desire.
Mistaken blessing, which old age they call,
'Tis a long, nasty, darksome hospital,
A ropy chain of rheums; a visage rough,
Deform'd, unfeatur'd, and a skin of buff.
A stitch-fall'n cheek, that hangs below the jaw;
Such wrinkles, as a skilful hand would draw
For an old grandam ape, when, with a grace,
She sits at squat, and scrubs her leathern face.
In youth, distinctions infinite abound;
No shape, or feature, just alike are found;
The fair, the black, the feeble, and the strong;
But the same foulness does to age belong,
The selfsame palsy, both in limbs and tongue.
The skull and forehead one bald barren plain;
And gums unarm'd to mumble meat in vain:
Besides the eternal drivel, that supplies
The dropping beard, from nostrils, mouth, and eyes.
His wife and children loathe him, and, what's worse,
Himself does his offensive carrion curse!
Flatt'rers forsake him too; for who would kill
Himself, to be remember'd in a will?
His taste, not only pall'd to wine and meat,
But to the relish of a nobler treat.
The limber nerve, in vain provok'd to rise,
Inglorious from the field of battle flies:
Poor feeble dotard, how could he advance
With his blue head-piece, and his broken lance?
Add, that endeavouring still without effect,
A lust more sordid justly we suspect.
Those senses lost, behold a new defeat,
The soul dislodging from another seat.
What music, or enchanting voice, can cheer
A stupid, old, impenetrable ear?
No matter in what place, or what degree
Of the full theatre, he sits to see;
Cornets and trumpets cannot reach his ear:
Under an actor's nose he's never near.
His boy must bawl, to make him understand
The hour o' th' day, or such a lord's at hand:
The little blood that creeps within his veins,
Is but just warm'd in a hot fever's pains.
In fine, he wears no limb about him sound:
With sores and sicknesses beleaguer'd round:
Ask me their names, I sooner could relate
How many drudges on salt Hippia wait;
What crowds of patients the town-doctor kills,
Or how, last fall, he rais'd the weekly bills.
What provinces by Basilus were spoil'd,
What herds of heirs by guardians are beguil'd:
How many bouts a day that bitch has tried;
How many boys that pedagogue can ride!
What lands and lordships for their owner know
My quondam barber, but his worship now.
This dotard of his broken back complains,
One, his legs fail, and one, his shoulder pains:
Another is of both his eyes bereft;
And envies who has one for aiming left.
A fifth, with trembling lips expecting stands,
As in his childhood, cramm'd by others' hands;
One, who at sight of supper open'd wide
His jaws before, and whetted grinders tried;
Now only yawns, and waits to be supplied:
Like a young swallow, when with weary wings
Expected food her fasting mother brings.
His loss of members is a heavy curse,
But all his faculties decay'd, a worse!
His servants' names he has forgotten quite;
Knows not his friend who supp'd with him last night.
Not e'en the children he begot and bred;
Or his will knows 'em not: for, in their stead,
In form of law, a common hackney jade,
Sole heir, for secret services, is made:
So lewd, and such a batter'd brothel whore,
That she defies all comers at her door.
[Seventh theme, lines 379-443: The miseries of old age (cont.): even if you keep your mental powers, you'll get to see your loved ones die.]
Well, yet suppose his senses are his own,
He lives to be chief mourner for his son:
Before his face his wife and brother burns;
He numbers all his kindred in their urns.
These are the fines he pays for living long;
And dragging tedious age in his own wrong:
Griefs always green, a household still in tears,
Sad pomps, a threshold throng's with daily biers,
And liveries of black for length of years.
Next to the raven's age, the Pylian king
Was longest liv'd of any two legg'd thing;
Blest, to defraud the grave so long, to mount
His number'd years, and on his right hand count;
Three hundred seasons, guzzling must of wine:
But, hold a while, and hear himself repine
At fate's unequal laws; and at the clue
Which, merciless in length, the midmost sister drew.
When his brave son upon the fun'ral pyre
He saw extended, and his beard on fire;
He turn'd, and weeping, ask'd his friends, what crime
Had curs'd his age to this unhappy time?
Thus mourn'd old Peleus for Achilles slain,
And thus Ulysses' father did complain.
How fortunate an end had Priam made,
Among his ancestors a mighty shade,
While Troy yet stood; when Hector, with the race
Of royal bastards, might his fun'ral grace:
Amidst the tears of Trojan dames inurn'd,
And by his loyal daughters truly mourn'd!
Had heav'n so blest him, he had died before
The fatal fleet to Sparta Paris bore.
But mark what age produc'd; he liv'd to see
His town in flames, his falling monarchy:
In fine, the feeble sire, reduc'd by fate,
To change his sceptre for a sword, too late,
His last effort before Jove's altar tries;
A soldier half, and half a sacrifice:
Falls like an ox, that waits the coming blow;
Old and unprofitable to the plough.
At least, he died a man; his queen surviv'd,
To howl, and in a barking body liv'd.
I hasten to our own; nor will relate
Great Mithridates, and rich Crœsus' fate;
Whom Solon wisely counsell'd to attend
The name of happy, till he knew his end.
That Marius was an exile, that he fled,
Was ta'en, in ruin'd Carthage begg'd his bread,
All these were owing to a life too long:
For whom had Rome beheld so happy, young.
High in his chariot, and with laurel crown'd,
When he had led the Cimbrian captives round
The Roman streets; descending from his state,
In that blest hour he should have begg'd his fate;
Then, then, he might have died of all admir'd,
And his triumphant soul with shouts expir'd.
Campania, fortune's malice to prevent,
To Pompey an indulgent fever sent;
But public prayers impos'd on heav'n, to give
Their much lov'd leader an unkind reprieve.
The city's fate and his conspir'd to save
The head, reserv'd for an Egyptian slave.
Cethegus, though a traitor to the state,
And tortur'd, scap'd this ignominious fate:
And Sergius, who a bad cause bravely tried,
All of a piece, and undiminish'd, died.
[Eighth theme, lines 444-532: The perils of beauty and sexual desire.]
To Venus, the fond mother makes a prayer,
That all her sons and daughters may be fair:
True, for the boys a mumbling vow she sends;
But, for the girls, the vaulted temple rends:
They must be finish'd pieces: 'tis allowed
Diana's beauty made Latona proud,
And pleas'd, to see the wond'ring people pray
To the new-rising sister of the day.
And yet Lucretia's fate would bar that vow:
And fair Virginia would her fate bestow
On Rutila; and change her faultless make
For the foul rumple of her camel back.
But, for his mother's boy, the beau, what frights
His parents have by day, what anxious nights!
Form join'd with virtue is a sight too rare:
Chaste is no epithet to suit with fair.
Suppose the same traditionary strain
Of rigid manners in the house remain;
Inveterate truth, an old plain Sabine's heart;
Suppose that Nature, too, has done her part;
Infus'd into his soul a sober grace,
And blush'd a modest blood into his face,
(For Nature is a better guardian far,
Than saucy pedants, or dull tutors are:)
Yet still the youth must ne'er arrive at man;
(So much almighty bribes and presents can;)
E'en with a parent, where persuasions fail,
Money is impudent, and will prevail.
We never read of such a tyrant king,
Who gelt a boy deform'd, to hear him sing.
Nor Nero, in his more luxurious rage,
E'er made a mistress of an ugly page:
Sporus, his spouse, nor crooked was, nor lame,
With mountain back, and belly, from the game
Cross-barr'd: but both his sexes well became.
Go, boast your springal, by his beauty curst
To ills, nor think I have declar'd the worst:
His form procures him journey-work; a strife
Betwixt town-madams, and the merchant's wife:
Guess, when he undertakes this public war,
What furious beasts offended cuckolds are.
Adult'rers are with dangers round beset;
Born under Mars, they cannot scape the net;
And from revengeful husbands oft have tried
Worse handling, than severest laws provide:
One stabs; one slashes; one, with cruel art,
Makes colon suffer for the peccant part.
But your Endymion, your smooth, smockfac'd boy,
Unrivall'd, shall a beauteous dame enjoy:
Not so: one more salacious, rich, and old,
Outbids, and buys her pleasure for her gold:
Now he must moil, and drudge, for one he loaths,
She keeps him high in equipage and clothes:
She pawns her jewels, and her rich attire,
And thinks the workman worthy of his hire:
In all things else immoral, stingy, mean;
But, in her lusts, a conscionable queen.
She may be handsome, yet be chaste, you say;
Good observator, not so fast away:
Did it not cost the modest youth his life,
Who shunn'd th' embraces of his father's wife?
And was not t'other stripling forc'd to fly,
Who coldly did his patron's queen deny,
And pleaded laws of hospitality?
The ladies charg'd 'em home, and turn'd the tale;
With shame they redden'd, and with spite grew pale.
'Tis dang'rous to deny the longing dame;
She loses pity, who has lost her shame.
Now Silius wants thy counsel, give advice;
Wed Cæsar's wife, or die; the choice is nice.
Her comet-eyes she darts on ev'ry grace;
And takes a fatal liking to his face.
Adorn'd with bridal pomp she sits in state;
The public notaries and Aruspex wait:
The genial bed is in the garden drest:
The portion paid, and ev'ry rite express'd,
Which in a Roman marriage is profest.
'Tis no stol'n wedding this, rejecting awe,
She scorns to marry, but in form of law:
In this moot case, your judgment: to refuse
Is present death, besides the night you lose:
If you consent, 'tis hardly worth your pain;
A day or two of anxious life you gain:
Till loud reports through all the town have past,
And reach the prince: for cuckolds hear the last.
Indulge thy pleasure, youth, and take thy swing;
For not to take is but the selfsame thing;
Inevitable death before thee lies;
But looks more kindly through a lady's eyes.
[Ninth theme, lines 533-561: Submit to the will of the gods. Pray for health, reason, and courage. Seek happiness through virtue.]
What then remains? Are we depriv'd of will,
Must we not wish, for fear of wishing ill?
Receive my counsel, and securely move;
Intrust thy fortune to the Powers above.
Leave them to manage for thee, and to grant
What their unerring wisdom sees thee want:
In goodness as in greatness they excel;
Ah that we lov'd ourselves but half so well!
We, blindly by our headstrong passions led,
Are hot for action, and desire to wed;
Then wish for heirs: but to the gods alone
Our future offspring, and our wives are known;
Th' audacious strumpet, and ungracious son.
Yet not to rob the priests of pious gain,
That altars be not wholly built in vain;
Forgive the gods the rest, and stand confin'd
To health of body, and content of mind:
A soul, that can securely death defy,
And count it nature's privilege, to die;
Serene and manly, harden'd to sustain
The load of life, and exercis'd in pain:
Guiltless of hate, and proof against desire;
That all things weighs, and nothing can admire:
That dares prefer the toils of Hercules
To dalliance, banquet, and ignoble ease.
The path to peace is virtue: what I show,
Thyself may freely on thyself bestow:
Fortune was never worshipp'd by the wise;
But, set aloft by fools, usurps the skies.