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ceding age; fecondly against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the writers for the theatre; and lastly against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the government. He shews (by a view of the progress 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 predecessors; that their morals were much improved, and the licence of those ancient poets restrained : that Satire and Comedy were become more juft and useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing to the Ill Taste of the Nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the State, and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself muft depend, for his fame with pofterity.
We may farther 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.
Ε Ρ Ι S T L Ε Ι.
A U G U S T U S.
U U U
W HILE you, great patron of mankind! fustain
The balanc'd world, and open all the main ;
Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
To thee, the world its present homage pays,
Juft in one instance, be it yet confeft Your people, Sir, are partial in the rest : Foes to all living worth except your own, And advocates for folly dead and gone. Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old; 35 It is the ruft we value, not the gold. Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learn’d by rote, And beastly Skelton * heads of houses quote : One likes no language but the Faery Queen; A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk o'the Green ş; And each true Briton is to Ben so civil, He swears the Muses met him at the Devil t.
Tho' juftly Greece her eldest sons admires, Why should not we be wiser than our fires ? In.ev'ry public virtue we excell;
45 We build, we paint, we sing, we dance as well, And learned Athens to our art must stoop, Could she behold us tumbling thro' a hoop.
If time improve our wits as well as wine, Say at what age a poet grows divine?
50 Shall we, or shall we not, account him fo, Who dy'd, perhaps, an hundred years ago ? End all dispute ; and fix the year precise When British bards begin t'immortalize ? " Who lasts a century can have no flaw,
55 “ I hold that wit a classic, good in law."
Suppose he wants a year, will you compound?
60 " We shall not quarrel for a year or two; By courtesy of England, he may do.”
Then, by the rule that made the horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair,
* Skelton, Poet Laureat to Henry VIII. a volume of whose verses has been lately reprinted, consisting almost wholly of ribildiy, ob.cenity, and scurrilous language.
$ A ball made by a king of Scotland.
And melt down ancients like a heap of fnow : 65
Shakespeare * (whom you and ev'ry playhouse bill
66 Yet surely, surely, these were famous men !
66 How Shadwell hafty, Wycherly was flow ;
All this may be; the people's voice is odd,
Shakespeare and Ben Jobpson may truly be said not much to have thought of this immortality; the one in many picces composed in haste for the stage; the other in his latter works in general, which Dryden called his dotages.
§ Nothing was less true than this particnlar : but the whole paragraph has a mixture of irony, and must not altogether be taken for Horace's own judgment, only the common chat of the pretenders to criticism; in fome things right, in otheis, wrong; as he tells us in his answer.
Interdum vulgus relium vidct: elt ubi peccat. + A piece of very low humour, one rst printed plays in English, and therefore much valued by fome antiquarians.
Or say our fathers never broke a rule ;
But for the wits of either Charles's days,
On Avon's bank, where flow'rs eternal blow,