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should let him behold her naked charms-yet I will not grudge to praise, to the extent of my power, festivities and jests, in which I do acknowledge my faculty to be very slight; premising only this, that it seems an arduous and far from easy task for me this day to praise jocularity in serious terms.1
'Nor are my praises undeserved! What is there that sooner conciliates and longer retains friendship than a pleasant and festive disposition? Let there be a person who has no jests, nor fun, nor nice little facetiæ in him, and you will hardly find one to whom he is agreeable and welcome. And now, released from all oratorical laws, we are about to plunge into comic licence. In which, if by chance, I shall outgo a finger's breadth, as they say, my proper character and the rigid laws of modesty, know, fellow-academicians, that I have thrown off and for a while laid aside my proper self in your interest; or, if anything shall be said loosely or floridly, consider it suggested to me not
The thesis is, 'That occasional sportive exercises are not inconsistent with the studies of Philosophy.'
by my own mind and disposition, but by the rule of the time and the genius of the place.1
'By what merit of mine I have been created Dictator of the labouring and all but down-tumbling commonwealth of fools, I am verily ignorant. And wherefore I when that very chief and standardbearer of all the sophisters was both eagerly ambitious of this office, and would have most valiantly performed its duties. . . . But why is it that I am so suddenly made Father? (the elected president on these occasions was called "the Father"). By some of you I used lately to be nicknamed "the Lady." Why, seem I then too little of a man ? Do pert grammaticasters thus attribute the propria quæ maribus to the feminine gender? Is it because I never was able to quaff huge tankards lustily, or, in fine, because I never proved my manhood in the same way as those debauched blackguards? I would they could as easily doff
1 'Milton here,' Masson observes, 'breaks off his serious introductory discourse, and dashes, as the leader of the absurdities of the day, into an expressly comic and even coarse harangue.'
2 He was so fair that they called him 'the Lady of Christ's College.' -Aubrey.
the ass as I can whatever of the woman is in me! But see how absurdly and unreflectingly they have upbraided me with that which I, on the best of grounds, will turn to my glory. For Demosthenes himself was also called too little of a man by his rivals and adversaries. Quintus Hortensius,' too, the most renowned of all orators after M. Tullius, was nicknamed "a Dionysiac singingwoman" by Lucius Torquatus. To whom he (Hortensius) says, "I had rather indeed be Dionysia' than what you are, O Torquatus, auovσos, ἀγροδίαιτος, ἀπρόσυτος. . . .”
'And now leaping over the university statutes, as if they were the walls of Romulus, I run across from Latin to English.3
'Although nothing is more agreeable and desirable to me, my hearers, than the sight of you and the constant company of gowned men, and
By all means read the deeply interesting account of this Hortensius in Lempriere or Smith.
2 Dionysia psaltria' is rather 'Dionysia,' a singing-woman.
3 Prolusio VI. (Masson's translation). Then follows in verse the address to his native language, the piece among his miscellaneous poems, headed, 'Anno ætatis 19. At a Vacation Exercise,' thus restored by Masson to its proper connection, though Keightley had already done this before him.
also this honourable office of speaking, which on more occasions than one I have with no unpleasant pains discharged among you; yet, to confess the actual truth, it always so happens that, though neither my genius, nor the nature of my studies, is at all out of keeping with the oratorical office, nevertheless I scarcely ever come to speak of my own free will and choice. Had it been in my power, I should not unwillingly have spared myself even this evening's labour; for, as I have learned this from the books and sayings of the most learned men, that, no more in the orator than in the poet, can anything common or mediocre be tolerated, and that it behoves him who would truly be and be considered an orator, to be instructed and thoroughly finished in a certain circular education of all the arts and all science, so, my age not permitting this, I would rather be working with severe study for that true. reputation, by the preliminary practice of the necessary means, than hurrying on a false reputation by a forced and precocious style. In which thought and purpose of mind, while I am daily tossed and kindled more and more, I have never
experienced any hindrance and delay more grievous than the frequent mischief of interruption, and nothing more nurturing to my genius and conservative of its good health, as contradistinguished from that of the body, than a learned and liberal lecture. I call to witness for myself the groves, and rivers, and the beloved village elms, under which in the last past summer (if it is right to speak the secrets of goddesses), I remember so pleasantly having had supreme delight with the Muses; where I too, among rural scenes and remote forests, seemed as if I could have grown and vegetated through a hidden eternity. Here also I should have hoped for the same large liberty of retirement, had not this troublesome business of speech-making quite unseasonably interposed itself; which so disagreeably drove off my sacred sleep, so drew off my mind fixed on other matters, and was such an impediment and burden among the precipitous difficulties of the Arts, that, losing all hope of continuing my quiet, I began sorrowfully to think how far off I was from that tranquillity which letters first promised me-that
1 The divine sleep of Hesiod.