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He has little knowledge of Horace who imagines
Vila potabis modicis Sabinum
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 Maecenas, gave occasion to recount the actions or words that produced it.
Two lines which have exercised the ingenuity of modern criticks, may, I think, be reconciled to the judgment, by an easy supposition: Horace thus addresses Agrippa: Scriberis Vario fortis, et hostium Victor, Maeonii carminis alite. HoR. Lib. i. Ode vi. l.
Varius, a swan of Homer's wing,
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 contemporaries 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
ised 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 re-establish 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 imme
diately be happy: he, therefore, with little hesitation