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Political OBSERVATIONS upan FORTUNE.
TT was an observation of Crom- always the best, but the least suc1 well's, that a man never rises so cessful, sufficiently proves, that the high as when he does not know most prudent measures will not alwhere he's going; and certain it is, ways succeed. “ I cannot, said he, that nothing is more difficult to answer for any thing more than the learn by precept than the way to goodness of the plan : the execution make a fortune. Circumstances are depends upon a variety of different so complicated, and have such in. persons, and, above all, upon forfluence upon events, that it is im- tune, who is hired to nobody.” possible to lay down fixed maxims The known integrity of a person to regulate the conduct of those who in office, seems to be a reproach to aspire to wealth or greatness. Prac- the knavery of others. Add to this, tice and experience are the surest that men in power are not willing guides in this rugged road, and to employ persons of merit, whom upon them we should chiefly rely, they cannot always manage as they though they are far from being in- think proper ; and political goverfallible. The first thing, indeed, nors generally require more submisthat experience should teach us is fion than skill in those below them. to distrust it, and always doubt of Thus Tacitus informs us, that Popsuccess; as fortune, being naturally pæus Sabinus continued a long time inconstant and capricious, at last governor of Spain, nullam ob eximigrows weary of favouring the same miam artem sed quia par illi negotiis enterprizes. This has given occa- ingenium erat nec fupra; not on acsion to a very just observation, which count of any extraordinary inerit, has almost become a proverb, name- but because he had a genius equal ly, that men attain to the same to business, and not above it. ends by different means.
Men of genius are seldom patient The friendthip of those in power, or servile enough to arrive to elewhich seems to be the surest road to vated stations; yet grandeur is to be advancement, sometimes occasions attained only by patience and perthe ruin of those who place too severance. much confidence in it. Thus the A modern author has observed, duke of Alva, after having made that an unbounded ambition is almany terrible executions in the Low ways accompanied by an equal Countries, had no way left to escape meanness of spirit. The truth of the popular odium, but by sacri- this observation we shall not vouch ficing a minister, who had served for ; but certain it is, that tempohim with the utmost zeal and fide- rising spirits, which are seldom the lity.
most elevated, are ofteper favoured A certain counsellor of one of the by fortune than others. kings of Persia, whose advice was
A Letter to a Friend, concerning Horace's Epiftle to the Pifos, or the Art of
either then could recollect, or have IN a voyage, which proved much been able to find out since. * more tedious than was expected, My opinion, to explain it briefly, I amused myself with reading Ho- is, that the poet, in his epiftle to Face : and as I had not, for several the Pisos, carries on two different years past, looked into his Art of designs : the one, to throw out, in Poetry, which, I believe, is univer- his own beautifully negligent way, fally esteemed the most valuable of such observations, and precepts rehis works, it was almost become lating to poetry in general, but quite new to me, and therefore the more fully and particularly concernmore entertaining. This epistle I ing dramatic poetry, as he appreread over attentively at one stretch. hended might be most useful in corMy edition was Maittaire's, without recting and forming the taste of the either notes or paraphrase : and town: the other, to coinbat and run though, for want of commentaries, down a fashionable folly of that time I was often at a loss to comprehend amongst the young men of rank, fully the true meaning and beauty with which the elder of the young of particular passages, yet, by fo Pisos appears to have been deeply doing, I gained one advantage; to fmitten, to wit, an itch of figuring wit, I had in a manner, all at once, in poetry. And I cannot help thinka view of the whole conduct of the ing, that the latter, though it seems celebrated performance, its different to be only accidental, is yet, in realiparts, and their connexions with ty, the principal intention, the chief and dependence upon one another; motive of the poet in writing the and consequently was more likely to epistle, or at least a conditio fine qua form a juft idea of the scope and non thereof: and that the former, drift of the whole, than if I had which appears the principal, and is, . proceeded more leisurely. Besides, no doubt, in its own nature, the as there were no annotations in my more important of the two, is chiefcopy, I was left intirely to my own ly a cover to the other; and so mathoughts, and no ways biassed by naged by the poet, as to screen the opinions of much more learned young Piso from any ridicule that critics, to whose judgment I pro- might stick to him, upon being bably should have paid more defe- pointed out, as labouring under a tênce than to my own.
weakne's, and at the same time However, the upshot was, that I make the designed impression firmly landed in an opinion, concerning and deeply. This was a delicate the scope and intention of the poem talk, worthy of Horace's genius; in question, and the occasion of its and accordingly he displays all his writing, different in some respects, wit, learning, humour, and art, in that immaterial, as I apprehended, the execution thereof, as we all to the right understanding of it, in part see by and by. from any yet offered, as far as I 'I fall endeavour, briefly, to sup
port this my opinion by arguments him on to pen this, the most learned drawn from the character of the and elaborate of all his works; and poet, and from the conduct and ma. that the single intention of correct. nagement of the poem under confi- ing and modelling the taste of the deration; the only good grounds, I town, would not have been powerthink, we have left to proceed upon, ful enough to have made a man of as he hath no where told us himself his caft undertake a task so labowhat his motives were in writing it, rious, without an additional motive. nor any of his friends or confidents It is hoped, that the short acfor him.
count we are going to give of the The true character of Horace conduct and management of the was to be, with all his abilities and epistle itself, will farther justify the accomplishments, as a poet, a scho- opinion we have embraced. lar, and a gentleman, extremely in. He begins with giving a multidolent; insomuch, that, probably, plicity of precepts, relating to poethere never was a great poet, who try in general. These are delivered, had his fortune to make, that, in a though in few words, yet with great middling long life, wrote so few strength, clearness, and precision. verses as he did. This is so evident, They take up the first eighty-nine from numerous passages in his works, lines. Their obvious and natural that it would be quite superfluous use, no doubt, is to inform the to set about proving it. At the reader's judgment, and direct his same time he was extremely sensible taste ; and assist him either in justly of the charms of friendship; and, criticising a poetical performance, or by his merit, he contracted intima. writing a good one himself, if he cies with many of the greatest and should hazard commencing author. worthiest persons in Rome. Amongst But there is likewise a secondary use these, Piso was eminent; a man of of them; to wit, to caution him consular dignity, of great abilities against any attempt of this kind, both in public and private life, and unless he has reasonable grounds to of a moft amiable character. To think himself qualified, both in point him, and his two sons, the epistle of genius and industry, to write up we are considering is inscribed : and to these rules : so that, even in the as the elder of them appears to have very beginning, he is craftily pro. been much attached to the study of moting his principal intention, poetry, as hath been said, it is, in which he does not explicitly broach my opinion, highly probable, that till towards the end; and then only the principal intention of the epistle as it were by accident. This, I was to moderate and restrain that think, appears remarkably in the ardour of his, so unsuitable (when following precept : extreme) to the heir of a great fa Sumite materiem veftris qui fcribitis æquam mily, and which perhaps was pre. Viribus, & versate diu quid ferre recufent judicial to his health : I say, it ap Quid valeant bumeri. pears highly probable, that the great As if he had said, “ Authors regard and intimate friendship our should not only compose with great poet had for the illustrious family, deliberation, and at great leisure, was the chief incentive that spurred but even think much, and long, on
the nature of the subject they may Pisos was written: so far is he from chuse, before they begin to handle intending to give instructions reit; and consider well, whether their lating to every species of poetry! abilities are equal to it or not.” A But this by the way. ftrong caution to young men not to from his general precepts, he, by set up for poets rathly.
a transition conducted with his usual I cannot help remarking a very dexterity, proceeds to take dramatic artful stroke in the 24th line; to poetry into consideration; and, if wit, the compliment to the Pisos, he was pretty full in delivering the father and sons :
former, he is much more copious in Peter & juvenes patre digni,
giving rules in the latter, bestowing
near three hundred lines upon that The fimple mentioning the father subject, though the whole epiftle is the highest praise imaginable, as contains but four hundred and seit implies, that his fi.perior merit venty-fix. And there was good rea. was known to every body; and juo fon for the poet to enlarge here : veres patre digni is the greatest and theatrical spectacles had been, for moft delicate encomium that could some time, the most general enter. be given of youths, to be worthy of tainment of the Romans; and were, such a father. This compliment, in a particular manner, encouraged made in the very beginning of the by Augustus, out of a political view, epiftle, wonderfully prepossesses the in order to reconcile a people, that, reader in favour of the young no. not many years before, were zealous blemen, and prevents him from republicans, to absolute power. And thinking the worse of the elder son, our poet here is so induitrious, and for any thing that is to be faid con- so accurate, that his precepts may cerning him afterwards. So inimit- be looked upon as the elements of able is the art of our poet! dramatic composition, especially the
Before I proceed farther, let me tragic kind. observe how unreasonable some cri. But if there be a secondary use tics are, who maintain, that Horace's of handing down a multiplicity of design in this epifle is to give rules rules and admonitions, relating to and precepts concerning every spe. the structure of poems in general, cies of poetry. In thirteen lines, to to wit, in order to scare such readers wit, from the 73d to the 86th in- as are not duly qualified from comclusive, he dispatches what he had mencing poets, by presenting a view to say on the epic, the elegiac, the of the difficulties and discourageiambic, and the lyric: and he omits ments attending that profesion ; intirely one great species, to wit, much more is there such an use in the didactic; though very celebrated the formidable detail of the particupoems in that kind had been writ- lar rules of the drama, which are ten long before his time, amongst fo numerous, and which must be the Greeks by Hesiod and Empedo- observed with so much delicacy, in cles, and by Lucretius amongst the order to ensure success : and thereRomans; not to mention Virgil's fore the conclusion, addressed to Georgics, which, no doubt, were young Piso, is so much the more published before the epistle to the strengthened; and the poet artfully January 1,61.
e not a
interweaves some passages to pro- This passage contains a strong mote and ascertain this effect. There discouragement to young men from is much humour in the following, hazarding their talents in dramatic verse 295,
poetry, till they acquire much expeIngenium mifera quia fortunatius arte
rience in the world ; and probably Credit, & excludit Janos Helicone poetas, that was the species young Piso was Demecritus, bona pars non ungues ponere curat, attached to. Non barbam ; secreta perie loca, balnea vitat: And to mention only one more, Nanfifcetur enim nomen pretiunt que poeta, Si tribus Anticyris caput infanabile numquam
e to wit, from ver. 322, to ver. 333, Tonfori Licino commiserit. O ego lævus, Graiis ingenium, &c. he seems almost Qui purgor bilem sub verni temporis horäm! to discourage Romans, in general, Non alius faceret meliora poemata.
from meddling in poetry at all.. Because Democritus in rapture cries,
The remaining part of the EpisPoems of genius always bear the prize tle, to wit, from ver. 366 to che From wretched works of art; and thinks conclusion, is all addressed to the that none
elder of the Pisos ir a particular But brain-fick bards can taste of Helicon: So far his doctrine o'er the tribe prevails,
manner; O major juvenum, &c. and,
according to our opinion, is the aptheir nails;
plication of the foregoing part of To dark retreats and solitude they run; the Épistle ; and if ever our author The baths avoid, and public converse thun: ftrained his wit, humour, art, and A poet's name and fortune sure to gain, If long their beards, incurable their brain. Tearning, it is here. He lets out Ah, luckless I, who purge in spring my with an healing compliment: spleen!
Quamvis & voce patcrra Elle sure the first of bards had Horace
Fingeris ad reétum, & per te japis.
FRANCIS. been, Here the professed labouring poet And, as if that were not suffmakes but a sorry figure; very dif- cient, he steps somewhat out of his ferent from what would become a way to mention the great benefits young man of quality. And, verse that have accrued to mankind from
poetry, in order to introduce the
following consolatory clause : Qui didicit patriæ quid debeat & quid amicis, Quo fit amore parens, quo frater amandus &
ne forte pudori bofpes ;
Sit tibi mufa lyra folers, & cantor Apollo. Quod fit conscripti, quod judicis officium ; que Partes in bellum mihi ducis; ille profe&to As if he had said, “ You need Reddere persona fcit convenientia cuique.
not be ashamed of having applied The poet who, with nice diftin&tion, yourlelt to poetry hitherto : some knows
of the greatest and best men of an- . What to his country and his friends he tiquity have done so, to the unowes,
speakable benefit of mankind. And How various Nature warms the human
if, in time to come, you continue breaft, To love the parent, brother, friend, or gueft; not that application more than is What the great offices of judges are suitable to your high station, and Of senators, and generals sent to war, great circumstances, all is well." He surely knows, with nice well-judging Is not this a careful and delicate
art, . The Arokes peculiar to each different part. way of managing a poetry-fick