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ARGUMEN THIS satire contains a most grave and philosophical
argument, concerning prayers and wishes. Undoubtedly it gave occasion to Juvenal's tenth satire ; and both of them had their original from one of Plato's dialogues, called the “ Second Alcibiades,” Our author has induced it with great mystery of art, by taking his rise from the birth-day of his friend ; on which occasions, prayers were made, and sacrifices offered by the native. Persius, commending the purity of his friend's vows, descends to the impious and immoral requests of others. The satire is divided into three parts: the first is the exordium to Micrinus, which the poet confines within the compass of four verses. The second relates to the matter of the prayers and vows, and an enumeration of those things, wherein men commonly finned against right reason, and offended in their requests. The third part confifts in fhewing the repugnances of those prayers and wishes, to those of other men, and inconsistencies
with themselves, He shews the original of these vows, and sharply inveighs against them : and lastly, not only corrects the false opinion of mankind concerning them, but gives the true doctrine of all addresses made to heaven, and how they may be made acceptable to the Powers above, in excellent precepts, and more worthy of a Christian than a Heathen,
Dedicated to his friend Plotius MACRINUS,
on his BIRTH-DAY.
LET. this auspicious morning be expreft
With a white stone, distinguih'd from the rest : White as thy fame, and as thy honour clear; And let new joys attend on thy new added year, Indulge thy genius, and o'erflow thy soul, Till thy wit sparkle, like the chearful bowl. Pray; for thy prayers the test of heaven will bear; Nor need'it thou take the Gods afide, to hear: While others, ev’n the mighty men of Rome, Big swell’d with mischief, to the temples come; And in low inurmurs, and with costly finoke, Heaven's help, to prosper their black vows, invoke. So boldly to the Gods mankind reveal What from each other they, for shame, conceal.
Give me good fame, ye Powers, and make me juft:
Thus much the rogue to public ears will trust :
In private then: - - When wilt thou, mighty Jove,
My wealthy uncle from this world remove ?
Or- thou Thunderer's son, great Hercules,
That once thy bounteous Deity.would please
To guide my rake, upon the chinking found
Of fome vast treasure, hidden under ground !
O were my pupil fairly knock’d o'th' head;
I should poffefs th' estate, if he were dead !
He's so far gone with rickets, and with th’evil,
That one small dose will send him to the devil.
This is my neighbour Nerius 's third fpoufe,
Of whom in happy time he rids his house.
eternal wife! -Grant heaven I may
Survive to see the fellow of this day.!
Thus, that thou may'st the better bring about
Thy wishes, thou art wickedly devout :
In Tyber ducking thrice, by break of day,
To wash th' obscenities of night away.
But pr’ythee tell.me, ('tis a small request)
With what ill thoughts of Jove art thou poffest ?
Would"It. thou prefer him to some man? Suppose
I dipp d among the worst, and Statius chose ?
Which of the two would thy wise head declare
The trustier tutor to an orphan-heir?
Or, put it thus:- Unfold to Statius, streight,
What to Jove's ear thou didst impart of late :
He'll stare, and, O good Jupiter! will cry:
Canst thou indulge him in this villainy.!
And think it thou, Jove himself, with patience then
Can hear a prayer condemn'd by wicked men?
That, void of care, he lolls supine in state,
And leaves his business to be done by fate ?
Because his thunder splits some burley-tree,
And is not darted at thy house and thee?
Or that his vengeance falls not at the time;
Just at the perpetration of thy crime:
And makes thee a fad object of our eyes,
Fit for Ergenna's prayer and sacrifice ?
What well-fed offering to appeate the God,
What powerful present to procure a nou,
Hast thou in store ? What bribe halt thou prepar'd,
To pull him, thus unpunish’d, by the beard?
Our superstitions with our life begin :
Th' obscene old grandam, or the next of kin,
The new-born infant from the cradle takes,
And first of fpittle a lustration makes :
Then in the spawl her middle-finger dips,
Anoints the temples, forehead, and the lips,
Pretending force of magic to prevent,
By virtue of her nafty excrement.
Then candles him with many a mutter'd prayer
That heaven would make him some rich mifer's heir,
Lucky to ladies, and in time a king;
Which to ensure, he adds a length of navel-ftring.
But no fond nurse is fit to make a prayer :
And Jove, if Jove be wise, will never hear;
Not though she prays in white, with lifted hands :
A body made of brass the crone demands
For her lov'd nursling, strung with nerves of wire,
Tough to the last, and with no toil to tire :
Unconscionable vows, which when we vse,
We teach the Gods, in reason, to refuse.
Suppose they were indulgent to thy with:
Yet the fat entrails, in the spacious dish,
Would stop the grant: the very over-care
And nauseous pomp, would hinder half the prayer,
Thou hop'st with facrifice of oxen Nain
To compass wealth, and bribe the God of gain,
To give thee flocks and herds, with large increase;
Fool! to expect them from a bullock's grease !
And think'st that, when the fatten'd fames aspire,
Thou seest th'accomplishment of thy desire !
Now, now, my bearded harvest gilds the plain,
The scanty folds can scarce my sheep contain,
And showers of gold come pouring in amain!
Thus dreams the wretch, and vainly thus dreams on,
Till his lank purse declares his money gone.
Should I present them with rare figur'd plate,
Or gold as rich in workmanship as weight;
O how thy rising heart would throb and beat,
And thy left side, with trembling pleasure, sweat!
Thou measur'st by thyself the Powers Divine ;
Thy Gods are burnish'd gold, and silver is their shrine.
Thypuny Godlings of inferior race,
Whose humble statues are content with brass,
Should fome of these, in visions purg'd from phlegm,
Foretel events, or in a morning drcam,