The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

210

PERSIUS.

14). The whole of these juvenile effusions were by the advice of Cornutus destroyed.

Few productions have ever enjoyed more widely diffused and- more enduring popularity than the Satires. When read over to Lucan he could scarcely refrain from shouting with delight; when first given to the world they were devoured with eager admiration (editum librum continue mirari homines et diripere] ; and a long unbroken chain of testimonies, direct or implied, to their merits, might be linked together, reaching from the period of their publication through the darkest portion of the middle ages down to the revival of literature, including the names of Quintilian, Martial, the emperors Septimius and Alexander Severus, Au-sonius, Prudentius, Sedulius, Sidonius, Liud-prandus, Adam of Bremen, Bernard of Clugny, Peter of Blois, and John of Salisbury, to say no­thing of the scholiasts and grammarians by whom they are perpetually cited. Nor ought we to omit the great fathers of the church, Lactantius, Augustin, and Jerome-, of whom the two former frequently quote whole lines from Persius, while the latter seems to have been so thoroughly im­bued with his phraseology that we encounter all the most striking expressions of the heathen moralist reproduced in the epistles, controversial tracts and commentaries of the Christian eccle­siastic. How far this reputation has been fairly earned, may admit of question. It would seem that Persius, strangely enough, owes not a little of his fame and popularity to a cause which naturally might and, perhaps, ought to have produced an effect directly the reverse, we mean the multitude of strange terms, many of them derived, as in the case of Petronius, from the familiar language of ordinary life, proverbial phrases, far-fetched harsh metaphors, and abrupt transitions which every where embarrass our progress. The difficulty ex­perienced in removing these impediments, and the close attention required to follow the train of thought and the numerous rapid changes of person, necessarily impress deeply both the words and the ideas upon every one who has carefully studied his pages, and hence no author clings more closely to our memory, or rises more frequently to our lips in a quotation. His delineations of men and manners are immeasurably inferior to those of Horace and Juvenal, nor can his cold formalism and rough ungainly style stand for a moment in competition with the lively practical good sense and easy grace of the one, or , with the fiery indignation and sonorous rhetoric of the other. His pictures, al­though skilfully drawn, grouped with dexterity and often finished with patient minuteness, are deficient in reality ; they are not sketched from human beings actually living and moving in the business of the world, but are highly coloured fancy pieces imagined by the student in his seclu­sion, created for the purpose of illustrating some abstract general principle or subtle philosophic paradox. In fact, the five last satires may be regarded as so many scholastic exercises, each being devoted to the exposition of a doctrine pro­pounded by the stoics, stated and developed ac­cording to their discipline. We must not, at the same time, withhold from him the praise of great ingenuity in moulding to his purpose the most refractory materials, of calling up a crowd of images by a few skilful touches, and concentrating a multitude of thoughts within the compass of a

PERSIUS.

few pregnant words. He is, unquestionably, the most dramatic of the ancient satirists, his dialogues are in the highest degree spirited and effective, conveying a very distinct notion of the element which formed the staple of the original Satura, and which was revived in the Mimes of the Augustan age. The first Satire—which is devoted to strictures on the false taste which prevailed in reference to poetry, and to an exposure of the follies and fopperies of fashionable bards, inter­spersed with numerous parodies on the most popu­lar pieces of the day—is superior both in plan and execution to the rest; but we may remark, in passing, that there are no good grounds for the belief, which has prevailed from a very early epoch, that both here and elsewhere Nero is the mark against whom the most piercing sarcasms are aimed ; a belief which has beyond measure per­plexed and tortured commentators, and has given rise to inconceivable absurdity in the interpretation of obscure allusions. Those passages in the fifth, where Persius describes the process by which his own moral and intellectual faculties were first ex­cited and gradually expanded, are remarkable for their grace and beauty.

Several MSS. of Persius contain a collection of scholia ascribed to Cornutus, which by many of the earlier critics were received without hesitation as authentic. But these annotations, as they now exist, are so full of mistakes, and display such pal­pable ignorance on common topics, that, although it is not impossible that they may contain ob­servations which actually proceeded from the stoic, they must have assumed their present form in the hands of some obscure and illiterate gram­marian. The ancient glosses published originally by Pithou (8vo. Heidelb. 1590) are merely ex­tracts containing what is most valuable in the scholia of the Pseudo-Cornutus.

The Editio Princeps of Persius is a 4to. volume without date, but known to have been printed at Rome by Ulrich Hahn, about 1470 ; and in addi­tion to this, bibliographers have described upwards of twenty impressions, all published before the year 1500. The notes of Fontius appeared first in the Venice edition, fol. 1480 ; the commentary of Britannicus in that of Brescia, fol. 1481 ; and the scholia of the Pseudo-Cornutus in that of Venice, fol. 1499. A multitude of editions, many of them illustrated by very voluminous annotations, issued from almost every classical press in Europe during the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and of these by far the most valuable is that of Isaac Casaubon (8vo. Paris, 1605), which has been very often reprinted, the commentary being not only superior to all which preceded it, but having served as the groundwork of all subsequent elucidations of the satirist.

Of the editions belonging to a more recent period, we may notice specially those of Koenig, 8vo. Getting. 1803; of Passow, 8vo. Lips. 1809, accompanied by a translation and valuable remarks on the first satire ; of Achaintre, 8vo. Paris, 1812 ; of Orelli, in his Eclogae Poet. Lat. 8vo. Turic. 1822, and much improved in 1833 ; of Plum, 8vo. Havn. 1827, with a most voluminous commentary ; of Otto Jahn, 8vo. Lips. 1843, with elaborate pro­legomena and judicious notes ; and of Hemrich, 8vo. Lips. 1844, with excellent notes in German. The student who possesses the editions of Jahn, Heinrich, and the reprint of Casaubon, published

Pages
About | First

208

209

210
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.