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Our author has made two Satires concerning study, the first and the
third: the first related to men; this to young students, whom he desired to be educated in the Stoic philosophy. He himself sustains the person of the master, or preceptor, in this admirable Satire, where he upbraids the youth of sloth, and negligence in learning. Yet he beginswith one scholar reproaching his fellow-students with late rising to their books. After which, he takes upon him the other partof the teacher; and, addressing himself particularly to young noblemen, tells them, that, by reason of their high birth, and the great possessions of their fathers, they are careless of adorning their minds with precepts of moral philosophy: and, withal, inculcates to them the miseries which will attend them in the whole course of their life, if they do not apply themselves betimes to the knowledge of virtue, and
the end of their creation, which he pathetically insinuates to them. The title of this satire, in some ancient manuscripts, was, “the Reproach of Idleness ;” though in others of the scholiasts it is inscribed, “ Against the Luxury and Vices of the Rich.” In both of which, the intention of the poet is pursued, but principally in the former.
[I remember I translated this satire when I was a king's scholar at
Westminster school, for a Thurday-night's exercise; and believe, that it, and many other of my exercises of this nature in English verse, are still in the hands of my learned master, the Rev. Dr Busby.]
Is this thy daily course? The glaring sun
Yet plunged in sloth we lie, and snore supine,
This grave advice some sober student bears, ,
With much ado, his bouk before him laid, And parchment with the smoother side displayed, * He takes the papers; lays them down again, And with unwilling fingers tries the pen. Some peevish quarrel straight he strives to pick, His quill writes double, or his ink's too thick; Infuse more water,—now 'tis grown so thin, It sinks, nor can the characters be seen.
O wretch, and still more wretched every day! Are mortals born to sleep their lives away? Go back to what thy infancy began, Thou, who wert never meant to be a man; Eat pap
and spoon-meat, for thy gewgaws cry ; Be sullen, and refuse the lullaby. No more accuse thy pen; but charge the crime On native sloth, and negligence of time. Think'st thou thy master, or thy friends, to cheat ? Fool, 'tis thyself, and that's a worse deceit. Beware the public laughter of the town; Thou spring'st a leak already in thy crown; A flaw is in thy ill-baked vessel found; 'Tis hollow, and returns a jarring sound.
* Note I,
Yet thy moist clay is pliant to command, Unwrought, and easy to the potter's hand : Now take the mould; now bend thy mind to feel The first sharp motions of the forming wheel.
But thou hast land; a country seat, secure
Such pageantry be to the people shown:
But 'tis in vain; the wretch is drenched too deep,
Great father of the gods, when for our crimes Thou send’st some heavy judgment on the times; Some tyrant-king, the terror of his age, The type, and true vicegerent of thy rage; Thus punish him: set virtue in his sight, With all her charms, adorned with all her graces
• Note II.
+ Note III.
But set her distant, make him pale to see
Sicilian tortures, and the brazen bull,
wife; Down, down he goes; and from his darling friend Conceals the woes his guilty dreams portend.
When I was young, I, like a lazy fool, Would blear my eyes with oil
, to stay from school : Averse from pains, and loth to learn the part Of Cato, dying with a dauntless heart; Though much my master that stern virtue praised, Which o'er the vanquisher the vanquished raised; And my pleased father came with pride to see His boy defend the Roman liberty.
But then my study was to cog the dice, And dexterously to throw the lucky sice ; To shun ames-ace, that swept my stakes away, And watch the box, for fear they should convey False bones, and put upon me in the play; Careful, besides, the whirling top to whip, And drive her giddy, till she fell asleep.
Thy years are ripe, nor art thou yet to learn What's good or ill, and both their ends discern: Thou in the Stoic-porch, ť severely bred, Hast heard the dogmas of great Zeno read; Where on the walls, by Polygnotus' hand, The conquered Medians in trunk-breeches stand;}
* Note V.
+ Note VI.
i Note VII.
& Note VIII.
Where the shorn youth to midnight lectures rise, Roused from their slumbers to be early wise ; Where the coarse cake, and homely husks of beans, From pampering riot the young stomach weans ; And where the Samian Y directs thy steps to run To Virtue's narrow steep, and broad-way Vice to
shun. * And yet thou snor'st, thou draw'st thy drunken
breath, Sour with debauch, and sleep'st the sleep of death: Thy chaps are fallen, and thy frame disjoined; Thy body is dissolved as is thy mind.
Hast thou not yet proposed some certain end, To which thy life, thy every act, may tend ? Hast thou no mark, at which to bend thy bow? Or, like a boy, pursuest the carrion crow With pellets, and with stones, from tree to tree, A fruitless toil, and livest extempore ? Watch the disease in time; for when within The dropsy rages, and extends the skin, In vain for hellebore the patient cries, And fees the doctor, but too late is wise; Too late, for cure he proffers half his wealth; Conquest and Guibbons † cannot give him health. Learn, .wretches, learn the motions of the mind, Why you were made, for what you were designed, And the great moral end of human kind. Study thyself, what rank, or what degree, The wise Creator has ordained for thee; And all the offices of that estate Perform, and with thy prudence guide thy fate. Pray justly to be heard, nor more desire Than what the decencies of life require. Learn what thou owest thy country, and thy friend; What's requisite to spare, and what to spend :
* Note IX.
+ Two learned physicians of the period, Dryden mentions Guibbons more than once, as a friend.