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Oxford UNIVERSITY PRESS WAREHOUSE
AMEX CORNER, E.C.
112 FOURTH AVENUE
ON THE WICKEDNESS OF ROME.
The first Satire of Jyvenal is one of the most vigorous in detached passages and the most clumsily constructed as a whole. It looks as if the Author had written two different prefaces at various times, and had then decided to weld them together. It is the work of a genuine rhetorician, scathing and lucid in style, but loose, inharmonious, and inconsistent in construction. In the first portion, which apparently ends at l. 80, but of which ll. 147-171 were no doubt a part, he supposes himself replying to an imaginary friend who wishes to dissuade him from writing. Juvenal pleads, 11. 1-18, that he is pestered by poets of every quality who deal with unreal themes, and that it is absurd for one who has mastered the craft not to say what he is full of. But why write a satire ? 11. 19-31.
How is it possible not to write a satire when the real world is thronged with such grotesque and foul shapes, when the eunuch marrying a wife, the female gladiator, the prosperous informer, the wealthy parasite, the wretch who sells his virility, and the despoiler of a province, are the first forms revealed by the lantern of truth? 11. 22–51. Are the stories of Hercules, and Theseus, and Daedalus more wonderful than the tale of how one may make a fortune by his wife's shame, while another expects a commission for having squandered his estate in the stables ? 11. 52-61. Could you not fill a book at the crossings, as one litter carries past you the wealthy forger, another past the matron of good family who belonged to the club for poisoning husbands ? The lesson of life is that wealth is only acquired by crimes at which the blood boils, and which force indignation to speak out in verse, 11. 62-80.
The construction now changes, and Juvenal explains that he is writing a book to describe human wishes and passions and feelings since man was born into the world, 11. 81-86. He seems to promise a description of various vices; but instead of this we have an elaborate complaint of the poverty of the nobility, together with the description of the hard lot of a client. For when was material more abundant ? When was the gambling instinct stronger ? or the insolence and worship of wealth more marked? We have done all but build temples to Money, and what remains for the people but to starve if the nobility retrench the extravagance of dole-giving to paapers, who as often as not cheat them ? 11. 87–126. Meantime, while the old dependents of his house steal sadly away, the patrician, recruited by a day of diversified occapation, lies down in his empty hall to a splendid banquet at which he is the only guest, and where he will perhaps gorge till he dies, 11. 127-146.
The Satire now reverts to conversation. Juvenal asks whether he may not launch out fearlessly, since we have reached a climax to which coming ages can add nothing new in infamy. “True,” he admits, 'you may ask where I get the talent to handle such material.' 'I ask,' says the friend, where you get the leave to talk about it. All very well to attack a private person; but touch the Emperor's favourite, and you will be burned for a Christian and an incendiary.' What, am I to look on quietly while the man who has poisoned three uncles stares down on me from his litter ?' 'If you so much as show that you know him, you will be suspected of talking about his crime. If you want to be safe, write like Vergil about dead heroes, not like Lucilius about living men.' 'So be it ; I will confine my criticisms to those who are already in the grave,' 11. 147-171.
The date of the first portion of this Satire may be referred with some positiveness to the early years of Trajan by the allusions to reciters and to Marius. By the bitterness of the allusion to promotions by favour in the army it would seem that Juvenal was still or had quite lately been a soldier. The second portion, 11. 81-146, has more of the didactic and religious character about it; and seems to belong to the time when Juvenal's hopes from wealthy patrons were exhausted.
The opening part of this Satire has been imitated by Byron in the beginning of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. This is one of the Satires which Dryden translated.
ARGUMENT. When I am condemned to hear so much pedantry I feel that I must have my revenge ; and that revenge must consist in paying out my adversaries in their own coin, i.e. by writing. The writer of the present age must perforce be a satirist—thanks to our social system ander which upstarts are the princes of society and criminals are regarded with respect, while their crimes are looked upon as merely venial. The danger is great, I admit: but the attempt must be made to attack it: and if I do not dare to attack the living, I will at least show up the actions of the dead,
1. Semper ego auditor tantam? The substantive verb is much more frequently omitted in Latin than in English, especially in colloquial, epistolary, or poetical style. Cf, Sat. iii. 93. Sentence after sentence may be met with in Cicero's Epistles where no verb of any kind is found.