“To Henry Higden, Esq; On his Translation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal”
The Grecian wits, who satire first began,
Were pleasant pasquins on the life of man;
At mighty villains, who the state opprest,
They durst not rail, perhaps; they lash’d, at least,
And turn’d them out of office with a jest. 5
No fool could peep abroad, but ready stand
The drolls to clap a bauble in his hand.
Wise legislators never yet could draw
A fop within the of reach of common law;
For posture, dress, grimace and affectation, 10
Tho’ foes to sense, are harmless to the nation.
Our last redress is dint of verse to try,
And satire is our Court of Chancery.
This way took Horace to reform an age,
Not bad enough to need an author’s rage. 15
But yours, who liv’d in more degenerate times,
Was forc’d to fasten deep, and worry crimes.
Yet you, my friend, have temper’d him so well,
You make him smile in spite of all his zeal:
An art peculiar to yourself alone, 20
To join the virtues of two styles in one.
Oh! were your author’s principle receiv’d,
Half of the lab’ring world would be reliev’d:
For not to wish is not to be deceiv’d.
Revenge wou’d into charity be chang’d, 25
Because it costs too dear to be reveng’d:
It costs our quiet and content of mind,
And when ’tis compass’d, leaves a sting behind.
Suppose I had the better end o’ th’ staff,
Why should I help th’ ill-natur’d world to laugh? 30
‘Tis all alike to them, who get the day;
They love the spite and mischief of the fray.
No; I have cur’d myself of that disease;
Nor will I be provok’d, but when I please:
But let me half that cure to you restore; 35
You give the salve, I laid it to the sore.
Our kind relief against a rainy day,
Beyond a tavern, or a tedious play,
We take your book, and laugh our spleen away.
If all your tribe, too studious of debate, 40
Would cease false hopes and titles to create,
Led by the rare example you begun,
Clients would fail, and Lawyers be undone.
Title Henry Higden (fl. 1686-1693), poet, dramatist, translator; as a member of Middle Temple, he was also a barrister. Dryden’s poem was one of three celebratory verses published in the front matter of Higden’s A Modern Essay on the Tenth Satyr of Juvenal (London, 1687); Juvenal (b. 55-60? CE, d. in or after 127 CE), the “most powerful of all Roma satiric poets” (Britannica).
1 Grecian wits The most well-known early Greek satirists included Aristophanes (446 BC-386 BC), and Lucian (c. 125-after 180).
2 pasquins Composers of “lampoons,” satirists (OED).
4 durst not That is, “dared” not (OED).
7 drolls “A funny or waggish fellow; a merry-andrew, buffoon, jester, humorist” (OED).
9 fop “A foolish person, a fool” (OED).
13 Court of Chancery “Court of equity to provide remedies not obtainable in the courts of common law” (Britannica).
14 Horace (65 BC-8BC), “Latin lyric poet and satirist” (Britannica).
16 yours “Juvenal” [Publisher’s note].
32 fray “A disturbance, esp. one caused by fighting; a noisy quarrel, a brawl” (OED).
SOURCE: Original Poems, and Translations, in Two Volumes, vol. II (Edinburgh, 1776), pp. 215-16 [Google Books]
Edited by Ilya Varga