« AnteriorContinuar »
The reflections of Horace, and the judgments passed in his Epistle to Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own country. The author thought them considerable enough to address them to his prince; whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a monarch, on whom the Romans depended for the increase of an absolute empire : but to make the poem intirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the happiness of a free people, and are more consistent with the welfare of our neighbors.
This Epistle will show the learned world to have fallen into two mistakes : one, that Augustus was a patron of poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the best writers to name him, but recommended that care even to the civil magistrate :— admonebat prætores, ne paterentur nomen suum obsolefieri,' &c. : the other, that this piece was only a general discourse of poetry; whereas it was an apology for the poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron. Horace here pleads the cause of his contemporaries, first, against the taste of the town, whose humor it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly, against the court and nobility, who encouraged only the writers for the theatre; and, lastly, against the emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the government. He shows, by a view of the progress of learning, and the change of taste among the Romans, that the introduction of the polite arts of Greece had given the writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors; that their morals were much improved, and the license of those ancient poets restrained; that satire and comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing to the ill taste of the nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the state; and concludes, that it was on them the emperor himself must depend for his fame with posterity.