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"Adieu! If this advice appear the worst, E'en take the counsel which I gave you first: Or better precepts if you can impart,
Why do; I'll follow them with all my heart.
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, upon whom the Romans depended for the increase of an absolute empire. But to make the poem entirely 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 neighbours.
This Epistle will shew 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 cotemporaries, first, against the taste of the town, whose humour 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 shews (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 licence of those ancient poets restrained; that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagancies 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 upon them the emperor himself must depend, for his fame with posterity.
We may further learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his court to this great prince by writing with a decent freedom toward him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character. Pope.