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Scar. In that you are mistaken: it is a situation to which the man of spirit is frequently obliged to stoop. ""Tis not in mortals to command success." Bending beneath the weight of miseries, reduced to actual want, how then would you have him act?
La Font. "Qu'il meurt!”*
Scar. To such a sentiment I have nothing to oppose. Most willingly then do I repeat it-Let him die!*
MERCURY and AN OLD MAN.
Old Man. You have certainly made a mistake. Your business can never be with me.
Merc. Not the smallest mistake.
think, is Senex.
Old Man. The same.
to the other world?
Merc. Such is my order.
Your name, I
But summoned, do you say,
Old Man. That is, you come to give me notice, I suppose. Well, well, in about twenty years I shall be ready for you.
Merc. Twenty years! you must make ready now. can no longer wait for you. Pluto will be displeased at the stay I have already made.
Old Man. Aye, but if Pluto knew my age,
he would spare me for a little time.
Merc. What, I pray you, is your age?
I am sure
Old Man. Only ninety, good Sir. It is very hard at the age of ninety-(Aside,) I have sunk half a dozen years upon him, but he will scarcely find me out.
* See the Horace of P. Corneille.
Merc. Only ninety! death is then a terrible stroke, indeed. But who is this blooming creature, who approaches us with so gay an air?
Old Man. That blooming creature is my wife.
Merc. Your wife! assuredly she will be happy to find herself a widow.
Old Man. Oh, no! a very different character. She is the softest, tenderest——But let her not know your office; she will run distracted at the thought of losing me. Merc. Ha ha! ha! why she has been preparing a dose of poison, with an intention of administering it to you in your evening potation.
Old Man. O the Jezebel, the Jezebel! Why-
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on.
Merc. But, pray, how old is your wife, venerable gentleman ?
Old Man. But little more than eighteen.
Pray introduce me
Old Man. With all my heart, 'faith. (Aside,) I like the motion well: he may be induced to take Lucretia instead of me.-She is accounted a very great beauty, I assure you, and the finest temper in the world. Egad, I begin to think I shall be able to puff her off. Enter WIFE.
Wife. Ah, my dear husband!
Your loving wife is
Old Man. (aside.) Oh, traitress! come not near me. Wife. But who is this gentleman?
fellow, as I live! What a figure is there!
An eye like Jove, to threaten and command,'
A station like the herald Mercury!
Merc. A goddess, sure! Do my eyes deceive me? Is it Venus I see, or—
Wife. O, dear sir
Old Man. Egad, he begins to make doux yeux at her. What a lucky dog am I!
Merc. My father, Jupiter, never won a fairer creature. Prithee, Mr. Senex, how came you possessed of so rich a prize?
Old Man. Love, Sir, love.
Her love was so very
Merc. Love! why do you suppose it possible that she could have any affection for you?
Old Man. For my money, I am very sure she had. Her love of show and grandeur I always knew; and, before you mentioned the poisoning business, I really imagined she had a regard for myself alone.
Merc. But did reason never come to your aid?
Old Man. She would obtrude herself upon me at times; but then I always discarded her as a troublesome guest.
Merc. And could you be content to live, if deprived of the society of your lovely wife?
Old Man. I could wish to mourn for Lucretia a little, just to show the world how very sincerely I regret the loss of her.
Merc. Well, then, we must spare you for a little time, since you are so very desirous of it.
Old Man. Thanks, many thanks, to you. Well, the world may say what it will, but there is an advantage in having a handsome wife.
SCENE THE ELYSIAN FIELDS.
STATIUS and Juvenal.
Stat. PRITHEE tell me, Juvenal,-since here we may unbosom ourselves with freedom,-what was your real meaning in the verses beginning-Curritur ad vocem jucundam, and in which you were pleased to mention me. Was it satire or panegyric?
Juv. Panegyric: and such as you well deserved ;-how could you have a doubt on the matter?
Stat. I never was in doubt about it. But, the critics being divided in opinion as to whether the passage was written jeeringly or in praise, I resolved, on meeting you, to ask the question.
Juv. Critics are ever a prying and inquisitive race; and, however plain and level to the sense a man may write, they will generally contrive to find him difficult will always suspect that something is hidden or obscured: which their sagacity must, therefore, be employed to find out. He, accordingly, sets to work; and when, after considerable labour, he has discovered 66 meanings that were never meant," who shall pretend to dispute his abilities, or his right to the "noble name ?"*
Stat. I always supposed the business of a critic to be of a very different nature.
Juv. To point out the several merits and inaccuracies of his author, and to render him clear and intelligible to the world, is, perhaps, your idea of a critic.
Stat. Something like it, I readily confess,
* You who bear the critic's noble name.-POPE.
Juv. No, Sir, no. The way to acquire reputation in the matter is to aim at rendering your author obscure : to twist and entangle his subject, so as to give you an opportunity of showing your skill and dexterity in unravelling it.
Stat. Commentators, indeed, have sometimes exercised their genius in this way; though they, not unfrequently, as the poet observes,—
Gloze and explain a thing till all men doubt it.-POPE.
Upon the whole, however, we are under very many obligations to them.
Juv. You are right. We owe much to the judicious annotator. But you are perfectly easy, I hope, in the mention that is made of you in my Seventh Satire, and believe that the passage in question was really intended as a compliment.
Stat. I do;—but I have been strangely and wantonly treated by critics. Some have censured me as an imitator, because, from the nature of my poem, the Thebaid, I was under the necessity of describing manners and customs that had been already particularly noted by Homer and Virgil; though it is very easy to discover, in my account of the "public games and funeral obsequies" (the principal matters for the poet of antiquity), that I was not a little careful to look out for different circumstances and events in them, so that the sameness of my subject might, in some degree, be compensated for by the diversity of my manner. Others, again, have attacked me for deviating from the line marked out by my illustrious predecessors, and for having aimed at what an eminent writer is pleased to call the "false fame of originality." Nay, that same writer has even observed: "So impossible it is, without deserting Nature herself, to dissent from her faithful copiers, that the main objection to the Sixth Book of the Thebaid hath arisen from the fruitless endeavour of being original, where common sense and the reason of the thing would