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In the next place, let us free our discourse from all contumelious language, all laughter, mockery, and scurrility, which spoil the relish of our reprehensions. For, as when a chirurgeon makes an incision in the flesh he uses decent neatness and dexterity in the operation, without the affected and superfluous gesticulations of a quack or mountebank, so the lancing the sores of a friend may admit indeed of a little humor and urbanity, but that so qualified that it spoil not the seriousness and gravity requisite to the work. For boldness, insolence, and ill language destroy its force and efficacy. And therefore the fiddler reparteed handsomely enough upon Philip, when he undertook to dispute with him about the touch upon his instrument: God forbid that your majesty should be so unhappy as to understand a fiddle better than I do. But Epicharmus was too blunt upon Hiero, who invited him to [p. 142] supper a little after he had put some of his acquaintance to death, when he replied, Aye, but you could not invite me the other day to the sacrifice of my friends. And so was Antiphon too rude in his reflection upon Dionysius, when, on occasion of a discourse about the best sort of bronze, he told him that was the best in his opinion of which the Athenians made statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton. For these scurrilous abusive jests are most certainly disagreeable and pain to no purpose, being but the product of an intemperate wit, and betraying the enmity and ill-nature of him who takes the liberty to use them; and whosoever allows himself in them does but wantonly sport about the brink of that pit which one day will swallow him up. For Antiphon was afterward executed under Dionysius; and Timagenes was in disgrace with Augustus Caesar, not for any extravagant freedom in his discourse, but only because he had taken up a foolish custom of never talking seriously but always scurrilously at every entertainment and walk where the emperor desired his company,—
Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim;1

alleging the pleasantness of his humor as the cause of his favor at court.

Thus you shall meet with several smart and satirical reflections in a comedy; but the mixture of jest and fool in the play, like ill sauce to good meat, abates their poignancy and renders them insignificant; so that, upon the whole, the poet acquires only the character of a saucy and foul-mouthed buffoon, and the auditors lose that advantage which they might otherwise reap from remarks of that nature.

We may do well therefore to reserve our jollity and mirth for more suitable occasions, but we must by all [p. 143] means be serious and candid in our admonitions; which, if they be upon important points, must be so animated with our gestures, passion, and eagerness of voice, as to give them weight and credit and so awaken a tender concern in the persons to whom they are addressed.

We are again to time our reproofs as seasonably as we can; for a mistake in the opportunities, as it is of ill consequence in all other things, is so peculiarly in our reprehensions. And therefore, I presume, it is manifest, we ought not to fall foul upon men in their drink. For first, he who broaches any sour disagreeable discourse amidst the pleasantry and good humor of friends casts a cloud over the serenity of the company, and acts counter to the God Lysius,2 who, as Pindar words it, unties the band of all our cares. Besides, such unseasonable remonstrances are not without danger; for wine is apt to warm men into passion, and make them quarrel at the freedom you take. And in short, it is no argument of any brave and generous, but rather of an unmanly temper, not to dare to speak one's sense when men are sober, but to keep barking like a cowardly cur at table. And therefore we need not enlarge any further upon this topic.

1 Il. II. 215.

2 Λύσιος, the Releaser. See Pind. Frag. 124.

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