Prologue, To Eutychus.THE tales of Phaedrus would you read,
O Eutychus, you must be freed
From business, that the mind unbent
May take the author's full intent.
You urge that this poetic turn
Of mine is not of such concern,
As with your time to interfere
A moment's space: 'tis therefore clear
For those essays you have no call,
Which suit not your affairs at all
A time may come, perhaps you'll say,
That I shall make a holiday,
And have my vacant thoughts at large,
The student's office to discharge-
And can you such vile stuff peruse,
Rather than serve domestic views,
Return the visits of a friend,
Or with your wife your leisure spend,
Relax your mind, your limbs relieve,
And for new toil new strength receive ?
From wordly cares you must estrange
Your thoughts, and feel a perfect change,
If to Parnassus you repair,
And seek for your admission there,
Me-(whom a Grecian mother bore
On Hill Pierian, where of yore
Mnemosyne in love divine
Brought forth to Jove the tuneful Nine.
Though sprung where genius reign'd with art
I grubb'd up av'rice from my heart,
And rather for applause than pay,
Embrace the literary way)
Yet as a writer and a wit,
With some abatements they admit.
What is his case then, do you think,
Who toils for wealth nor sleeps a wink.
Preferring to the pleasing pain
Of composition sordid gain ?
But hap what will (as Sinon said,
When to king Priam he was led),
I book the third shall now fulfil,
With Aesop for my master still;
Which book I dedicate to you,
As both to worth and honour due
Pleased, if you read-if not, content
As conscious of a sure event,
That these my fables shall remain,
And after-ages entertain.
In a few words I now propose
To point from whence the Fable rose.
A servitude was all along
Exposed to most oppressive wrong,
The suff'rer therefore did not dare
His heart's true dictates to declare;
But couch'd his meaning in the veil
Of many an allegoric tale,
And jesting with a moral aim,
Eluded all offence and blame.
This is the path that I pursue,
Inventing more than AEsop knew;
And certain topics by-the-by,
To my own hindrence did I try.
But was there any of mankind,
Besides Sejanus, so inclined,
Who was alone to work my fall,
Informer, witness, judge and all;
I would confess the slander true,
And own such hardships were my due;
Nor would I fly, my grief to ease,
To such poor lenitives as these.
If any through suspicion errs,
And to himself alone refers,
What was design'd for thousands more
He 'll show too plainly, where he's sore
Yet ev'n from such I crave excuse,
For (far from personal abuse)
My verse in gen'ral would put down
True life and manners of the town.
But here, perhaps, some one will ask
Why I, forsooth, embraced this task ?
If Esop, though a Phrygian, rose,
And ev'n derived from Scythian snows;
If Anacharsis could devise
By wit to gain th' immortal prize;
Shall I, who to learn'd Greece belong,
Neglect her honour and her song,
And by dull sloth myself disgrace ?
Since we can reckon up in Thrace,
The authors that have sweetest sung,
Where Linus from Apollo sprung;
And he whose mother was a muse,
Whose voice could tenderness infuse
To solid rocks, strange monsters quell'd,
And Hebrus in his course withheld.
Envy, stand clear, or thou shalt rue
Th' attack, for glory is my due.
Thus having wrought upon your ear,
I beg that you would be sincere,
And in the poet's cause avow
That candor, all the world allow.