This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
As to the woods and groves and that retirement which Aper denounced, they bring such delight to me that I count among the chief enjoyments of poetry the fact that it is composed not in the midst of bustle, or with a suitor sitting before one's door, or amid the wretchedness and tears of prisoners, but that the soul withdraws herself to abodes of purity and innocence, and enjoys her holy resting-place. Here eloquence had her earliest beginnings; here is her inmost shrine. In such guise and beauty did she first charm mortals, and steal into those virgin hearts which no vice had contaminated. Oracles spoke under these conditions. As for the present money-getting and blood-stained eloquence, its use is modern, its origin in corrupt manners, and, as you said, Aper, it is a device to serve as a weapon. But the happy golden age, to speak in our own poetic fashion, knew neither orators nor accusations, while it abounded in poets and bards, men who could sing of good deeds, but not defend evil actions. None enjoyed greater glory, or honours more august, first with the gods, whose answers they published, and at whose feasts they were present, as was commonly said, and then with the offspring of the gods and with sacred kings, among whom, so we have understood, was not a single pleader of causes, but an Orpheus, a Linus, and, if you care to dive into a remoter age, an Apollo himself. Or, if you think all this too fabulous and imaginary, at least you grant me that Homer has as much honour with posterity as Demosthenes, and that the fame of Euripides or Sophocles is bounded by a limit not narrower than that of Lysias or Hyperides. You will find in our own day more who disparage Cicero's than Virgil's glory. Nor is any production of Asinius or Messala so famous as Ovid's Medea or the Thyestes of Varius.