In his odes, the love always exceeds the
hate, so that the severest satire still sings itself, and the
poet is satisfied, though the folly be not corrected.
A sort of necessary order in the development of Genius is, first,
Complaint; second, Plaint; third, Love. Complaint, which is the
condition of Persius, lies not in the province of poetry. Erelong
the enjoyment of a superior good would have changed his disgust
into regret. We can never have much sympathy with the complainer;
for after searching nature through, we conclude that he must be
both plaintiff and defendant too, and so had best come to a
settlement without a hearing. He who receives an injury is to
some extent an accomplice of the wrong-doer.
Perhaps it would be truer to say, that the highest strain of the
muse is essentially plaintive. The saint's are still _tears_ of
joy. Who has ever heard the _Innocent_ sing?
But the divinest poem, or the life of a great man, is the
severest satire; as impersonal as Nature herself, and like the
sighs of her winds in the woods, which convey ever a slight
reproof to the hearer. The greater the genius, the keener the
edge of the satire.
Hence we have to do only with the rare and fragmentary traits,
which least belong to Persius, or shall we say, are the properest
utterances of his muse; since that which he says best at any time
is what he can best say at all times.