History . Language and Literature

From the Archives – Persius’ Prologue and Early Modern English Satire

PersiusWhen compared to Juvenal or Horace (the two most prominent figures of Roman satire in sixteenth and seventeenth century England), Persius’ impact on early modern satire has usually been considered slight. In our featured article this week, “Persius’ Prologue and Early Modern English Satire”, R.Clinton Simms of Chuo University, Tokyo demonstrates, with particular reference to the ‘Prologue’ to Satire 1, that early modern satirists were eager to engage this Roman poet and were, in fact, more eager to adapt Persius than merely imitate him.

In “Persius’ Prologue and Early Modern English Satire” the author selects readers and respondents in order to show the frequency of engagement with Persius. It is put forth that what makes Persius’ satiric presence unique is the variety of modulations. The adaptive project leads to a greater variability in what happens next, and the sense of remove and marginal status that Persius invokes is easily appropriated, and offers armature for a range of poetic voices.

Whilst early modern authors may not necessarily have felt allegiance to Horace or Juvenal, the voices of these two satirists are more readily detectable than that of Persius. The latter’s strains are less easy to detect, being more creatively interwoven with English poets’ own concerns.

“Persius’ Prologue and Early Modern English Satire” concludes that this difficulty in detecting Persius’ voice, as opposed to those of Horace and Juvenal, is likely to be the reason why the reception of this morally respectable Roman satirist has remained largely under-explored in the scholarly tradition.

Persius’ Prologue and Early Modern English Satire is available to read online now.

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