Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pen is Mightier?

In cataloging tracts from a volume in the Mather Library I came across some interesting verses printed on the last page of Ludlow no lyar, or, A detection of Dr. Hollingworth's disingenuity in his second defence of King Charles I. and a further vindication of the Parliament of the 3d of Novemb. 1640 (Amsterdam: 1692), attributed to Slingsby Bethel. The tract defends Edmund Ludlow, one of the judges of Charles I who signed the king's execution warrant. The very page is available digitally (from a later edition of documents) here.

The two verses below are transcribed exactly as they appear in the pamphlet. The first, in Latin, is most of an epigram by Martial (it's missing two lines, and some of the words are a little off).

Allatres licet usque nos & usque,
Et gannitibus improbis lacessas;

Ignotus pereas Miser, Necesse est.
Non deerunt tamen hac in
Urbe forsan
Unus, vel duo, tresue, quatuorve,
Pellem rodere qui velint Caninam;
Nos hac a scabie tenemus ungues.

One translation of this epigram (Book Five, Epigram LX, in its correct form) runs: "You may attack me as much as you like, but I will not give you the immortality you crave by recording your existence in my verse. Others may be willing to soil their fingers with you, but I keep my hands off such carrion." Several other translations here.

The second verse, written around 1677, is a reply by Sir Carr Scroope to John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and is titled 'Answer by way of epigram.'

Rail on, poor feeble Scribler, speak of me,
In as base Terms as the World speaks of thee;
Sit swelling in thy Hole like a vex'd Toad,
And full of Malice spit thy spleen abroad;
Thou canst blast no man's Fame with thy ill word,
Thy pen is just as harmless as thy Sword.

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