Obrazy na stronie

ocritus upon my hands; but the Greek gentleman shall quickly be dispatched, because I have more business with the Roman.

That which distinguishes Theocritus from all other Poets, both Greek and Latin, and which raises him even above Virgil in his Eclogues, is the inimitable tenderness of his paflions, and the natural expression of them in words so becoming of a pastoral. A fimplicity shines through all he writes. He shews his art and learning by disguising both. His shepherds never rise above their country education in their complaints of love. There is the same difference betwixt him and Virgil, as there is between Taffo's Aminta and the Paftor Fido of Guarini. Virgil's shepherds are too well read in the Philosophy of Epicurus and of Plato ; and Guarini's seem to have been bred in courts. But Theocritus and Taffo have taken theirs from cottages and plains. It was said of Taffo, in relation to his similitudes, that he never departed from the woods, that is, all his comparisons were taken from the country. The same may be said of our Theocritus. He is fofter than Ovid; he touches the paflions more delicately, and performs all this out of his own fund, without diving into the arts and sciences for a supply. Even his Doric dialect has an incomparable sweetness in its clownishness, like a fair shepherdess in her country ruffet, talking in a Yorkshire tone. This was impoffible for Virgil to imitate ; because the severity of the Roman Language denied him that advantage. Spencer has endeavoured it in his Shepherd's Kalendar; but neither will it succeed in English ; for which reason I have forbore to attempt it.

For Theocritus writ to Sicilians, who spoke that dialect ; and I direct this part


translations to our ladies, who neither understand, nor will take pleasure in such homely expres. fions. I proceed to Horace.


Take him in parts, and he is chiefly to be considered in his three different talents, as he was a Critic, a Sacirist, and a Writer of Odes. His morals are uniform, and run through all of them: for let his Durch commentators say what they will, his philosophy was Epicurean; and he made use of Gods and Providence only to serve a turn in Poetry. But since neither his Criticisms, which are the most instructive of any that are written in this art, nor his Satires, which are incomparably beyond Juvenal's, if to laugh and rally is to be preferred to railing and declaining, are no part of my present undertaking, I confine myself wholly to his Odes. These are also of several sorts : fome of them are panegyrical, others moral, the rest jovial, or (if I may focall them) Bacchanalian. As difficult as he makes it, and as indeed ic is, to imitate Pindar, yet, in his most elevated Aights, and in the sudden changes of his subject with almost imperceptible connexions, that Theban Poet is his master. But Horace is of the more bounded fancy, and confines himself strictly to one fort of verfe, or ftanza, in every Ode. That which will distinguish his style from all other Poets, is the elegance of his words, and the numerousness of his verse. There is nothing so delicately turned in all the Roman language. There appears in every part of his diction, or (to speak English) in all his expressions, a kind of noble and bold purity. His words are chosen with as much exactness as Virgil's; but there seems to be a greater spirit in them. There is a secret happiness attends his choice, which in Petronius is called Curiosa Felicitas, and which I suppose he had from the Felicicer audere of Horace himself. But the most distinguishing part of all his character seems to me to be his briskness, his jollity, and his good humour: and those I have chiefly endeavoured to copy. His other excellencies, I confess, are above my imitation. One Ode, which infinitely pleased me in the reading,

[ocr errors]

I have attempted to translate in Pindaric Verse: it is thar, which is infcribed to the present Earl of Rochester, to whom I have particular obligations, which this small testimony of my gratitude can never pay. It is his darling in the Latin, and I have taken some pains to make it my master-piece in English: for which reason I took this kind of verse, which allows more latitude than any other. Every one knows it was introduced into our language, in this age, by the happy genius of Mr. Cowley. The seeming easiness of it has made it spread: but it has not been considered enough, to be fo well cultivated. It languishes in almost every hand but his, and some very few, whom (to keep the rest in countenance) I do not name. He, indeed, has brought it as near perfection as was possible in fo short a time. But if I may be allowed to speak my mind modestly, and without injury to his sacred ashes, somewhat of the purity of the English, fomewhat of more equal thoughts, somewhat of sweetness in the numbers, in one word, somewhat of a finer turn, and more Ly. rical Verse, is yet wanting. As for the foul of it, which consists in the warmth and vigour of fancy, the masterly figures, and the copiousness of imagination, he has excelled all others in this kind. Yet if the kind itself be capable of more perfection, though rather in the ornamental parts of it, than the effential, what rules of morality or respect have I broken, in naming the defects, that they may hereafter be amended ? Imitation is a nice point, and there are few Poets who deserve to be models in all they write. Milcon's Paradife Loft is admirable; bur am I therefore bound to maintain, that there are no fiats against his elevations, when 'tis evident he creeps along sometimes for above an hundred lines together? Cannot I admire the height of his invention, and the strength of his expression, without defending his antiquated words, and the perpetual harshness of their sound ? Ic is as much com

mendation as a man can bear, to own him excellent; all beyond it is idolatry. Since Pindar was the prince of Lyric Poets, let me have leave to fay, that, in imitating him, our numbers should, for the most part, be Lyrical. For variety, or rather where the majesty of thought requires it, they may be stretched to the English Heroic of five feet, and to the French Alex -andrine of fix. But the ear must preside, and direct the judgment to the choice of numbers. Without the nicety of this, the harmony of Pindaric Verse can never be complete : the cadency of one line must be a rule to that of the next; and the found of the former must slide gently into that which follows ; without leaping from one extreme into another. It must be done like the shadowings of a picture, which fall by degrees into a darker colour. I shall be glad, if I have so explained myself as to be understood; but if I have not, quod nequeo dicere & sentio tantùm, must be my excuse. There remains much more to be faid on this subject; but, to avoid envy, I will be silent. What I have said is the general opinion of the best judges, and in a manner has been forced from me, by seeing a noble sort of Poetry so happily restored by one man, and so grolly copied by almost all the rest. A musi. cal ear, and a great genius, if another Mr. Cowley could arise in another age, may bring it to perfection. In the mean time,

[ocr errors]

Fungar vice cotis, acutum

quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipfa secandi.
To conclude, I am sensible that I have written this
too hastily and too loosly: I fear I have been tedious,
and, which is worse, it comes out from the first draught,
and uncorrected. This I grant is no excuse: for it
may be reasonably urged, why did he not write with
more leisure, or, if he had it not (which was certainly
my case) why did he attempt to write on so nice a sub-


je&t? The objection is unanswerable ; but, in part of recompence, let me assure the reader, that, in hafty productions, he is sure to meet with an author's present sense, which cooler thoughts would possibly have disguised. There is undoubtedly more of spirit, tho' not of judgment, in these uncorrect Essays, and confequently, though my hazard be the greater, yet the reader's pleasure is not the less.


« PoprzedniaDalej »