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WORKS AND DAYS.
TO HIS GRACE
JOHN DUKE OF ARGYLLAND GREENWICH.
As this is the only method by which men of genius and learning (though small perhaps my claim to either) can show their esteem for persons of extraordinary merit, in a superior manner to the rest of mankind, I could never embrace a more favourable opportunity to express my veneration for your Grace, than before a translation of so ancient and valuable an author as Hesiod. Your high descent, and the glory of your illustrious ancestors, are the weakest foundations of your praise; your own exalted worth attracts the admiration, and I may say the love, of all virtuous and distinguishing souls; and to that only I dedicate the following work. The many circumstances which contribute to the raising you to
the dignities which you now enjoy, and which render you deserving the greatest favours a prince can bestow; and (what is above all) which fix you ever dear in the affection of your country, will be no small part of the English history, and shall make the name of Argyll sacred to every generation; nor is it the least part of your character, that the nation entertains the highest opinion of your taste and judgment in the polite arts.
You, my Lord, know how the works of genius up the head of a nation above her neighbours, and give it as much honour as success in arms; among these we must reckon our translations of the classics; by which, when we have naturalized all Greece and Rome, we shall be so much richer than they were by so many original productions as we shall have of our own. By translations, when performed by able hands, our countrymen have an opportunity of discovering the beauties of the ancients, without the trouble and expense of learning their languages, which are of no other advantage to us than for the authors who have writ in them; among which the poets are in the first rank of honour, whose verses are the delightful channels through which the best precepts of morality are conveyed to the mind: they have generally something in them so much above the common sense of mankind; and that delivered with such dignity of expression, and in such harmony of numbers, all which put together, constitute the os divinum; that the reader is inspired with sentiments of honour and virtue; he thinks
with abhorrence of all that is base and trifling; I may say, while he is reading, he is exalted above himself.
You, my Lord, I say, have a just sense of the benefits arising from works of genius, and will therefore pardon the zeal with which I express myself concerning them: and great is the blessing, that we want not persons who have hearts equal to their power to cherish them and here I
must beg leave to pay a debt of gratitude to one, who, I dare say, is as highly thought of by all lovers of polite learning as by myself, I mean the Earl of Pembroke; whose notes I have used in the words in which he gave them to me, and distinguished them by a particular mark from the rest. Much would I say in commendation of that great man; but I am checked by the fear of offending that virtue which every one admires. The same reason makes me dwell less on the praise of your Grace than my heart
inclines me to.
The many obligations which I have received from a lady, of whose virtues I can never say too much, make it a duty in me to mention her in the most grateful manner; and particularly before a translation, to the perfecting which I may with propriety say she greatly conduced, by her kind solicitations in my behalf, and her earnest recommendation of me to several persons of distinction. I believe your Grace will not charge me with vanity, if I confess myself
1 These occur in four places only, and are included in the present edition between brackets.
ambitious of being in the least degree of favour with so excellent a lady as the Marchioness of Annandale.
I shall conclude without troubling your Grace with any more circumstances relating to myself, sincerely wishing what I offer was more worthy. your patronage; and at the same time I beg it may be received as proceeding from a just sense of your eminence in all that is great and laudable, I am,
with the most profound respect,
and most humble servant,
Discourse on the Life of Hesiod.
SECTION 1. The Introduction.
THE lives of few persons are confounded with so many uncertainties and fabulous relations as those of Hesiod and Homer: for which reason, what may possibly be true is sometimes as much disputed as the romantic part of their stories. The first has been more fortunate than the other, in furnishing us from his writings, with some circumstances of himself and family; as the condition of his father, the place of his birth, and the extent of his travels: and he has put it out of dispute, though he has not fixed the period, that he was one of the earliest writers of whom we have any account.
2. Of his own and Father's Country, from his
He tells us in the second book of his Works and Days, that his father was an inhabitant of Cuma, in one of the Æolian isles; from whence he removed to Ascra, a village in Boeotia, at the foot of Mount Helicon; which was doubtless the place of our poet's birth, though Suidas, Lilius Gyraldus, Fabricius, and others, says he was of Cuma. Hesiod himself seems, and not unde