Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

best age of Roman poetry, he was at least of that which preceded it; and he himself refined it to that degree of perfection, both in the language and the thoughts, that he left an easy task to Virgil; who as he succeeded him in time, so he copied his excellencies: for the method of the Georgics is plainly derived from him. Lucretius had chosen a subject naturally crabbed; he therefore adorned it with poetical descriptions, and precepts of morality, in the beginning and ending of his books, which you see Virgil has imitated with great success in those four books, which in my opinion are more perfect in their kind than even his divine Æneid. The turn of his verses he has likewise followed in those places which Lucretius has most laboured; and some of his very lines he has transplanted into his own works, without much variation. If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius (I mean of bis soul and genius) is a certain kind of noble pride, and positive assertion of his opinions. He is every where confident of bis own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over his vulgar readers, but even his patron Memmius. For he is always bidding him attend, as if he had the rod over him; and using a magisterial authority while be instructs him. From his time to ours, I know none so like him, as our poet and philosopher of Malmesbury. This is that perpetual dictatorship, which is exercised by Lucretius; who, though often in the wrong, yet seems to deal bonâ fide with his reader, and tells him nothing but what he thinks: in which plain sincerity, I believe, he differs from our Hobbes, who could not but be convinced, or at least doubt of some eternal truths, which he has opposed. But for Lucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, and is so confident of his cause, that he is before-hand with his antagonists; urging for them whatever he imagined they could say, and leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future: all this too with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph before he entered into the lists. From this sublime and daring genius of his it must of necessity come to pass, that his thoughts must be masculine, full of argumentation, and that sufficiently warm. From the same fiery temper proceeds the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subject does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy. For there is no doubt to be made, but that he could have been every where as poetical as he is in his descriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to instruct, in his system of nature, than to delight. But he was bent upon making Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to defy an invisible power. In short, he was so much an atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These are the considerations which I had of that author before I attempted to translate some parts of him. And accordingly I laid by my natural diffidence and scepticism for a while, to take up that dogmatical way of his, which, as I said, is so much his character, as to make him that individual poet. As for his opinions concerning the mortality of the soul, they are so absurd, that I cannot, if I would, believe them. I think a future state demonstrable even by natural arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishments is only a pleasing prospect to a man, who resolves before-hand not to live morally. But, on the other side, the thought of being nothing after death is a burthen insupportable to a virtuous man, even though a heathen. We naturally aim at happiness, and cannot bear to have it confined to the shortress of our present being, especially when we consider, that virtue is generally unhappy in this world, and vice fortunate. So that it is hope of futurity alone that makes this life tolerable, in expectation of a better. Who would not commit all the excesses, to which he is prompted by his natural inclinations, if he may do them with security while he is alive, and be incapable of punishment after he is dead? If he be cunning and secret enough to avoid the laws, and there is no band of morality to restrain him: for fame and reputation are weak ties: many men have not the least sense of them: powerful men are only awed by them, as they conduce to their interest, and that not always, when a passion is predominant: and no man will be contained within the bounds of daty, when he may safely transgress them. These are my thoughts abstractedly, and without entering into the notions of our Christian faith, which is the proper business of divines.

But there are other arguments in this poem (which I have turned into English) not belonging to the mortality of the soul, which are strong enough to a reasonable man, to make him less in love with life, and consequently in less apprehensions of death. Such as are the natural satiety proceeding from a perpetual enjoyment of the same things; the inconveniencies of old age, which make him incapable of corporeal pleasures; the decay of understanding and memory, which render him contemptible, and useless to others. These, and many other reasons, so pathetically urged, so beau. tifully expressed, so adorned with examples, and so admirably raised by the prosopopeia of Nature, wlio is brought in speaking to her children, with so much authority and vigour, deserve the pains I have taken with them, which I hope have not been unsuccessful, or unworthy of my author. At least I must take the liberty to own, that I was pleased with my own endeavours, which but rarely happens to me; and that I am not dissatisfied upon the review of any thing I have done in this author.

I have not here designed to rob the ingenious and learned translator of Lucretius of any part of that commendation which he has so justly acquired by the whole author, whose fragments only fall to my portion. What I have now performed is no more than I intended above twenty years ago. The ways of our translations are very different. He follows him more closely than I have done, which became an interpreter of the whole poem : I take more liberty, because it best suited with my design, which was to make him as pleasing as I could. He had been too voluminous had he used my method in so long a work; and I had certainly taken his, bad I made it my business to translate the whole. The preference then is justly his; and I join with Mr. Evelyn in the confession of it, with this additional advantage to him, that his reputation is already established in this poet, mine is to make its fortune in the world. If I have been any where obscure in following our common author, or if Lucretius himself is to be condemned, I refer myself to his excellent annotations, which I have often read, and always with some new pleasure.

My preface begins already to swell upon me, and looks as if I were afraid of my reader, by so tedious a bespeaking of him: and yet I have Horace and Theocritus 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 passions, and the natural expression of them in words so becoming a pastoral. A simplicity shines through all be writes. He sbows 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 Tasso's Aminta and the Pastor Fido of Guarini. Virgil's shepherds are too well read in the philosophy of Epicurus and Plato; and Guarini's seem to have been bred in courts. But Theocritus and Tasso have taken theirs from cottages and plains. It was said of Tasso, 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 softer than Ovid; he touches the passions more delicately, and performs all this out of his own fund, without diving into the arts and sciences for a supply. Even bis Doric dialect has an incomparable sweetness in its clownishness, like a fair shepherdess in her country russet, talking in a Yorkshire tone. This was impossible for Virgil to im tate; because the severity of the Roman language denied him that advantage. Spenser bas endeavoured it in his Shepherd's Kalendar; but neither will it succeed in English: for which reason I have forebore to attempt it. For Theocritus writ to Sicilians, who spoke that dialect; and I direct this part of my translations to our ladies, who neither understand, nor will take pleasure in such homely expressions. 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 satirist, and a writer of odes. His morals are uniform, and run through all of them : for, let his Dutch 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 criticism, 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 declaiming, are no part of my present undertaking, 1 confine myself wholly to his odes. These are also of several sorts: some of them are panegyrical, others moral, the rest jovial, or (if I may so call them) Bacchanalian. As difficult as he makes it, and as indeed it is, to imitate Pindar, yet, in his most elevated flights, and in the sudden changes of his subject, with almost imperceptible connections, that Theban poet is his

But Horace is of the more bonnded fancy, and confines himself strictly to one sort of verse, or stanza, in every ode. That which will distinguish his style from all other ports, 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 feliciter audere

master.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

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, I have attempted to translate in Pindaric verse ; it is that which is inscribed 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 masterpiece 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 so 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 so 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, somewhat of more equal thoughts, somewhat of sweetness in the numbers, in one word, somewhat of a finer turn, and more lyrical verse, is yet wanting. As for the soul 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 essential, what rules of morality or respect have 1 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. Milton's Paradise Lost is admirable ; but am I therefore bound to maintain, that there are no fats against his elevations, when it is 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? It is as much commendation 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 say, 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 Alexandrine of six. 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 sound 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. 1 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 said 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 grossly copied by almost all the rest. A musical ear, and a great genius, if another Mr. Cowley could arise in another age, may bring it to perfection. In the mean time,

Fungar vice cotis, acutum

Reddere quæ ferrum valet, exsors ipsa secandi. To conclude, I am sensible that I have written this too hastily and too loosely: 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 subject? The objection is unanswerable; but, in part of recompense, let me assure the reader, that, in hasty 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, though not of judgment, in these incorrect essays, and consequently, though my hazard be the greater, yet the reader's pleasure is not the less.

JOHN DRYDEN

TRANSLATIONS FROM THEOCRITUS

OR,

A MARYLLIS:

Ah, why am I from empty joys debarr’d?
Por kisses are but empty when compaid.

I rave, and in my raging fit shall tear
THE THIRD IDYLLIUM OF THEOCRITUS, The garland, which I wove for you to wear,

Of parsly, with a wreath of ivy bound,
PARAPHRASED.

And border'd with a rosy edging round.

What pangs I feel, unpity'd and unheard ! To Amaryllis Love compels my way, Since I must die, why is my fate deferr'd !

My browzing goats upon the mountains stray: I strip my body of my shepherd's frock : 0 Tityrus, tend them well, and see them fed Behold that dreadful downfall of a rock, In pastures fresh, and to their watering led; Where yon old fisher views the waves from high? And 'ware the ridgling with his budding head. 'Tis that convenient leap I mean to try. Ah, beaute us nyinph! can you forget your love, You would be pleas'd to see me plunge to shore, The conscious grottos, and the shady grove; But better pleas'd if I should rise no more. Where stretch'd at ease your tender limbs were laid, I might have read my fortune long ago, Your nameless beauties nakedly display'd ? When, seeking my success in love to know, Then I was call'd your darling, your desire, I try'd th' infallible prophetic way, With kisses such as set iny soul on fire:

A poppy-leaf upon my palm to lay : But you are chang'd, y. t I am still the same; I truck, and yet no lucky crack did folloi; My heart maintains for both a double flaine; Yet I struck hard, and yet the leaf lay hollow : Griev'd, but uumov'd, and patient of your scorn: And which was worse, if any worse could prove, So faithful I, and you so much forsworn!

The withering leaf foreshow'd your withering love. I die, and death will finish all my pain;

Yet farther (ah, how far a lover dares!) Yet, ere I die, behold me once again :

My last recourse I had to sieve and sheers; Am I so much deform'd, so chang'd of late? And told the witch Agreo my disease : What pa tial judges are our love and bate!

Agreo, that in harvest us'd to lease : Ten wildings have I gather'd for my dear;

But harvest done, to chare-work did aspire ; How ruddy, like your lips, their streaks appear! Meat, drink, and two-pence, was her daily bire. Far off you view'd them with a longing eye To work she went, her charms she mutter'd o'er, Upon the topmost branch (the tree was high): And yet the resty sieve wagg'd ne'er the more; Yet nimbly up, from bough to bough I swervid, I wept for woe, the testy beldame swore, And for to-morrow have ten more reserv'd.

And, foaming with her god, foretold my fate; Look on me kindly, and some pity show,

'That I was duom'd to love, and you to hate. Or give me leave at least to look on you.

A milk-white goat for you I did provide; Some god transforni me by bis heaveuly power Two milk-white kids ran frisking by my side, Ev'n to a bee to buzz within your bower,

For which the nut-brown lass, Erithasis, The winding ivy-chaplet to invade,

Full often offer'd many a savoury kiss. And folded fern that your fair forehead shade. Hers they shall be, since you refuse the price: Now to my cost the force of Love I find;

What madman would o'erstand bis market twice! The heavy hand it bears on human-kind.

My right eye itches, some good luck is gear, The milk of tigers was his infant food,

Perhaps my Amaryllis may appear; Taught from his tender years the taste of blood; I'll set up such a note as she shall bear. His brother whelps and he ran wild about the What nymph but my melodious voice would more? wood.

She must be flint, if she refuse my love. Ah, nymph, train'd up in his tyrannic court, Hippomenes, who ran with noble strife To make the sufferings of your slaves your sport! | To win his lady, or to lose his life, Uuheeded ruin! treacheous delight!

(What shift some men will make to get a wife!) O polish'd hardness soften'd to the sight!

Threw down a golden apple in her way; Whose radiant eyes your ebon brows adorn, For all her haste she could not choose but stay: Like midnight those, and these like break of morn! Renown said, “ Run;" the glittering bribe cryd, Smile once again, revive me with your charms;

“ Hold;" And let me die contented in your arms.

The man might have been hang'd, but for his gold, I would not ask to live another day,

Yet some suppose 'twas Love (some few indeed) Might I but sweetly kiss my soul away.

That stopt the fatal fury of her speed :.

OF

She saw, she sigh’d; her nimble feet refuse Betwixt two sheets thou shalt enjoy her bare,
Their wonted speed, and she took pains to lose.

With whom no Grecian virgin can compare;
A prophet some, and some a poet cry,

So soft, so sweet, so balıny, and so fair. (No matter which, so neither of them lie)

A boy, like thee, would make a kingly line:
From steepy Othrys' top to Pylus drove

But oh, a girl like her must be divine.
His herd; and for his pains enjoy'd his love: Her equals, we, in years, but not in face,
If such another wager should be laid,

Twelvescore viragoes of the Spartan rare,
I'll find the man, if you can find the maid.

While naked to Eurota's banks we bend,
Why name I men, when Love extended finds And there in manly exercise contend,
His power on high, and in celestial minds;

When she appears, are all eclips'd and lost,
Venus the shepherd's homely habit took,

And hide the beauties that we made our boast.
And manag'd something else besides the crook; So, when the night and winter disappear,
Nar, when Adonis died, was heard to roar, The purple morning, rising with the year,
And never from her heart forgave the boar. Salutes the spring, as her celestial tyes
How blest was fair Endymion with his Moon, Adorn the world, and brighten all the skies:
Who sleeps on Latmos' top from night to noon! So beauteous Helen shines among the rest,
What Jason from Medea's love possest,

Tall, slender, straight, with all the g:aces blest.
You shall not hear, but know 'tis like the rest. As pines the mountains, or as fields the corn,
My aking head can scarce support the pain; Or as Thessalian steeds the race adorn;
This cursed love will surely turn my brain : So rosy-colour'd Helen is the pride
Feel how it shoots, and yet you take no pity ;

Of Lacedæmon, and of Greece beside.
Nay then 'tis time to end my doleful ditty.

Like her no nymph can willing osiers bend
A clammy sweat does o'er my temples creep; In basket-works, which painted streaks commend:
My heary eyes are urg'd with iron sleep:

With Pallas in the loom she may contend.
I lay me down to gasp my latest breath,

But none, ah! none can aniinate the lyre,
The wolves will get a breakfast by my death; And the mute strings with vocal souls inspire;
Yet scarce enough their bunger to supply,

Whether the learn'd Minerva be her theine,
For Love has made me carrion ere I die.

Or chaste Diana bathing in the stream:
None can record their heavenly praise so well
As Helen, in whose eyes ten thousand Cupids

dwell,
THE EPITHALAMIUM

O fair, O graceful! yet with maids enrolld,
But whom to-morrow's Sun a matron shall be-

hold! HELEN AND MENEL AUS.

Yet ere to-morrow's Sun shall show his head,

The dewy paths of meadows we will treal, FROM THE EIGHTEENTH IDYLLIUM OF THEOCRITUS.

Por crowns and chaplets to adorn thy head. Twelve Spartan virgins, noble, young, and fair, Where all shall weep and wish for thy return, With violet wreaths adorn'd their flowing hair; As bleating lambs their absent mother mourn. And to the pompous palace did resort,

Our noblest maids shall to thy name hequeath
Where Menelans kept his royal court,

The boughs of lotos, form'd into a wreath.
There band in hand a comely choir they led; This monument, thy maiden beauty's due,
To sing a blessing to his nuptial bed, (bespread. High on a plane-tree shall be hung to view:
With curious needles wrought, and painted flowers On the smooth rind the passenger shall see
Jove's beauteous daughter now his bride must be, Thy name engrav'd, and worship Helen's tree:
And Jove himself was less a god than he:

Balm, from a silver-box distill'd around,
For this their artful hands instruct the lute to Shall all bedew the roots, and scent the sacred
sound,

[ground. ground.
Their feet assist their hands, and justly beat the The balm, 'tis true, can aged plants prolong,
This was their song : “ Why, happy bridegroom, But Helen's name will keep it ever young.
Ere yet the stars are kindied in the sky, (why, Hail bride, haid bridegroom, son-in-law to Jove!
Fre twilight shades, or evening dews are shed, With fruitful joys Latona bless your love;
Why dost thou steal sa suon away to bed? Let Venus furnish you with full desires,
Has Somnus brush'd thy eye-lids with his rod, Add vigour to your wills, and fuel to your fires : •
Or do thy legs refuse to bear their load,

Almighty Jove augment your wealthy store,
With flowing bowis of a more generous god ? Give much to you, and to his grandsons more.
If gentle slumber on thy temples creep,

From generous loins a generous race will spring,
(Bat, naughty man, thou dost not mean to sleep) Each girl, like her, a queen; each boy, like you,
Betake thee to thy bed, thou drowsy drone,

a king.
Slemp by thyself, and leave thy bride alone: Now sleep, if sleep you can; but while you rest,
Go, brave her with her maiden mates to play, Sleep close, with folded arms, and breast to
At sports more harmless till the break of day:

breast:
Give us this evening; thou hast morn and night, Rise in the morn; but oh! before you rise,
And all the vear before thee, for delight.

Forget not to perform your morning sacrifice, O happy youth! to thee, among the crowd, We will be with you ere the crowing cock Ofnival princes, Cupid sweez'd aloud;

Salutes the light, and struts before his featherid And every lucky omen sent before,

flock. To meet the landing on the Spartan shore. Hymen, oh Hymen, to thy triumphs run, Of all my heroes thou canst boast alone,

And view the mighty spoils thou hast in battle That Jove, wbene'er he thunders, calls thee son:

won,"

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »