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of shining Romans) formed themselves to war by the study of history, and by the examples of the greatest captains, both of Greece and Italy, before their time. I name those two commanders in particular, because they were better read in chronicle than any of the Roman leaders; and that Lucullus, in particular, having only the theory of war from books, was thought fit, without practice, to be sent into the field, against the most formidable enemy of Rome. Tully indeed was called the learned consul in derision; but then he was not born a soldier : his head was turned another way : when he read the tacticks, he was thinking on the bar, which was his field of battle. The knowledge of warfare is thrown away on a general, who dares not make use of what he knows. I commend it only in a man of courage and resolution; in him it will direct his martial spirit, and teach him the way to the best victories, which are those that are least bloody, and which, though achieved by the hand, are managed by the head. Science distinguishes a man of honour from one of those athletic brutes whom undeservedly we call heroes. Cursed be the poet, who first honoured with that name a mere Ajax, a man-killing ideot. The Ulysses of Ovid upbraids his ignorance, that he understood not the shield for which be pleaded : there were engraven on it plans of cities, and maps of countries, which Ajax could not comprehend, but looked on them as stupidly as his fellowbeast the lion. But, on the other side, your grace has given yourself the education of his rival : you have studied every spot of ground in Flanders, which, for these ten years past, has been the scene of battles and of sieges. No wonder if you performed your part with such applause on a theatre which you understood so well.
If I designed this for a poetical encomium, it were easy to enlarge on so copious a subject; but, confining myself to the severity of truth, and to what is becoming me to say, I must not only pass over many instances of your military skill, but also those of your assiduous diligence in the war; and of your personal bravery, attended with an ardent thirst of honour; a long train of generosity; profuseness of doing good; a soul unsatisfied with all it has done; and an unextinguished desire of doing more. But all this is matter for your own historians; I am, as Virgil says, Spatiis exclusus iniquis.
Yet, not to be wholly silent of all your charities, I must stay a little on one action, which preferred the relief of others to the consideration of yourself. When, in the battle of Landen, your heat of courage (a fault only pardonable to your youth) had transported you so far before your friends, that they were unable to follow, much less to succour you; when you were not only dangerously, but in all appearance mortally wounded; when in that desperate condition you were made prisoner, and carried 10 Namur, at that time in possession of the French; then it was, my lord, that you took a considerable part of what was remitted to you of your own revenues, and, as a memorable instance of your heroic charity, put it into the hands of count Guiscard, who was governor of the place, to be distributed among your fellow-prisoners. The French commander, charmed with the greatness of your soul, accordingly consigned it to the use for which it was intended by the donor: by which means the lives of so many miserable men were saved, and a comfortable provision made for their subsistence, who had otherwise perished, had not you been the companion of their misfortune: or rather sent by Providence, like another Joseph, to keep out famine from invading those whom in humility you called your brethren. How happy was it for those poor creatures, that your grace was made their fellow-sufferer! and how glorious for you, that you chose to want, rather than not relieve the wants of others! The heathen poet, in commending the charity of Dido to the Trojans, spoke like a Christian : Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco. All men, even those of a different interest, and contrary principles, must praise this action, as the most eminent for piety, not only in this degenerate age, but almost in any of the former ; when men were made “ de meliore luto;" when examples of charity were frequent, and when they were in being, “ Teucri pulcherrima proles, magnanimi heroes nati melioribus annis." No envy can detract from this: it will shine in history, and, like swans, grow whiter the longer it endures: and the name of ORMOND will be more celebrated in his captivity, than in his greatest triumphs.
But all actions of your grace are of a piece, as waters keep the tenour, of their fountains : your compassion is general, and has the same effect as well on enemies as friends. It is so much in your nature to do good, that your life is but one continued act of placing benefits on many, as the Sun is always carrying his light to some part or other of the world : and were it not that your reason guides you where to give, I might almost say, that you could not help bestowing more, than is consisting with the fortune of a private man, or with the will of any but an Alexander.
What wonder is it then, that, being born for a blessing to mankind, your supposed death in that engagement was so generally lamented through the nation! The concernment for it was as universal as the loss : and though the gratitude might be counterfeit in some, yet the tears of all were real; where every man deplored his private part in that calamity, and even those, who had not tasted of your favours, yet built so much on the fame of your beneficence, that they bemoaned the loss of their expectations.
This brought the untimely death of your great father 'into fresh remem
brance; as if the same decree had passed on two, short successive generations of the virtuous; and I repeated to myself the same verses, which I had formerly applied to him: Ostendunt terris hunc tantùm fata, nec ultrà esse sinunt. But to the joy not only of all good men, but of mankind in general, the unhappy omen took not place. You are still living to enjoy the blessings and applause of all the good you have performed, the prayers of multitudes whom you have obliged, for your long prosperity; and that your power of doing generous and charitable actions may be as extended as your will; which is by none more zealously desired, than by
PREFIXED TO THE FABLES.
It is with a poet, as with a man who designs to build, and is very exact, as he supposes, in casting up the cost beforehand; but, generally speaking, he is mistaken in his account, and reckons short in the expense he first intended : he alters his mind as the work proceeds, and will have this or that convenience more, of which he had not thought when he began. So has it happened to me: I have built a house, where I intended but a lodge; yet with better success than a certain nobleman, who, beginning with a dog-kennel, never lived to finish the palace he bad contrived.
From translating the first of Homer's Iliads, (which I intended as an essay to the whole work) I proceeded to the translation of the twelfth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, because it contains, among other things, the causes, the beginning, and ending of the Trojan war: here l ought in reason to have stopped; but the speeches of Ajax and Ulysses lying next in my way, I could not balk them. When I had compassed them, I was so taken with the former part of the fifteenth book, (which is the inasterpiece of the whole Metamorphoses) that I enjoined myself the pleasing talk of rendering it into English. And now I found, by the number of my verses, that they began to swell into a little volume; which gave me an occasion of looking backward on some beauties of my author in his former books: there occurred to me the hunting of the boar, Cinyras and Myrrha, the good-natured story of Baucis and Philemon, with the rest, which I hope I have translated closely enough, and given them the same turn of verse, which they had in the original; and this, I may say without vanity, is not the talent of every poet : he who has arrived the nearest to it is the ingenious and learned Sandys, the best versifier of the former age; if I may properly call it by that name, which was the former part of this concluding century. For Spenser and Fairfax both flourished in the reign of queen Elizabeth; great masters in our language, and who saw much farther into the beauties of our numbers, than those who immediately followed them. Milton was the poetical son of Spenser, and Mr. Waller of Fairfax; for we have our ) peal descents and clans, as well as other families. Spenser more than once insinuates, that the soul of Chaucer was transfused into his body; and that he was begotten by him two hundred years after his decease. Milton bas acknowledged to me, that Spenser was his original; and many besides myself have heard our famous Waller own, that he derived the harmony of his numbers from the Godfrey of Enlloign, which was turned into English by Mr. Fairfax. But to return : having done with Ovid for this time, it came into my mind, that our old English poet Chaucer in many things resembled him, and that with po disadvantage on the side of the modern author, as I shall endeavour to prove when I compare them: and as I am, and always have been, studious to promote the honour of my native country, so I soon resolved to put their merits to the trial, by turning some of the Canterbury Tales into our language, as it is now refined ; for by this means both the poets being set in the same light, and dressed in the same English habit, story to be compared with story, a certain judgment may be made betwixt them by the reader, without obtruding my opinion on him: or if I seem partial to my countryman, and predecessor in the laurel, the friends of antiquity are not few: and besides many of the learned, Orid has almost all the beaux, and the whole fair sex, his declared patrons. Perhaps I have assumed somewhat more to myself than they allow me; because I have adventured to sam up the evidence: but the readers are the jury; and their privilege remains entire to decide according to the merits of the cause, or, if they please, to bring it to another hearing, before some other court. In the mean time, to full the thread of my discourse, (as thoughts, according to Mr. Hobbes, have always some connexion). s fruin Chaucer I was led to think on Boccace, who was not only his contemporary, but also pursued the same studies ; wrote novels in prose, and many works in verse; particularly is said to have invented
the octave rhyme, or stanza of eight lines, which ever since has been maintained by the practice of all Italian writers, who are, or at least assume the title of heroic poets : he and Chaucer, among other things, had this in common, that they refined their mother tongues; but with this difference, that Dante had begun to file their language, at least in verse, before the time of Boccace, who likewise received no little help from his master Petrarch. But the reformation of their prose was wholly owing to Boccace himself, who is yet the standard of purity in the Italian tongue; though many of his phrases are become obsolete, as in process of time it must needs happen. Chaucer (as you have formerly been told by our learned Mr. Rymer) first adorned and amplified our barren tongue from the Provençal, which was then the most polished of all the modern languages; but this subject has been copiously treated by that great critic, who deserves no little commendation from us his countrymen. For these reasons of time, and resemblance of genius in Chaucer and Boccace, I resolved to join them in my present work; to which I have added some original papers of my own; which, whether they are equal or interior to my other poems, an author is the most improper judge; and therefore I leave them wholly to the mercy of the reader. I will hope the best, that they will not be condemned; but if they should, I have the excuse of an old gentleman, who, mounting on horseback before some ladies, when I was present, got up somewhat heavily, but desired of the fair spectators, that they would count fourscore and eight before they judged him. By the mercy of God, I am already come within twenty years of his number, a cripple in my limbs; but what decays are in my mind, the reader must determine. I think myself as vigorous as ever in the faculties of my soul, excepting only my memory, which is not impaired to any great degree; and if I lose not more of it, I have no great reason to complain. What judgment I had increases rather than diminishes; and thoughts, such as they are, come crowding in so fast upon me, that my only difficulty is to choose or to reject; to run them into verse, or to give them the other harmony of prose. I have so long studied and practised both, that they are grown into a habit, and become familiar to me. In short, though I may lawfully plead some part of the old gentleman's excuse, yet I will reserve it till I think I have greater need, and ask no grains of allowance for the faults of this my present work, but those which are given of course to human frailty. I will not trouble my reader with the shortness of time in which I writ it, or the several intervals of sickness : they who think too well of their own performances are apt to boast in their prefaces, how little time their works have cost them, and what other business of more importance interfered; but the reader will be as apt to ask the question, why they allowed not a longer time to make their works more perfect ? and why they had so despicable an opinion of their judges, as to thrust their indigested stuff upon them, as if they deserved no better?
With this account of my present undertaking, I conclude the first part of this discourse : in the second part, as at a second sitting, though I alter not the draught, I must touch the same features over again, and change the dead colouring of the whole. In general I will only say, that I have written nothing which savours of immorality or profaneness; at least, I am not conscious to myself of any such intention. If there happen to be found an irreverent expression, or a thought too wanton, they are crept into my verses through my inadvertency; if the searchers find any in the cargo, let them be staved or forfeited, like contraband goods; at least, let their authors be answerable for them, as being but imported merchandise, and not of my own manufacture. On the other side, I have endeavoured to choose such fables, both ancient and modern, as contain in each of them some instructive moral, which I could prove by induction, but the way is tedious, and they leap foremost into sight, without the reader's trouble of looking after them. I wish I could affirm with a safe conscience, that I had taken the same care in all my former writings; for it must be owned, that supposing verses are never so beautiful or pleasing, yet, if they contain any thing which shocks religion, or good manners, they are at best, what Horace says of good numbers, without good sense, Versus inopes rerum, nugæque
Thus far, I hope, I am right in court, without renouncing my other right of self-defence, where I have been wrongfully accused, and my sense wire-drawn into blasphemy or bawdry, as it has often been by a religious lawyer, in a late pleading against the stage; in which he mixes truth with falsehood, and has not forgotten the old rule of calumniating strongly, that something may remain.
I resume the thread of my discourse with the first of my translation, which was the first Iliad of Homer. If it shall please God to give me longer life and moderate health, my intentions are to translate the whole lias; provided still, that I meet with those encouragements from the public, which may enable me to proceed in my undertaking with some chearfulness. And this I dare assure the world before-hand, that I have found, by trial, Homer a more pleasing task than Virgil (though I say not the