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Translators of the two ages would be futile and even absurd; let the reader cast his
eye over the opposed columns, and he will not for an instant demand it. I shall therefore confine myself to a very few observations, and shall in the first place remark that translation, both in prose and poetry, has been extensively and very successfully cultivated during the present reign. Among the names which form our catalogue, are to be found some of the first literary characters in the nation, and their attempts to transfuse the beauties of their Originals have improved the public taste, and opened to the mere English scholar a wide field of amusement. The Georgics of Virgil
, have received new attractions in the translation of Warton. The elegant simplicity of Terence has met with an admirable vehicle in the well chosen and familiar blank verse of Colinan; Horace assumes a more pleasing national garb from the assiduities of Mr. Boscawen, and the gigantic sublimity of Æschylus is preserved in all its force in the bold and nervous diction of Potter. Though Cowper has been too literal in his Homer, and too inattentive to the melody of his versification, yet has he infused much more of the simple majesty and manner
of the divine bard than his predecessor Pope, whose splendid and highly ornamented paraphrase is more adapted to the genius of Ovid than of Homer. It may with truth also be affirmed of Mr. Cowper's work, that where the Grecian takes his boldest flights, his Translator follows with a vigourous wing, and has given the sublimer portions of the Iliad in a manner equally faithful and spirited. That satiety too which is so frequently experienced in reading any considerable quantity of Pope's couplets, is not felt from the blank verse of his last translator, which possesses a manifest superiority in its variety of pause and rhythm. In fact, that plainness of diction which in the perusal of Cowper has given such offence to the fastidious, has been the result of mature judgment, for that the poet knew how to impart the most exquisite polish to his lines is evident from the specimens quoted by Mr.' Hayley of his version of the Latin and Italian poetry of Milton, than which nothing can be more musical and finished.
Of the Italian poets we possess also some good translations; the Ariosto of Hoole: I
think much superior to his Tasso, and the Inferno of that wonderful genius Dante‡ is well laid open to the curiosity of the public by Mr. Boyd; but no poet perhaps has ever been so greatly indebted to a Translator as Camöens, whose Lusiad in the very elegant and spirited version of Mr. Mickle, has perfectly the air of an English original; its defects are concealed or mitigated, while its beauties catch double lustre from the British dress.
A taste for Arabic and Persian poetry has been acquired through the labours of the For many
| In this their primal poet, observes the Author of The Pursuits of Literature, there is an originality and a hardihood of antiquity. His soul was dark and sullen ; it was proud and full of his wrongs. Frons læta parum et dejecto lumina vultu. He passed through imaginary realms without the sun, to the confines of light and hope. The day shone full upon him, and the beams were from on high. His draught of men and their passions is eternal. His language was like himself, deep and full of matter : its strength and harmony may be best expressed by his Tuscan brother: *
Aspro concento, orribile armonia
Ariosto O. F. cant. 16.
* Pursuits of Literature, Introductory Letter, p. 26.
Asiatic Society, and Sir William Jonest has particularly distinguished himself by several incomparable translations of, and acute criticisms on the poets of the east. elegant Arabian poems also we are highly indebted to Professor Carlyle; unacquainted with the originals I am incompetent to judge of their fidelity, but as beautiful and exquisitely finished pieces they are entitled to warm commendation,
Upon comparing the arrangement we have thus given of the chief poets in the two perjods,
+ The death of this great.man is an irreparable loss to christianity, to science and to literature.
He-whom Indus and the Ganges mourn,
Pursuits of Literature, p. 422.
and of their principal productions, it must strike every reader that Mr. Headley has been greatly too partial to his phalanx of ancients. Let us for a moment reflect what various and exquisite poems only the last forty-five years have produced, and we shall be utterly at a loss to conceive how any author could assert that the “ Key that oped the sacred source of sympathetic tears, seems now and has done for a century past irrecoverably lost.” It is evident, I think, from the survey just taken, that never was there an age more distinguished than the present for poetic excellence in almost, every department of the art, nor can the sternest critic who shall impartially compare the two tables, and recollect that the latter embraces only half the space of time allotted to the former, avoid acknowledging the great merit and lustre of his contemporaries. If in the Drama we confess the superiority of Shakspeare, in the epic field, having an Ossian or rather a Macpherson to produce, we are nearly upon a level, and in every vince a marked and decisive pre-eminence must be granted to the poets of the present reign. In the Lyric, Descriptive, and Didactic columns there can be no competition, nor