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I have already written, either in justification or praise of Virgii, is against myself, for presuming to copy, in my coarse English the thoughts and beautiful expressions of this inimitable poet, who flourished in an age when his language was brought to its last perfection: for which it was particularly owing to him and Horace. I will give your lordship my opinion, that those two friends had consulted each other's judginent, wherein they should endeavour to excel; and they seem to have pitched on propriety of thought, elegance of words, and harmony of numbers. Ac. cording to this model Horace wrote his odes and epodes; for his satires and epistles, being intended wholly for instruction, required another style :
Ornari res ipsa negat, contenta doceri; and therefore, as he himself professes, are “sermoni propiora, nearer prose than verse. But Virgil, who never attempted the lyric verse, is everywhere elegant, sweet, and flowing in his hexameters. His words are not only chosen, but the places in which he ranks them for the sound. He who removes them from the station wherein their master set them spoils the har. mony. What he says of the sibyl's prophecies may be as properly applied to every word of his : they must be read in order as they lie: the least breath discomposes them; and somewhat of their divinity is lost. I cannot boast that I have been thus exact in my verses; but I have endeavoured to follow the example of my master, and am the first Englishman, perhaps, who made it his design to copy him in his numbers, his choice of words, and his placing them for the sweetness of the sound. On this last consideration I have shunned the cæsura as much as possibly I could; for, wherever that is used, it gives a roughness to the verse; of which we can have little need in a language which is overstocked with consonants. Such is not the Latin, where the vowels and consonants are mixed in proportion to each other: yet Virgil judged the vowels to have somewhat of an overbalance, and therefore tempers their sweetness with cæsuras. Such difference there is in tongues, that the same figure which roughens one gives majestyto another: and that was it which Virgil studied in his verses. Ovid uses it but rarely ; and hence it is that his versification cannot so properly be called sweet as luscious. The Italians are forced on it once or twice in every line, because they have a redundancy of vowels in their language. Their metal is so soft, that it will not coin without alloy to harden it. On the other side, for the reason already named, it is all we can do to give sufficient sweetness to our language: we must not only choose our words for elegance, but for sound: to perform which a mastery in the language is required; the poet must have a magazine of words, and have the art to manage his few vowels
o the best advantage, that they may go the farther. He must also know the nature of the vowels—which are more sonorous, and which more soft and sweet-and so dispose them as his present occasions require : all which, and a thcusand secrets of versification besides, he may learn from Virgil, if he will take him for his guide. If he be above Virgil, and is resolved to follow his own verve (as the French call it), the proverb will fall heavily on him : “Who teaches himself has a fool for his master."
Virgil employed eleven years on his Æneid ; yet he left it, as he thought himself, imperfect: which, when I seriously consider, I wish that, instead of three years which I have spent in the translation of his works, I had four years more allowed me to correct my errors, that I might make my version somewhat more tolerable than it is: for a poet cannot have too great a reverence for his readers, if he expects his labours should survive him. Yet I will neither plead my age nor sickness in excuse of the faults which I have made: that I wanted time is all that I have to say; for some of my subscribers grew so clamorous, that I could no longer defer the publication. I hope, from the candour of your lordship, and your often experienced goodness to me, that, if the faults are not too many, you will make allowances with Horace :
-si plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit naturaYou may please also to observe, that there is not, to the best of my remembrance, one vowel gaping on another for want of a cæsura in this whole poem: but where a vowel ends a word, the next begins either with a consonant, or what is its equivalent; for our W and H aspirate and our diphthongs are plainly such. The greatest latitude I take is in the letter Y, when it concludes a word, and the first syllable of the next begins with a vowel. Neither need I have called this a latitude, which is only an explanation of this general rule—that no vowel can be cut off before another, when we cannot sink the pronunciation of it: as he, she, me, I, &c. Virgi! thinks it sometimes a beauty to imitate the license of the Greeks, and leave two vowels opening on each other, as in that verse of the third pastoral,
Et succus pecori, et lac subducitur agnis. But, “ nobis non licet esse tam disertis," at least it we study to refine our numbers. I have long had by me the materials of an“ English Prosodia," containing all the mechanical rules of versification, wherein I have treated, with some exactness, of the feet, the quantities, and the pauses. The French and Italians know nothing of the two first; at least their best poets have not practised them. As for the pauses, Malherbe first brought thorn into France within this last century; and we see how they adorn their Alexandrines. But, as Virgil propounds a riddle, which he leaves unsolved
Dic, quibus in terris, inscripti nomina regum
Nascantur flores, et Phy Hida solus habetoso I will give your lordship another, and leave the exposition of it to your acute judgment. I am sure there are few who make verses, but have observed the sweetness of these two lines in Cooper's Hill;
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage; without o'ertlowing, full; and there are yet fewer who can find the reason of that sweete ness. I have given it to some of my friends in conversation ; and they have allowed the criticism to be just. But, since the evil of false quantities is difficult to be cured in any modern language; since the French and the Italians, as well as we, are yet ignorant what feet are to be used in heroic poetry; since I have not strictly observed those rules myself which I can teach others; since I pretend to no dictatorship among my fellow-poets; since, if I should instruct some of them'to make well-running verses, they want genius to give them strength as well as sweetness; and, above all, since your lordship has advised me not to publish thať little which I know, I look on your counsel as your command, which I shall observe inviolably, till you shall please to revoke it, and leave me at liberty to make my thoughts public. In the mean time, that I may arrogate nothing to myself, I must acknowledge that Virgil in Latin, ard Spenser in English, have been my masters. Spenser has also given me boldness to make use sometimes of his Alexandrine line, which we call, though improperly, the Pindaric, because Mr. Cowley has oiten employed it in his odes. It adds a certain majesty to the verse, when it is used with judgment, and stops the sense from overflowing into another line. Formerly the French, like us, and the Italians, had but five feet, or ten syllables, in their heroic verse: but, since Ronsard's time, as I suppose, they found their tongue too weak to support their epic poetry without the addition of another foot. That indeed has given it somewhat of the run and measure of a trimeter; but it runs with more activity than strength: their language is not strung with sinews, like our English: it has the nimbleness of a greyhound, but not the bulk and body of a mastiff. Our men and our verses overbear them by their weight; and “pondere, non numero," is the British
motto. The French have set up purity for the standard of their language; and a masculine vigour is that of ours. Like their tongue is the genius of their poets, light and trifling in comparison of the English; more proper for sonnets, madrigals, and elegies, than heroic poetry. The turn on thoughts and words is their chief talent; but the epic poem is too stately to receive those little ornaments. The painters draw their nymphs in thin and airy habits : but the weight of gold and of embroideries is reserved for queens and goddesses. Virgil is never frequent in those turns, like Ovid, but much more sparing of them in his Æneid than in his Pastorals and Georgics.
Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes. That turn is beautiful indeed; but he employs it in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, not in his great poem. I have use: that license in his Æneid sometimes; but I own it as my fault. It was given to those who understand no better. It is like Ovid's
Semivirumque bovem, semibovemque virum. The poet found it before his critics ; but it was a darling si. which he would not be persuaded to reform. The want of genius of which I have accused the French, is laid to their charge by one of their own great authors, though I have forgotten his name, and where I read it. If rewards could make good poets, their great master has not been wanting on his part in his bountiful encouragement: for he is wise enough to imitate Augustus, if he had a Maro. The triumvir and proscriber had descended to us in a more hideous form than they now appear, if the emperor had not taken care to make friends of him and Horace. I confess the banishment of Ovid was a blot in his escutcheon : yet he was only banished ; and who knows but his crime was capital, and then his exile was a favour? Ariosto, who, with all his faults, must be acknowledged a great poet, has put these words into the mouth of an evangelist; but whether they will pass for Gospel now, I cannot tell:
Non fù si santo ne benigno Augusto
La proscrittione iniqua gli perduna. But heroic poetry is not of the growth of France, as it might be of England, if it were cultivated. Spenser wanted only to have read the rules of Bossu; for no man was ever born with a greater genius, or had more knowledge to support it. But the
performance of the French is not equal to their skill; and hitherto
from sense ;
-Sorti Pater æquus utrique.
Pallas says it to Turnus, just before they fight. Ruæus thinks that the word “ Pater" is to be referred to Evander, the father of Pallas. But how could he imagine that it was the same thing to Evander, if his son were slain, or if he overcame? The poet certainly intended Jupiter, the common father of mankind; who, as Pallas hoped, would stand an impartial spectator of the combat, and not be more favourable to Turnus than to him. The second is not long after it, and both before the duel is begun. They are the words of Jupiter, who comforts Hercules for the death of Pallas, which was immediately to ensue, and which