« PreviousContinue »
But now we fhew the world a nobler way,
And in tranflated verfe do more than they;
Screne and clear harmonious Horace flows,
With sweetness not to be exprefs'd in profe:
Deg ading profe explains his meaning ill,
And shows the ftu, but not the workman's fkill:
I (who have ferv'd him more than twenty years)
Scarce know my master as he there appears.
Vain are our neighbours' hopes, and vain their
The fault is more their language's than theirs:
'Tis courtly, florid, and abounds in words
Of fofter found than ours perhaps affords;
But who did ever in French authors fee
The comprehenfive English energy?
The weighty bullion of one fterling line,
Drawn to French wire, would thro' whole pages
I fpeak my private but impartial fense,
With freedom, and I hope without offence;
For I'll recant when France can fhew me wit
As ftrong as ours, and as fuccinctly writ.
'Tis true, compofing is a nobler part;
But good tranflation is no eafy art.
For though materials have long fince been found,
Yet both your fancy and your hands are bound;
And by improving what was writ before,
Invention labours lefs, but judgment more.
The foil intended for Pierian feeds
Must be well purg'd from rank pedantic weeds.
Apollo ftarts, and all Parnaffus thakes,
At the rude rumbling Baralipton makes.
For none have been with admiration read,
But who (befide their learning) were well bred.
The first great work (a task per form'd by few)
Is, that yourfelf may to yourfelf be true:
No mafk, no tricks, no favour, no referve;
Dilect your mind, examine ev'ry nerve.
Whoever vainly on his ftrength depends,
Begins like Virgil, but like Mevius ends.
With how much eafe is a young Mufe betray'd!
How nice the reputation of the maid!
Your early, kind, paternal care appears,
By chafte inftruction of her tender years.
The first impreffion in her infant breast
Will be the deepest, and fhould be the best.
Let not aufterity breed fervile fear,
No wanton found offend her virgin car.
Secure from foolish pride's affected state,
And fpecious flattery's more pernicious bait,
Habitual innocence adorns her thoughts;
But your neglect muft anfwer for her faults.
Immodeft words admit of no defence;
For want of decency is want of fense.
What mod'rate fop would rake the Park or stews,
Whoamong troops of faultlets nymphs may choose?
Variety of fuch is to be found:
fake then a fubject proper to expound;
But moral, great, and worth a poet's voice,
For men of lense despise a trivial choice:
And fuch applaufe it muft expect to meet,
As would fome painter bufy in a street
To copy bulls and bears, and ev'ry fign
That calls the ftaring fots to nafty wine.
Yet 'tis not all to have a fubject good,
It muft delight us when 'tis understood.
He that brings fulfome objects to my view
(As many old have done, and many new)
With nauseous images my fancy fills,
And all goes down like oxymel of fquills.
Inftruct the lift'ning world how Maro fings
Of useful fubje&ts and of lofty things.
Thefe will fuch true, fuch bright ideas raife,
As merit gratitude as well as praife:
But foul defcriptions are offenfive ftill,
Either for being like, or being ill.
For who, without a qualm, hath ever look'd
On holy garbage, though by Homer cook'd?
Whofe railing heroes, and whofe wounded Gods,
Make fome fufpect he fnores as well as nods.
That wretch (in spite of his forgotten rhymes),.But I offend-Virgil begins to frown,
Condemn'd to live to all fucceeding times,
With pompous nonfenfe and a bellowing found,
Sung lofty Ilium tumbling to the ground.
And (if my Mafe can through patt ages fee)
That noify, naufcous, gaping fool was he;
Exploded, when, with univerfal fcorn,
The mountains labour'd, and a moufe was born.
Learn, learn, Crotona's brawny wreftler cries
Audacious mortals, and be timely wife!
'Tis I that call, remember Milo's end,
Wedg'd in that timber which he ftrove to rend.
Each poet with a diff'rent talent writes ;
One praises, one inftructs, another bites.
Horace did ne'er afpire to Epic bays,
Nor lofty Maro ftoop to Lyric lays.
Examine how your humour is inclin'd,
And which the ruling paffion of your mind;
Then, feek a poet who your way does bend,
And choose an author as you choose a friend;
United by this fympathetic bond,
And Horace looks with indignation down;
My blufhing Mufe with conicious fear retires,
And whom they like implicitly admires.
On fure foundations let your fabric life,
And with attractive majefty furprife,.
Not by affected meretricious arts,
But ftrict harmonious fymmetry of parts;
Which through the whole infenfibly muft pafs,
With vital heat to animate the mafs:
You grow familiar, intimate, and fond;
Your thoughts, your words, your ftyles, your fouls
No longer his interpreter, but he. [agrce,
A pure, an active, an aufpicious flame, [came;
And bright as heaven, from whence the blefling
But few, oh few, fouls pre-ordain'd by fate,
The race of Gods, have reach'd that envied height.
No rebel Titan's facrilegious crime,
By heaping hills on hills, can hither climb:
The grizly ferryman of hell denied
Eneas entrance, till he knew his guide:
How justly then will impious mortals fall,
Whole pride would foar to heaven without a call!
Pride (of all others the most dang'rous fault)
Proceeds from want of fenfe or want of thought.
The men who labour and digeft things moft,
Vill be much apter to defpoad than boat:
For if your author be profoundly good,
'Twill coft you dear before he's understood.
How many ages fince has Virgil writ!
How few are they who understand him yet!
Approach his altars with religious fear,
No vulgar deity inhabits there:
Heaven thakes not more at Jove's imperial nod,
Than pocts fhould before their Mantuan god.
Hail, mighty Maro! may that facred name
Kindle my breaft with thy celeftial flame;
Sublime ideas and apt words infufe; [Mufe!
The Mule inftru&t my voice, and thou infpire the
What I have inftanc'd only in the beft,
Is, in proportion, true of all the reft.
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore,
There fweat, there ftrain, tug the laborious oar;
Scarch ev'ry comment that your care can find,
Some here, fome there, may hit the poet's mind;
Yet be not blindly guided by the throng;
The multitude is always in the wrong.
When things appear unnatural or hard,
Confult your author, with himself compar'd;
Who knows what blefling Phoebus may bestow,
And future ages to your
Such fecrets are not eafily found out;
But, once difcover'd, leave no room for doubt.
Truth ftamps conviction in your ravish'd breaft,
And peace and joy attend the glorious guest.
Truth ftill is one; truth is divinely bright;
No cloudy doubts obfcure her native light;
While in your thoughts you find the leaft debate,
You may confound, but never can tranflate.
Your ftyle will this through all difguifes fhew,
For none explain more clearly than they know.
He only proves he understands a text,
Whofe expofition leaves it unperplex'd.
They who too faithfully on names infift,
Rather create than diffipate the mist;
And grow unjuft by being over-nice
(For fuperftitious virtue turns to vice).
Let Craffus' ghost and Labienus tell
How twice in Parthian plains their legions fell:
Since Rome hath been so jealous of her fame,
That few know Pacorus' or Monafes' name.
Words in one language elegantly us'd,
Will hardly in another be excus'd.
And fome that Rome admir'd in Cæfar's time,
May neither fuit our genius nor our clime.
The genuine fenfe, intelligibly told,
Shews a tranflator Loth difcreet and bold.
Excurfions are inexpiably bad;
And 'tis much fafer to leave out than add.
Abftrufe and myftic thoughts you must exprefs
With painful care, but feeming cafinefs;
For truth fhines brightest thro' the plaineft
Th' Encan Mufe, when the appears in ftate,
Makes all Jove's thunder on her verfes wait;
[ Affected noise is the most wretched thing
That to contempt can empty fcribblers bring.
Vowels and accents, regularly plac'd,
On even fyllables (and fill the last),
Though grofs innumerable faults abound,
In fpite of nonfenfe, never fail of found.
But this is meant of even verfe alone,
As being mott harmonious and most known:
For if you will unequal numbers try,
There accents on odd fyllables muft lie.
Whatever fifter of the learned Nine
Docs to your fuit a willing ear incline,
Urge your fuccefs, deferve a lafting name,
She 'Il crown a grateful and a constant flame.
But if a wild uncertainty prevail,
And turn your veering heart with ev'ry gale,
You lofe the fruit of all your former care
For the fad profpc&t of a juft defpair.
A quack (too fcandaloufly mean to name)
Had, by man-midwifery, got wealth and fame :
As if Lucina had forgot her trade,
The labouring wife invokes bis furer aid.
Well-seafon'd bowls the goffip's spirits raise,
Who, while fhe guzzles, chats the doctor's praife;
And largely what she wants in words supplies,
With maudlin-eloquence of trickling eyes.
But what a thoughtless animal is man!
How very active in his own trepan!
For, greedy of phyficians' frequent fees,
From female mellow praife he takes degrees;
Struts in a new unlicens'd gown, and then,
From faving women, falls to killing men.
Another fuch had left the nation thin,
In fpite of all the children he brought in.
His pills as thick as hand-granadoes flew;
And where they fell, as certainly they flew;
His name ftruck every where as great a damp
As Archimedes' through the Roman camp.
With this, the doctor's pride began to cool;
For fmarting foundly may convince a fool.
But now repentance came too late for grace;
And meagre famine ftar'd him in the face:
Fain would he to the wives be reconcil'd,
But found no husband left to own a child.
The friends that got the brats were peifon'd too;
In this fad cafe, what could our vermin do?
Worried with debts, and paft all hope of bail,
Th'unpitied wretch lies rotting in a jail:
And there, with basket-alms fcarce kept alive,
Shews how mifiaken talents ought to thrive..
I pity, from my foul, unhappy men,
Compell'd by want to prostitute their pen;
Who muft, like lawyers, either ftarve or plead,
And follow, right or wrong, where guineas lead
But you, Pompilian, wealthy pamper'd heirs,
Who to your country owe your words and cares,
Let no vain hope your eafy mind feduce,
For rich ill poets are without excufe.
Yet writes fometimes as foft and moving thingsTis very dangerous, tampering with a mufe;
As Venus fpeaks, or Philomela fings.
Your author always will the beft advife,
Fall when he falls, and when he rifes rife.
The profit's finall, and you have much to lofe :
For though true wit adorns your birth or place,
Degenerate lines degrade th' attainted race.
No poet any passion can excite,
But what they feel transport them when they write.
Have you been led through the Cumaan cave,
And heard the impatient maid divinely rave?
I hear her now; I fee her rolling eyes:
And panting, Lo! the god, the god, she cries;
With words not hers, and more than human found,
She makes th' obedient ghosts peep trembling thro'
But, tho' we must obey when Heaven commands,
And man in vain the facred call withstands,
Beware what fpirit rages in your breast;
For ten infpir'd, ten thousand are possest.
Thus make the proper ufe of each extreme,
And write with fury, but correct with phlegm.
As when the cheerful hours too freely pafs,
And parkling wine fimiles in the tempting glafs,
Your pulfe advifes, and begins to beat
Through ev'ry fwelling vein a loud retreat :
So when a mufe propitiously invites,
Improve her favours, and indulge her flights;
But when you find that vigorous heat abate,
Leave off, and for another fummons wait.
Before the radiant fun a glimmering lamp,
Adulterate metals to the fterling ftamp,
Appear not meaner than mere human lines,
Compar'd with thofe whofe infpiration fhines:
Thefe nervous, bold; thofe languid and remifs;
There, cold falutes; but here a lover's kifs.
Thus have I feen a rapid headlong tide
With foaming waves the pailive Soane divide;
Whofe lazy waters without motion lay,
While he, with eager force, urg'd his impetuous
The privilege that ancient poets claim,
Now turn'd to licence by too just a name,
Belongs to none but an eftablish'd fame,
Which fcorns to take it-
Abfurd expreffions, crude, abortive thoughts,
All the lewd legion of exploded faults,
Bale fugitives, to that afylum fly,
And facred laws with infolence defy.
Not thus our heroes of the former days
Deferv'd and gain'd their never-fading bays;
For I mistake, or far the greatest part
Of what fome call neglect, was ftudy's art.
When Virgil feems to trific in a line,
Tis like a warning-piece, which gives the fign
To wake your fancy, and prepare your fight,
To reach the noble height of fome unufual flight.
I lose my patience when, with faucy pride,
By untun'd ears I hear his numbers tried.
Reverse of nature; fhall fuch copies then
Arraign th' originals of Maro's pen;
And the rude notions of pedantic schools
Blafpheme the facred founder of our rules?
The delicacy of the niceft ear
Finds nothing harsh or out of order there.
Sublime or low, unbended or intense;
The found is still a comment to the fenfe.
A skilful ear in numbers fhould prefide,
And all difputes without appeal decide.
This ancient Rome and elder Athens found,
Before mistaken ftops debauch'd the found.
When, by impuite from Heaven, Tyrtæus fung,
In drooping foldiers a new courage fprung;
Reviving Sparta now the flight maintain'd,
And what two gen'rals loft, a poet gain'd.
By fecret influence of indulgent skies,
Empire and poely together rife.
True poets are the guardians of the state,
And, when they fail, portend approaching fate.
For that which Rome to conqueft did infpire,
Was not the vestal, but the mufe's fire;
Heaven joins the bleffings: no declining age
E'er felt the raptures of poetic rage.
Of many faults rhyme is perhaps the caufe;
Too ftrict to rhyme, we flight more useful laws;
For that, in Greece or Rome, was never known,
Till by barbarian deluges o'erflown:
Subdued, undone, they did at laft obey,
And change their own for their invader's way.
I grant that, from fome moffy idol oak,
In double rhymes our Thor and Woden spoke;
And by fucceffion of unlearned times,
As bards began, fo monks rung on the chimes.
But now that Pho bus and the facred Nine
With all their beams on our bleft ifland fhine,
Why fhould not we their ancient rights reftore,
And be what Rome or Athens were before?
* An Effay on Blank Verfe, out of Paradife Loft, B. VI. U 3
And in the Roman majefty appear,
Who banish'd David did from Hebron bring,
Which none know better, and none come fo near. And with a gen'ral fhout proclaim'd him king:
§ 27. Abfalom and Achitophel. DRYDEN.
pious times, ere pricftcraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a fin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was curfedly confin'd;
When nature prompted, and no law denied
Promifcuous ufe of concubine and bride;
Then Ifrael's monarch, after Heaven's own heart,
His vigorous warmth did variously impart
To wives and flaves; and wide as his command,
Scatter'd his Maker's image thro' the land.
Michal, of royal blood, the crown did wear;
A foil ungrateful to the tiller's care:
Not fo the reft; for feveral mothers bore
To godlike David feveral fons before.
But fince, like flaves, his bed they did afcend,
No true fucceffion could their feed attend.
Of all the numerous progeny, was none
So beautiful, fo brave, as Abfalom:
Whether, inspir'd by fome diviner luft,
His father got him with a greater guft;
Or that his confcious deftiny made way,
By manly beauty, to imperial fway,
Early in foreign fields he won renown,
With kings and states allied to Ifrael's crown :
In peace the thoughts of war he could remove,
And feem'd as he were only born for love.
Whate'er he did was done with fo much eafe,
In him alone 'twas natural to please:
His motions all accompanied with grace;
And paradife was open'd in his face.
With fecret joy indulgent David view'd
His youthful image in his fon renew'd:
To all his wifes nothing he denied;
And made the charming Annabel his bride.
What faults he had (for who from faults is free?)
His father could not, or he would not fee.
Some warm excuffes which the law forbore,
Were conftrued youth that purg'd by boiling o'er;
And Amnon's murder, by a fpecious name,
Was call'd a juft revenge for injur'd fame.
Thus prais'd and lov'd the noble youth remain'd,
While David undisturb'd in Sion reign'd;
But life can never be fincerely bleft:
Heaven punishes the bad, and proves the best.
The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murmuring race,
As ever tried th' extent and ftretch of grace;
God's pamper'd people, whom, debauch'd with
No king could govern, nor no God could pleafe,
Gods they had tried of every fhape and fize,
That godfmiths could produce, or pricfts devife:
Thefe Adam-wits, too fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent, was found
Of men by laws lefs circumfcrib'd and bound,
They led their wild defires to woods and caves,
And thought that all but favages were flaves.
They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow,
Made foolish Ithbotheth the crown forego;
Thofe very Jews, who at their very best
Their humour more than loyalty exprefs'd,
Now wonder'd why fo long they had obey'd
An idol monarch, which their hands had made;
Thought they might ruin him they could create,
Or melt him to that golden calf of state.
But thefe were randoin bolts: no form'd defign,
Nor int'reft made the factious crowd to join:
The fober part of Ifrael, free from stain,
Well knew the value of a peaceful reign;
And, locking backward with a wife aftright,
Saw feams of wounds difhoneft to the fight:
In contemplation of whofe ugly fcars,
They curs'd the memory of civil wars.
The mod rate fort of men thus qualified,
Inclin'd the balance to the better fide:
And David's mildness manag`d it fo well,
The bad found no occafion to rebel.
But when to fin our biafs'd nature leans,
The careful devil is ftill at hand with means;
And providently pimps for ill defires :
The good old caufe reviv'd a plot requires.
Plots true or falfe are neceffary things
To raife up commonwealths, and ruin kings.
Th' inhabitants of old Jerufalem
Were Jebufites; the town fo call'd from them;
And theirs the native right-
But when the chofen people grew more strong,
The rightful caufe at length became the wrong;
And ev'ry lofs the men of Jebus bore,
They ftill were thought God's enemies the more.
Thus worn or weaken'd, well or ill content,
Submit they muft to David's government;
impoverish'd, and depriv'd of all command,
Their taxes doubled as they lost their land;
And, what was harder yet to flesh and blood,
Their gods difgrac'd, and burnt like common
This fet the heathen priesthood in a flame;
For priests of all religions are the fame.
of whatfoe'er defcent their godhead be,
Stock, ftone, or other homely pedigree,
In his defence his fervants are as bold
As if he had been born of beaten gold.
The Jewith rabbins, though their enemies,
In this conclude them honeft men and wife:
For 'twas their duty, all the learned think,
D'efpoufe his caufe by whom they eat and drink.
From hence began that plot, the nation's curfe,
Bad in itfelf, but reprefented worfe;
Rais'd in extremes, and in extremes decried;
With oaths affirm'd, with dying vows denied ;
Not weigh'd nor winnow'd by the multitude;
But fwallow'd in the mafs, unchew'd and crude.
Some truth there was, but dafh'd and brew'd with
To please the fools, and puzzle all the wife. [lies;
Succeeding times did equal folly call,
Believing nothing, or believing all.
Th' Egyptian rites the Jebufites embrac'd;
Where gods were recommended by their taste.
Such favoury deities muft needs be good,
As ferv'd at once for worship and for food.
By force they could not introduce these gods;
For ten to one in former days was odds.
So fraud was us'd, the facrificer's trade:
Fools are more hard to conquer than perfuade.
Their bufy teachers mingled with the Jews,
And rak'd for converts even the court and stews:
Which Hebrew pricfts the more unkindly took,
Because the fleece accompanies the fleck.
Some thought they God's anointed meant to flay
By guns, invented fince full many a day :
Our author fwears it not; but who can know
How far the devil and Jebufites may go
This plot, which fail'd for want of cominon fenfe,
Had yet a deep and dangerous confequence:
For as, when raging fevers boil the blood,
The ftanding lake foon floats into a flood,
And every hoftile humour, which before
Slept quict in its channels, bubbles o'er;
So fev'ral factions from this first ferment,
Work up to foam, and threat the government.
Some by their friends, more by themfelves thought
Oppos'd the pow'r to which they could not rife.
Some had in courts been great; and thrown from
Like fiends, were harden'd in impenitence. [thence,
Some, by their monarch's fatal mercy, grown
From pardon'd rebels kinsmen to the throne,
Were rais'd in pow'r and public office high:
Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie.
Of thefe the falfe Achitophel was first;
A name to all fucceeding ages curft:
For clofe defigns and crooked counfels fit;
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
Reftlefs, unfix'd in principles and place;
In pow'r unpleas'd, impatient of difgrace :
A fiery foul, which, working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy-body to decay,
And o'er-inform'd the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity;
Pleas'd with the danger when the waves went high,
He fought the ftorms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would fleer too nigh the fands to boat his wit.
Great wits are fure to madnefs near ailied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;
Elfe why fhould he, with wealth and honour bleft,
Refufe his age the needful hours of reû?
Punish a body which he could not pleafe;
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of eafe?
And all to leave what with his toil he won
To that unfeather'd two-legg'd thing, a Son;
Got, while his foul did huddled notions try;
And born a fhapelefs lump, like anarchy.
In friendship falfe, implacable in hate;
Refolv'd to ruin or to rule the state.
To compaís this, the triple bond he broke;
The pillars of the public fafety fhock;
And fitted Ifrael for a foreign yoke:
Then, feiz'd with fear, yet still affecting fame,
Ufurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name.
So eafy ftill it proves, in factious times,
With public zeal to cancel private crimes.
How fafe is treafon, and how facred ill,
Where none can fin against the people's will!
Where crowds can wink,and no offence be known.
Since in another's guilt they find their own!
Yet fame deferv'd no enemy can grudge :
The statesman we abhor, but praife the judge.
In Ifrael's courts ne'er fat an Abethdin
With more difcerning eyes, or hands more clean,
Unbrib'd, unfought, the wretched to redress,
Swift of dispatch, and eafy of accefs.
Oh! had he been content to ferve the crown
With virtues only proper to the gown;
Or had the ranknels of the foil been freed
From cockle, that opprefs'd the noble feed;
David for him his tuneful harp had ftrung,
And heaven had wanted one immortal fong.
But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand
And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land.
Achitophel, grown weary to pollefs
A lawful fame, and lazy happiness,
Difdain'd the golden fruit to gather free,
And lent the crowd his arm to thake the tree,
Now, manifeft of crimes contriv'd long fince,
He stood at bold defiance with his prince;
Held up the buckler of the people's caufe
Agaiaft the crown, and feulk'd behind the laws,
The wifh'd occafion of the plot he takes;
Some circumstances finds, but more he makes;
By buzzing emiffaries fills the ears
Of lift ning crowds with jealoufies and fears
Of arbitrary counfels brought to light,
And proves the King himlelf a Jebufite.
Weak arguments! which yet, he knew full well,
Were ftrong with people eafy to rebel.
For, govern'd by the moon, the giddy Jews
Tread the fame track when the the prime renews;
And once in twenty years, their feribes record,
By natural inftinct they change their lord.
Achitophel ftill wants a chief, and none
Was found fo fit as warlike Abfalom.
Not that he with'd his greatnefs to create,
For politicians neither love nor hate:
But, for he knew his title not allow'd
Would keephim still depending on the crowd:7
That kingly pow'r, thus ebbing out, might be
Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.
Him he attempts with ftodied arts to please,
And sheds his venom in fuch words as thefe:
Aufpicious prince! at whose nativity
Some royal planet rul'd the fouthern iky;
Thy longing country's darling and defire;
Their cloudy pillar and their guardian fire;
Their fecond Mofes, whole extended wand
Divides the feas, and fhews the pronis'd land; ]
Whofe dawning day, in ev'ry diftant age,
Has exercis'd the facred prophet's rage:
The people's prayer, the glad diviner's theme,
The young men's vifish, and the old men's