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satisfied. To quote myself, you will find, on comparing 'The Jackdaw' with the original, that I was obliged to sharpen a point, which, though smart enough in the Latin, would in English have appeared as plain and blunt as the tag of a lace..
.... Vincent Bourne's humour is entirely original ; he can speak of a magpie or a cat in terms so exquisitely appropriated to the character he draws, that one would suppose him animated by the spirit of the creature he describes. And with all his drollery, there is a mixture of rational and even religious reflection at times, and always an air of pleasantry, goodnature, and humanity, that makes him in my mind one of the most amiable writers in the world. It is not common to meet with an author who can make you smile, and yet at nobody's expense, who is always entertaining and yet always harmless; and who, though always elegant and classical to a degree not always found in the classics themselves, charms more by the simplicity and playfulness of his ideas, than by the neatness and purity of his verse."
To turn to the poems in detail, almost the first thing that strikes one is the originality of his subjects. Nothing was common or unclean to our poet, at a time when poetry, except in Cowper's hands, was grandiose and affected to an uncommon degree. Vincent Bourne may be held to have been in a remote connection the parent of the poetry of common life, for he undoubtedly exerted a strong influence on Cowper. I do not think it is too much to say that Cowper's best contributions to literature, his exquisite lyrics on birds and hares and dogs, which will live when "The Task" and "Tirocinium" have gone down to the dust, would never have been written had it not been for Vincent Bourne. In the year 1750, the future of English poetry was dark; there were only two considerable writers, at work, Gray and Collins.
There was, it is true, a certain respectful attitude to nature prevalent, but it was a conventional attitude. Cowper, as I believe inspired by Bourne, was the first to make it unconventional. Then came the sweet notes of Burns across the border, and the victory was won.
Let me now give a few instances of Bourne. First must come “ The Jackdaw," and I have given Cowper's rendering ; but I have also ventured to subjoin a version of my own, not because I challenge even the most distant comparison with Cowper's sparkling and graceful lyric, but because Cowper's is in no sense a translation. It is a poem of which the line of thought is suggested by Bourne, and at a few points touches the Latin poem ; but the turn, the colouring is Cowper's own. In my own translation, though I have several times sacrificed verbal
accuracy, I have endeavoured to keep as closely to the Latin as is consistent with writing English at all.
Antiquas ædes, celsaque fana colit.
Aeriis spernens inferiora, petit.
Corripiat, certe hunc seligit illa locum.
Illa metus expers incolumisque sedet.
Qua coli spiret de regione, docet ;
Nec curat, nedum cogitat, unde cadat.
Et nihil ad sese, quas videt, esse videt.
Omnia pro nugis at sapienter habet.
Pro rebus nihili negligit, et crocitat.
Qui sic humanis rebus abesse velit.
(By William CowPER.)
Might be supposed a crow;
And dormitory too.,
From what point blows the weather ;
Look up your brains begin to swim, 'Tis in the clouds; that pleases him,
He chooses it the rather.
Fond of the speculative height,
And thence securely sees
Secure and at his ease.
You think, no doubt, he sits and muses
If he should chance to fall;
Or troubles it at all.
He sees that this great roundabout
Church, army, physic, law,
And says—what says he ?-Caw.
Thrice happy bird! I too have seen Much of the vanities of men,
And sick of having seen 'em, Would cheerfully these limbs resign For such a pair of wings as thine,
And such a head between 'em.
Of fowls with black and glossy coat,
High fanes he seeks ; with daring flight
The vane that on the steeple shows
Next shall come Lamb's favourite, the Epitaph on the Beggar's Dog. Lamb's rendering is very fairly exact.
Pauperis hic Iri requiesco Lyciscus, herilis,