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The hopes of the public were not disappointed. He produced, says Pope, " the most noble and spirited translation that I know in any language." It certainly excelled whatever had appeared in English, and appears to have satisfied his friends, and, for the most part, to have silenced his enemies. Milbourne, indeed, a clergyman, attacked it; but his outrages seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by stronger resentment than bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved not to be pleased.
His criticism extends only to the Preface, Pastorals, and Georgicks; and as he professes to give his antagonist an opportunity of reprisal, he has added his own version of the first and fourth Pastorals, and the first Georgick. The world has forgotten his book; but since his attempt has given him a place in literary history, I will preserve a specimen of his criticism, by inserting his remarks on the invocation before the first Georgick, and of his poetry, by annexing his own version.
" The fruitful soil, and when to sow the corn. “ It's unlueky, they say, io stumble at the threshold, but what has a plenteous har
vest to do here? Virgil would not pretend to prescribe rules for that which “ depends not on the husbandman's care, but the disposition of Heaven altogether. " Indeed, the plenteous crop depends somewhat on the good method of tillage, “ and where the land's ill manured, the corn, without a miracle, can be but
indifferent ; but the harvest may be good, which is its properest epithet, tho* " the husbandman's skill were never so indifferent. The next sentence is too lite“ral, and when to plough had been Virgil's meaning, and intelligible to every “body; and when to sow the corn, is a needless addition."
" And when to geld the lambs, and sheer the swine, “Would as well have fallen under the cira bouin, qui cultus habendo sit pecori, " as Mr. D's deduction of particulars."
I sing, Nfxcenas, and I sing to thee. " But where did experientia ever signify birth and genies? or what ground was " there for such a figure in this place? How much more manly is Mr. “ Ogyłby's version !
" What makes rich grounds, in what celestial signs
" I sing, Mæcenas. “ Which four lines, tho' faulty' encugh, are yet much more to the pupose " than Mr. D's six."
Ver. 23, 24.
• Thou founder of the plough, and ploughman's toil ! . " Written as if these had been Pallas's invention. The ploughman's toil's impertinent.”
Ver. 25. The shroud-like cypressWhy shroud-like? Is a cypress pulled up by the roots, which the sculpture in ** the last Eclogue fills Silvanus's hand with, so very like a skroud. Or did not ** Mr. D. think of that kind of cypress us’d often for scarves and hatbands at " fanerals formerly, or for widows' vails, &c. if so, 'twas a deep good thought."
r Ven 26.
That wear “ The royal honours, and increase the year. " What's meant by increasing the year? Did the gods or goddesses add more to
months, or days, or hours to it? Or how can arva tueri-signify to wear rural " konours ? Is this to translate, or abuse an author The next couplet is bor" row'd from Ogylby, I suppose, because less to the purpose than ordinary."
Ver. 33. " The patron of the world and Rome's peculiar guatd. Ilk, and none of Virgil's, no more than the sense of the precedent couplet ; so again, he interpolates Virgil with that and the round circle of the year to guide powerful of blessings, which thou strew'st around. A ridiculous Latinism, ** and an impertinent addition ; indeed the whole poriod is but one piece of absurdity and nonsense, as those who lay it with the original must find.”
Ver. 42, 43. " And Neptune shall resign the fasces of the sea. Was he consul or dictator there?
“ And watry virgins for thy bed shald strive. “ Both absurd interpolations."
Ver. 47, 48.
" Ah happy, D-n, were that place for thee! "But where is that void? Or, what does our translator mean by it? He knows what Ovid says God did, to prevent such a void in heaven; perhaps, this was then forgotten : but Virgil talks more sensibly."
Ver. 49. “ The scorpion ready to receive thy laws. « No, he would not then have gotten out of his way so fast.”
Ver. 56. Though Proserpine affects her silent seat. “What made her then so angry with Ascalaphus, for preventing her return?
She was now mus’d to Patience under the determinations of Fate, rather “than fond of her residence,"
Ver. 61, 62, 63.
“ And use thyself betimes to hear our prayers. “Which is such a wretched perversion of Virgil's-noble thought as Vicars would “ have blush'd at; but Mr. Ogylby makes us some amends, by his better lines :
“ O wheresoe'er thou art, from thence incline,
Pity, with ne, poor husbandmen's affairs,
" And now, as if translated, hear our prayers. “ This is sense, and to the purpose : the other, poor mistaken stuff.”
Such were the strictures of Milbourne, who found few abettors ; and of whom it may be reasonably imagined, that many who favoured his design were ashamed of his insolence.
When admiration had subsided, the translation was more coolly examined, and found, like all others, to be sometimes erroneous, and sometimes licentious. Those who could find faults, thought they could avoid them; and Dr. Brady, attempted in bank verse a translation of the Eneid, which, when dragged into the world, did not live long enough to cry. I have never seen it ; but that such a version there is,'or has been," perhaps some old catalogue informed
With not much better success, Trapp, when his Tragedy and his Prelections had given him reputation, attempted another blank version of the Eneid; to ishich, notwithstanding the slight regard with which it was treated, he had erwards perseverance enough to add the Eclogues and Georgicks. His book may cont. its existence as long as it is the clandestine refuge of schoolboys.
Since the English ear has been accustomed to the mellifluence of Pope's num= bers, and the diction of poetry has become more splendid, new attempts have Leonmajeto translaté Virgil; and all his works have been attempted by men bet
. qualified to contend with Dryden. I will not engage myself in an invidicus comparison, by opposing one passage to another; a work of which there would be no end, and which might be often offensive without use.
It is not by comparing line with line that the merit of great works is to be estimated, but by their general effects and ultimate result. It is easy to note
a weak line, and write one more vigorous in its place; to find a happiness of expression in the original, and transplant it by force into the version: but what is given to the parts may be subducted from the whole, and the reader may be weary, though the critick may commend. Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good in vain, which the reader throws away. He only is the master, who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity ; whose pa yes are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again ; and whose conclusion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day.
By his proportion of this predomination I will consent that Dryden should be tried ; of this, which, in opposition to reason, makes Ariosto the darling and the pride of Italy; of this, which, in defiance of criticism, continues Shakspeare the sovereign of the drama.
His last work was his Fables, in which he gave us the first example of a mode of writing which the Italians call refaccimento, a renovation of ancient writers, by modernizing their language. Thus the old poem of Boiardo has been newdressed by Domenichi and Berni. The works of Chaucer, upon which this kind of rejuvenescence has been bestowed by Dryden, require little criticisin. The tale of the Cock seems hardly worth revival ; and the story of Palamon and Arcite, containing an action unsụitable to the times in which it is placed, can hardly be suffered to pass without censure of the hyperbolical commendation which Dryden has given it in the general Preface, and in a poetical Dedication, a piece, where his original fondness of remote conceits seems to have revived.
Of the three pieces borrowed from Boccace, Sigismunda may be defended by the celebrity of the story, Theodore and Honoria, though it contains not much moral, yet afforded opportunities of striking description. 'And Cymon was formerly a tale of such reputation, that, at the revival of letters,' it was translated into Latin by one of the Beroalds.
Whatever subjects employed his pen, he was still improving our measures and embellishing our language.
In this volume are interspersed some short original poems, which, with his prologues, epilogues, and songs, may be comprised in Congreve's remark, that even those, if he had written nothing else, would have entitled him to the praise of excellence in his kind.
One composition must however be distinguished. The ode for St: Cecilia's Day, perhaps the last effort of his poetry, has been always censidered aš exhibiting the highest flight of fancy, and the exactest nicety of art. This is allowed to stand without a rival. If indeed, there is any excellence beyond it, in some other of Dryden's works that excellence must be found. Compared with the Ode on Killigrew, it may be pronounced perhaps superiour in the whole; but without any single part, equal to the first stanza of the other.
It is said to have cost Dryden a fortnight's labour ; but it does not want it negligences : some of the lines are without correspondent rhymes ; a defect which I never detected but after an acquaintance of many years, and which the enthusiasm of the writer might binder him from perceiving.
His last stanza has less emotion than the former, but it is not less elegant in the diction. The conclusion is vicious; the musick of Timotheus, which raised e' mortal ta the skies, bad only a metaphorical power; that of Cecilia, which drew on ángel down, had a real effect : the crown therefore could not reasonably be divided.
IN a general survey of Dryden's labours," he appears to have a mind very comprehensive by nature, and much enriched with acquired knowledge. He compositions are the effects of a vigorous genius operating upon large materjals.
The power that predominated in his intellectual operations, was rather strong Teason than quick sensibility. Upon alloccasions that were presented, he studied rather than felt, and produced sentiments not such as nature enforces, but meditation supplies. With the simple and elemental passions, as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not much acquainted; and seldom describes them bat as they are complicated by the various relations of society, and confused in the fumults and agitations of life. What he says of love may contribute to the explanation of his character:
Love various minds does variously inspire;
With pride it mounts, or with revenge it glows. Dryden's was not one of the gentle bosoms: Love, as it subsists in itself, with 30 tendency but to the person loved, and wishing only for correspondent kindness ; such love-as shuts out all other interest, the Love of the Golden Age, was too soft and subtle to put his faculties in motion. He hardly conceived it but in its turbulent effervescence with some other desires; when it was in flamed by rivalry, or obstructed by difficulties; when it invigorated ambition, or exasperated revenge,
He is therefore, with all l.is variety of excellence, not often pathetick; and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions purely natural, that he did not eşteem them in others. Simplicity gave him no pleasure; and for the first part
of his life he looked on Otway with contempt, though at last, indeed very late, he confessed that in his play there was Nature, which is the chief beauty,
We do not always know our own motives. I am not certain whether it was not rather the difficulty which he found in exhibiting the genuine operations of the heart, than a servile submission to an injudicious audience, that filled hiş plays with false magnificence, It was necessary to fix attention; and the mind