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proportions : but should he, or any other painter, carry the imitation too far, and neglect that best of models Nature, I am afraid it would prove a very flat perform
To finish this long criticism: I have this further notion about old words revived, (is not this a pretty way of finishing ?) I think them of excellent use in tales; they add a certain drollery to the comic, and a romantic gravity to the serious, which are both charming in their kind; and this way of charming Dryden understood very well. One need only read Milton to acknowledge the dignity they give the epic. But now comes my opinion that they ought to be used in tragedy more sparingly, than in most kinds of poetry. Tragedy is designed for public representation, and what is designed for that should be certainly most intelligible. I believe half the audience that come to Shakspeare's plays do not understand the half of what they hear.But finissons enfin.—Yet one word more.-You think the ten or twelve first lines the best, now I am for the fourteen last ;* add, that they contain not one word of ancientry.
I rejoice you found amusement in Joseph Andrews. But then I think your conceptions of Paradise a little upon the Bergerac. Les lettres du Seraphim R. a Madame la Cherubinesse de Q. What a piece of extravagance would there be !
And now you must know that my body continues weak and enervate. And for my animal spirits, they are in perpetual fluctuation: some whole days I have no relish, no attention for any thing; at other times I revive, and am capable of writing a long letter, as you see; and though I do not write speeches, yet I translate them. When you understand what speech, you will
* He means the conclusion of the first scene.--But here and throughout his criticism on old words, he is not so consistent as his correspondent; for he here insists. that all ancientry should be struck out, and in a former passage he admits it may be used sparingly.
own that it is a bold and perhaps a dull attempt. In three words, it is prose, it is from Tacitus, it is of Germanicus. Peruse, perpend, pronounce.
London, April, 1742. I SHOULD not have failed to answer your letter immediately, but I went out of town for a little while, which hindered me. Its length (besides the pleasure naturally accompanying a long letter from you) affords me a new one, when I think it is a symptom of the recovery of your health, and flatter myself that your bodily strength returns in proportion. Pray do not forget to mention the progress you make continually. As to Agrippina, I begin to be of your opinion ; and find myself (as women are of their children) less enamoured of my productions the older they grow. Shef is laid up to sleep till next summer; so bid her good night. I think
you have translated Tacitus very justly, that is, freely; and accommodated his thoughts to the turn and genius of our language; which, though I commend your judgment, is no commendation of the English tongue, which is too diffuse, and daily grows more and more enervate. One shall never be more sensible of this, than in turning an author like Tacitus. I have been trying it in some parts of Thucydides (who has a little resemblance
This speech I omit to print, as I have generally avoided to publish mere translations either of Mr. Gray or his friend.
† He never after awakened her; and I believe this was occasioned by the strictures which his friend had made on his dramatic style; which (though he did not think them well founded, as they certainly were not) had an effect which Mr. West, we may believe, did not intend them to have. I remember some years after I was also the innocent cause of his delaying to finish his fine Ode on the Progress of Poetry. I told him, on reading the part he shewed me, that“ though I admired it greatly, and thought that it breathed the very spirit of Pindar, yet I suspected it would by no means hit the public taste.” Finding afterward that he did not proceed in finishing it, I often expostulated with him on the subject; but he always replied, “No, you have thrown cold water upon it.” I mention this little anecdote, to shew how much the opinion of a friend, even when it did not convince his judgment, affected his inclination.
of him in his conciseness) and endeavoured to do it closely, but found it produced mere nonsense. have any inclination to see what figure Tacitus makes in Italian, I have a Tuscan translation of Davanzati, much esteemed in Italy; and will send you the same speech you sent me; that is, if you care for it. In the mean time accept of Propertius.t
Popes, May 5, 1742. WITHOUT any preface I come to your verses, which I read over and over with excessive pleasure, and which are at least as good as Propertius. I am only sorry you follow the blunders of Broukhusius, all whose insertions are nonsense. I have some objections to your antiquated words, and am also an enemy to Alexandrines; at least I do not like them in Elegy. But after all, I admire your translation so extremely, that I cannot help repeating I long to shew you some little errors you are fallen into by following Broukhusius. I *** Were I with you now, and Propertius with your verses lay upon the table between us, I could discuss this point in a moment; but there is nothing so tiresome as spinning out a criticism in a letter; doubts arise, and explanations follow, till there swells out at least a volume of undigested observations: and all because you are not with him whom you want to convince. Read only the letters between Pope and Cromwell in proof of this ; they dispute without end. Are you aware now that I have an interest all this while in banishing criticism from our correspondence ? Indeed I have; for I am going to write down a little Ode (if it deserves the
+ A translation of the first elegy of the second book in English rhyme; omitted for the reason given in the last note but one.
# I have omitted here a paragraph or two, in which different lines of the Elegy were quoted, because I had previously omitted the translation of it.
name) for your perusal, which I am afraid will hardly stand that test. Nevertheless I leave you at your full liberty; so here it follows.
MR. GRAY TO MR. WEST.
London, May 8, 1742. I REJOICE to see you putting up your prayers to the May: she cannot choose but come at such a call. It is as light and genteel as herself. You bid me find fault;
afraid I cannot; however I will try. The first stanza (if what you say to me in it did not make me think it the best) I should call the worst of the five
(except the fourth line). The two next are very picturesque, Miltonic, and musical; her bed is so soft and so snug that I long to lie with her. But those two lines, “Great Nature,” are my favourites. The exclamation of the flowers is a little step too far. The last stanza is full as good as the second and third ; the last line bold, but I think not too bold. Now as to myself and my translation, pray do not call names. I never saw Broukhusius in my life. It is Scaliger who attempted to range Propertius in order; who was, and still is, in sad conditiont You see, by what I sent you, that I converse as usual, with none but the dead; they are my old friends, and almost make me long to be with them. You will not wonder therefore, that I, who live only in times past, am able to tell you no news of the present. I have finished the Peloponnesian War much to my honour, and a tight conflict it was, I promise you. I have drank and sung with Anacreon for the last fortnight, and am now feeding sheep with Theocritus. Besides, to quit my figure (because it is foolish), I have run over Pliny's Epistles and Martial és tapé you ; not to mention Petrarch, who, by the way, is sometimes very tender and natural. I must needs tell
I must needs tell you three lines in Anacreon, where the expression seems to me inimitable. He is describing hair as he would have it painted.
"Έλικας δ' ελευθέρους μου
"Αφες ως θέλουσι κείσθαι. .
Sigilla in mento impressa Amoris digitulo
+ Here some criticism on the Elegy is omitted for a former reason.