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reader for a better performance of translation, than might have been attained by his own reflections.
He that can abstract his mind from the elegance of the poetry, and confine it to the sense of the precepts, will find no other direction, than that the author should be suitable to the translator's genius ; that he should be such as may deserve a translation ; that he who intends to translate liim should endeavour to understand him; that perspicuity should be studied, and unusual and uncouth names sparingly inserted ; and that the style of the original should be copied in its elevation and depression. These are the rules that are celebrated as so definite and important; and for the delivery of which to mankind so much honour has been paid. Roscommon has indeed deserved his praises, had they been given with discernment, and bestowed not on the rules themselves, but the art with which they are introduced, and the decorations with which they are adorned.
The Essay, though generally excellent, is not without its faults. The story of the Quack, borrowed from Boileau, was not worth the importation; he has confounded the British and Saxon mythology:
I grant, that from some mossy idol oak,
The oak, as I think Gildon has observed, belonged to the British druids, and Thor and Woden were Saxon deities. Of the “ double rhymes,” which he so liberally supposes, he certainly had no knowledge.
His interposition of a long paragraph of blank verses is unwarrantably licentious. Latin poets might as well have introduced a series of iambics among their heroics.
His next work is the translation of the Art of Poetry ; which has received, in nion, not less praise than it deserves. Blank verse, left merely to its numbers, has little operation either on the ear or mind: it can hardly support itself without bold figures and striking images. A poem frigidly didactic, without rhyme, is so near to prose, that the reader only scorns it for pretending to be verse.
Having disentangled himself from the difficulties of rhyme, he may justly be expected to give the sense of Horace with great exactness, and to suppress no subtilty of sentiment for the difficulty of expressing it. This demand, however, his translation will not satisfy; wbat he found obscure, I do not know that he has ever cleared.
Among his smaller works, the Eclogue of Virgil and the Dies Iræ are well translated; though the best line in the Dies Iræ is borrowed from Dryden. In return, succeeding poets have borrowed from Roscommon.
In the verses on the Lapdog, the pronouns thou and you are offensively confounded; and the turn at the end is from Waller.
His versions of the two odes of Horace are made with great liberty, which is not recompensed by much elegance or vigour.
His political verses are sprightly, and when they were written must have been very popular.
Of the scene of Guarini, and the prologue of Pompey, Mrs. Philips, in her letters to sir Charles Cotterel, has given the bistory.
“ Lord Roscommon,” says she, “ is certainly one of the most promising young noblemen in Ireland. He has paraphrased a Psalm admirably; and a scene of Pastor Fido very finely, in some places much better than sir Richard Fanshaw. This was un
dertaken merely in compliment to me, who happened to say, that it was the best scene in Italian, and the worst in English. He was only two hours about it. It begins thus:
Dear happy groves, and you the dark retreat
From these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears, that he did not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism without revisal.
When Mrs. Philips was in Ireland, some ladies that had seen her translation of Pompey resolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin ; and, to promote their design, lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and sir Edward Dering an epilogue; “ which," says she, are the best performances of those kinds I ever saw.” If this is not criticism, it is at least gratitude. The thought of bringing Cæsar and Pompey into Ireland, the only country over which Cæsar never had any power, is lucky.
Of Roscommon's works the judgment of the public seems to be right. He is elegant, but not great; he never labours after exquisite beauties, and he seldom falls into gross faults. His versification is smooth, but rarely vigorous; and his rhymes are remarkably exact. He improved taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors to English literature.
3 This Life was originally written by Dr. Johnson in the Gentleman's Magazine for May 1748. It then had notes, which are now incorporated with the text. C.
EARL OF ROSCOMMON.
But now, we show the world a nobler way,
Serene and clear, harmonious Horace flows,
With sweetness not to be exprest in prose; HAPPY that author', whose correct essay Degrading prose explains his meaning ill,
And shows the stuff, but not the workman's skill: And happy you, who (by propitious fate)
I (who have serv'd him more than twenty years) On great Apollo's sacred standard wait,
Scarce know my master as he there appears. And with strict discipline instructed right,
Vain are our neighbours' hopes, and vain their cares, Have learn'd to use your arms before you fight. The fault is more their language's than theirs : But since the press, the pulpit, and the stage, "Tis courtly, florid, and abounds in words Conspire to censure and expose our age,
Of softer sound than ours perhaps affords; Provok'd too far, we resolutely must,
But who did ever in Freuch authors see To the few virtues that we have, be just.
The comprehensive English energy? For who have long'd, or who have labour'd more The weighty bullion of one sterling line, [shine. To search the treasures of the Roman storc; Drawn to French wire, would through whole pages Or dig in Grecian mines for purer ore?
I speak my private, but impartial sense, The noblest fruits, transplanted in our isle, With freedom, and, I hope, without ofience; With early hope and fragrant blossoms smile. For I'll recant, when France can show me wit, Familiar Ovid tender thoughts inspires,
As strong as ours, and as succinctly writ. And Nature seconds all his soft desires;
'Tis true, composing is the nobler part, Theocritus does now to us belong;
But good translation is no easy art. And Albion's rocks repeat his rural song.
For though materials have long since been found, Who has not heard how Italy was blest,
Yet both your fancy and your hands are bound; Above the Medes, above the wealthy East? And by improving what was writ before, Or Gallus' song, so tender and so true,
Invention labours less, but judgment more. As er'n Lycoris might with pity view! [hearse, The soil intended for Pierian seeds When mourning nymphs attend their Daphnis' Must be well purg'd from rank pedantic weeds. Who does not weep that reads the moving verse! Apollo starts, and all Parnassus shakes, But hear, oh hear, in what exalted strains
At the rude rumbling Baralipton makes. Sicilian Muses through these happy plains
For none have been with admiration read, Proclaim Saturnian times--our own Apollo reigns! But who (beside their learning) were well bred.
When France had breathd, after intestine broils, The first great work (a task perform'd by few) And peace and conquest crown'd her foreign toils; Is, that yourself may to yourself be true: There (cultivated by a royal hand)
No mask, no tricks, no favour, no reserve; Learning grew fast, and spread, and blest the land; Dissect your mind, examine every nerve. The choicest books that Rome or Greece have known, Whoever vainly on his strength depends, Her excellent translators made her own:
Begins like Virgil, but like Mævius ends. And Europe still considerably gains
That wretch (in spite of his forgotten rhymes) Both by their good example and their pains. Condemn'd to live to all succeeding times, From hence our generous emulation came, With pompous nonsense and a bellowing sourd We ondertook, and we perform'd the same. Sung lofty Ilium, tumbling to the ground.
And (if my Muse can through past ages see) * John Sheffield duke of Buckinghamshire. That noisy, nauseous, gaping fool was he;
Exploded, when, with universal scorn,
But few, oh! few souls, preordained by Pate, The mountains labour'd and a mouse was born. The race of gods, have reach'd that envy'd height.
“ Learn, learn," Crotona's brawny wrestler cries, No Rebel-Titan's sacrilegious crime, “ Audacious mortals, and be timely wise !
By heaping hills on hills can hither climb: 'Tis I that call, remember Milo's end,
The grizzly ferryman of Hell deny'd Wedg'd in that timber, which he strove to rend." Æneas entrance, till he knew his guide: Each poet with a different talent writes,
How justly then will impious mortals fall, One praises, one instructs, another bites.
Whose pride would soar to Heaven without a call ! Horace did ne'er aspire to epic bays,
Pride (of all others the most dangerous fault) Nor lofty Maro stoop to lyric lays.
Proceeds from want of sense, or want of thought. Examine how your humour is inclind,
The men, who labour and digest things most,
How many ages since has Virgil writ!
No vulgar deity inhabits there:
Than poets should before their Mantuan god. Your early, kind, paternal care appears,
Hail mighty Maro! may that sacred name By chaste instruction of her tender years.
Kindle my breast with thy celestial flame; The first impression in her infant breast
Sublime ideas and apt words infuse, Will be the deepest, and should be the best. The Muse instruct my voice, and thou inspire the Let not austerity breed servile fear,
What I have instanc'd only in the best, [Muse! No wanton sound offend her virgin ear.
Is, in proportion, true of all the rest. Secure from foolish Pride's affected state,
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore, And specious Flattery's more pernicious bait, There sweat, there strain, tug the laborious oar; Habitual innocence adorns her thoughts,
Search every comment that your care can find, But your neglect must answer for her faults. Some here, some there, may hit the poet's mind; Immodest words admit of no defence;
Yet be not blindly guided by the throng; For want of decency is want of sense.
The multitude is always in the wrong. What moderate fop would rake the Park or stews, When things appear unnatural or hard, Who among troops of faultless nymphs may choose? | Consult your author, with himself compar'd; Variety of such is to be found:
Who knows what blessing Phæbus may bestow, Take then a subject proper to expound:
And future ages to your labours owe? But moral, great, and worth a poet's voice,
Such secrets are not easily found out, For men of sense despise a trivial choice:
But, once discoverd, leave no room for doubt. And such applause it must expect to meet, Truth stamps conviction in your ravish'd breast, As would some painter, busy in a street
And peace and joy attend the glorious guest. To copy bulls and bears, and every sign,
Truth still is one; Truth is divinely bright, That calls the staring sots to nasty wine.
No cloudy doubts obscure her native light; Yet 'tis not all to have a subject gond,
While in your thoughts you find the least debate, It must delight us when 'tis understood.
You may confound, but nerer can translate. He that brings fulsome objects to my view,
Your style will this through all disguises show, (As many old have done, and many new)
For none explain more clearly than they know. With nauseous images my fancy fils,
He only proves he understands a text, And all goes down like oxymel of squills.
Whose exposition leaves it unperplex d. Instruct the listening world how Maro sings They who too faithfully on names insist, Of useful subjects and of lofty things.
Rather create than dissipate the mist; These will such true, such bright ideas raise, And grow unjust by being over-nice, As merit gratitude, as well as praise:
(For superstitious virtue turns to vice.) But foul descriptions are offensive still,
Let Crassus's ghost and Labienus tell Either for being like, or being ill.
How twice in Parthian plains their legions fell. For who, without a qualm, hath ever look'd Since Rome hath been so jealous of her fame, On holy garbage, though by Homer cook'd ? That few know Pacorus' or Monæses' name. Whose railing heroes, and whose wounded gods, Words in one language elegantly us'd, Make some suspect he snores, as well as nods. Will hardly in another be excus'd. But I offend-Virgil begins to frown,
And some, that Rome admir'd in Cæsar's time, And Horace looks with indignation down;
May neither suit our genius nor our clime.
Shows a translator both discreet and bold.
Excursions are inexpiably bad; And with attractive majesty surprise,
And 'tis much safer to leave out than add. Not by affected meretricious arts,
Abstruse and mystic thoughts you must express But strict harmonious symmetry of parts;
With painful care, but seeming easiness; Which through the whole insensibly must pass, For Truth shines brightest through the plainest With vital heat to animate the mass :
dress. A pure, an active, an auspicious name, [came; And bright as Heaven, from whence the blessing
- Hor. 3. Od. vi.
Th' Enean Muse, when she appears in state, Have you been led through the Cumxan care,
And, panting, “Lo! the god, the god," she cries; Your author always will the best advise,
With words not hers, and more than human sound, Fall when he falls, and when he rises, rise.
She makes th' obedient ghosts peep trembling Affected noise is the most wretched thing
through the ground. That to contempt can empty scribblers bring. But, though we must obey when Heaven commands, Vowels and accents, regularly plac'd
And man in vain the sacred call withstands, On even syllables, (and still the last)
Beware what spirit rages in your breast; Though gross innumerable faults abound,
For ten wspir'd, ten thousand are possest. In spite of nonsense, never fail of sound.
Thus make the proper use of each extreme, But this is meant of even verse alone,
And write with fury, but correct with phlegm. As being most harmonious and most known: As when the cheerful hours too freely pass, For if you will unequal numbers try,
And sparkling wine smiles in the tempting glass, There accents on odd syllables must lie.
Your pulse advises, and begins to beat Whatever sister of the learned Nine
Through every swelling vein a loud retreat: Does to your suit a willing ear incline,
So when a Muse propitiously invites, l'rge your success, deserve a lasting name, Improve her favours, and indulge her flights; She 'll crown a grateful and a constant flame. But when you find that vigorous heat abate, But, if a wild uncertainty prevail,
Leave off, and for another summons wait. And turn your veering heart with every gale, Before the radiant Sun, a glimmering lamp, You lose the fruit of all your former care,
Adulterate metals to the sterling stamp, For the sad prospect of a just despair.
Appear not meaner, than mere human lines, A quack (too scandalonsly mean to name) Compar'd with those whose inspiration shines; Hal, by man-midwifery, got wealth and fame: These nervous, bold; those languid and remiss; As if Lucina had forgot her trade,
There, cold salutes; but bere a lover's kiss. The labouring wife invokes his surer aid.
Thus have I seen a rapid headlong tide, Well-season'd bowls the gossip's spirits raise, With foaming waves the passive Soane divide; Who, while she guzzles, chats the doctor's praise ; Whose lazy waters without motion lay, And largely, what she wants in words, supplies,
While he, with eager force, urg'd his impetuous With maudlin eloquence of trickling eyes.
way. But what a thoughtless animal is man!
The privilege that ancient poets claim, (How very active in his own trepan!)
Now turn'd to licence by too just a name, For, greedy of physicians' frequent fees,
Belongs to none but an establish'd fame, From female mellow praise he takes degrees;
Which scorns to take it Struts in a new unlicens'd gown, and then
Absurd expressions, crude, abortive thoughts, From saving women falls to killing men.
All the lewd legion of exploded fauits, Another such had left the nation thin,
Base fugitives to that asylum Ay, In spite of all the children he brought in.
And sacred laws with inso'ence defv. His pills as thick as hand-granadoes flew;
Not thus onr heroes of the former days, And where they fell, as certainly they slew;
Deserv'd and gain'd their never-fading bays; His name struck every where as great a damp,
For I mistake, or far the greatest part As Archimedes through the Roman camp.
Of what some call neglect, was study'd art. With this, the doctor's pride began to cool; When Virgil seems to trifle in a line, For smarting soundly may convince a fool. 'Tis like a warning-piece, which gives the sign But now repentance came too late for grace; To wake your fancy, and prepare your sight, And meagre Famine star'd him in the face: To reach the noble height of some unusual flight. Fain would he to the wives be reconcil'd,
I lose my patience, when with saucy pride, But found no husband left to own a child.
By untun'd ears I hear his numbers try'd.
Elaspheme the sacred founder of our rules!
Sublime or low, unbended or intense,
The sound is still a comment to the sense.
When, by impulse from Heaven, Tyrtæus sung, For rich ill poets are without excuse.
In drooping soldiers a new courage sprung;
True poets are the guardians of a state,