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[Bossu on Epic Poetry.] There are innumerable
fi peteretur crimine tanto
This was pretty well, one wou'd think already, but he goes on.
Quasque procul terras obliquo fydere tangit
After all this, what cou'd a Poet think of but Heaven itself for the Prize? but what follows is astonishing.
-Quid fi Tyrie Phrygiæne sub unum
do not remember to have met with so great a Fall in
antient Author whatsoever. I shou'd not have insisted so much on the Faults of this Poet, if I did not hope you wou'd take the same Freedom with, and revenge it upon his Translator. I shall be extremely glad if the Reading this can be any Amusement to you, the rather because I had the Dissatisfaction to hear you have been confin’d to your Chamber by an Illness, which I fear was as troublesome a Companion as I have sometimes been to you in the fame Place ; where if ever you found any Pleasure in my Company, it must furely have
been that which most Men take in observing the Faults and Follies of another; a Pleasure which you see I take care to give you even in my absence.
If you will oblige me at your leisure with the Confirmation of your Recovery, under your own Hand, it will be extreme grateful to me; for next to the Pleafure of seeing my Friends, is that I take in hearing from them; and in this particular, I am beyond all acknowledgments oblig'd to your Friend Mr Wycherley, who, as if it were not enough to have excell'd all Men in Wit, is resolv'd to excel them in Good-nature too. I know I need no Apology to you for speaking of Mr Wycherley, whose Example as I am proud of following in all Things, so in nothing more than in profefsing myself, like him,
May 7, 1709. YOU
U had long before this Time been troubled
with a Letter from me, but that I deferr’d it till I cou'd send you either the * Miscellany, or my continuation of the Version of Statius. The first I imagin'd you might have had before now ; but since the contrary has happen’d, you may draw this Moral from it, That Authors in general are more ready to write Nonsense, than Booksellers are to publish it. I had I know not what extraordinary Aux of of Rhyme upon me for three Days together, in which Time all the Verses you see added, have been
Jacob Tonson's. fixth Volume of Poetical Miscellanies, in which Mr Pope's Pastorals and some Versions of Homer and Chaucer were first printed,
written ; which I tell you, that you may more freely be fevere upon them. 'Tis a Mercy I do not assault you with a Number of
original Sonnets and Epigrams, which our modern Bards put forth in the Spring-time, in as great abundance, as Trees do Blossoms, a very few whereof ever come to be Fruit, and please no longer than just in their Birth. So that they make no less hafte' to bring their Flowers of Wit to the Press, then Gardeners to bring their other Flowers to the Market, which if they can't get off their Hands in the Morning, are sure to die before night. Thus the fame Reason that furnishes Covent-Garden with those Nosegays you so delight in, fupplies the Mufes Mercury, and British Apollo (not to say Jacob's Miscellanies) with Verses. And it is the Happiness of this Age, that the modern Invention of printing Poems for Pence apiece, has brought the Nosegays of Parnassus to bear the same Price ; whereby the publick-spirited Mr Henry Hills of Black-fryers has been the Cause of great Ease and singular Comfort to all the Learned, who never overabounding in transitory Coin, should not be discontented (methinks) even tho' Poems were distributed gratis about the Streets, like Bunyan's Sermons, and other pious Treatises, usually publifh'd in a like Volume and Character.
The 'Time now drawing nigh, when you use with Sapho to cross the Water in an Ev'ning to Spring-Garden, I hope you will have a fair Opportunity of ravishing her. I mean only (as Oldfox in the Plain-dealer says) thro' the Ear, with your well-penn'd Verses. I have been told of a very lucky Compliment of an Officer to his Mistress in the very same Place, which I cannot but set down (and desire you at present to take it in good part instead of a Latin Quotation) that it some time or other be improv'd by your Pronunciation,
while you walk Solus cum Sola in those amorous Shades.
When at Spring-garden Sapho deigns t'appear,
I wish you all the Pleasures which the Season and the Nymph can afford; the best Company, the best Coffee, and the best News you can desire. And what more to wish you than this, I do not know; unless it be a great deal of Patience to read and examine the Verses I send you ; and I promise you in return a great deal of Deference to your Judgment, and an extraordinary Obedience to your Sentiments for the future (to which you know I have been sometimes a little Refractory). If you will please to begin where you left off last, and mark the Margins, as you have done in the Pagés immediately before, (which you will find corrected to your Senfe since your last perusal) you will extremely oblige me, and improve my Translation. Besides those places which may deviate from the Sense of the Author, it wou'd be very kind in you to observe any deficiencies in the Diction or Numbers. The Hiatus in particular I wou'd avoid as much as possible, to which
you are certainly in the right to be a profcfs’d Enemy; tho? I confers I cou'd not think it possible at all times to be avoided by any Writer, till I found by reading Malherbe lately, that there is scarce any throughout his Poems. I thought your Observation true enough to be pass'd into a Rule, but not a Rule without Exceptions, nor that ever it had been reduc'd to practice: But this Example of one of the most correct and best of their Poets- has undeceiv'd me, and confirms your Opinion very strongly, and much
more than Mr Dryden's Authority, who the he made it a Rule, seldom observ'd it.
June 10. 1709. I HAVE received part the Version of Statius,
and return you my Thanks for your Remarks, which I think to be just, except where you cry out (like one in Horace's Art of Poetry) Pulchrè, beni, rectè! there I have fome fears, you are often, if not always in the wrong.
One of your Objections, namely on that Passage,
The rest, revolving Years fall ripen into Fate,
may be well grounded, in Relation to it's not being the exact Sense of the Words— * Cætera reliquo of dine ducam. But the Duration of the Action of Statius's Poem may as well be excepted against, as many things besides in him (which I wonder Bossu has not observ’d): For instead of confining his Narration to one year, it is manifestly exceeded in the very first two Books: The Narration begins with Oedipus's Prayer to the Fury, to promote discord betwixt his Sons; afterward the Poet exprefly describes their entring into the Agreement of reigning a Year by turns; and Pelynices takes his fight for Thebes on his Brother's refusal to resign the Throne. All this is in the first Book; in next, Tydeus is sent Ambassador to Etheocles, and demands his Resignation in these Terms,
" See the firt Book of Statius, verse 302.