Page images

But now we show the world a nobler way,
And in translated verse do more than they;
Serene and clear harmonious Horoce flows,
With sweetness not to be express'd in prose:
Degrading prose explains his meaning ill,
And shows the stuff, but not the workman's skill:
I (who have serv'd him more than twenty years)
Scarce know my master as he there appears.
Vain are our neighbours' hopes, and vain their



The fault is inore their language's than theirs
'Tis courtly, florid, and abounds in words
Of softer sound than ours perhaps affords;
But who did ever in French authors see
The comprehensive English energy?
The weighty bullion of one sterling line,
Drawn to French wire, would thro' whole pages

I speak my private but impartial sense,
With freedom, and I hope without offence;
For I'll recant when France can show me wit
As strong as ours, and as succinctly writ.
'Tis true, composing is a nobler part;
But good translation is no easy art.
For though materials have long since been found,
Yet both your fancy and your hands are bound;
And by improving what was writ before,
Invention labors less, but judgement more.

With how much ease is a young Muse betray'd! How nice the reputation of the maid! Your early, kind, paternal care appears, By chaste instruction of her tender years. The first impression in her infant breast Will be the deepest, and should be the best. Let no austerity breed servile fear, No wanton sound offend her virgin ear. Secure from foolish pride's affected state, And specious flatt'ry's more pernicious bait, Habitual innocence adorns her thoughts; But your neglect must answer for her faults. Immodest words admit of no defence; For want of decency is want of sense. [stews, What mod'rate fop would rake the Park or Who among troops of faultless nymphs may | Variety of such is to be found: [choose? Then take a subject proper to expound; But moral, great, and worth a poet's voice, For men of sense despise a trivial choice: And such applause it must expect to meet, As would some painter busy in a street To copy bulls and bears, and ev'ry sign That calls the staring sots to nasty wine.

Yet 'tis not all to have a subject good;
It must delight us when 'tis understood.
He that brings fulsome objects to my view
(As many old have done, and many new)
With nauseous images my fancy fills,
And all goes down like oxymel of squills.
Instruct the list'ning world how Maro sings
Of useful subjects and of lofty things.
These will such true, such bright ideas raise,
As merit gratitude as well as praise:
But foul descriptions are offensive still,
Either for being like, or being ill.

For who, without a qualm, hath ever look'd
On holy garbage, though by Homer cook'd?
Whose railing heroes, and whose woundedGods,
Make some suspect he snores as well as nods.
But I offend -Virgil begins to frown,
And Horace looks with indignation down;
My blushing Muse with conscious fear retires,
And whom they like implicitly admires.

On sure foundations let your fabric rise,
And with attractive majesty surprise,
Not by affected meretricious arts,
But strict harmonious symmetry of parts;
Which through the whole insensibly must pass,
With vital heat to animate the mass:

The soil intended for Pierian seeds Must be well purg'd from rank pedantic weeds. Apollo starts, and all Parnassus shakes, At the rude rumbling Baralipton makes. For none have been with adiniration read, But who (beside their learning) were wel! bred. The first great work (a task perform'd by few) Is, that yourself may to yourself be true : No mask, no tricks, no favor, no reserve; Dissect your mind, examine ev'ry nerve. Whoever vainly on his strength depends, Begins like Virgil, but like Mævius ends. That wretch (in spite of his forgotten rhymes), Condemn'd to live to all succeeding times, With pompous nonsense and a bellowing sound, Sung lofty Ilium tumbling to the ground. And (if my Muse can through past ages see) That noisy, nauseous, gaping fool was he: Exploded when, with universal scorn, The mountains labor'd and a mouse was born. Learn, learn, Crotona's brawny wrestler cries, Audacious mortals, and be timely wise; 'Tis I that call, remember Milo's end, Wedg'd in that timber which he strove to rend. Each poet with a diff 'rent talent writes; One praises, one instructs, another bites. Horace did ne'er aspire to Epic bays, Nor lofty Maro stoop to Lyric lays. Examine how your humor is inclin'd, And which the ruling passion of your mind; Then seek a poet who your way does bend, And choose an author as you choose a friend; United by this sympathetic bond, You grow familiar, intimate, and fond; Your thoughts, your words, your styles, your No longer his interpreter, but he. [souls agree,

A pure, an active, and auspicious flame, [came,
And bright as heaven, from whence the blessing
But few, oh few, souls pre-ordain'd by fate,
The race of Gods, have reach'd that envied
No rebel Titan's sacrilegious crime, [height.
By reaping hills on hills, can hither clinib;
The grizly ferryman of hell denied
Encas entrance, till he knew his guide:
How justly then will impious morials fall,
Whose pride would soar to heaven without a call!

Pride (of all others the most dang'rous fault) Proceeds from want of sense or want of thought, The men who labor and digest things most, Will be much apter to despond than beast:


For if your author be profoundly good,
"Twill cost you dear before he 's understood.
How many ages since has Virgil writ?
How few are they who understand him yet!
Approach his altars with religious fear,
No vulgar deity inhabits there:
Heaven shakes not more at Jove's imperial nod,
Than poets should before their Mantuan god.
Hail, mighty Maro! may that sacred name.
Kindle my breast with thy celestial flame;
Sublime ideas and apt words infuse; [the Muse!
The Muse instruct any voice, and thou inspire
What I have instanc'd only in the best,
Is, in proportion, true of all the rest.
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore;
There sweat, there strain, tug the laborious oar;
Search ev'ry comment that your care can find,
Some here, some there, may hit the poet's mind;
Yet be not blindly guided by the throng:
The multitude is always in the wrong.
When things appear unnatural or hard,
Consult your author, with himself compar'd;
Who knows what blessing Phoebus may bestow,
And future ages to your labor owe?
Such secrets are not easily found out;
But, once discover'd, leave no room for doubt.
Truth stamps conviction in your ravish'd breast,
And peace and joy attend the glorious guest.

Truth still is one; truth is divinely bright;
No cloudy doubts obscure her native light;
While in your thoughts you find the least debate,
You may confound, but never can translate.
Your style will thus thro' all disguises show,
For none explain more clearly than they know.
He only proves he understands a text,
Whose exposition leaves it unperplex'd.
They who too faithfully on names insist,
Rather create than dissipate the mist;
And grow unjust by being over-nice
(For superstitious virtue turns to vice).
Let Crassus' ghost and Labienus tell
How twice in Parthian plains their legions fell:
Since Rome hath been so jealous of her fame,
That few know Pacorus' or Monæses' name.

Words in one language elegantly us'd,
Will hardly in another be excus'd.
And some that Rome admir'd in Cæsar's time,
May neither suit our genius nor our clime.
The genuine sense, intelligibly told,
Shows a translator both discreet and bold.

Excursions are inexpiably bad;

And 'tis much safer to leave out than add.
Abstruse and mystic thoughts you must express"
With painful care, but seeming easiness;
For truth shines brightest thro' the plainest

Affected noise is the most wretched thing
That to contempt can empty scribblers bring.
Vowels and accents regularly plac'd,
On even syllables (and still the last),
Though gross innumberable faults abeund,
In spite of nonsense, never fail of sound.
But this is meant of even verse alone,
As being most harmonious and most known:
For if you will unequal numbers try,
There accents on odd syllables must lie.
Whatever sister of the learned Nine
Does to your suit a willing ear incline,
Urge your success, deserve a lasting name,
She'll crown a grateful and a constant flame.
But if a wild uncertainty prevail,
And turn your veering heart with ev'ry gale,
You lose the fruit of all your former care
For the sad prospect of a just despair.

A quack (too scandalously mean to name)
Had, by man-midwifery, got wealth and fame:
As if Lucina had forgot her trade,
The laboring wife invokes his surer aid.
Well-season'd bowls the gossip's spirits raise,
Who, while she guzzles, chats the doctor's praise;
And largely what she wants in words supplies
With maudlin-eloquence of trickling eyes.
But what a thoughtless animal is man!
How very active in his own trepan!
For greedy of physicians' frequent fees,
From female cllow praise lie takes degrees ;
Struts in a new unlicens'd gown, and then,
From saying women, falls to killing men.
Another such had left the nation thin,
In spite of all the children he brought in.
His pills as thick as hand-granadoes flew,
And where they fell, as certainly they slew;
His name struck ev'ry where as great a damp
As Archimedes' thro' the Roman camp.
With this, the doctor's pride began to cool;
For smarting soundly may convince a fool.
But now repentance came too late for grace,
And ineagre famine star'd him in the face:
Fain would he to the wives be reconcil'd,
But found no husband left to own a child.
The friends that got the brats were poison'd too;
In this sad case what could our vermin do?
Worried with debts, and past all hope of bail,
Th' unpitied wretch lies rotting in a jail :
And there with basket-alms scarce kept alive,
Shows how mistaken talents ought to thrive.
I pity, from my soul, unhappy men,
Compell'd by want to prostitute their pen;
Who must, like lawyers, either starve or plead,
And follow, right or wrong, where guineas lead!
But you, Pompilian, wealthy pamper'd heirs,
Who to your country owe your swords and cares,
Let no vain hope your easy mind seduce,
For rich ill poets are without excuse.
Tis very dang'rous tampering with a Muse;
The profit's small, and you have much to lose:
For though true wit adorns your birth or place,
Degenerate lines degrade th`attainted race.




Th' Enean Muse, when she appears in state,
Makes all Jove's thunder on her verses wait;
Yet writes sometimes as soft and moving things
As Venus speaks, or Philomela sings.
Your author always will the best advise
Fall when he falls, and when he rises rise.

Hor. ii. Od. 6,


This antient Rome and elder Athens found,^
Before mistaken stops debauch'd the sound.

No poet any passion can excite,
But what they feel transport then when they
Have you been led through the Cuinean cave,
And heard the impatient maid divinely rave?
I hear her now; I see her rolling eyes:
And panting, Lo! the god! the god! she cries;
With words not hers, and more thanhumansound, | By secret influence of indulgent skies,
She makes th' obedient ghosts peep trembling Empire and poesy together-rise.
thro' the ground.

When, by impulse from Heaven, Tyrtæus sung,
In drooping soldiers a new courage sprung;
Reviving Sparta now the flight maintain'd,
And what two generals lost a poet gain'd.

True pocts are the guardians of the state,
And, when they fail, portend approaching fate.
For that which Rome to conquest did aspire,
Was not the vestal, but the Muse's tire;
Heaven joins the blessings: no declining age
E'er felt the raptures of poetic rage.

But, tho' we must obey whenHeaven commands,
And man in vain the sacred call withstands,
Beware what spirit rages in your breast;
For ten inspir'd, ten thousand are possest.
Thus make the proper use of each extreme,
And write with fury, but correct with phlegin.
As when the cheerful hours too freely
And sparkling wine smiles in the tempting glass,
Your pulse advises, and begins to beat
Through ev'ry swelling vein a loud retreat :
So when a Muse propitiously invites,
Improve her favors, and indulge her flights;
But when you find that vigorous heat abate,
Leave off, and for another summons wait.
Before the radiant sun a glimm'ring lamp,
Adulterate metals to the sterling stamp,
Appear not meaner than mere human lines,
Compar'd with those which inspiration shines:
These nervous, bold; those languid and remiss
There, cold salutes; but here a lover's kiss.
Thus have I seen a rapid headlong tide
With foaming waves the passive Soane divide;
Whose lazy waters without motion lay,
While he with eager force, urg'd his impetuous

Of many faults rhyme is perhaps the cause;
Too strict to rhyme, we slight more useful laws;
For that, in Greece or Rome, was never known,
Till by barbarian deluges o'erflown:
Subdu'd, undone, they did at last obey,
And change their own for their invader's way,
I grant that, from some mossy idol oak,
In double rhymes our Thor and Woden spoke;
And by succession of unlearned times,
As bards began, so monks rung on the chimes.


The privilege that antient poets clain,
Now turn'd to licence by too just a name,
Belongs to none but an establish'd fame,
Which scorns to take it
Absurd expressions, crude abortive thoughts,
All the lewd legion of exploded faults,
Base fugitives, to that asylum fly,
And sacred laws with insolence defy.
Not thus our heroes of the former days
Deserv'd and gain'd their never-fading bays;
For I mistake, or far the greatest part
Of what some call neglect, was stuly's art.
When Virgil seems to trifle in a line,
"Tis like a warning-piece, which gives the sign
To wake your fancy, and prepare your sight,
Torcach the noble height of some unusual flight.
I lose my patience when, with saucy pride,
By untun'd ears I hear his numbers tried,
Reverse of nature; shall such copies then
Arraign the originals of Maro's pen;
And the rude notions of pedantic schools
Blaspheme the sacred founder of our rules?
The delicacy of the nicest gar

Finds nothing harsh or out of order there,
Sublime or low, unbended or intense,
The sound is still a comment to the seuse.

A skilful car in numbers should preside,
And all disputes without appeal decide,


But now that Phoebus and the sacred Nine With all their beams on our blest island shine, Why should not we their antient rights restore, And be what Rome or Athens were before?

Have you forgot how Raphael's numerous prose • Led our exalted souls thro' heavenly camps, And mark'd the ground where proud apostate

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

For Michael's arm main promontories flung,

And over-press'd whole legions weak with sin,

Yet they blasphem'd and struggled as they lay,

Till the great ensign of Messiah blaz'd, And (arin'd with vengeance) God's victorious (Effulgence of paternal Deity!) [Son Grasping ten thousand thunders in his hand, Drove th' old original rebels headlong down, And sent them flaming to the vast abyss." 0 inay I live to hail the glorious day, And sing loud paans through the crowded way, When in triumphant state the British Muse, True to herself, shall barbarous aid refuse,


[ocr errors]

⚫ thrones

Defied Jehovah! here, 'twixt host and host,
(A narrow, but a dreadful interval)
Portentous sight! before the cloudy van
Satan with vast and haughty strides advanc'd,
Came tow`ring arm'd in adamant and gold.
There bellowing engines, with their fiery tubes,
Dispers'd ethereal forms, and down they fell
By thousands, angels on archangels roll'd;
Recover'd, to the hills they ran, they flew,
Which (with their ponderous load, rocks,
⚫ waters, woods),

From their firm seats torn by the shaggy tops,
They bore like shields before them through the
Till more incens'd they hurl'd them at their
All was confusion, heaven's foundation shook,
Threat'ning no less than universal wreck;

[ocr errors]

An Essay on Blank Verse, out of Paradise Lost, B. VI,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

[near. Who banish'd David did from Hebron bring,
And with a gen'ral shout proclaim'd him king.
Those very Jews, who at their very best
Their bunior more than loyalty express'd,
Now wonder'd why so long they had obey'd
An idol monarch which their hands had made;
Thought they might ruin him they could create,
Or melt him to that golden calf of state.
But these were random bolts : no form'd design,
Nor int'rest made the factious crowd to join:
The sobert part of Israel, free from stain,
Well knew the value of a peaceful reign;
And looking backward with a wise affright,
Saw seams of wounds dishonest to the sight:
In contemplation of whose ugly scars,
They curs'd the mem'ry of civil wars.
The moderate sort of nien thus qualified,
Inclin'd the balance to the better side:
And David's mildness manag'd it so well,
The bad found no occasion to rebel.
But when to sin our biass'd nature leans,
The careful devil is still at hand with means;
And providently pimps for ill desires :
The good old cause reviv'd a plot requires.
Plots true or false are necessary things
To raise up commonwealths, and ruin kings.
Th' inhabitants of old Jerusalem -
Were Jebusites; the town so call'd from them;
And theirs the native right-

And in the Roman majesty appear,
Which none know better, and none come so

$27. Absalom and Achitophel. Dryden.
Is pious times, ere priesteraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a sin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confin'd!
When nature prompted, and no law denied
Promiscuous use of concubine and bride;
Then Israel's monarch, after Heaven's own heart,
His vigorous warmth did variously impart
To wives and slaves; and wide as his command,
Scatter'd his Maker's image thro' the land.
Michal, of royal blood, the crown did wear;
A soil ungrateful to the tiller's care;
Not so the rest; for several mothers bore
To godlike David several sons before.
But since, like slaves, his bed they did ascend,
No true succession could their seed attend.
Of all the numerous progeny, was none
So beautiful, so brave, as Absalom :
Whether inspired by some diviner lust,
His father got him with a greater gust;
Or that his conscious destiny made way,
By manly beauty, to imperial sway,
Early in foreign fields he won renown,
With kings and states allied to Israel's crown :
In peace the thoughts of war he could remove,But
And seem'd as he were only born for love.
Whate'er he did was done with so much ease,
In him alone 'twas natural to please:
His motions all accompanied with grace;
And paradise was open'd in his face.
With secret joy indulgent David view’d
His youthful image in his son renew'd :
To all his wishes nothing he denied;
And made the charming Annabel his bride.
What faults he had (for who from faults is free?)
His father could not, or he would not see.
Some warm excesses which the law forbore,
Were construed youth that purg'd by boilingo'er,
And Ammon's murder, by a specious name,
Was call'd a just revenge for injur'd fame.
Thus prais'd and lov'd the noble youth remain'd,
While David undisturb'd in Sion reign'd;
But life can never be sincerely blest :
Heaven punishes the bad, and proves the best.
The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murin'ring race,
As ever tried th' extent and stretch of grace;
God's pamper'd people, whom, debauched with


Noking could govern, nor no God could please.
Gods they had tried of every shape and size,
That goldsmiths could produce, or priests devise:
These Adam-wits, too' fortunately free,
Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent was found
Of men by laws less circumscrib'd and bound,
They led their wild desires to woods and caves,
And thought that all but Savages were slaves.
They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow,
Made foolish Ishbosheth the crown forego ;

when the chosen people grew more strong,
The rightful cause at length becaine the wrong;
And ev'ry loss the men of Jebus bore,
They still were thought God's enemies the more.
Thus worn or weaken'd, well or ill content,
Submit they must to David's government
Impoverish'd, and depriv'd of all command,
Their taxes doubled as they lost their land
And what was harder yet to flesh and blood,
Their gods disgrac'd, and burnt like common

This set the heathen priesthood in a flame;
For priests of all religions are the same.
Of whatsoe'er descent their godhead be,
Stock, stone, or other homely pedigree,
In his defence his servants are as bold
As if he had been born of beaten gold.
The Jewish rabbins, though their enemies,
In this conclude them honest men and wise:
For 'twas their duty, all the learned think,
Tespouse his cause by whom they eat and drink.
From hence began that plot, the nation's curse,
Bad in itself, but represented worse;
Rais'd in extremes, and in extremes decried;
With oaths affirm'd, with dying vows denied ;
Not weigh'd nor winnow'd by the multitude;
But swallow'd in the mass, unchew'd and crude,
Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with
To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise. [lies;
Succeeding times did equal folly call,
Believing nothing, or believing all.
Th' Egyptian rites the Jebusites embrac'd;
Where gods were recommended by their taste.
Such savory deities must needs be good,
As serv'd at once for worship and for food.


By force they could not introduce these gods;
For ten to one in former days was odds;
So fraud was us'd, the sacrificer's trade:
Fools are more hard to conquer than persuade.
Their busy teachers mingled with the Jews,
And rak'd for converts ev'n the court and stews:
Which Hebrew priests the more unkindly took,
Because the fleece accompanies the flock.
Some thought they God's anointed meant to slay
By guns, invented since full many a day:
Our author swears it not; but who can know
How far the devil and Jebusites may go?
This plot, which fail'd for want of common sense,
Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence:
For as, when raging fevers boil the blood,
The standing lake soon floats into a flood,
And ev'ry hostile humor, which before
Slept quiet in its channel, bubbles o'er ;
So sev'ral factions, from this first ferment,
Work up to foam, and threat the government.
Some by their friends, more by themselves
thought wise,

Oppos'd the pow'r to which they could not risc.
Some had in courts been great; and thrown from
Likefiends, wereharden'd in impenitence. [thence
Some, by their monarch's fatal mercy, grown
From pardon'd rebels kinsmen to the throne,
Were rais'd in pow'r and public office high;
Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie.

Of these the false Achitophel was first;
A name to all succeeding ages curst:
For close designs and crooked counsels fit;
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
Restless, unfix'd in principles and place;
In pow'r unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace:
A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy-body to decay,
And o'er-inform'd the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity;
Pleas'd with the danger when the waveswenthigh,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;
Else why should he, with wealth and honor blest,
Refuse his age the needful hours of rest?
Punish a body which he could not please;
. Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease?

And all to leave what with his toil he won
Te than unfeather'd two-legg'd thing, a Son;
Got, while his soul did huddled notions try;
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy.
In friendship false, implacable in hate;
Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state.
To compass this, the triple bond he broke;
The pillars of the public safety shook;
And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke:
Then, seis'd with fear, yet still affecting fame,
Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name.
easy still it proves, in factious times,
With public zeal to cancel private crimes,
How safe is treason, and how sacred ill,
Where none can sin against the people's will!
Where crouds can wink,and no offence beknown,
Since in another's guilt they find their own!


Yet fame descrv'd no enemy can grudge:
The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge.
In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abethdin
With more discerning eyes, or hands more

Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress,
Swift of dispatch, and casy of access.
Oh! had he been content to serve the crown
With virtues only proper to the gown:
Or had the rankness of the soil been freed
From cockle, that oppress'd the noble sced;
David for him his tuneful harp had strung,
And heaven had wanted one immortal song.
But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand:
And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land.
Achitophel, grown weary to possess
A lawful fame, and lazy happiness,
Disdain'd the golden fruit to gather free,
And lent the crowd his arm to shake the tree.
Now, manifest of crimes contriv'd long since,
He stood at bold defiance with his prince;
Held up the buckler of the people's cause
Against the crown, and sculk'd behind the laws.
The wish'd occasion of the plot he takes;
Some circunstances finds, but more he makes:
By buzzing emissaries fills the ears
Of list ning crowds with jealousies and fears
Of arbitrary counsels brought to light,
And proves the King himself a Jebusite.
Weak arguments! which yet, he knew full well,
Were strong with people easy to rebel.
For, govern'd by the moon, the giddy Jew
Tread the same track when she the prime renews;
And once in twenty years, their scribes record,'
By natural instinct they change their lord.
Achitophel still wants a chief, and noue
Was found so fit as warlike Absalom.
Not that he wish'd his greatness to create,
For politicians neither love nor hate :
But, for he knew his title not allow'd
Would keep him still depending on the crowd:
That kingly pow'r, thus ebbing out, might be
Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.

Him he attempts with studied arts to please, And sheds his venom in such words as these:

Auspicious prince! at whose nativity
Some royal planet rul'd the southern sky;
Thy longing country's darling and desire;
Their cloudy pillar and their guardian fire;
Their second Moses, whose extended wand
Divides the seas, and shows the promis'd land;
Whose dawning day, in ev'ry distant age,
Has exercis'd the sacred prophet's rage;
The people's pray'r, the glad diviner's theme,
The young men's vision, and the old men's


Thee, Saviour, thee the nation's vows confess,
And, never satisfied with seeing, bless:
Swift unbespoken pomps thy steps proclaim,
And stamm'ring babes are taught to lisp thy


How long wilt thou the gen'ral joy detain,
Starve and defraud the people of thy reign;
Content ingloriously to pass thy days,
Like one of Virtue's fools that feed on praise;

« PreviousContinue »