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De La Fontaine is with us; he seems very well, but is still weak and complaining. I must add a little stroke of French courage, which I have just heard. In the midst of all the disasters of the fire-works, the Mareschal de Richlieu was in such a panic, that he got out of his carriage, and screamed out, Est-ce qu'on veut laisser perir un Mareschal de France? N'y a-t-il personne pour secourir un Mareschal de France ?—This wilL be an eternal joke against him !—
* Mr. JONES to CL REVICZKI.
• Spa, July 1770.
What an idle, unsettled fellow I am! I fly over Europe, scarcely stopping any-where. We passed the winter at Nice, enjoyed the spring in France, and I am now spending the summer (if this rainy season may be so called) on the borders of Germany. I certainly can without any risk send your manuscripts from this place, and 1 advise you by all means to publish them.. They are worthy of your acknowledged talents, and will ensure you the applause of all the learned. I say this without flattery, which is indeed foreign to my character. The criticisms which I sent to you, are full of errors, and you must receive them with great allowance; for during my residence at Nice, I was wholly without ancient books, or other aids, to which I am in the habit of applying, nor do I now- possess them.
I have received your French letter, with an incomparable ode i I was particularly charmed with that happy transition iu it
O'er kindred, or o'er friendship's bier
* Appendix, No. 16.. . .
Believe Believe me, when I read these lines, I could scarely restrain my tears; for nature has that power over me, that I am more affected by the beauties of a tender simplicity, than by the loftiest figures of poetry; and hence I am more delighted with a passage in the first Pythian ode of the divine Pindar concerning the Muses, than by his elaborate description of the Eagle and ./Etna*.
What shall I send in return for your present? Accept the accompanying ode, which is at least valuable for its antiquity. You will perhaps smile; it is not an epithalamium on the marriage of Antoinette the Dauphiness, but contains the eulogium of a very ancient Chinese monarch, whose name, though a monosyllable only, I have forgotten. When I read the works of Confucius, translated by Couplet and others, I was struck with admiration at the venerable dignity of the sentiments, as well as at the poetical fragments, which adorn the discourses of that philosopher. They are selected from the most ancient records of Chinese poetry, and particularly from a work, entitled Shi-king, of which there is a fine copy in the royal library at Paris. I immediately determined to examine the original; and, referring to the volume, after a long study, I succeeded in comparing one of the odes with the version of Couplet, and analysed every word, or, more properly, every figure in it. Of this ode, I now send you a literal translation-f-: it is a composition of a wonderful dignity and brevity; each verse contains four words only, hence the ellipsis is frequent in it, and the obscurity of the style adds to its sublimity. I have annexed a
* But they on earth, or the devouring main,
Whom righteous Jove with detestation views, With envious horror hear the heav'nly strain, t Exil'd from praise, from virtue, and the muse.
West's Translation, t Sir William Jones's Works, vol. ii. p. 331.
poetical poetical version, making every verse correspond with the sense of Confucius; you will judge whether I have succeeded or not, it will be sufficient for me if it' please you. You know that this philosopher, whom I may venture to call the Plato of China, lived about six hundred years before the Christian aera, and he quotes this ode, as very ancient in his time. It may therefore be considered as a most precious gem of antiquity, which proves, that poetry has been the admiration of all people in all ages, and that it every-where adopts the same images. I must say a few words upon another work, lest my long letter of February, containing a particular account of it from first to last, should have miscarried. I allude to the translation of the life of Nadir Shah, from Persian into French, a most disagreeable task, which I undertook at the request of my Augustus, the King of Denmark, who, I doubt not, will verify the high expectations entertained of him in Europe. It was his special injunction, that the translation should be strictly literal, that I should supply such notes as might be necessary, and finally, that I should add a short dissertation on the poetry of the Persians. I finished this tiresome work to the best of my ability, and with such expedition, in compliance with the importunities of his Majesty, that the whole book, and more particularly the dissertation, is full of errors. In the latter, I ventured to insert a translation of ten odes of Hafez, from a very splendid but incorrect manuscript, and without the aid of any commentary. I have written to the Under-Secretary of State, requesting him to send yOu a copy of it as expeditiously as possible; and I trust he will not disappoint me. Excuse those errors which I could not perhaps have avoided, if I had possessed the greatest leisure, and which the total want of it made almost inevitable. Excuse also the insertion of the two odes, which you sent to me with a French translation only; and lastly, I must beg your excuse for the liberty which I could not avoid taking of mentioning my friend; for I could not
resist the desire of letting the King know, how highly I valued you. You will greatly add to the other proofs I have experienced of your kindness towards me, by noticing the errors of the work, and particularly of the dissertation, which I mean to publish in a separate volume. f
• The King of Denmark, as I am mformed, approves my work much, and has some honours in view for me; but of what nature I know not. When he was considering what recompence he should bestow upon me, a noble friend of mine informed his Majesty, that I neither wished for nor valued money, but was anxious only for some honorary mark of his approbation.
I have directed a copy of your Treatise on the Military Art of the Turks, to be sent to his Majesty, because it is worthy his perusal, and because you are the author of it. Do not suppose that I now conclude, because I have nothing more to say; my mind, in truth, overflows with matter, and I have more difficulty in restraining my pen, than to find topics for writing. But I will not abuse and exhaust your patience with my loquacity. For my sake, take care of your health.
* C. REVICZKI to Mr. JONES.
Vienna, August 9, 1770.
Indeed, my dear Sir, I cannot think you much to be pitied, for having past a year in travelling through various climates and regions; on the contrary, I think it extremely fortunate that you have had an opportunity which you are well qualified to improve. You have escaped the severity of winter in the mild and temperate climate of Italy, you have enjoyed the spring in France
* Appendix, No. 16.
and and England,. and you are now spending the summer on the confines of Germany, in a place, which is the general rendezvous of Europe; and where you may see, at a glance, an assemblage of various nations. Is not this delightful? Is not the great advantage of travelling, to explore the characters of different people? I can however easily conceive the inconvenience which a man of letters must suffer from the want of means and opportunity to pursue his studies, and this alone is sufficient to diminish the pleasure of it.
Iam exceedingly obliged to you for . the extraordinary composition with which you favoured me; it is indeed a literary curiosity. But pray inform me, when you learned the Chinese language; I did not suspect that this was one of your accomplishments, but there are no bounds to your acquisitions as a linguist. I am the more delighted with this little performance, as I can rely upon it as a faithful translation from the Chinese language, of which the few things we have translated appear very suspicious ; it has not only the merit of being very ancient, but in your version appears even elegant. I impatiently expect your life of Nadir Shah; and I beg you to accept my thanks for your attention, in requesting the Under-Secretary of State to forward a copy, of it to me; nor am I less anxious to peruse the essay, which you have annexed to it, on Oriental poetry. I admire your condescension in submitting this work to my criticism; you must be sensible that you incur little risk by it, and that you are sure of my approbation. I shall however be obliged to point out one fault, which is no trifle,—your mentioning me in such honourable terms. I have no claim to this distinction, although, if I had foreseen your intention, I would have at least exerted myself to deserve it. There are several of our Vienna ladies and gentlemen now at Spa, who are all well worthy of your acquaintance. I am informed that Lady