« PreviousContinue »
fall be the conclusion of the First Book of the Georgics. As. the passage is short, we shall give the translations of it fully.
As ERIT. CRIT. VOL. XVII, FEB. 1801.
As when four furious coursers whirl away
and sooth to peace once more.
This passage, for the sake of greater d. ftinétness of compazison, may be divided into four parts : the invocation to ine Gods of Rome; the praise of Agustus, which that invocation introduces ; the picture of the late of anarchy, which his government was to remedy ; and the comparisop, by which the unbridled rage of that wretched state is represented to the fancy. The invocation is not only inelegantly, but unfaithifully translated by Dryden. The words which we have marked with italics in his first couplet, are wholly unjustified by the original. The “ Di patrii indigetes," undoubtedly meant only the native Gods of Rome, the local and national deities who more peculiarly presided over the fortunes of the city. No Roman could have had an idea that they were “ bome-born,'' still less that they were “ of mortal birth.” Dryden, in the hafte of his tranlation, seems to have been led into this confufion by the mention of Romulus. But Romulus and Vetta are invoked, in addition to these national deities (whoever they were) and Romulus was himself confidered, not as “ of mortal birth,” but as the son of Mars. In the second and third verses, the language addressed to Velta is extremely unhappy. The imagination is diverted from the Goddess Velta, to the earth itself. In other parts of poetry, it may fometimes be allowed to substitute the name of the deities who are supposed to preside over certain objects, for the class of objects over which they prefide, as Mars for war, Bacchus for wine, &c. and the reverse. But this never can be tolerated in invocation, because prayer must suppose the personal existence of those beings who are addressed. The expreilions which we have marked in the fifth couplet are so inelegant, not to say vulgar, that they must displease and disgurt even the mere English reader, whose taste does not receive the additional dirpleasure, which arises from a contralt of the meanness of these lines with the majesty of the original. But all the lines which follow are truly Drydenic. They are nervous and musical, spirited and lofty. They have that air of immediately flowing from the inspiration of genius, which distinguishes their great author, and which no other English poet in rhyme has been able to copy:
The seader in this paffage, as in many others of Dryden, rises from the perulal with mingled feelings of admiration and regret; he admires the powers which can produce such excellence, and he deplores the hafte which could fuffer fo many errors to escape. For the memory and talents of Dr. Warton, we have great respect ; but we can scarcely prevail on ourselves to doubt, that our readers must think his translation the worit of those which we have laid before them. The first and third couplets of his version, are made up of as
bad lines, as are perhaps to be found in the works of any verfifier of reputation; fince Pope has taught correctness to verlifiers, and fastidiousness to the public. The subsequent lines are a close and fecble imitation of Dryden, with the exception of one improvement. “ Dimonoured lies the plough” reprefents a triking idea of the original which Dryden had omitted, probably more trom indvience and hurry, than from want of talie. But this phrase, though not unhappy, is much inferior to the corresponding expressions of Mr. Sotheby. The first lines of the Abbé Delille's version seem to us to be as exact a representation of the sober majesty and finished elegance of the original, as it is pollible to give. In the fourth line, indeed, fome part of the ideas of Virgil are wanting ; but the fifth couplet is perhaps one of the most fortunate specimens of translation which literaiure can beast. The sequel is not alWisyš laboured with equal success. The line which we have marked, is an example of a simple and interesting circumstance being weakened by the common places of mythology. The merits of Mr. Sotheby's version may be, in a great meafore, climated by a review of the faults of his predecessors, which he has judiciously and happily avvided. To compare him to Warton would be injustice ; and we will presume to fay, that, without danger to his reputation, he may be compared with Dryden. In the invocation and panegyric he is superior; and though, in the description which follows, Dryden gave the reins to his natural genius for vigourous invective, yet the present version, without being weak, is more Virgilian than that of Dryden. There is one line of Mr. Sotheby, at which a reader of taste will perhaps pause. It is the fourth in this passage. The idea is rot in the original, and the expression and cadence are better suited to the antithetic poignancy, and balanced measure of Pipe, than to the general style of Virgil, or to the simple majeity and pious fervour of a patriotic prayer. The words are antithetically placed, without any opposition in the ideas; and, on the whole, it must be owned to be a line which adds more to the sound and pomp, than to the force or beauiy of the passage. Yet this criticism implies, perhaps, the greatest commendation that can be bestowed on Mr. Sotheby. A paffage, of which fuch a line is the chief blemith, must approach very near indeed to perfection. Dryden calls the Georgics, in his admirable Dedication, the belt poem of the best poet." There is nothing which entitles it more to this distinction, than the consummate art with which the poet has varied the style, which, though always perfe&tly elegant, and never deforined by those rugged lines, which so much abound in his model Lucretius, is yet extremely various. The kind
of ornament is varied with every variation of the subject. The descriptions are enriched by all the artifices of poetical language. But she clearness of statement is never obscured by profane ornament. Even the simplicity is not uniform. In pathetic pallages it is a soft fimplicity. In precepts it is a severe fimplicity, suitable to that character of gravity and authority, which becomes those who instruct or command. Per. ħaps there may be some critics so fastidious as to complain, that in Mr. Sotheby's version there is more uniformity and prodigality of adorned language, than the variety of Virgil admits. Whether this complaint be well or ill founded, the reader will judge from the following passages of the original, and the translation. They are passages of mere statement, in which Virgil seems studioully to have employed great frugality of ornament, or rather to have abstained from ornament aliogether.
Principio arboribus varia est natura creandis ;
Georg. lib. ii. v. 9-12.
Georg. lib. ii. V. 109-113
And yews afcend 'mid tempests wing'd with fuow." SOTHEBY. The lines which are marked in the translation are indeed harmonious and poetical; but they are perhaps misplaced. They have more of the luxuriancy of a description of shomfon than of the sobriety even of a Virgilian description ; not to speak of the severe fimplicity of a Virgilian statement, The happy effect of an occasional abstinence from ornament is ** very remarkable in the last of these two passages. It is immediately followed by one of the most splendid parts of Vir