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own life, that Macer, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and many others of them, were his familiar friends, and that some of them communicated their writings to him; but that he had only seen Virgil,
If the imitation of nature be the business of a Poet, I know no author, who can justly be compared with ours, especially in the description of the paffions. And, to prove this, I shall need no other judges than the generality of his readers ; for all passions being inborn with us, we are almost equally judges, when we are concerned in the representation of them. Now I will appeal to any man, who has read this Poet, whether he finds not the natural emotion of the same passion in himself, which the Poet describes in his feigned persons ? His thoughts, which are the pictures and results of those passions, are generally such as naturally arise from those disorderly motions of our spirits. Yet, not to speak too partially in his behalf, I will confess, that the copiousness of his wit was such, that he often writ too pointedly for his subject, and made his persons speak more eloquently than the violence of their passion would admit; so that he is frequently witty out of season; leaving the imitation of nature, and the cooler dictates of his judgment, for the false applause of fancy. Yet he seems to have found out this imperfection in his riper age: for why else should he complain, that his Metamorphoses was left unfinished ? Nothing fure can be added to the wit of that Poem, or of the rest: but many things ought to have been retrenched; which I suppose would have been the business of his
if his misfortunes had not come too fast upon him. But take him uncorrected, as he is transmitted to us, and it must be acknowledged, in spite of his Dutch friends, the commentators, even of Julius Scaliger himself, that Seneca's censure will stand good against him;
Nescivit quod bene cessit relinquere;
he never knew how to give over, when he had done well, but continually varying the same sense an hundred ways, and taking up in another place, what he had more than enough inculcated before, he fometimes cloys his readers instead of satisfying them; and gives occalion to his translators, who dare not cover him, to blush at the nakedness of their father. This then is the allay of Ovid's writings, which is fufficiently recompensed by his other excellencies: nay, this very fault is not without its beauties ; for the most severe censor cannot but be pleased with the prodigality of his wit, though at the same time he could have wished that the master of it had been a better manager. Every thing which he does becomes him; and, if sometimes he appears too gay, yet there is a secret gracefulness of youth, which accompanies his writings, though the staidness and fobriety of age be wanting. In the most material part, which is the conduct, it is certain that he feldom has miscarried ; for if his Elegies be compared with those of Tibullus and Propertius, his contemporaries, it will be found, that those poets seldom designed before they writ; and though the language of Tibullus be more polished, and the learning of Propertius, especially in his fourth book, more set out to oftentation; yet their common practice was to look no further before them than the next line; whence it will inevitably follow, that they can drive to no certain point, but ramble from one subject to another, and conclude with somewhat, which is not of a piece with their beginning :
Purpureus, latè qui fplendeat, unus & alter
as Horace says : though the verses are golden, they are but patched into the garment. But our Poet has always the goal in his eye, which directs him in his race: some beautiful design, which he first eftablishes, and then contrives the means, which will naturally conduct him to his end. This will be evident to judicious readers in his Epistles, of which somewhat, at least in general, will be expected.
The title of them in our late editions is Epistolæ Heroidum, the Letters of the Heroines. But Heinfius has judged more truly, that the inscription of our author was barely, Epistles; which he concludes from his cited verses, where Ovid asserts this work as his own invention, and not borrowed from the Greeks, whom (as the masters of their learning) the Romans usually did imitate. But it appears not from their writings, that any of the Grecians ever touched upon this way, which our Poet therefore justly has vindicated to himself. I quarrel not at the word Heroidum, because it is used by Ovid in his Art of Love :
Jupiter ad veteres supplex Heroidas ibat.
But, fure, he could not be guilty of such an overfight, to call his work by the name of Heroines, when there are divers men, or heroes, as, namely, Paris, Leander, and Acontius, joined in it. Except Sabinus, who writ some answers to Ovid's Letters,
(Quam celer è toto rediit meus orbe Sabinus)
I remember not any of the Romans, who have treated on this subject, fave only Propertius, and that but once, in his Epistle of Arethusa to Lycotas, which is written fo near the style of Ovid, that it seems to be but an imitation ; and therefore ought not to defraud our Poet of the glory of his invention.
Concerning the Epistles, I shall content myself to observe these few particulars : first, that they are generally granted to be the most perfect pieces of Ovid, and that the style of them is tenderly passionate and courtly; two properties well agreeing with the perfons, which were heroines and lovers. Yet, where the characters were lower, as in Enone and Hero, he has kept close to nature, in drawing his images after a country lise, though, perhaps, he has romanized his Grecian dames too much, and made them speak, sometimes, as if they had been born in the city of Rome, and under the empire of Augustus. There seems to be no great variety in the particular
subjects which he has chosen ; most of the Epistles being written from ladies, who were forsaken by their lovers : which is the reafon that many of the same thoughts come back upon us in divers letters; but of the general character of women, which is modesty, he has taken a most becoming care ; for his amorous expressions go no further than virtue may allow, and therefore may be read, as he intended them, by matrons without a blush.
Thus much concerning the Poet: it remains that I should say somewhat of poetical translations in general, and give my opinion (with submission to better judgments) which way of verfion seems to be the
All transation, I suppose, may be reduced to these three heads :
First, that of Metaphrase, or turning an author word by word, and line by line, from one language into another. Thus, or near this manner, was Horace his Art of Poetry translated by Ben Jonson. The second way is that of Paraphrase, or translation with latitude, where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be loft, but his words are not so strictly followed as his sense ; and that too is admitted to be amplified, but not altered. Such is Mr. Waller's translation of Virgil's Fourth Æneid. The third way is that of imitation, where the translator (if now he has not loft that name) affumes the liberty, not only to vary from the words and sense, but to forsake them both as he sees occafion; and taking only fome general hints from the original, to