Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

I will not burthen your lordship with more of them; for I write to a master who understands them better than myself. But I may safely conclude them to be great beauties.—I might descend also to the 'mechanic beauties of heroic verse; but we have yet no English profodia, not so much as a tolerable dictionary, or a grammar; so that our language is in a manner barbarous; and what government will encourage any one, or more, who are capable of refining it, I know not; but nothing under a public expence can go through with it. And I rather fear a declination of the language, than hope an advancement of it in the present age.

I am still speaking to you, my lord, though, in all probability, you are already out of hearing. Nothing, which my meanness can produce, is worthy of this long attention. But I am come to the last petition of Abraham; if there be ten righteous lines, in this vast preface, spare it for their fake; and also spare the next city, because it is but a little

one.

I would excuse the performance of this tranNation, if it were all my own; but the better, though not the greater part, being the work of some gentlemen, who have succeeded very happily in their undertaking, let their excellencies atone for my imperfections, and those of my fons. I have perused some of the fatires, which are done by other hands; and they seem to me as perfect in their kind, as any thing I have seen in English verse. The common way which we have taken, is not a literal translation, but a kind of

paraphrase; or foniewhat, which is yet more loose, betwixt a paraphrase and imitation. It was not poffible for us, or any men, to have made it pleasant any other way. If rendering the exact sense of those authors, almost line for line, had been our business, Barten Holyday had done it already to our hands : and, by the help of his learned notes and illuftrations, not only Juvenal and Persius, but, what yet is more obscure, his own verses, might be understood.

But he wrote for fame, and wrote to scholars : we write only for the pleasure and entertainment of those gentlemen and ladies, who, though they are not scholars, are not ignorant: persons of underftanding and good sense, who, not having been conversant 'in the original, or at least not having made Latin verse so much their business as to be critics in it, would be glad to find, if the wit of our two great authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world. We have, therefore, endeavoured to give the public all the satisfaction we are able in this kind.

And if we are not altogether fo faithful to our author, as our predecessors Holyday and Stapylton, yet we may challenge to ourselves this praise, that we shall be far more pleasing to our readers. We have followed our authors at greater distance, though not step by step, as they have done; for oftentimes they have gone so close, that they have trod on the heels of Juvenal and Perfius, and hurt them by their too near approach. A noble author would not be pursued too close by a translator. We lose his spirit, when we think to take his body. The grosser part remains with us, but the soul is flown away in fome noble expression, or some delicate turn of words, or thought. Thus Holyday, who made this way his choice, seized the meaning of Juvenal; but the

poetry has always escaped him.

They who will not grant me, that pleasure is one of the ends of poetry, but that it is only a means of compassing the only end, which is instruction, must yet allow, that, without the means of pleasure, the instruction is but a bare and dry philosophy: a crude preparation of morals, which we may have from Aristotle and Epictetus, with more profit than from any poet. Neither Holyday nor Stapylton have imitated Juvenal in the poetical part of him—his diction and his elocution. Nor had they been poets, as neither of them were, yet, in the way they took, it was impoffible for them to have fucceeded in the poetic part.

The English verse, which we call heroic, consists of no more than ten fyllables; the Latin hexameter sometimes rises to seventeen ; as, for example, this verse in Virgil :

Pulverulenta putrem fonitu quatit ungula campum.

Here is the difference of no less than seven fyllables in a line, betwixt the English and the Latin. Now the medium of these is about fourteen fyllables ; because the dactyle is a more frequent foot in hexameters than the spondee. But Holyday, without considering that he wrote with the disadvantage of four fyllables less in every verse, endeavours to make one of his lines to comprehend the sense of one of Juvenal's. According to the falfity of the propofition was the success. He was forced to crowd his verse with ill-founding monofyllables, of which our barbarous language af. fords him a wild plenty ; and by that means he arrived at his pedantic end, which was to make a literal translation. His verses have nothing of verse in them, but only the worst part of it—the rhyme; and that, into the bargain, is far from good. But, which is more intolerable, by cramming his illchosen, and worse-tounding monosyllables so close together, the very fenfe which he endeavours to explain, is become more obscure than that of his author ; so that Holyday himself cannot be understood, without as large a commentary as that which he makes on his two authors. For my own part, I can make a shift to find the meaning of Juvenal without his notes: but his translation is more difficult than his author. And I find beauties in the Latin to recompense my pains; but, in Holyday and Stapylton, my ears, in the first place, are mortally offended ; and then their sense is so perplexed, that I return to the original, as the more pleasing talk, as well as the more easy.

This must be said for our translation, that, if we give not the whole sense of Juvenal, yet we give the most considerable part of it: we give it, in ge

us.

neral, so clearly, that few notes are sufficient to make us intelligible. We make our author at least appear in a poetic dress. We have actually made him more founding, and more elegant, than he was before in English ; and have endeavoured to make him speak that kind of English, which he would have spoken had he lived in England, and had written to this age. If sometimes any of us (and it is but seldom) make him express the customs and manners of our native country rather than of Rome, it is, either when there was some kind of analogy betwixt their customs and ours, or when, to make him more ealy to vulgar understandings, we give him those manners which are familiar to

But I defend not this innovation, it is enough if I can excuse it. For, to speak fincerely, the manners of nations and ages are not to be confounded ; we should either make them English, or leave them Roman. If this can neither be defended nor excused, let it be pardoned at least, because it is acknowledged ; and so much the more easily, as being a fault which is never committed without some pleasure to the reader.

Thus, my lord, having troubled you with a tedious visit, the best manners will be shewn in the leaft

ceremony. I will nip away while your back is turned, and while you are otherwise employed; with great confusion for liaving entertained you fo long with this discourse, and for having no other recompence to make you, than the worthy labours of

my fellow-undertakers in this work, and the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »