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IN FIFTEEN BOOKS.
DRYDEN, ADDISON, GARTH, MAINWARING, CONGREVE, ROWE, POPE,
GAY, EUSDEN, CROXALL, AND OTHER EMINENT HANDS.
PUBLISHED BY SIR SAMUEL GARTH, M. D.
MADAM, SINCE I am allowed the honour and privilege of so easy access to your royal highness, I dare say, I shall not be the worse received for bringing Ovid along with me. He comes from banishment to the fautress of liberty ; from the barbarous to the polite; and has this to recommend him, which never fails with a clemency like yours; he is unfortunate.
Your royal higliness, who feels for every one, has lately been the mournful occasion of a like sensibility in many others. Scarce an eye, that did not tell the danger you were in; even parties, though different in principles, united at that time in their grief and affectionate concern for an event of so much consequence to the interest of humanity and virtue; whilst yourself was the only person, then, unmoved.
It was remarkable, that she, who, with a manner most engaging, taught the innocent pleasures to appear more desirable than the criminal ; who was every day the life of some new agreeable diversion; should behave herself, upon that cruel trial, with a magnanimity so unshaken, that those who were witnesses might have imagined she scarce ever had done any thing, but study how to die. .
It is the greatest happiness can attend an age under a long depravation of morals, to be blest with examples, where virtue is set off by the advantage of birth. Such qualifications, when united, do not only persuade an irritation, but command it. Human nature is always more affected by what it sees, than what it hears of: and as those ideas, which enter by the eye, find the surest passage to the heart; so the more the object, whatever it be, seems desirable to the one, the longer it continues in the other.
There are perfections so shining, that one must be the very worst of mortals, or the very best, not to admire in all those, who possess them. To be blest with a disposition to charity, not confined by any other limits, than the modesty of those who ask it; to know, and be ready to excuse faults; yet, so strict in life, as not to want the like indulgence; to have a superiority of genius capable of judging of the highest affairs, and an application so observant, as to penetrate into the most minute; to be easy to lay down grandeur upon familiar occasions, and discerning to take it up, when dignity of station requires; to know the politer languages of the present age, as a native, and the greater occurrences, and periods of the past, as an historian, make up a character, which is so obvious, that every one will know where to apply it, except the person whose it really is: and if in this your royal highness be at a loss, I think it is the only thing within the province of your sex you are ignorant of.
I shall take up no more of your time in this dedication; because, to do every thing, that may be most acceptable to you, shall always be the endeavour of,
your royal highness's most humble
and most obedient servant,
THE method I propose in writing this preface, is to take notice of some of the beautios of the Metamorphoses, and also of the faults, and particular affectations. After which I shall proceed to hint at some rules for translation in general; and shall give a short account of the following version.
1 shall not pretend to impose my opinion on others with the magisterial authority of a critic; but only take the liberty of discovering my own taste. I shall endeavour to show our poet's redundance of wit, justness of comparisons, elegance of descriptions, and peculiar delicacy in touching every circumstance relating to the passions and affections; and, with the same impartiality and frankness, I shall confess the too frequent puerilities of his luxuriant fancy, and the too great negligence of his sometimes unlaboured versification.
I am not of an opinion, too common to translators, to think that one is under an obligation to extol every thing he finds in the author he undertakes: I am sure one is no more obliged to do so, than a painter is to make every face, that sits to him, handsome. It is enough if he sets the best features he finds in their full and most advantageous light. But if the poet has private deformities, though good-breeding will not allow to expose him naked, yet surely there can be no reason to recommend him, as the most finished model of harmony and proportion.
Whoever has this undistinguishing complaisance, will not fail to vitiate the taste of the readers, and misguide many of them in their judgment, where to approve, and where to censure.
It must be granted, that where there appears an infinite variety of inimitable excellencies, it would be too harsh and disingenuous to be severe on such faults as have escaped rather through want
leisure and opportunity to correct, than through the erroneous turn of a depraved judgment. How sensible Ovid himself was of the uncorrectness of the Metamorphoses, appears from these lines prefixed before some of the editions by the care of his commentators.
Orba parente suo quicunque volumina tangis,
His saltem vestrâ detur in urbe locus.
Sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui.
Emendaturus, si licuisset, erat. Trist. El vi.
Since therefore the readers are not solemnly invited to an entertainment, but come accidentally; they ought to be contented with what they find : and pray what have they to complain of? but too great variety: where, though some of the dishes be not served in the exactest order and politeness, but bashed up in haste; there are a great many accommodated to every particular palate.
To like every thing, shows too little delicacy; and to like nothing, too much difficulty. So great is the variety of this poem, that the reader, who is never pleased, will appear as monstrous as he that is always so. Here are the burries of battles for the hero; tender emotions of soul for the lover; a search and penetration into nature for the philosopher; fluency of numbers, and most expressive Sgures for the poet; morals for the serious, and pleasantries for admirers of points of wit.
It is certain a poet is more to be suspected for saying too much than too little. To add is often