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short vowels made long in Homer, yet there is nb instance on the contrary, of any long vowel (such as the first syllable of truń, Tuxí, víxn, and the like) ever made short, where no vowel follows. Which shows that there is no such thing as a poetica licentia, properly so called.
Certainly no body can imagine but these two celebrated authors understood their own tongue better than the scrupulous grammarians of after-ages, who are too dogmatical, and self-sufficient, when they presume to censure either of them for not attending strictly enough to syntax, and the measure of verse. The Latin tongue is a dead language, and none can decide with confidence on the harmony or dissonance of the numbers of these times, unless they were thoroughly acquainted with their pauses and cadence. They may indeed pronounce with much more assurance on their diction; and distinguish where they have been negligent, and where more finished. There are certainly many lines in Ovid where he has been downright lazy, 'and where he might have avoided the appearance of being obviously so, by a very little application. In recording the succession of the Alban kings, thus,
Epitus ex illo est, post hunc Capetusque; Capysque,
Sed Capys ante fuitThere are also several lines in Virgil which are not altogether tunable to a modern ear, and which appear unfinished.
But the Sun has its spots; and if amongst thousands of inimitable lines there should be some found of an unequal dignity with the rest, nothing can be said for their vindication more, than, if they be faults, they are the faults of Virgil.
As I ought to be on this occasion an advocate for Ovid, who I think is too much run down at present by the critical spirit of this nation; I dare say I cannot be more effectually so, than by comparing him in many places with his admired contemporary Virgil ; and though the last certainly deserves the palm, I shall make use of Ovid's own lines, in the trial of strength betwixt Achelois and Hercules, to show how much he is honoured by the contention.
I shall finish my remarks on our author, by taking notice of the justness and perspicuity of his allegories; which are either physical, or natural; moral, or historical. Of the first kind is the fable of Apollo and Python; in the explanation of this all the mythologists agrée; exhalations and mists, being the constant effects of inundations, are here dissipated by the rays of the Sun.
Of the second kind, are Actæon torn to pieces by his own pack of dogs, and Eresicthon starved by the disease of hunger. These two allegories seem to signify, that extravagance and luxury end in want.
Of the third, is the story of the rape of Europa. History says, she was daughter to Agenor, and carried by the Candians in a galley, bearing a bull in the stern, in order to be married to one of their kings named Jupiter.
This explanation gives an occasion for a digression which is not altogether foreign to the present purpose, because it will be of use to justify Ovid on some other occasions, where he is censured for being too free with the characters of the gods. I was once representing the Metamorphoses as an excellent system of morality; but an illustrious lady, whose least advantage above her sex is that of being one of the greatest princesses in Europe, objected, that the loose and immodest sallies of Jupiter did by no means confirm my assertion.
One must consider, that what appeared an absurdity in Ovid is not so much his own fault, as that of the times before him. The characters of the gods of the old heroic age represented them unjust in their actions; mutable in their designs; partial in their favours; ignorant of events; scarrilous in their language. Some of the superior hierarchy treat one another with injurious brutalities, and are often guilty of such indecencies and misbehaviour as the lowest of mortals would blash to own. Juno calls Diana the goddess of chastity, xvov åddres, brazenfaced bitch; Hom. II. b. 92. I. 481. Jupiter insults his daughter, the goddess of wisdom, for rashness and folly; bids Iris tell her, he will maul her coach horses for her like a surly bitch as she is; å svordan són: ll. b. 8. from 1. 400. to l. 425. then threatens in another place to beat his wife, that divine viren, the immortal partner of the empyreal throne, uni oe aanleñou incoow. ll. b. 15. I. 17.
The commentators may endeavour to hide those absurdities under the veil of allegories: but the reader that considers the whole texture of the Iliad will find that the author's meaning, and their interpretation, are often as unlike, as the imaginary heroes of his time are to the real ones of ours.
Allegories should be obvious, and not like meteors in the air, which represent a different figure to every different eye. Now they are armies of soldiers; now flocks of sheep; and by and by nothing
Perhaps the critics of a more exalted taste may discover such beauties in the ancient poetry, 3 may escape the comprehension of us pygmies of a more limited genius. They may be able to fathom the divine sense of the Pagan theology; whilst we aim at no more than to judge of a little common sense.
It is, and ever will be, a rule to a great many, to applaud and condemn with the general vogue, though never so ill grounded. The most are afraid of being particular; and rather than strive against the stream, are proud of being in the wrong with the many, rather than desirous of being in the right with the few: and though they be convinced of the reasonableness of dissenting from the common cry, yet out of a poor fear of censure, they contribute to establish it, and thus become an authority against others, who in reality are but of their own opinion.
Ovid was so far 'from paying a blind deference to the venerable name of his Grecian predecessor, n the character of his gods, that when Jupiter punishes Andromeda for the crimes of her mother, le calls him injustus Ammon, Met. b. 4. and takes commonly an honourable care of the decorum of the godhead, when their actions are consistent with the divinity of their character. His Hegories include some religious or instructive moral, wrapped up in a peculiar perspicuity. The able of Proserpina being sometimes in Hell, and sometimes with Ceres her mother, can scarce hean any thing else than the sowing and coming up of corn. The various dresses that Vertumnus, he god of seasons, puts on in his courtship of Pomona the garden goddess, seem plainly to spress the different and most proper times for digging, planting, pruning, and gathering the Krease. I shall be shorter on this head, because our countryman Mr. Sands has, by a laborious Farch amongst the mythologists, been very full. He has annexed his explanations to the end I each book, which deserve to be recommended to those that are curious in this figurative
The reader cannot fail of observing how many excellent lessons of morality Ovid has given us the course of his fables. The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha teaches, that piety and innocence cannot miss of the divine rotection, and that the only lose irreparable is that of our probity and justice. That of Phaeton; how the too great tenderness of the parent proves a cruelty to the child; and at he, who would climb to the seat of Jupiter, generally meets with his boit by the way. The tale of Baucis and Philemon is most inimitably told. Hc omits not the minutest circumstance la cottage life; and is much fuller than Virgil, where he brings in his contented old man Brycias, G. 4. Ovid represents a good old couple; happy and satisfied in a cleanly poverty: spitable and free of the few things that Fortune had given them; moderate in desires fectionate in their conjugal relation; so religious in life, that when they observed their homely bin rising to a temple, all the bounty they asked of the gods they had entertained was, that ley might do the office of priesthood there; and at their death, not survive one another. The stories of Lycaon and Penthens, not only deter from infidelity and irreverence to the ds; but the last also shows, that too great zeal produces the same effects as none at all; and that ithusiasm is often more cruel than atheism. The story of Minos and Scylla represents the infamy of selling our country; and teaches, that en they who love the crime, abhor the criminal.
In Cippus we find a noble magnanimity, and heavenly self-denial: he preferred the good of the republic to his own private grandeur; and chose, with an exemplary generosity, rather to live a private free-man out of Rome, than to command numbers of slaves in it. .
From the story of Hercules we learn, that Glory is a lady, who, like many others, loves to have her admirers suffer a great deal for her. The poet enumerates the labours of the hero; shows how he conquered every thing for others, but nothing for himself: then does him the poetical justice of an apotheosis; thinking it most fit that one, who had born the celestial orbs on his shoulders, should have a mansion amongst them.
From the assumption of Romulus; that when war is at an end, the chief business of peace should be the enacting good laws; that after a people are preserved from the enemy, the next care should be to preserve them from themselves; and therefore the best legislators deserve a place amongst heroes and deities.
From Ariadne being inhumanly deserted by Theseus; and generously received by Bacchus; we find, that as there is nothing we can be sure of, so there is nothing we ought to despair of.
From Althea burning the brand; that we should take care lest under the notion of justice, we should do a cruelty; for they that are set upon revenge, only endeavour to imitate the injury.
From Polyphemus making love to Galatea one may observe, that the most deformed can find something to like in their own person. He examines his face in the stream, combs his rueful locks with a rake, grows more exact and studious of his dress, and discovers the first sign of being in love, by endeavouring at a more than usual care to please.
The fable of Cephalus and Procris confirms, that every trifle contributes to heighten the disease of jealousy; and that the most convincing proofs can scarce cure it.
from that of Hippomenes and Atalanta we may discover, that a generous present helps to persuade, as well as an agreeable person.
From Medea's flying from Pelias's court; that the offered favours of the impious should be always suspected; and that they, who design to make every one fear them, are afraid of every one.
From Myrra; that shame is sometimes hard to be overcome, but if the sex once gets the better of it, it gives them afterwards no more trouble.
From Cenis; that effeminacy in youth may change to valour in manhood, and that as fame perishes, so does censure.
From Tereus; that one crime lays the foundation of many; and that the same person, who begins with lust, inay conclude with murder.
From Midas; that no body can punish a covetous man worse than he punishes himself; that scarce any thing would sometimes prove more fatal to us, than the completion of our own wishes; and that he who has the most desires, will certainly meet with the most disappointments.
From the Pythagorean philosophy, it may be observed, that man is the only animal who kills his fellow-creature without being angry.
From Proteus we have this lesson, that a statesman can put on any shape; can be a spaniel to the lion, and a lion to the spaniel; and that he knows not to be an enemy, who knows not how to seem a friend ; that if all crowns should change their ministry, as often as they please, though they may be called other ministers, they are still the same men.
The legend of Æsculapius's voyage to Rome in form of a snake, seems to express the necessary sagacity required in professors of that art, for the readier insight into distempers: this reptile being celebrated by the ancient naturalists for a quick sight.
Cur in amicorum vitium tam cernis acutum,
Hor. Sat. 3. 1. 26.
The vencrable Epidaurian assumed the figure of an animal without hands to take fees; and therefore, grateful posterity honoured him with a temple. In this manner should wealthy physicians, upon proper occasions, practise ; and thus their surviving patients reward.
If the Metamorphoses be attended to with a just application, and without prepossession; one will be the less surprised at the author's prophetic spirit, relating to the duration and success of the work.
Jamque opus exegi, &c.
This prediction has so far proved true, that this poem has been ever since the magazine, which has furnished the greatest poets of the following ages with fancy and allusions, and the most celebrated painters with subjects and design. Nor have his poetical predecessors and contemporaries paid less regard to their own performances.
Insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam,
Lucr. b. 1.
Hor. od. 1.
Hor. b. 3. od. 30. The whole ode is in a manner a continued compliment to his own writings; nor, in imitation of this celebrated author, want we poets of our present age, who have been pleased to rank themselves amongst their own admirers.
I have done with the original, and shall 'make no excuse for the length of the preface, because it is in the power of the reader to make it as short as he pleases. I shall now conclude with a word or two about the version.
Translation is commonly either verbal, or paraphrase, or imitation; of the first is Mr. Sands's, which I think the Metamorphoses can by no means allow of. It is agreed, that the author left it unfinished; if it had undergone his last hand, it is more than probable that many superfluities had been retrenched. Where a poem is perfectly finished, the translation, with regard to particular idioms, cannot be too exact; by doing this, the sense of the author is more entirely his own, and the cast of the periods more faithfully preserved: but where a poem is tedious through eruberance, or dark through a hasty brevity, I think the translator may be excused for doing what the author upon revising would have done himself.
If Mr. Sands had been of this opinion, perhaps other translations of the Metamorphoses had not been attempted. : A critic has observed that in his version of this book, he has scrupulously confined the number of his lines to those of the original. It is fit I should take the sum upon content, and be better bred than to count after him.
The manner that seems most suited for this present undertaking, is, neither to follow the author too close out of a critical timorousness; nor abandon him too wantonly through a poetic boldness. The original should always be kept in view, without too apparent a deviation from the sense. Where it is otherwise, it is not a version, but an imitation. The translator ought to be as intent to keep up the gracefulness of the poem, as artful to hide its imperfections; to copy its beauties, and to throw a shade over its blemishes; to be faithful to an idolatry, where the author excels; and to take the licence of a little paraphrase, where penury of fancy or dryness of expression seem to ask for it.
The ingenious gentlemen concerned in this undertaking seem to be of this opinion; and therefore they have not only consulted the reputation of the author, but their own also. There is one of ther has no other share in this compliment, than by being the occasion of engaging them that have, in obliging the public. He has also been so just to the memory and reputation of Mr. Dryden, as to give his incomparable lines the advantage of appearing so near his own.
I cannot pass by that admirable English poet, without endeavouring to make his country sensible of the obligations they have to his Muse. Whether they consider the flowing grace of his verrification; the vigorous sallies of his fancy; or the peculiar delicacy of his periods; they will discover excellencies never to be enough admired. , If they trace him from the first productions of his youth to the last performances of his age, they will find, that as the tyranny of rhyme nerer imposed on the perspicuity of the sense; so a languid sense never wanted to be set off by the harmony of rhyme. And as his earlier works 'wanted no maturity; so this latter wanted no force, or spirit. The falling off of his hair had no other consequence, than to make his, laurels be seen the more.
As a translator he was just; as an inventor he was rich. His versions of some parts of Lucretius, Horace, Homer, and Virgil throughout, gave him a just pretence to that compliment which was made to monsieur d'Ablancourt, a celebrated French translator; “ It is uncertain who have the greatest obligations to him, the dead or the living."
With all these wondrous talents, he was libelled in his life-time by the very men who had no other excellencies, but as they were his imitators. Where he was allowed to have sentiments superior to all others, they charged him with theft : but how did he steal? no otherwise than like those that steal beggars' children, only to clothe them the better.
It is to be lamented, that gentlemen still continue this unfair behaviour, and treat one another every day with most injurious libels. The Muses should be ladies of a chaste and fair bebaviour: when they are otherwise, they are Furies. It is certain that Parnassus is at best but a barren mountain, and its inhabitants contrive to make it more so by their un neighbourly deportment; the authors are the only corporation that endeavour at the ruin of their own society. Every day may convince them, how much a rich fool is respected above a poor wit. The only talents in esteem at present are those of Exchange-Alley; one tally is worth a grove of bays; and it is of much more consequence to be well read in the tables of interest, and the rise and fall of stocks, than in the revolutions of empires.
Mr. Dryden is still a sad and shameful instance of this truth: the man that could make kings immortal, and raise triumphant arches to heroes, now wants a poor square foot of stone, to show where the ashes of one of the greatest poets, that ever was upon Earth, are deposited.