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line in the Sixth Æneid, the enthusiasm seizing him while he was reading to Augustus
Misenum Æolidem, quo non præstantior alter
Ære ciere viros ... to which he added, in that transport, Martemque accen- 5 dere cantu : and never was any line more nobly finished; for the reasons which I have given in the Book of Painting. On these considerations I have shunned hemistichs; not being willing to imitate Virgil to a fault, like Alexander's courtiers, who affected to hold their necks awry, because he could not help it. I am confident your Lordship is by this time of my opinion; and that you will look on those half lines hereafter as the imperfect products of a hasty Muse; like the frogs and serpents in the Nile; part of them kindled into life, and 15 part a lump of unformed unanimated mud.
I am sensible that many of my whole verses are as imperfect as those halves, for want of time to digest them better: but give me leave to make the excuse of Boccace, who, when he was upbraided that some of his 23 novels had not the spirit of the rest, returned this answer, that Charlemain, who made the Paladins, was never able to raise an army of them. The leaders may be heroes, but the multitude must consist of common
I am also bound to tell your Lordship, in my own defence, that, from the beginning of the First Georgic to the end of the last Æneid, I found the difficulty of translation growing on me in every succeeding book. For Virgil, above all poets, had a stock, which I may 30* call almost inexhaustible, of figurative, elegant, and sounding words : I, who inherit but a small portion of his genius, and write in a language so much inferior to the Latin, have found it very painful to vary phrases, when the same sense returns upon me.
Even he him- 35
self, whether out of necessity or choice, has often expressed the same thing in the same words, and often repeated two or three whole verses which he had used before. Words are not so easily coined as money; and 5 yet we see that the credit not only of banks but of exchequers cracks, when little comes in, and much goes out. Virgil called upon me in every line for some new word : and I paid so long, that I was almost bankrupt;
so that the latter end must needs be more burdensome 10 than the beginning or the middle; and, consequently,
the Twelfth Æneid cost me double the time of the First and Second. What had become of me, if Virgil had taxed me with another book? I had certainly been
reduced to pay the public in hammered money, for want 15 of milled; that is, in the same old words which I had
used before : and the receivers must have been forced to have taken any thing, where there was so little to be had.
Besides this difficulty (with which I have struggled, 20 and made a shift to pass it over), there is one remaining,
which is insuperable to all translators. We are bound to our author's sense, though with the latitudes already mentioned; for I think it not so sacred, as that one
iota must not be added or diminished, on pain of an 25 Anathema. But slaves we are, and labour on another
man's plantation ; we dress the vineyard, but the wine is the owner's : if the soil be sometimes barren, then we are sure of being scourged: if it be fruitful, and our
care succeeds, we are not thanked; for the proud reader 30 will only say, the poor drudge has done his duty. But
this is nothing to what follows; for, being obliged to make his sense intelligible, we are forced to untune our own verses, that we may give his meaning to the reader.
He, who invents, is master of his thoughts and words: 35 he can turn and vary them as he pleases, till he renders
them harmonious; but the wretched translator has no such privilege: for, being tied to the thoughts, he must make what music he can in the expression; and, for this reason, it cannot always be so sweet as that of the original. There is a beauty of sound, as Segrais has 5 observed, in some Latin words, which is wholly lost in any modern language. He instances in that mollis amaracus, on which Venus lays Cupid, in the First Æneid. If I should translate it sweet marjoram, as the word signifies, the reader would think I had mistaken to Virgil : for those village words, as I may call them, give us a mean idea of the thing; but the sound of the Latin is so much more pleasing, by the just mixture of the vowels with the consonants, that it raises our fancies to conceive somewhat more noble than a common herb, and 13 to spread roses under him, and strew lilies over him ; a bed not unworthy the grandson of the goddess.
If I cannot copy his harmonious numbers, how shall I imitate his noble flights, where his thoughts and words are equally sublime ? Quem
... quisquis studet remulari,
cæratis ope Dædalea Nititur pennis, vitreo daturus
Nomina ponto. What modern language, or what poet, can express 25 the majestic beauty of this one verse, amongst a thousand others ?
Aude, hospes, contemnere opes, et te quoque dignum
Finge deo.... For my part, I am lost in the admiration of it: I con- 30 temn the world when I think on it, and myself when I translate it.
Lay by Virgil, I beseech your Lordship, and all my better sort of judges, when you take up my version ; and it will appear a passable beauty when the original 35
Muse is absent. But, like Spenser's false Florimel made of snow, it melts and vanishes when the true one comes in sight. I will not excuse, but justify myself
, for one pretended crime, with which I am liable to be 5 charged by false critics, not only in this translation, but in many of my original poems; that I latinize too much. 'Tis true, that, when I find an English word significant and sounding, I neither borrow from the Latin, nor any
other language; but, when I want at home, I must seek 15 abroad.
If sounding words are not of our growth and manufacture, who shall hinder me to import them from a foreign country? I carry not out the treasure of the
nation, which is never to return; but what I bring from 15 Italy, I spend in England : here it remains, and here it
circulates ; for, if the coin be good, it will pass from one hand to another. I trade both with the living and the dead, for the enrichment of our native language. We
have enough in England to supply our necessity; but, 20 if we will have things of magnificence and splendour,
we must get them by commerce. Poetry requires ornament; and that is not to be had from our old Teuton inonosyllables: therefore, if I find any elegant word in a classic author, I propose it to be naturalized,
I 2,5 by using it myself; and, if the public approves of it, the
bill passes. But every man cannot distinguish between pedantry and poetry: every man, therefore, is not fit to innovate. Upon the whole matter, a poet must first be
certain that the word he would introduce is beautiful in 30 the Latin, and is to consider, in the next place, whether
it will agree with the English idiom : after this, he ought to take the opinion of judicious friends, such as are learned in both languages: and, lastly, since no
man is infallible, let him use this licence very sparingly; 35 for if too many foreign words are poured in upon us, it
looks as if they were designed not to assist the natives, but to conquer them.
I am now drawing towards a conclusion, and suspect your Lordship is very glad of it. But permit me first to own what helps I have had in this undertaking. The 5 late Earl of Lauderdail sent me over his new translation of the Æneis, which he had ended before I engaged in the same design. Neither did I then intend it : but, some proposals being afterwards made me by my bookseller, I desired his Lordship's leave that I might accept 10 them, which he freely granted ; and I have his letter yet to show for that permission. He resolved to have printed his work ; which he might have done two years before I could publish mine; and had performed it if death had not prevented him. But, having his manu- 15 script in my hands, I consulted it as often as I doubted of my author's sense ; for no man understood Virgil better than that learned Nobleman. His friends, I hear, have yet another and more correct copy of that translation by them, which, had they pleased to have given 20 the public, the judges must have been convinced that I have not flattered him. Besides this help, which was not inconsiderable, Mr. Congreve has done me the favour to review the Æneis, and compare my version with the original. I shall never be ashamed to own, 23 that this excellent young man has shewed me many faults, which I have endeavoured to correct. 'Tis true, he might have easily found more, and then my translation had been more perfect.
Two other worthy friends of mine, who desire to 39 have their names concealed, seeing me straitened in my time, took pity on me, and gave me the Life of Virgil, the two Prefaces to the Pastorals and the Georgics, and all the arguments in prose to the whole translation ; which, perhaps, has caused a report, that the two first 35