« PreviousContinue »
measure, acquitted myself of the debt which I owed the public when I undertook this work. In the first place, therefore, I thankfully acknowledge to the Almighty Power the assistance He has given me in the beginning, the prosecution, and conclusion of my present 5 studies, which are more happily performed than I could have promised to myself, when I laboured under such discouragements. For, what I have done, imperfect as it is for want of health and leisure to correct it, will be judged in after-ages, and possibly in the present, to 10 be no dishonour to my native country, whose language and poetry would be more esteemed abroad, if they were better understood. Somewhat (give me leave to say) I have added to both of them in the choice of words, and harmony of numbers, which were wanting, 15 especially the last, in all our poets, even in those who, being endued with genius, yet have not cultivated their mother-tongue with sufficient care; or, relying on the beauty of their thoughts, have judged the ornament of words, and sweetness of sound, unnecessary. One is bo for raking in Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated words, which are never to be revived, but when sound or significancy is wanting in the present language. But many of his deserve not this redemption, any more than the crowds of men who daily die, or are slain 25 for sixpence in a battle, merit to be restored to life, if a wish could revive them. Others have no ear for verse, nor choice of words, nor distinction of thoughts; but mingle farthings with their gold, to make up the sum. Here is a field of satire opened to me: but, 30 since the Revolution, I have wholly renounced that talent. For who would give physic to the great, when he is uncalled ?—to do his patient no good, and endanger himself for his prescription ? Neither am I ignorant, but I may justly be condemned for many 35 of those faults of which I have too liberally arraigned others.
Cynthius aurem Vellit, et admonuit ... 5 'Tis enough for me, if the Government will let me pass unquestioned. In the meantime, I am obliged, in gratitude, to return my thanks to many of them, who have not only distinguished me from others of the same
party, by a particular exception of grace, but, without 10 considering the man, have been bountiful to the poet:
have encouraged Virgil to speak such English as I could teach him, and rewarded his interpreter for the pains he has taken in bringing him over into Britain,
by defraying the charges of his voyage. Even Cer15 berus, when he had received the sop, permitted Æneas to pass freely to Elysium. Had it been offered
and I had refused it, yet still some gratitude is due to such who were willing to oblige me; but how much more to
those from whom I have received the favours which 20 they have offered to one of a different persuasion!
Amongst whom I cannot omit naming the Earls of Derby and of Peterborough. To the first of these I have not the honour to be known; and therefore his
liberality was as much unexpected as it was undeserved. 25 The present Earl of Peterborough has been pleased
long since to accept the tenders of my service: his favours are so frequent to me, that I receive them almost by prescription. No difference of interests or
opinion has been able to withdraw his protection from 30 me; and I might justly be condemned for the most
unthankful of mankind, if I did not always preserve for him a most profound respect and inviolable gratitude. I must also add, that, if the last Æneid shine amongst
its fellows, 'tis owing to the commands of Sir William 35 Trumball, one of the principal Secretaries of State, who
recommended it, as his favourite, to my care; and for his sake particularly, I have made it mine. For who would confess weariness, when he enjoined a fresh labour? I could not but invoke the assistance of a Muse, for this last office,
Extremum hunc, Arethusa ...
... Negat quis carmina Gallo ?
Neither am I to forget the noble present which was made me by Gilbert Dolben, Esq., the worthy son of the late Archbishop of York, who, when I began this 10 work, enriched me with all the several editions of Virgil, and all the commentaries of those editions in Latin; amongst which, I could not but prefer the Dauphin's', as the last, the shortest, and the most judicious. Fabrini I had also sent me from Italy; but 15 either he understands Virgil very imperfectly, or I have no knowledge of my author.
Being invited by that worthy gentleman, Sir William Bowyer, to Denham Court, I translated the First Georgic at his house, and the greatest part of the last 20 Æneid. A more friendly entertainment no man ever found. No wonder, therefore, if both those versions surpass the rest, and own the satisfaction I received in his converse, with whom I had the honour to be bred in Cambridge, and in the same college. The Seventh 25
. Æneid was made English at Burleigh, the magnificent abode of the Earl of Exeter. In a village belonging to his family I was born; and under his roof I endeavoured to make that Æneid appear in English with as much lustre as I could; though my author has not given the 30 finishing strokes either to it, or to the Eleventh, as I perhaps could prove in both, if I durst presume to criticise my master.
1 The Dolphins, ed. 1697.
By a letter from William Walsh, of Abberley, Esq. (who has so long honoured me with his friendship, and who, without flattery, is the best critic of our nation),
I have been informed, that his Grace the Duke of 5 Shrewsbury has procured a printed copy of the Pastorals, Georgics, and first six Æneids, from my bookseller, and has read them in the country, together with my friend. This noble person having been pleased to give
them a commendation, which I presume not to insert, 10 has made me vain enough to boast of so great a favour,
and to think I have succeeded beyond my hopes; the character of his excellent judgment, the acuteness of his wit, and his general knowledge of good letters, being
known as well to all the world, as the sweetness of his 15 disposition, his humanity, his easiness of access, and
desire of obliging those who stand in need of his protection, are known to all who have approached him, and to me in particular, who have formerly had the honour
of his conversation. Whoever has given the world the 20 translation of part of the Third Georgic, which he calls
The Power of Love, has put me to sufficient pains to make my own not inferior to his; as my Lord Roscommon's Silenus had formerly given me the same trouble.
The most ingenious Mr. Addison of Oxford has also 25 been as troublesome to me as the other two, and on
the same account. After his Bees, my latter swarm is scarcely worth the hiving. Mr. Cowley's Praise of a Country Life is excellent, but is rather an imitation of
Virgil than a version. That I have recovered, in some 30 measure, the health which I had lost by too much
application to this work, is owing, next to God's mercy, to the skill and care of Dr. Guibbons and Dr. Hobbs, the two ornaments of their profession, whom I can only
pay by this acknowledgment. The whole Faculty has 35 always been ready to oblige me; and the only one of
them, who endeavoured to defame me, had it not in his power. I desire pardon from my readers for saying so much in relation to myself, which concerns not them; and, with my acknowledgments to all my subscribers, have only to add, that the few Notes which follow are 5 par manière d'acquit, because I had obliged myself by articles to do somewhat of that kind. These scattering observations are rather guesses at my author's meaning in some passages, than proofs that so he meant. The unlearned may have recourse to any poetical dictionary 10 in English, for the names of persons, places, or fables, which the learned need not : but that little which I say is either new or necessary; and the first of these qualifications never fails to invite a reader, if not to please him.