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ings; for it must be owned, that supposing verses are never so beautiful or pleasing, yet, if they contain any. thing which shocks religion or good manners, they are at best what Horace says of good numbers without good sense, Versus inopes rerum, nugæque canoræ. Thus 5 far, I hope, I am right in court, without renouncing to my other right of self-defence, where I have been wrongfully accused, and my sense wire-drawn into blasphemy or bawdry, as it has often been by a religious lawyer, in a late pleading against the stage ; in which 10 he mixes truth with falsehood, and has not forgotten the old rule of calumniating strongly, that something may remain.
I resume the thrid of my discourse with the first of my translations, which was the first Iliad of Homer. If 15 it shall please God to give me longer life, and moderate health, my intentions are to translate the whole Ilias; provided still that I meet with those encouragements from the public, which may enable me to proceed in my undertaking with some cheerfulness. And this I dare 20 assure the world beforehand, that I have found, by trial, Homer a more pleasing task than Virgil, though I say not the translation will be less laborious; for the Grecian is more according to my genius than the Latin poet. In the works of the two authors we may read their 25 manners, and natural inclinations, which are wholly different. Virgil was of a quiet, sedate temper; Homer was violent, impetuous, and full of fire. The chief talent of Virgil was propriety of thoughts, and ornament of words : Homer was rapid in his thoughts, and took zo all the liberties, both of numbers and of expressions, which his language, and the age in which he lived, allowed him. Homer's invention was more copious, Virgil's more confined; so that if Homer had not led the way, it was not in Virgil to have begun heroic 35
poetry; for nothing can be more evident, than that the Roman poem is but the second part of the Ilias; a continuation of the same story, and the persons already formed. The manners of Æneas are those of Hector, 5 superadded to those which Homer gave him. The adventures of Ulysses in the Odysseis are imitated in the first Six Books of Virgil's Æneis; and though the accidents are not the same, (which would have argued
him of a servile copying, and total barrenness of in10 vention,) yet the seas were the same in which both
the heroes wandered; and Dido cannot be denied to be the poetical daughter of Calypso. The six latter Books of Virgil's poem are the four-and-twenty Iliads
contracted; a quarrel occasioned by a lady, a single 15 combat, battles fought, and a town besieged. I say
not this in derogation to Virgil, neither do I contradict anything which I have formerly said in his just praise ; for his episodes are almost wholly of his own invention,
and the form which he has given to the telling makes 20 the tale his own, even though the original story had
been the same. But this proves, however, that Homer taught Virgil to design; and if invention be the first virtue of an epic poet, then the Latin poem can only be
allowed the second place. Mr. Hobbes, in the preface 25 to his own bald translation of the Ilias, (studying
poetry as he did mathematics, when it was too late, Mr. Hobbes, I say, begins the praise of Homer where
I he should have ended it. He tells us, that the first beauty of an epic poem consists in diction; that is, in the choice of words, and harmony of numbers. Now the words are the colouring of the work, which, in the order of nature, is last to be considered. The design, the disposition, the manners, and the thoughts, are all
before it: where any of those are wanting or imperfect, 35 so much wants or is imperfect in the imitation of human
life, which is in the very definition of a poem. Words, indeed, like glaring colours, are the first beauties that arise and strike the sight; but, if the draught be false or lame, the figures ill disposed, the manners obscure or inconsistent, or the thoughts unnatural, then the 5 finest colours are but daubing, and the piece is a beautiful monster at the best. Neither Virgil nor Homer were deficient in any of the former beauties; but in this last, which is expression, the Roman poet is at least equal to the Grecian, as I have said elsewhere: supply: 10 ing the poverty of his language by his musical ear, and by his diligence.
But to return : our two great poets being so different in their tempers, one choleric and sanguine, the other phlegmatic and melancholic; that which makes them 13 excel in their several ways is, that each of them has followed his own natural inclination, as well in forming the design, as in the execution of it. The very heroes shew their authors: Achilles is hot, impatient, revengeful
Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer, &c., Æneas patient, considerate, careful of his people, and merciful to his enemies; ever submissive to the will of heaven, .. quo fata trahunt retrahuntque, sequamur.
25 I could please myself with enlarging on this subject, but am forced to defer it to a fitter time. From all I have said, I will only draw this inference, that the action of Homer, being more full of vigour than that of Virgil, according to the temper of the writer, is of con- 30 sequence more pleasing to the reader. One warms you by degrees; the other sets you on fire all at once, and never intermits his heat. 'Tis the same difference which Longinus makes betwixt the effects of eloquence
in Demosthenes and Tully; one persuades, the other commands. You never cool while you read Homer, even not in the Second Book (a graceful flattery to his countrymen); but he hastens from the ships, and con5 cludes not that book till he has made you an amends by the violent playing of a new machine. From thence he hurries on his action with variety of events, and ends it in less compass than two months. This vehem.
ence of his, I confess, is more suitable to my temper; 10 and, therefore, I have translated his First Book with
greater pleasure than any part of Virgil ; but it was not a pleasure without pains. The continual agitations of the spirits must needs be a weakening of any consti
tution, especially in age; and many pauses are required 15 for refreshment betwixt the heats; the Iliad of itself
being a third part longer than all Virgil's works together.
This is what I thought needful in this place to say of Homer. I proceed to Ovid and Chaucer; consider20 ing the former only in relation to the latter. With
Ovid ended the golden age of the Roman tongue; from Chaucer the purity of the English tongue began. The manners of the poets were not unlike. Both of them
were well-bred, well-natured, amorous, and libertine, 25 at least in their writings; it may be, also in their lives.
Their studies were the same, philosophy and philology. Both of them were knowing in astronomy; of which Ovid's books of the Roman Feasts, and Chaucer's
Treatise of the Astrolabe, are sufficient witnesses. But 30 Chaucer was likewise an astrologer, as were Virgil,
Horace, Persius, and Manilius. Both writ with wonderful facility and clearness; neither were great inventors : for Ovid only copied the Grecian fables, and most of
Chaucer's stories were taken from his Italian contem35 poraries, or their predecessors, Boccace his Decameron
was first published, and from thence our Englishman
Both of them built on the inventions of other men ; yet since Chaucer had something of his own, as The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Cock and the Fox, which I have
wrong again! translated, and some others, I may justly give our 25". V countryman the precedence in that part; since I can remember nothing of Ovid which was wholly his. Both of them understood the manners ; under which name I comprehend the passions, and, in a larger sense, the descriptions of persons, and their very habits. For an 30 example, I see Baucis and Philemon as perfectly before me, as if some ancient painter had drawn them ; and all the Pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales, their humours, their features, and the very dress, as distinctly as if I had supped with them at the Tabard in Southwark. 35