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guage is very illustriously displayed in our It seldom happens that all the necessary causes poetical translations of ancient writers; a work concur to any great effect: will is wanting to which the French seem to relinquish in despair, power, or power to will, or both are impeded and which we were long unable to perform with by external obstructions. The exigencies in dexterity. Ben Jonson thought it necessary which Dryden was condemned to pass his life to copy Horace almost word by word; Feltham, are reasonably supposed to have blasted his gehis contemporary and adversary, considers it as nius, to have driven out his works in a state or indispensably requisite in a translation give immaturity, and to have intercepted the fullline for line. It is said that Sandys, whom blown elegance which longer growth would have Dryden calls the best versifier of the last age, supplied. has struggled hard to comprise every book of Poverty, like other rigid powers, is sometimes the English “ Metainorphoses” in the same too hastily accused. If the excellence of Drynumber of verses with the original. Holiday den's works was lessened by his indigence, their had nothing in view but to show that he un- number was increased : and I know not how derstood his author, with so little regard to the it will be proved, that if he had written less he grandeur of his diction, or the volubility of his would have written better; or that indeed he numbers, that his metres can hardly be called would have undergone the toil of an author, if verses; they cannot be read without reluctance, he had not been solicited by something more nor will the labour always be rewarded by un pressing than the love of praise. derstanding them. Cowley saw that such co- But, as is said by his “ Sebastian," piers were a servile race: he asserted his liberty, and spread his wings so boldly that he left his What had been, is unknown; what is, appears. authors. It was reserved for Dryden to fix the limits of poetical liberty, and give us just rules We know that Dryden's several productions and examples of translation.
were so many successive expedients for his supWhen languages are formed upon different port; his plays were therefore often borrowed ; principles, it is impossible that the same modes and his poems were almost all occasional. of expression should always be elegant in both. In an occasional performance no height of While they run on together, the closest transla- excellence can be expected from any mind, howtion may be considered as the best; but when ever fertile in itself, and however stored with they divaricate, each must take its natural acquisitions. He whose work is general and
Where correspondence cannot be ob- arbitrary has the choice of his matter, and tained, it is necessary to be content with some- takes that which his inclination and his studies thing equivalent. “ Translation, therefore," have best qualified him to display and decorate. says Dryden, “ is not so loose as paraphrase, He is at liberty to delay his publication till nor so close as metaphrase.'
he has satisfied his friends and himself, till All polished languages have different styles ; he has reformed his first thoughts by subsequent the concise, the diffuse, the lofty, and the hum- examination, and polished away those faults ble. In the proper choice of style consists the which the precipitance of ardent composition resemblance which Dryden principally exacts is likely to leave behind it. Virgil is related from the translator. He is to exhibit his au- to have poured out a great number of lines thor's thoughts in such a dress of diction as the in the morning, and to have passed the day ir author would have given them, had his lan- reducing them to fewer. guage been English: rugged magnificence is The occasional poet is circumscribed by the not to be softened; hyperbolical ostentation is narrowness of his subject. Whatever can hapnot to be repressed ; nor sententious affectation pen to man has happened so often that little to have its point blunted. A translator is to be remains for fancy or invention. We have been like his author; it is not his business to excel him. all born; we have most of us been married ;
The reasonableness of these rules seems suffi- and so many have died before us, that our deaths cient for the vindication; and the effects pro- can supply but few materials for a poet. In duced by observing them were so happy, that I the fate of princes the public has an interest; know not whether they were ever opposed but and what happens to them, of good or evil, the by Sir Edward Sherburne, a man whose learn- poets have always considered a business for the ing was greater than his powers of poetry, and Muse. But after so many inauguratory gratuwho, being better qualified to give the meaning lations, nuptial hymns, and funeral dirges, he than the spirit of Seneca, has introduced his must be highly favoured by nature, or by forversion of three tragedies by a defence of close tune, who says any thing not said before. Even translation. The authority of Horace which war and conquest, however splendid, suggest the new translators cited in defence of their
no new images; the triumphant chariot of a practice, he has, by a judicious explanation, victorious monarch can be decked only with taken fairly from them; but reason wants not those ornaments that have graced his predeHorace to support it
Not only matter but time is wanting. The How hard was then his task, at once to be poem must not be delayed till the occasion is What in the body natural we see!
Man's Architect distincly did ordain forgotten. The lucky moments of animated
The charge of muscles, nerves, and of the brain, imagination cannot be attended; elegances and
Through viewless conduits spirits to dispense illustrations cannot be multiplied by gradual
The springs of motion from the seat of sense : accumulation; the composition must be des- 'Twas not the hasty product of a day, patched, while conversation is yet busy, and But the well ripened fruit of wise delay. admiration fresh; and haste is to be made, lest He, like a patient angler, ere he strook, some other event should lay hold upon man.
Would let them play awbile upon the back. kind.
Our healthful food the stomach labours thus,
At first embracing what it straight doth crush. Occasional compositions may however secure
Wise leaches will not vain receipts obtrude, to a writer the praise both of learning and fa
While growing pains pronounce the humours
Till some safe crisis authorize their skill.
He had not yet learned, indeed he never powers. His heroic stanzas have beauties and learned well, to forbear the improper use of mydefects; the thoughts are vigorous, and, though thology. After having rewarded the heathen
deities for their care,
With Alga who the sacred altar strows ?
A bull to thee, Portunus, shall be slain ; Davenant was per: aps at this time his fav. A ram to you, ye Tempests of the Main. ourite author, though “ Gondibert” never ap- He tells us, in the language of religion, pears to have been popular ; and from Davenant he learned to please his ear with the stanza of Prayer storm'd the skies, and ravish'd Charles four lines alternately rhymed.
from thence, Dryden very early formed his versification; As heav'n itself is took by violence. there are in this early production no traces of And afterwards mentions one of the most awDonne's or Jonson's ruggedness; but he did not ful passages of Sacred History. SO soon free his mind from the ambition of
Other conceits there are, too curious to be forced conceits. In his verses on the Restora
quite omitted ; as,
For, by example most we sian'd before,
And, glass-like, clearness mix'd with frailty bore.
How far he was yet from thinking it necesAnd afterwards, to show how virtue and wis sary to found his sentiments on nature, appears dom are increased by adversity, he makes this from the extravagance of his fictions and hyperremark:
The winds, that never moderation knew,
Afraid to blow too much, too faintly blew;
Or, out of breath with joy, could not enlarge
Their straiten'd lungs.
It is no longer motion cheats your view;
As you meet it, the land approacheth you; His praise of Monk's dexterity comprises The land returns, and in the white it wears such a cluster of thoughts unallied to one ano
The marks of pepitence and sorrow bears. ther, as will not elsewhere be easily found:
I know not whether this fancy, however little 'Twas Monk, whom Providence desigu'd to be its value, was not borrowed. A French loose
poet read to Malherbe some verses, in which he Those real bonds false freedom did impose. The blessed saints that watch'd this turning scene represents France as moving out of its place to
receive the King. Did from their stars with joyful wonder lean,
“ Though this,” said MalTo see small clues draw vastest weights along,
herbe, “ was in my time, I do not remember Not in their bulk, but in their order strong.
You have already quench'd sedition's brand;
The jealous sects that durst not trust their cause,
Let envy then those crimes within you see,
Here may be found one particle of that old
Into this poem he seems to have collected all versification, of which, I believe, in all his his powers; and after this he did not often works, there is not another ;
bring upon his anvil such stubborn and unmal. Nor is it duty, or our hope alone,
leable thoughts; but, as a specimen of his abili. Creates that joy, but full fruition.
ties to unite the most unsociable matter, he has In the verses to the Lord Chancellor Claren- self obliged to tell the meaning :
concluded with lines, of which I think not mydon, two years afterwards, is a conceit so hopeless at the first view, that few would have at
Yet unimpair'd with labours, or with time, tempted it; and so successfuly laboured, that
Your age but seems to a new youth to climb. though at last it gives the reader more perplexity Thus heavenly bodies do our time beget, than pleasure, and seems hardly worth the study And measure change, but share no part of it: that it costs, yet it must be valued as a proof of
And still it shall without a weight increase, a mind at once subtle and comprehensive :
Like this new year, whose motions never cease.
For since the glorious course you have begun In open prospect nothing bounds our eye,
Is led by Charles, as that is by the Sun, Until the earth seems join'd unto the sky:
It must both weightless and immortal prove,
Because the centre of it is above.
In the " Annus Mirabilis" he returned to And beyond that no farther heaven can find.
the quatrain, which from that time he totally So well your virtues do with his agree, That though your orbs of different greatness be, vience, for he complains of its difficulty. This
quitted, perhaps from experience of its inconYet both are for each other's use disposed, His to inclose, and yours to be inclosed.
is one of his greatest attempts. He had subNor could another in your room have been, jects equal to his abilities, a great naval war, Except an emptiness had come between. and the fire of London. Battles have always The comparison of the Chancellor of the In- been described in heroic poetry; but a sea-fight
and artillery bad yet something of novelty. dies leaves all resemblance too far behind it:
New arts are long in the world before poets And as the Indies were not found before
describe them; for they borrow every thing Those rich perfumes which from the happy shore
from their predecessors, and commonly derive The winds upon their balmy wings convey'd,
Boileau Whose guilty sweetness first their world betray'd; very little from nature or from life.
was the first French writer that had ever hazSo by your counsels we are brought to view A new and undiscorer'd world in you.
arded in verse the mention of modern war, or
the effects of gunpowder. We, who are less There is another comparison, for there is little afraid of novelty, had already possession of else in the poem, of which, though perhaps it those dreadful images. Waller had described cannot be explained into plain prosaio mean- 9 sea-fight. Milton had not yet transferred ing, the mind perceives enough to be delighted, the invention of fire-arms to the rebellious and readily forgives its obscurity for its magni- angels. ficence:
This poem is written with great diligence, How strangely active are the arts of peace,
yet does not fully answer the expectation raised Whose restless motions less than wars do cease! by such subjects and such a writer. With the Peace is not freed from labour, but from noise; stanza of Davenant he has sometimes his vein And war more force, but not more pains employs.
of parenthesis and incidental disquisition, and Such is the mighty swiftness of your mind,
stops his narrative for a wise remark. That, like the earth's, it leaves our sense behind : While you so smoothly turo and roll our sphere,
The general fault is, that he affords more That rapid motion does but rest appear.
sentiment than description, and does not so For as in nature's swiftness, with the throng much impress scenes upon the fancy, as deduce Of flying orbs while ours is borne along,
consequences and make comparisons. All seems at rest to the deluded eye,
The initial stanzas have rather too much reMov'd by the soul of the same harmony:
semblance to the first lines of Waller's poem on So, carried on by your unwearied care,
the war with Spain; perhaps such a beginning We rest in peace, and yet in motion share.
is natural, and could not be avoided without To this succeed four lines, which perhaps af- affectation. Both Waller and Dryden might ford Dryden's first attempt at those penetrating take their hint from the poem on the civil war remarks on human nature, for which he seems of Rome, “ Orbem jam totum,” &c.
Of the King collecting his navy,
he to have been peculiarly formed:
It seems, as every ship their sovereign konws, mingle properly with the horrors of war. The
two quatrains that follow are worthy of the So hear the scaly herds when Proteus blows,
The account of the different sensations with
The night comes on, we eager to pursue mediately follow, which are indeed perhaps in
The combat still, and they ashamed to leave; decently hyperbolical, but certainly in a mode Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew, totally different ?
And Joubtful moonlight did our rage deceive.
To see this fleet upon the ocean move,
Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies;
For tapers made two glaring comets rise.
In th’ English fleet each ship resounds with joy,
Aud loud applause of their great leader's fame; In fiory dreams the Dutch they still destroy,
And, slumbering, smile at the imagin'd flame.
Not so the Holland fleet, who tired and done,
Stretch'd on their decks, like weary oxen lie; afford a very complete specimen of the descrip- Faint sweats all down their mighty members run, tions in this poem :
(Vast bulks, which little souls but ill supply.)
Like hunted castors, conscious of their store, It is a general rule in poetry, that all approTheir way-laid wealth to Norway's coast they priated terms of art should be sunk in general bring:
expressions, because poetry is to speak a uniThen first the North's cold bosom spices bore,
versal language. This rule is still stronger with And Winter brooded on the Eastern Spring.
regard to arts not liberal, or confined to few; By the rich scent we found our perfumed prey,
and therefore far removed from common knowWhich, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie: ledge; and of this kind, certainly, is technical And round about their murd'ring cannon lay navigation. Yet Dryden was of opinion, that a At once to threaten and invite the eye.
sea-fight ought to be described in the nautical Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard,
language; “and certainly,” says he, “as those, The English undertake th' unequal war.
who in a logical disputation keep to general Seven ships alone, by which the port is barr'd,
terms, would hide a fallacy, so those who do it Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare. in poetical description would veil their ignor
These figbt like husbands, but like lovers those;
Let us then appeal to experience: for by ex-
perience at last we learn as well what will That what both love, both hazard to destrov:
please as what will profit. In the battle, his
terms seem to have been blown away; but he Amidst whole beaps of spices lights a ball,
deals them liberally in the dock:
So here some pick out bullets from the side,
Some drive old okum through each seam and rift:
Their left hand does the calking-iron guide,
The rattling mallet with the right they lift.
With boiling pitch another near at hana
(From friendly Sweden brought) the seams in.
stops; In this manner is the sublime too often mingled Which, well laid o'er, the salt-sea waves withstand, with the ridiculous. The Dutch seek a shelter And shake them from the rising beak in drops. for a wealthy fleet: this surely needed no illustration; yet they must fly, not like all the rest of Some the gall’d ropes with dauby marling bind, mankind on the same occasion, but “like hunt- To try new ehroads one mounts into the wind,
Or sear-cloth masts with strong tarpawling coats : ed castors;" and they might with strict pro
And one below their ease or stiffness notes. priety be hunted; for we winded them by our poses -- their perfumes betrayed them. The I suppose there is not one term which every husband and the lover, though of more dignity reader does not wish away. than the castor, are images too domestic to Ilis digression to the original and progress of
navigation, with his prospect of the advance- ! From this time he addicted himself almost ment which it shall receive from the Royal So- wholly to the stage, “to which," says he,“ oiety, then newly instituted, may be considered genius never much inclined me,” merely as the As an example seldom equalled of seasonable ex- most profitable market for poetry. By writing cursion and artful return.
tragedies in rhyme, he continued to improve his One line, however, leaves me discontented; diction and his numbers. According to the he says, that, by the help of the philosophers, opinion of Harte, who had studied his works
with great attention, he settled his principles of Instruc:ed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
versification in 1676, when he produced the play By which remotest regions are allied.
of “ Aureng Zebe;" and, according to his own Which he is constrained to explain in a note account of the short time in which he wrote “ by a more exact measure of longitude.” It “ Tyrannic Love,” and “ The State of Innohad better become Dryden's learning and genius cence,” he soon obtained the full effect of dilito have laboured science into poetry, and have gence, and added facility to exactness. shown, by explaining longitude, that verse did Rhyme has been so long banished from the not refuse the ideas of philosophy.
theatre, that we know not its effects upon the His description of the fire is painted by reso- passions of an audience: but it has this convelute meditation, out of a mind better formed to nience, that sentences stand more independent reason than to feel. The conflagration of a on each other, and striking passages are therecity, with all its tumults of concomitant dis- fore easily selected and retained. Thus the des tress, is one of the most dreadful spectacles cription of night in “ The Indian Emperor," which this world can offer to human eyes; yet and the rise and fall of empire in “ The Conit seems to raise little emotion in the breast of quest of Granada," are more frequently rethe poet; he watches the flame coolly from peated than any lines in “ All for Love,” or street to street, with now a reflection, and now
« Don Sebastian.” a simile, till: at last he meets the King, for To search his plays for vigorous sallies and whom he makes a speech, rather tedious in a sententious elegances, or to fix the dates of any time so busy; and then follows again the pro- little pieces which he wrote by chance, or by gress of the fire.
solicitation, were labour too tedious and miThere are, however, in this part some pas
nute: sages that deserve attention; as in the begin
His dramatic labours did not so wholly abning;
sorb his thoughts, but that he promulgated the
laws of translation in a preface to the English The diligence of trades and noiseful gain, And luxury, more late, asleep were laid !
Epistles of Ovid; one of which he translated All was the Night's, and in her silent reign
himself, and another in conjunction with the No sound the rest of Nature did in vade
Earl of Mulgrave. In this deep quiet
“ Absalom and Achitophel" is a work so
well known, that a particular criticism is suThe expression “ All was the Night's,” is perfluous. If it be considered as a poem polititaken from Seneca, who remarks on Virgil's cal and controversial, it will be found to comline,
prise all the excellences of wbich the subject is Omnia noctis erant, placidu composta quiete,
susceptible; acrimony of censure, elegance of
praise, artful delineation of characters, variety that he might have concluded better,
and vigour of sentiment, happy turns of lanOmnia noctis erant.
guage, and pleasing harmony of numbers; and The following quatrain is vigorous and ani- be found in any other English composition.
all these raised to such a height as can scarcely mated :
It is not, however, without faults; some lines The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend are inelegant or improper, and too many are With bold fanatic spectres to rejoice;
irreligiously licentious. The original structure About tbe fire into a dance they bend,
of the poem was defective; allegories drawn to And sing their sabbath notes with feetle voice.
great length will always break; Charles could His prediction of the improvements which not run continually parallel with David. shall be made in the new city is elegant and The subject had likewise another inconvepoetical, and with an event which poets can
nience; it admitted little imagery or description; not always boast has been happily verified. and a long poein of mere sentiments easily beThe poem concludes with a simile that might comes tedious; though all the parts are forcible; have better been omitted.
and every line kindles new rapture, the reader, Dryden, when he wrote this poem, seems not if not relieved by the interposition of something yet fully to have formed his versification, or that soothes the fancy, grows weary of admirasettled his system of propriety.
tion, and defers the rest.