« PreviousContinue »
His version of the Æneid was re-printed in a complete edition of “ Virgil's works translated intą English,” in 4 vols, 8vo, 1753. The translation of the “ Eclogues” and “ Georgics," three essays " on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry," and " notes on the whole,” were contributed by Dt. Warton, the present respectable master of Winchester school; with differtacions “on the Vith book of the Eneid,” by Warburton ; “ on the shield of Æncas," by W. Whitehead; “ on the character of lapis," by Dr. Atterbury; and some new observations by Holdsworth, Spence, and others.
The amiable character of Pitt, transcribed from the stone that marks the place of his dust, owes nothing to flattery. He was reverenced for his virtue, and beloved for the softness of his temper, and the easiness of his manners. Before strangers, he had something of the scholar's timidity and distrust; but when he became familiar, he was in a very high degree cheerful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured him general respect; and he paffed a life placid and honourable ; neither too great for the kindness of the low, aor too low for the notice of the great.
As a poet, his compofitions are characterised by fplendour and elegance of di&ion, and the exquisire polish and harmony of the versification. Most of his original pieces are pleasing and poetical; but his Vida and the English Æneid, are the chief foundation of his fame. His version of Vida is executed with so much exactnefs and general elegance, that there is little fear of its being supplanted by the version of Mr. Hampson, published in 1793.
The excellence of his version of the Æneid, his greatest work, is generally allowed; but the critica have been divided concerning the just proportion of merit which ought to be ascribed to it, compasatively with that of Dryden. Some have asserted, that Pitt has done mort justice to Virgil; that he shines in Pitt with a lustre which Dryden wanted not power, but leisure to bestow. Pitt, no doubt, had many advantages above Dryden in this arduous undertaking. As he was later in the attempt, he had consequently the version of Dryden to improve upon. He saw the errors of that great poet, and avoided them; he discovered his beauties, and improved upon them: and as he was not com. pelled by neceslicy, he had leisure to revise, correct, and finish his excellent work. Yet it may be justly doubted whether, upon the whole, the version of Dryden is not the most vigorous and poctis cal performance.
A comparison of the following passages may enable the reader to determine for himself, to whose translation he would give the preference. The first is taken from Virgil's description of Elygum, wybich " is fo charming,” says Dr. Trapp, " that it is almost Elysium to read it."
His demum exactis perfecto munera divæ,
From sky to sky th' unwearied splendour runs,
Or with his flying fingers sweeps the frings-Port. In the celebrated description of the swiftness of Camilla, in the VIlth Æncid, the superiority of Dryden is more conspicuous than in the foregoing passage,
Jlla vel inta&tæ segetis per summa volaret
the fierce virago fought-
And smoothly skims, unbath'd, along the deeps.Pitt. It is evident from these passages, that Pitt's versification, though more exquisitely polished, • abounds more in fuperfluous epithets and uneffential images than that of Dryden, and is besides les
distinguished by variety of pause and cadence. Alliteration is an inferior beauty, which is more remarkable in Pitt than Dryden. Benson, who in a pamphlet of his writing, has treated Dryden's yersion with great contempt, was yet fond of the alliteration of Pitt, to a degree of enthulasm. He once took occasion, in conversation with Pitt, to magnify that beauty, and to compliment him upon it. Pitt thought it far less considerable than Benson did; but says he, “ Since you are so food of alliteration, this couplec upon Cardinal Wolsey will not displease you :
Begot by butchers, but by bishops bred,
How high his honour holds his haughty head.” Benson was no doubt charmed to hear his favourite grace in poetry so beautifully excmplified, which it certainly is, without any affectation or stiffness.
Spence, in his “ Polymetis," has convicted Dryden, in several instances, of ignorance or negli- } gence in translating the ancient allegories. “ Upon this,” says Dr. Warton, “ I was desirous to examine Mr. Pitt's translation of the fame passages, and was surprised to find near fifty instances which Mr. Spence has given of Dryden's mistakes of that kind, when Mr. Pite had not fallen into above three or four."
To the estimate which Dr. Johnson has given of the comparative merits of the rival versions, the present writer has no great reason to objeđ, as he is more disposed to admire the amazing force of Drydın's genius, than industriously to dwell on his imperfections.
" Pitt engaging as a rival with Dryden, naturally observed his failures, and avoided them; and as he wrote after Pope's “ Iliad,” he had an example of an exact, equable, and splendid versification. With these advantages, seconded by:great diligence, he might successfully labour particular passages, and escape many errors. If the two versions are compared, perhaps the result would be, that Dryden leads the reader forward by his general vigour and sprightliness; and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the excellence of a particular couplet : That Dryden's faults are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that Pitt's beauties are negle&ted in the langour of a cold and litless perusal; That Pite pleases the critics, and Dryden the people : That Pitt is quoted, and Dry. den read'
TO GEORGE PITT, Ese.
OF STRATFIELD SEA, IN HAMPSHIRE.
Since you vouchsafe to be a patron to these sheets, I hope, Sir, on another occasion, to present you as well as to their author, I will not make an ill | with the product of my severer studies : in the use of the liberty you give me, to address you in mean time, be pleased to accept of this trifle, as one this public manner, by running into the common Imall acknowledgment of the many great favouri topics of dedications. Should I venture to engage you have bestowed on, in such an extensive theme as your character, the world would judge the attempt to be altogether
(Honoured Sir) unnecessary, because it had long before been tho
Your obliged humble servant, roughly acquainted with your virtues; besides I am sensible, that you as earnestly decline all praise
CHRISTOPAEX PITT. and panegyric, as you eminently deserve them.
My translation of Vida's Art of Poetry having (such as they are) in the service of my Maker; been more favourably received than I had reason that it would look indecent in one of my prefeslion, to exped, has encouraged me to publish this mif- not to spend as much time on the psalms of Dacellany of poems and sele& tranlations. I shall vid, as the hymns of Callimachus; and farther, that neither embarrass myself nor my reader with apo- if those beautiful pieces of divine poetry had been logies concerning this collection; for whether it is written by Callimachus, or any heathen author, a good or a bad one, all excuses are unnecessary in they might have poffibly vouchsafed them a readone case, and offered in vain in the other. ing even in my translation.
An author of a miscellany has a better chance of But I will not trespass further on my reader's pleasing the world, than he who writes on a single patience in prose, since I thall have occasion enough Subject; and I have sometimes known a bad, or for it, as well as for his good nature, in the fol(which is atill worse) an indifferent poet, meet lowing verses; concerning which I must acquaint with tolerable success; which has been owing more him, that some of them were written several years to the variety of subjects, than his happiness in lince, and that I have precisely observed the rule treating them.
of our great master Horace-Nonumque prematur I am fenfible the men of wit and pleasure will in annum. But I may say more jusly than Mr. be disgusted to find so great a part of this colle&ion Prior faid of himself in the like case, that I have consist of sacred poetry; but I assure these gentle observed the letter more than the spirit of the men, whatever they shall be pleased to object, that precept. Afhall never be ashamed of employing my talents 1727.
TO MR. CHRISTOPHER PITT. Such is the genuine flavour, it belies
Their stranger soil, and unacquainted kies. ON HIS POEMS AND TRANSLATIONS.
Vida no more the long oblivion fears, Forgive th'ambitious fondness of a friend,
Which hid his virtues through a length of years For such thy worth, 'tis glory to commend ;
Ally'd to thee, he lives again; thy rhymes To thee, from judgment, such applause is due,
Shall friendly hand him down to latest times; I praise myself while I am praising you;
Shall do his injur'd reputation right, As he who bears the lighted torch, receives
While ia thy work with such success unite Himself afistance from the light he gives.
His strength of judgment, and his charms of speech, So much you please, so vast is my delight,
That precepts pleasc, and music seems to teach. Thy, ev'n thy fancy cannot reach its height.
Lest unimprov'd I seem to read thee o'er, In vain I strive to make the transport known,!
Th’unhallow'd rapture I indulge no more ; No language can describe it but thy own.
By thee instructed, I the task forsake, Could'it thou thy genius pour into my heart,
Nor for chaste love the luft of verse mistake; Thy copious fancy, thy engaging heart,
Thy works that rais'd this frenzy in my soul, Thy vigorous thoughts, thy manly flow of sense,
Shall teach the giddy tumult to controul: Thy strong and glowing paint of eloquence ;
Warm'd as I am with every muse's charms, Then should'ft thou well conceive that happiness, Since the coy virgins fly my cager arms, Which I alone can feel, and you express.
• I'll quit the work, throw by my ftrong desire, In scenes which thy invention sets to view,
And from thy praise reluctantly retire. Forgive me, friend, if I lose fight of you ;
G. RIDLET, I see with how much spirit Homer thought, With how much judgment cooler Virgil wrote ;
DR. COBDEN TO MR. PITT. In every line, in every word you speak,
On bis baving a Bay-Leaf fent bim from Virgit's I read the Roman, and confess the Greek;
The judgment of your friend,
Who chofe this token of his love
From Virgil's tomb to send.
You, who the Mantuan poet dress Sweetly deceiv'd, the ancients i contemo,
In purest English lays, And with mistaken zeal to thee exclaim,
Who all his soul and Aame express, (By so much nature, so much art betray'd)
May juftly claim his bays. " What vaft improvements have our moderns Those bays, which water'd by your hand, made !"
From Vida's spring shall rise,
The youth a rival grew.
• See Mt. Pitt' tranflation of Tide
AN EPISTLE TO DR. EDWARD YOUNG, At the blest light, transported and amaz'd
One universal Mout the thousands rais'd,
His foes (if any) own'd the monarch's cause, WHILE with your Dodington retir'd you sit, And chang'd their groundless clamours to aps. Charm'd with his flowing Burgundy and wit ;
plause; By turns relieving with the circling draught, Ev'n giddy fadion hailid the glorious day, Each paufe of chat, and interval of thought :
And wondering envy look'd her rage away. De through the well-glaz'd tube, from business As Ceres o'er the globe her chariot drew, freed,
And harvests ripen'd where the goddess flew; Draw the rich fpirit of the Indian weed;
So, where his gracious footsteps he inclin'd, Or bid your eyes o'er Vanbrough's models roam, Peace flew before, and plenty march'd behind. And trace in miniature the future dome,
Where wild afli&ion rages, he appears (While busy fancy with imag'd power
To wipe the widow's and the orphan's tears : Builds up the work of ages in an hour);
The sons of misery before hiin bow, Or lost in thought, contemplative you rove
And for their merit only plead their woe. Through opening vistas, and the shady grove;
So well he loves the public liberty, Where a new Eden in the wilds is fouad,
His mercy sets the private captive free. And all the seasons in a spot of ground:
Soon as our royal angel came in view, There, if you exercise your tragic rage,
The prisons burst, the starting hinges flew; To bring some hero on the British Itage; The dungeon's open d, and reügn'd their prey, Whose cause the audience with applause willcrown, To joy, to life, to freedom, and the day : And make his triumphs or his tears their own :
The chains drop off; the grateful captives rear Throw by the bold design; and paint no more
Their hands uomanacled in praise and prayer.
Oh! hadît thou seen him, when the gathering The generous Brutus had not scorn'd to bend,
Nor to that bold excess of virtue ran,
humble When in his hand Britannia's awful lord
DELIVERY OF HER ROYAL HIGHNESS, This hadst thou seen, thy willing muse would raise
IN TIE YEAR 1721.-AN ODE.
Britannia's genius, come away.
Here fix your residence on earth,
ON TUR APPROACHINO