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3. The dragon of Mona's sons was so brave in action, that there was a great tumult on their furious attack; and before the prince himself there was vast confusion, havoc, conflict, honourable death, bloody battle, horrible consternation, and upon Tal Malvre a thousand banners; there was an outrageous carnage, and the rage of spears and hasty signs of violent indignation. Blood raised the tide of the Menäi, and the crimson of human gore stained the brine. There were glittering cuirasses, and the agony of gashing wounds, and the mangled warriors prostrate before the chief, distinguished by his crimson lance. Lloegria was put into confusion; the contest and confusion was great; and the glory of our Prince's wide-wusting sword shall be celebrated in an hundred languages to give him his merited praise.
From the extract of the Gododin, which Mr. Evans has given us in his Dissertatio de Bardis in the forementioned book, I shall here transcribe those particular passages which Mr. Gray selected for imitation in this Ode.
1. Si mihi liceret vindictam in Déirorum populum ferre,
2. Amicum enim amisi incautus,
Qui in resistendo firmus erat.
Non petiit magnanimus dotem a socero
3. Viri ibant ad Cattraeth, et fuêre insignes,
Vinum et mulsum ex aureis poculis erat eorum potus.
Trecenti et sexaginta tres aureis torquibus insigniti erant ;
Et egomet ipse (scilicet Bardus Aneurinus) sanguine rubens:
Whoever compares Mr. Gray's poetical versions of these four lyrical pieces with the literal translations which I have here inserted, will, I am persuaded, be convinced that nothing of the kind was ever executed with more fire, and at the same time, more judgment. He keeps up through them all the wild romantic spirit of his originals; elevates them by some well-chosen epithet or image where they flag, yet in such a manner as is perfectly congruous with the general idea of the poems; and if he either varies or omits any of the original thoughts, they are only of that kind which, according to our modern sentiments, would appear vulgar or ludicrous: two instances of this kind occur in the latter part of this last Ode. How well has he turned the idea of the fourth line: Ex iis qui nimio potu madidi?" and the conclusion, "Aliter ad hoc Carmen compingendum," &c. The former of which is ridiculous; the latter insipid.
4. I find amongst Mr. Gray's papers, a few more lines taken from other parts of the Gododin, which I shall here add with their respective Latin versions. They may serve to shew succeeding poets the manner in which the spirit of these their ancient predecessors in the art may be best transfused into a modern imitation of them.
Have ye seen the tusky boar,
So Carádoc bore his lance.
Quando ad Bellum properabat Caradocus,
Filius apri silvestris qui truncando mutilavit hostes,
Taurus aciei in pugnæ conflictu,
Is lignum (i. e. hastam) ex manu contorsit.
Conan's name, my lay, rehearse,
The crimson harvest of the foe.
Debitus est tibi cantus qui honorem assecutus es maximum,
Qui eras instar ignis, tonitrui, et tempestatis,
Viribus eximie, eques bellicose, Rhudd Fedel, bellum meditaris.
1. If what Boileau says be true, in his Art Poetique, that
Un sonnet sans defauts vaut seul un long poeme
the merit of this little poem is decided. It is written in strict observance of those strict rules, which the Poet there lays down.-Vide Art Poetique, Chant. ii. l. 82. Milton, I believe, was the first of our English poets who exactly followed the Italian model: our Author varies from him only in making the rhymes in the two first quartetts alternate, which is more agreeable to the English ear, than the other method of arranging them.
In ling'ring pain, in death resign'd,
Was felt for him, who could not save
2. Whom what awaits, &c. L. 11.
The construction here is a little hard, and creates obscurity, which is always least to be pardoned in an epitaph.
This is as perfect in its kind as the foregoing Sonnet. Sir William Williams, in the expedition to Aix, was on board the Magnanime with Lord Howe; and was deputed to receive the capitulation.
WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD.
1. The most popular of all our Author's publications; it ran through eleven editions in a very short space of time; was finely translated into Latin by Messrs. Ansty and Roberts: and in the same year another, though I think inferior, version of it was published by Mr. Lloyd. The reader has been informed, in the Memoirs, of the time and manner of its first publication. He originally gave it only the simple title of "Stanzas written in a Country Church-yard." I persuaded him first to call it an ELEGY, because the subject authorized him so to do; and the alternate measure, in which it was written, seemed peculiarly fit for that species of composition. I imagined too that so capital a poem, written in this measure, would as it were appropriate it in future to writings of this sort; and the number of imitations which have since been made of it (even to satiety) seem to prove that my notion was well founded. In the first manuscript copy of this exquisite poem, I find the conclusion different from that which he afterwards composed; and though his after-thought was unquestionably the best, yet there is a pathetic melancholy in the four rejected stanzas, which highly claims preservation. I shall therefore give them as a variation in their proper place.
2. The knell of parting day. L. 1.
squilla di lontano
Che paia 'l giorno pianger, che si muore.
Dante. Purg. l. 8. G.
3. Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife. L. 73.
The thoughtless world to majesty may bow,
And thou, who mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Hark! how the sacred calm, that breathes around,
No more, with reason and thyself at strife,
And here the poem was originally intended to conclude, before the happy idea of the hoary-headed swain, &c. suggested itself to him. I cannot help hinting to the reader, that I think the third of these rejected stanzas equal to any in the whole Elegy.
4. Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires. L. 92.
Ch'i veggio nel pensier, dolce mio fuoco,
Rimaner doppo noi pien di faville.
Petrarch. Son. 169. G.
Awake and faithful to her wonted fires.
Thus it stood in the first and some following editions, and I think rather better; for the authority of Petrarch does not destroy the appearance of quaintness in the other: the thought, however, is rather obscurely expressed in both readings. He means to say, in plain prose, that we wish to be remembered by our friends after our death, in the same manner as when alive we wished to be
remembered by them in our absence: this would be expressed clearer, if the metaphorical term fires was rejected, and the line run thus:
Awake and faithful to her first desires.
I do not put this alteration down for the idle vanity of aiming to amend the passage, but purely to explain it.
5. To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. L. 100.
On the high brow of yonder hanging lawn.
After which, in his first manuscript, followed this stanza;
I rather wonder that he rejected this stanza, as it not only has the same sort of Doric delicacy, which charms us peculiarly in this part of the poem, but also completes the account of his whole day: whereas, this evening scene being omitted, we have only his morning walk, and his noon-tide repose.
6. Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn. L.116.
Between this line and the Epitaph, Mr. Gray originally inserted a very beautiful stanza, which was printed in some of the first editions, but afterwards omitted; because he thought (and in my opinion very justly) that it was too long a parenthesis in this place. The lines however are, in themselves, exquisitely fine, and demand preservation.
There scatter'd oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen are show'rs of violets found;
7. There they alike in trembling hope repose. L. 127.
paventosa speme. Petrarch. Son. 114. G.
J. F. Dove, Printer, St. John's Square.