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"fhew their different manner, in fubjects "that have a refemblance. I have therefore "chofen the first acts of the Death of Cæ-, "far, where there is a confpiracy, as in "Cinna; and in which every thing is "relative to the confpiracy to the end of "the third Act. The reader may compare "the thoughts, the style, and the judg"ment of Shakespear, with the thoughts, "the style, and the judgment of Corneille. "It belongs to the readers of all nations. "to pronounce between the one and the "other. A Frenchman or an Englishman
might perhaps be fufpected of fome par
tiality. To institute this process, it was
neceffary to make an exact tranflation; "what was profe in the tragedy of Shakefpear is rendered into profe; what was "in blank verfe, into blank verfe, and "almost verse by verfe; what is low and "familiar is tranflated familiarly and in a "low ftyle. The tranflator has endea"voured to rife with the author when he "rises; and when he is turgid and bom
baft, not to be more or lefs fo than he.
The translation given here is the most faithful that can be, and the only faithful "one in our language, of any author ancient
or modern. I have but a word to add, "which is, that blank verfe costs nothing "but the trouble of dictating: it is not more difficult to write, than a letter. If
people should take it into their heads to "write tragedies in blank verfe, and to act "them on our theatre, Tragedy is ruined: "take away the difficulty, and you take away the merit."
An English reader will hardly forbear smiling at this bold affertion concerning the facility of writing blank verfe. It is indeed no hard matter to write bad verfe of any kind; but, as fo few of our Poets have attained to that perfection in it, which Shakespear and Milton have, we have rea fon to fuppofe the art to be difficult. What ever is well done, in Poetry or Eloquence, appears eafy to be done. In the theatrical dialogue, which is an imitation of difcourse, our Critics require the language of
nature, and a just resemblance of the thing imitated, without the appearance of effort and labour. Poffibly there is as much of difficulty in blank verfe to the Poet, as there appears of eafe in it to the Reader. Like the ceftus of Venus, formed by the happy skill of the Graces, it beft exerts its charms, while the artifice of the texture is partly concealed. Dryden, who brought the art of rhyme to great excellence, endeavoured to introduce it on our stage; but nature and tafte revolted against an imitation of dialogue, fo entirely different from that, in which men difcourfe. The verfe, Mr. de Voltaire thus condemns, is perhaps not lefs happily adapted, than the iambic, to the dramatic offices. It rifes gracefully into the Sublime; it can flide happily into the Familiar; hasten its career if impelled by vehemence of paffion; pause in the hesitation of doubt; appear lingering and languid, in dejection and forrow; is capable of varying its accent, and adapting its harmony, to the fentiment, it should convey, and the paffion it would excite,
with all the power of mufical expreffion. Even a person, who did not understand our language, would find himself very differently affected, by the following speeches in that metre:
Vengeance! plague! death! confufion!-
I'd fpeak with the Duke of Cornwall, and his wife:
Are they inform'd of this? my breath and blood!
I have lived long enough: my way of life
The charm arifing from the tones of English blank verfe cannot be felt by a Foreigner,
Foreigner, who is fo far from being acquainted with the pronunciation of our language, that he often mistakes the fignification of the most common words; of which there are many remarkable instances in this boasted translation of Julius Cæsar; for Mr. de Voltaire does not know, for example, that the word courfe fignifies method of proceeding, but imagines it means a courfe of dishes, or a race. Brutus replies to Caffius's propofal to kill Cæfar:
Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Caffius,
Thus it is tranflated by Mr. de Voltaire:
Cette course aux Romains paraitrait trop fanglante;
Si nous coupons la tête, & puis hachons les membres,
The following ingenious note is added by the tranflator. The word courfe, fays he,