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be useless for me to declare
consciousness of inability to do justice to the most perfect of poets, in the following translation. When I first entered upon this work, I sometimes imagined, that I heard the voice of Virgil addressing me with the humanity of his hero;
Quo moriture ruis ? majoraque viribus audes?
Fallit te incautum pietas tua! for indeed nothing but my affection for the author could have engaged me in fo arduous an undertaking
Whoever considers the degree of delicacy and correctness to which the Eclogues of Virgil are polished; together with the ease and wonderful harmony of his numbers; will be convinced of the extreme difficulty of transfusing into another VOL. I.
tongue, beauties of fo refined and subtle a nature. It requires no small command of language, to be able to carry on Pastoral Dialogues, without sinking into vulgar idioms, to unite simplicity with grace, and to preserve familiarity without flatness. A style too highly elevated would be nauseously unnatural, and one too prosaic and plebeian, would be insipid and unaffecting. And to keep a just mean, is perhaps as difficult in writing as in life.
There are few images and sentiments in the Eclogues of Virgil, but what are drawn from the Idylliums of Theocritus : in whom there is a rural, romantic wildness of thought, heightened by the Doric dialect; with such lively pictures of the passions, and of simple unadorned nafure, as are infinitely pleasing to such lovers and judges of true poetry as yourself. Theocritus is indeed the
great store-house of pastoral description; and every succeeding painter of rural beauty (except THOMSON in his Seasons,) hath copied his images from him, without ever looking abroad upon the face of nature themselves. And thus a set of hereditary objects has been continued from one poet to another, which have been often made use of without any propriety either as to age or climate.
But Virgil never borrowed an idea from his Sicilian master, without beautifying and heightening it with the lustre of his language, And per
haps haps it may be observed in general, that if the Romans ever excelled their Grecian masters in the graces of diction, which however was seldom the case, it was owing to their exerting all their powers, in dresing up those thoughts and ideas that were ready found to their hands. The mind can attend but to one object at once, with any vigour and intenseness : and if it be big and dilated with the conception and creation of new images, has scarce leisure to adorn them with that pomp of studied expression, which the writer that coolly copies them, can bestow upon them.
Indeed of all authors, either ancient or modern, Virgil seemeth to be the most perfect in his style; I mean in the poems he lived to finish. There is a profusion of the most daring metaphors and most glowing figures, there is a majesty, and magnificence of diction throughout the Georgics, that notwithstanding the marvellous harmony and grandeur of the Greek versification, is scarcely excelled by Homer himself. Our author's terms and epithets are chosen with such propriety, elegance and expresiveness, that, as Mr. Addison finely observes, We receive more strong and lively ideas of things from his words, than we could have done from the objects themselves: and find our imaginations more affected by his descriptions, than they would have been by the very fight of what he describes. We may justly therefore apply to him what Aristotle thought so high a commendation of
Homer: that he found out LIVING WORDS. If the arrows which are impatient to destroy, and the spears that thirst to drink blood, are so deservedly admired in the Iliad, Virgil doubtless merits equal praise, for giving life and feeling, love and hatred, hope and fear, wonder and ambition, to plants and to trees, and to the very earth itself: and for exalting his favourite insects, by endowing them with reason, passions, arts, and civil government. To use Aristotle's expression, Every thing in this poem hath manners, and all the creation is animated.
But alas ! since this is the case, what must become of a translator of the Georgics, writing in a language not half so lofty, so founding, or so elegant as the Latin, incapable of admitting many of its best and boldest figures, and heavily fettered with the Gothic shackles of rhyme! Is not this endeavouring to imitate a palace of porphyry with flints and bricks? A
whose excellence peculiarly consists in the graces of diction is far more difficult to be translated, than a work where sentiment, or passion, or imagination, is chiefly difplayed. So that I fear we can receive but a faint notion of the beauty of the Georgics from any English version of them. An engraving may indeed faithfully represent the subject, but can give no idea of the colouring of one of Titian's landscapes. Besides, the meanness of the terms of husbandry is concealed and lost in a dead language,