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and they convey no low or despicable image to the mind; but the coarse and common words I was necessitated to use in the following translation, viz. plough and low, wheat, dung, ashes, horse and cow, &c. will, I fear, unconquerably disguft many a delicate reader, if he doth not make proper allowances for a modern compared with an ancient language ; and doth not frequently ręcollect,
So just is the observation of Boileau, that a mean or common thought expressed in pompous diction, generally pleases more than a new or noble fentiment delivered in low and vulgar language; because the number is greater of those whom custom has enabled to judge of words, than whom study has qualified to examine things. In short, the Georgics are the highest flight of Virgil, and the master-pieces of his genius, excepting always the fourth book of the Æneid. Some of the transitions with which they are adorned, are the boldest and most daring imaginable, and hold very much of the enthusiasm of the ancient lyrics ; and I think one may venture to affirm, that this poem contains more original unborrowed beauties, and is more perfect in its kind as a Didactic, than the Æneid as an Epic poem, Of this last work, give me leave to say, that I have ever obferved, persons of elevated and sublime imaginations are more captivated with the Iliad, and men of elegant and
tender minds with the Æneid. He that peruses Homer, is like the traveller that surveys mount Atlas; the vastness and roughness of its rocks, the fole nn gloominess of its pines and cedars, the everlasting snows that cover its head, the torrents that rush down its sides, and the wild beasts that roar in its caverns, all contribute to strike the imagination with inexpressible astonishment and awe, While reading the Æneid is like beholding the Capitoline hill at Rome, on which stood many edifices of exquisite architecture, and whose top was crowned with the famous temple of Jupiter, adorned with the spoils of conquered Greece,
If the design of the Æneid was to compliment Auguftus, and reconcile the Romans to the government of the Julian family; if, as Mr. Pope was used frequently to say, it was evidently as much a party-piece, as Absalom and Achitophel; you, Sir, are too warm a lover of liberty and the virtue of ancient Rome, not to cenfure the poet as an abject flatterer ; unless you will allow the validity of the usual excuse for his conduct; that as the commonwealth maxims were no longer practicable, and a change in the government was unavoidable, after the last struggle for liberty at Philippi had ended fu unfortunately, and even the virtuous Messalla had thought it no shame to submit to the conqueror, Virgil believed it would be the best service he could then do his countrymen, to endeavour to foften their minds towards so mild and gentle a 5
master as Augustus, out of whose hands it was impoflible for them to extort the power he had usurped. And that some change in the constitution of Rome was absolutely necessary, seems to be the opinion of that admirable writer and penetrating politician, the president Montesquieu : It must be acknowledged, says he, that the Roman laws were too weak to govern the republic, when it was arrived at its height: experience has proved it to be an invariable fact, that good and just laws, which raise the reputation and power of a small republic, become improper and useless to it, when once its grandeur is established, because it was the natural effect of such laws to make a people great, but not to govern them when made fo. He adds afterwards with his usual pregnant brevity, Take this compendiuin of the Roman history: they subdued all the nations by their maxims; but when they had so far succeeded, their republic could not subist any longer: the plan of their government must be changed, and maxims contrary to the first, being then introduced, they were divested of all their grandeur.
As to the poetical faults of the Æneid I believe they are but few. What may seem the most liable to censure in the conduct of this poem, is the making Dido a far more interesting and striking character than Lavinia, upon whom the whole action turns. But this circumstance is surely excusable, if we reflect how great a stroke of art the
poet has exhibited, in assigning this origin of the inveterate enmity betwixt the rival powers of Rome and Carthage; who were so often engaged in those important and bloody contentions of which Lųcretius speaks fo sublimely ;
Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu,
Ļ. iii. 845. And farther; those who censure Lavinia as a tame and insipid character, should consider the retired nature of female education among the ancients ; for if Virgil had painted this beautiful young princess any otherwise than full of modesty and reservedrefs, silent and obedient to her parents, he had falsified the manners of the age of which he wrote: in which the fair sex were not permitted to make that conspicuous figure in life they have since done, to the great ornament and improvement of human society.
There are two particulars more, which perhaps will not so easily admit of an excuse. One is, a manifest want of variety of characters in the Æneid, where the few that are introduced are not fufficiently diversified : Homer's Achilles, Ajax, Diomede and Hector, are all brave; and Ulysses and Nestor are wise ; but then each of these heroes is brave and is wife, in a manner eminently different from the other. « The characters of Virgil (says
Mr. Pope)" are far from striking us in this open “ manner ; they lie in a great degree hidden and
undistinguished, and where they are marked most
evidently, affect us not in proportion to those « of Homer. His characters of valour are much “ alike; even that of Turnus seems no way pecu“ liar, but as it is in a different degree : and we !! see nothing that differences the courage of « Mnestheus from that of Sergestus, Cloanthus, " and the rest.” Perhaps it may be urged, that the character of Æneas, which is entirely of our poet's own formation, and in which wisdom, piety, and courage are so happily blended and tempered with each other, may in some measure atone for this deficiency. - The other seeming blemish is, that in reading the last fix books, one cannot forbear, pitying Turnus, who undoubtedly ought to have been drawn with some fault or other to have excited our aversion, or raised our indignation. But to see a valiant young prince, robbed o' a mistress whom he passionately loved and who re. turned his passion, and to whom he was even betrothed; nay to behold him murdered, while he fights to maintain his claim to her, by a perfect
stranger, who has nothing to plead for his conduct but the gods and oracles; are circumstances that
while they prejudice the reader against Æneas, deeply interest him for Turnus. It were to be wished the poet had either given the latter some unamiable quality, or else had represented Lavinia as averse to the match. All that can be said in 6