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and they convey no low or despicable image to the mind; but the coarfe and common words I was neceffitated to use in the following translation, viz. plough and fow, wheat, dung, afbes, horfe and cow, &c. will, I fear, unconquerably difguft many a delicate reader, if he doth not make proper allowances for a modern compared with an ancient language; and doth not frequently recollect,
verbis ea vincere magnum
So juft is the obfervation of Boileau, that a mean or common thought expreffed 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 ftudy has qualified to examine things. In fhort, 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 tranfitions with which they are adorned, are the boldest and moft 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 laft work, give me leave to fay, that I have ever obferved, perfons of elevated and fublime imaginations are more captivated with the Iliad, and men of elegant and b 3 tender
tender minds with the Æneid. He that perufes Homer, is like the traveller that furveys mount Atlas; the vastnefs and roughness of its rocks, the folemn gloominefs of its pines and cedars, the everlasting fnows that cover its head, the torrents that rush down its fides, and the wild beafts that roar in its caverns, all contribute to strike the imagination with inexpreffible aftonishment and awe, While reading the Æneid is like beholding the Capitoline hill at Rome, on which tood many edifices of exquifite architecture, and whofe top was crowned with the famous temple of Jupiter, adorned with the fpoils of conquered Greece,
If the defign 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 fay, it was evidently as much a party-piece, as Abfalom 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 ufual excufe for his conduct; that as the commonwealth maxims were no longer practicable, and a change in the government was unavoidable, after the laft ftruggle for liberty at Philippi had ended fo unfortunately, and even the virtuous Meffalla had thought it no fhame to fubmit to the conqueror, Virgil believed it would be the beft fervice he could then do his countrymen, to endeavour to foften their minds towards fo mild and gentle a
mafter as Auguftus, out of whofe hands it was impoffible for them to extort the power he had ufurped. And that fome change in the conftitution of Rome was abfolutely neceffary, feems to be the opinion of that admirable writer and penetrating politician, the prefident Montefquieu: It must be acknowledged, fays 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 juft laws, which raise the reputation and power of a small republic, become improper and ufelefs to it, when once its grandeur is established, because it was the natural effect of fuch laws to make a people great, but not to govern them when made fo. He adds afterwards with his ufual pregnant brevity, Take this compendium of the Roman history: they subdued all the nations by their maxims; but when they had fo far fucceeded, their republic could not fubfift 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 Eneid I believe they are but few. What may feem the most liable to cenfure in the conduct of this poem, is the making Dido a far more interefting and ftriking character than Lavinia, upon whom the whole action turns. But this circumftance is furely excufable, if we reflect how great a stroke of art the b 4 poet
poet has exhibited, in affigning 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 Lụcretius fpeaks fo fublimely;
Omnia cum belli trepido concuffa tumultu,
L. iii. 845.
And farther; thofe who cenfure Lavinia as tame and infipid character, fhould confider the retired nature of female education among the ancients; for if VIRGIL had painted this beautiful young princess any otherwife than full of modefty and reservedness, filent and obedient to her parents, he had falfified the manners of the age of which he wrote in which the fair fex were not permitted to make that confpicuous figure in life they have fince done, to the great ornament and improvement of human fociety.
There are two particulars more, which perhaps will not fo cafily admit of an excufe. One is, a manifeft want of variety of characters in the Eneid, where the few that are introduced are not fufficiently diverfified: Homer's Achilles, Ajax, Diomede and Hector, are all brave; and Ulyffes and Neftor are wife; but then each of these heroes is brave and is wife, in a manner eminently different from the other. "The characters of Virgil (fays
Mr. Pope) are far from ftriking us in this open "manner; they lie in a great degree hidden and "undiftinguished, and where they are marked moft "evidently, affect us not in proportion to thofe "of Homer. His characters of valour are much "alike; even that of Turnus feems no way pecu
liar, but as it is in a different degree: and we "fee nothing that differences the courage of "Mneftheus from that of Sergeftus, Cloanthus, " and the reft." Perhaps it may be urged, that the character of Eneas, 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 fome measure atone for this deficiency.-The other feeming blemish is, that in reading the laft fix books, one cannot forbear pitying Turnus, who undoubtedly ought to have been drawn with fome fault or other to have excited our averfion, or raifed our indignation. But to fee a valiant young prince, robbed of a mistress whom he paffionately loved and who re turned his paffion, and to whom he was even betrothed; nay to behold him murdered, while he fights to maintain his claim to her, by a perfect ftranger, who has nothing to plead for his conduc but the gods and oracles; are circumstances that while they prejudice the reader against Æneas, deeply intereft him for Turnus. It were to be wished the poet had either given the latter fome unamiable quality, or elfe had reprefented Lavinia as averfe to the match. All that can be faid in defence