Page images
PDF
EPUB

this interesting poet in an English dress, Mr. Francis has been supposed to have succeeded best in that which is most difficult, the lyric part, and likewise to have conveyed the spirit and sense of the original, in the Epistles and Satires, with least injury to the genius of the author. In his preface, he acknowledges his obligations to Dr. Dunkin, a poet of some celebrity, and an excellent classical scholar.

While Horace is accounted the most difficult, he is perhaps of all Latin authors the most popular; and accordingly we find more frequent quotations from him than from any other. He is in Latin what Pope is in English; and the reason is honourable to his talents, to the refinement and elegance of his sentiments, and to the universal range he took through the extensive provinces of manners, morals, and criticism. He was contemporary with Virgil and Varius, by whose means he obtained the patronage of Maecenas and Augustus. To Mæcenas, he was so warmly attached, that it has been supposed, but not on sufficient authority, that he put an end to his own life in order to follow his generous patron. It is certain that he died soon after Maecenas, in the fifty-seventh year of his age, and in the year eighth before the Christian era.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

PREFACE.

THE works of Horace have been always numbered among the most valuable remains of antiquity. if we may rely upon the judgment of his commentators, he has united in his lyric poetry the enthusiasm of Pindar, the majesty of Alcæus, the tenderness of Sappho, and the charming levities of Anacreon. Yet he has beauties of his own genius, his own manner, that form his peculiar character. Many of his odes are varied with irony and satire; with delicacy and humour; with ease and pleasantry. Some of them were written in the first heat of imagination, when circumstances of time, places, person's, were strong upon him. In others, he rises in full poetical dignity; sublime in sentiments, bold in allusions, and profuse of figures; frugal of words, curious in his choice, and happily venturous in his use of them; pure in his diction, animated in his expressions, and harmonious in his numbers; artful in the plans of his poems, regular in their conduct, and happy in their execution. Surely the best attempts to translate so various an author, will require great indulgence, and any tolerable success may deserve it. But perhaps we shall better see the variety of our poet's genius by considering, if such an expression may be forgiven, the various genius of lyric poetry.

In the first ages of Greece, the lyric Muse was particularly appointed to celebrate the praises of the gods and heroes in their festivals. The noblest precepts of philosophy were enlivened by music, and animated by the language of poetry, while reason governed the raptures, which a religious enthusiasm inspired. We may therefore believe, that nothing could enter into its compositions, but what was chaste and correct, awful and sublime, while it was employed in singing the praises of gods, and immortalising the actions of men; in supporting the sacred truths of religion, and encouraging the practice of moral virtue. Such was its proper, natural character. But it soon lost this original excellence, and became debased to every light description of love, dances, feasts, gallantry, and wine. In this view it may be compared to one of its first masters, who descended (according to an expression of Quintilian) into sports and loves, although naturally formed for nobler subjects.

Yet this alteration, though it lessened its natural dignity, seems to have added to that pleasing variety, to which no other poetry can pretend. For when the skill and experience of the persons, who first cultivated the different kinds of poems, gave to each kind those numbers, which seemed most proper for it; as lyric poetry had given birth to all sorts of verse, so it preserved to itself all the measures of which they are composed, the pentameter alone excepted. Thus a variety of subjects is agreeably maintained by a variety of numbers, and they have both contributed to that free, unbounded spirit, which forms the peculiar character of lyric poetry.

In this freedom of spirit it disdains to mark the transitions, which preserve a connection in all other writings, and which naturally conduct the mind from one thought to another. From whence it must often happen, that while a translator is grammatically explaining his author, and opening his reasoning, that genius and manner, and boldness of thinking, which are effects of an immediate poetical enthusiasm, shall either be wholly lost, or greatly dissipated and enfeebled.

It is remarkable, that this kind of poetry was the first that appeared in Rome, as it was the first that was known in Greece, and was used in the same subjects by the Romans, while they had not yet any correspondence with Greece and her learning. However, it continued in almost its first rudeness until the Augustan age, when Horace, improved by reading and imitating the Grecian poets, carried

it at once to its perfection, and, in the judgment of Quintilian, is almost the only Latin lyric poet worthy of being read.

If we should inquire into the state of lyric poetry among English writers, we shall be obliged to confess that their taste was early vitiated, and their judgment unhappily misguided, by the too great success of one man of wit, who first gave Pindar's name to a wild, irregular kind of versification, of which there is not one instance in Pindar. All his numbers are exact, and all his strophes regular. But from the authority of Cowley, supported by an inconsiderate imitation of some other eminent writers, every idler in poetry, who has not strength or industry sufficient to confine his rhymes and numbers to some constant form (which can alone give them real harmony), makes an art of wandering, and then calls his work a Pindaric ode, in which, by the same justness of criticism, his imagina. tion is as wild and licentious as his numbers are loose and irregular.

To avoid this fault, all the measures in the following translation are constantly maintained through each ode, except in the Carmen Seculare. But it may be useless to excuse particulars, when possibly the whole poem, in its present form, may be condemned. Yet by foreigners it has been called Mr. Sanadon's master-piece; and since the odes of Horace are certainly not in that order at present, ia which they were originally published, it has been esteemed an uncommon proof of his critical sagacity, to have reconciled in one whole so many broken parts, that have so long perplexed the best commertators. Yet the reader will find some alteration of Mr. Sanadon's plan, for which the translator is obliged to the learned and reverend Mr. Jones, who lately published a very valuable edition of Horace.

་་

Although it was impossible to preserve our author's measures, yet the form of his strophes has been often imitated, and, in general, there will be found a greater number of different stanzas in the translation, than in the original. One advantage there is peculiar to English stanzas, that some of them have a natural ease and fluency; others seem formed for humour and pleasantry; while a third kind has a tone of dignity and solemnity proper for sublimer subjects. Thus the measures and form of the stanza will often show the design and cast of the ode.

In the translation it has not only been endeavoured to give the poet's general meaning, but to preserve that force of expression, in which his peculiar happiness consists, and that boldness of epithets, for which one of his commentators calls him wonderful, and almost divine. Many odes, especially in the first book, have little more than choice of words and harmony of numbers to make them not upworthy of their author; and although these were really the most difficult parts of the translation, yet they will be certainly least entertaining to an English reader. In the usual manner of paraphrase or imitation, it had not been impossible to have given them more spirit, according to the taste of many 2 modern critic, by enlarging the poet's design, and adding to his thoughts; but, however hardy the translator may seem by his present adventurous undertaking, this was a presumption, of which he war very little capable.

It would be a tedious, useless, and ill-natured labour, to point out the faults in other versions of our poet. Let us rather acknowledge, that there are excellent lines in them, of which the present translator has taken as many as he could use upon his plan, and wishes, for the sake of the public, they could be found to exceed a hundred.

[ocr errors]

Yet still the far more valuable, parts of our author remain to be considered. If in his Odes he appears with all the charms and graces and ornaments of poetry, in his Epistles and Satires be gives us the noblest precepts of philosophy, that ever formed the human heart, or improved the understanding. He tells us, that Homer shows in a clearer and more persuasive manner the beauty and advantages of virtue, the deformity and dangers of vice, than even the Stoic apd Academician philosophers. Yet the morality of Homer is confined to polities; to the virtues or vices of princes, upon whom, indeed, the happiness or misery of their people depends. But in the thorality of Horace, the happiness and misery of all human kind are interested. Here the gratitude and affection due to a good father for his care and tenderness are impressed upon the child. Here we are taught, that real greatness does not arise from the accident of being nobly boru, or descended from a race of titled ancestors. We must imitate those virtues, to which they were indebted for their titles. Such are the sentiments of our poet's philosophy. If his religion were a subject for our curiosity, it will appear to have been founded upon the best reasoning of the human understanding. He asserts a supreme Being, with that noble-ides

[ocr errors]

i

of him, Unde nil majus generatur ipso, nec viget quicquam simile aut secundum. From this Being all others, both gods and men, received their existence, and upon him they depend for the continuance of it. But as creeds and practice too frequently differ, it is acknowledged, that our post, although not professedly the disciple of any particular school, in general lived an Epicurean. Such a religion was happily suited to the natural indolence of his disposition, the carelessness of his temper, and the companionable gaiety of his humour. Yet we find him honest, just, humane, and good-natured; firm in his friendships; grateful, without flattery, to the bounty of Mæcenas, and wisely contented with the fortune which he had the honour of receiving from his illustrious patron. Among the numerous authors of antiquity, others, perhaps, may be more admired, or esteemed; none more amiable, more worthy to be beloved.

The difficulty of translating this part of his works arises in general from the frequent translations of lines in Grecian writers, and parodies on those of his contemporaries; from his introducing new characters on the scene, and changing the speakers of his dialogues; from his not marking his transitions from thought to thought, but giving them as they lay in his mind. These unconnected transitions are of great life and spirit; nor should a translator he too coldly regular in supplying the connection, since it will be a tame performance, that gives us the sense of Horace, if it be not given in his peculiar manner.

As his editors have often perplexed the text, by altering the measures of our author for the sake of a more musical cadence; so they, who have imitated or translated him with most success in English, seem to have forgotten, that a carelessness of numbers is a peculiar part of his character, which ought to be preserved almost as faithfully as his sentiments.

Style is genius, and justly numbered amongst the fountains of the sublime. Expression in poetry is that colouring in painting, which distinguishes a master's hand. But the misfortune of our translators is, that they have only one style; and consequently all their authors, Homer, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, are compelled to speak in the same numbers, and the same unvaried expression. The free-born spirit of poetry is confined in twenty constant syllables, and the sense regularly ends with every second line, as if the writer had not strength enough to support himself, or courage enough to venture into a third.

This unclassical kind of versification would be particularly most unnatural in a translation of Horace. It would make him argue in couplets, and the persons of his dialogues converse almost in epigrams. The translator has therefore followed the sense in one unbroken period. He has often endeavoured to imitate the prosaic cadence of his author, when he could with much more ease have made him appear like a modern original. He has run the lines into each other, as he believes it the best manner of preserving that loose, prosaic poetry, that negligence of numbers, which has ever been esteemed one of his peculiar beauties.

If we consider the poetical spirit and numerous variety of measures in his Odes, we may believe this careless versification in his Satires was not an effect of necessity, but of judgment. His frequent use of proverbs and common phrases; his different manner of expressing the same sentiments in his Odes and Satires, will convince us, that he really thought a satirist and a poet were extremely different characters; that the language of poetry was as unnatural to the morality of satire, as a low, familiar style to the majesty of an epic poem; or, as he himself expresses it, that the Muse of satire walks on foot, while all her sisters soar into the skies.

If this criticism be just, the dispute between Juvenal and Horace, with regard to style, may with ease be decided. In Juvenal the vices of his age are shown in all their natural horrours. He commands his readers in the language of authority, and terrifies them with images drawn in the boldness of a truly poetical spirit. He stands like a priest at an altar sacrificing to his gods; but even a priest, in his warmest zeal of religion, might be forgiven, if he confessed so much humanity, as not to take pleasure in hearing the groans, and searching into the entrails of the victim.

There is a kind of satire of such malignity, as too surely proceeds from a desire of gratifying a constitutional cruelty of temper. The satirist does not appear like a magistrate to give sentence on the vices of mankind, but like an executioner to slaughter the criminal. It was the saying of a great man, that he who hated vice, hated mankind; but certainly he does not love them as he ought, who indulges his natural sagacity in a discernment of their faults, and feels an ill-natured pleasure in exposing them to public view.

« PreviousContinue »