Abbildungen der Seite

beautiful. As for its being esteemed a close translation, I doubt not many have been led into that error by the fhortness of it, which proceeds not from his following the original line by line, but from the contractions above-mentioned. He fometimes omits whole fimiles and fentences, and is now and then guilty of miftakes, into which no writer of his learning could have fallen, but through careleffnefs. His poetry, as well as Ogilby's, is too mean for criticism.

It is a great lofs to the poetical world, that Mr. Dryden did not live to tranflate the Iliad. He has left us only the first book, and a small part of the fixth; in which if he has in fome places not truly interpreted the fenfe, or preferved the antiquities, it ought to be excufed on account of the hafte he was obliged to write in. He feems to have had too much regard to Chapman, whofe words he fometimes copies, and has unhappily followed him in paffages where he wanders from the original. However, had he translated the whole work, I would no more have attempted Homer after him than Virgil, his Version of whom (notwithstanding some human errors) is the most noble and fpirited tranflation I know in any language.

than, is published in the entertaining Anecdotes of Distinguished Perfons, vol. ii. p. 94. We know how highly he was celebrated by Ralph Bathurft and Cowley; and even by Lord Clarendon, in his anfwer to the Leviathan.


language. But the fate of great geniufes is like that of great ministers, though they are confeffedly the first in the commonwealth of letters, they must be envied and calumniated only for being at the head of it.

That which in my opinion ought to be the endeavour of any one who tranflates Homer, is above all things to keep alive that spirit and fire which makes his chief character: in particular places, where the fense can bear any doubt, to follow the strongest and most poetical, as most agreeing with that character; to copy him in all the variations of his style, and the different modulations of his numbers; to preferve in the more active or defcriptive parts, a warmth and elevation; in the more fedate or narrative, a plainness and folemnity; in the fpeeches, a fullness and perfpicuity; in the fentences, a fhortness and gravity: not to neglect even the little figures and turns on the words, nor fometimes the very cast of the periods; neither to omit nor confound any rites or customs of antiquity perhaps too he ought to include the whole in a fhorter compass than has hitherto been done by any translator, who has tolerably preferved either the sense or poetry. What I would further recommend to him, is to study his Author rather from his own text, than from any commentaries, how learned foever, or whatever figure they may make in the estimation of the world; to confider him attentively in comparifon with Virgil above all the ancients, and with FF 3


Milton above all the moderns. Next thefe, the Archbishop of Cambray's Telemachus * may give him the trueft idea of the fpirit and turn of our Author, and Boffu's admirable treatise of the Epic Poem the jufteft notion of his defign and conduct. But after all, with whatever judgment and ftudy a man may proceed, or with whatever happiness he may perform fuch a work, he must hope to please but a few; those only who have at once a taste of poetry, and competent learning. For to fatisfy fuch as want either, is not in the nature of this undertaking; fince a mere modern wit can like nothing that is not modern, and a pedant nothing that is not Greek.

What I have done is fubmitted to the public, from whose opinions I am prepared to learn; though I fear no judges fo little as our best poets, who are most fenfible of the weight of this task. As for the worst, whatever they fhall please to say, they may give me fome concern as they are unhappy men, but none as they are malignant writers. I was guided in this tranflation by judgments very different from theirs, and by perfons for whom they can have no kindness, if an old obfervation be true, that the ftrongest antipathy in the world is that of fools to men of wit. Mr. Addison was the firft whofe advice determined

* The chief fault of which is, the mixture of ancient and modern manners; and an introduction of fentiments too pure and #efined for old heroes to utter or think of.


determined me to undertake this tafk*, who was pleased to write to me upon that occafion in fuch terms as I cannot repeat without vanity. I was obliged to Sir Richard Steele for a very early recommendation of my undertaking to the public. Dr. Swift promoted my intereft with that warmth with which he always ferves his friend. The humanity and franknefs of Sir Samuel Garth are what I never knew wanting on any occafion. I must also acknowledge with infinite pleasure, the many friendly offices, as well as fincere criticisms of Mr. Congreve, who had led me the way in tranflating fome parts of Homert. I must add the names of Mr. Rowe and Dr. Parnell, though I shall take a further opportunity of doing juftice to the last, whose good-nature (to give it a great panegyric) is no lefs extenfive than his learning. The favour of these gentlemen is not en


* This is a curious circumftance, which the reader will bear in mind, when he confiders the fevere charge made against Addison, on account of the transaction respecting another translation.

In former editions it followed, "as I wish for the fake of the world, he had prevented me in the reft;" alfo in page 420, in former editions, fpeaking of Lord Lansdown, it was faid, “that so excellent an Imitator of Homer as the Author,”—which words are now omitted. Several other expreffions are altered, up and down, as in page 376,"must not contribute," inftead of "owing to the infertion;" common critics," for "moft;" page 380, “to furnish,” inftead of "fupply;" page 384, "that of Ajax," inftead of "we fee in Ajax" Thefe alterations, it is prefumed, were made by Dr. Warburton, who tells us, Pope defired him to corred this Preface: fuch was the partiality of Pope to his friend!

and 66



tirely undeserved by one who bears them so true an affection. But what can I say of the honour fo many of the Great have done me, while the first names of the age appear as my fubfcribers, and the most diftinguished patrons and ornaments of learning as my chief encouragers? Among these it is a particular pleasure to me to find that my highest obligations are to fuch who have done moft honour to the name of Poet: that his Grace the Duke of Buckingham was not difpleafed I fhould undertake the Author to whom he has given (in his excellent Effay) fo complete a praise *:

Read Homer once, and you can read no more;
For all books elfe appear fo mean, fo poor,
Verfe will feem Profe: but ftill perfift to read,
And Homer will be all the Books you need.


* In the former editions it was, "the finest praife he ever re ceived;" and the two last lines here quoted from Buckingham 'flood thus:

Verfe will feem Profe: but still perfist to read,
And Homer will be all the Books you need.

But Buckingham was for ever altering and revifing his Essay. It concluded with thefe lines:

Muft above Milton's lofty flights prevail,

Succeed where great Torquato, and where greater Spenfer fail ; which he thus at last corrected:

Must above Taffo's lofty flights prevail,

Succeed where Spenfer, and e'en Milton fail.

Boileau's praise of Homer is furely far more complete than these Profaic lines of Buckingham, so much extolled by our Author; On diroit que pour plaire, inftruit par Homere ait à Venus dérobé fa ceinture,

la nature,


« ZurückWeiter »