« ZurückWeiter »
See, a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
-toto surget gens aurea mundo!
Aspice, venturo laetentur ut omnia faeclo !" &c.
P. 1 Ch. lx. v. 1.3.
u Ch. lx. v. 6. w Ch. lx. v. 19, 20.
s Ifai. lx. v. 4.
O'erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
* Isai, li. v. 6. and Ch. liv. v. 10.
THIS is certainly the most animated and sublime of all our Author's compositions, and it is manifestly owing to the great original which he copied. Isaiah abounds in striking and magnificent imagery. See Mr. Mason's paraphrase of the 14th chapter of this exalted prophet. Dr. Johnson, in his youth, gave a translation of this piece, which has been praised and magnified beyond its merits. It may juftly be said, (with all due respect to the great talents of this writer), that in this translation of the Messiah are many hard and unclaffical expressions, a great want of harmony, and many unequal and Un-virgilian lines. I was once present at a dispute, on this subject, betwixt a person of great political talents, and a scholar who had spent his life among the Greek and Roman classics. Both were intimate friends of Johnson. The former, after many objections had been made to this translation by the latter, quoted a line which he thought equal to any he ever had read.
juncique tremit variabilis umbra. The green
reed trembles The Scholar (Pedant if you will) faid, there is no such word as variabilis in any classical writer. Surely, said the other, in Virgil ; variabile femper fæmina. You forget, said the opponent, it is varium & mutabile.
In two men of superior talents it was certainly no disgrace to the one not to have written pure Virgilian verses, nor to the other to have misquoted a line of the Æneid. They only who are such idolaters of the Rambler, as to think he could do every thing equally well, can alone be mortified at hearing that the following lines in his Meffiah are reprehensible ;
Cælum mihi carminis alta materies-
Mittit aromaticas vallis faronica nubes
furat horrida membris
feffa colubri Membra viatoris recreabunt frigore lingur. Boileau despised the writers of modern Latin poetry. Jortin said he was no extraordinary classical scholar, and that he translated Longinus from the Latin. Of all the celebrated French writers Racine
appears to be the best, if not the only Greek scholar, except Fenelon. The rest, Corneille, Moliere, La Motte, Fontenelle, Crebillon, Voltaire, knew little of that language.
I find and feel it impossible to conclude these remarks on Pope's Messiah, without mentioning another poem taken also from Ifaiah, the noble and magnificent ode on the Destruction of Babylon, which Dr. Lowth hath given us in the thirteenth of his Prelections on the Poetry of the Hebrews; and which, the scene, the actors, the sentiments, and diction, all contribute to place in the first rank of the sublime; these Prelections, abounding in remarks entirely new, delivered in the purest and moft expressive language, have been received and read with almost universal approbation, both at home and abroad, as being the richest augmentation literature has in our times received, and as tending to illustrate and recommend the Holy Scriptures in an uncommon degree. It has been consequently a matter of furprize to hear an eminent prelate pronouncing lately, with a dogmatical air, that these Prelections, " are in a vein of criticism not above the common." Notwithstanding which decision, it may safely be affirmed, that they will long survive, after the commentaries on Horace's Art of Poetry, and on the Essay on Man, are loft and forgotten.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
GEORGE LORD LANSDOWN.
Non injussa cano: Te nostrae, Vare, myricae,