« PreviousContinue »
Alta quies lecto non abrumpenda saligno.
Distinguunt litui, rumpuntque silentia cantu.” The two succeeding words of Horace, forumque vitat, are 90 prolific as to produce seven lines from the paraphrast;
“ Vitat fora, vitat et æslus
Orando ingratos queritur se condere solet.” This is truly the art of “ filling the world with words," Imia, tations, pursued with such latitude, and with such total disregard to the manner of the original author, can scarcely be Otherwise considered than as exercises on a subject previously occupied; the attempt is rather competition than translation. Indeed, the grave and lofty verse, which Miss Seward has chosen for her odes, excludes every comparison with the sportive measures of Horace. We may remark, as the general fault of his English translators, that their versions have been too solemn. Perhaps a more adequate impression of the graces of the courtly Roman might be conveyed to the English reader, if the measure of some of our songs were adopted in translating him. We possess sufficient varieties of metre, to suit the graver and the gayer turn of his odes; examples of which may be found in Cowley, Lansdowne, Prior, and others,
Who from the Antients like the Antients write. We select, as a favourable specimen of Miss Seward's imitations, the Ode to Thaliarchus :
* * In dazzling whiteness, lo! Soracte towers,
As all the mountain were one leap of snow !
** This Ode was probably written at the Country Seat of that Nobleman, near the mountain Soracte, in Tuscany, twenty-six miles from Rome.'
And peaceful then yon aged ash shall stand;
Today is thine ;--enjoy it, and be wise !
Now, in its flow, let pleasures round thee bloom;
While frolic Beauty seeks the near alcoves.
A laugh, half-smother'd, thy pleas'd ear shall meet,
Betray the artifice of coy retreat ;
The promis'd bracelet may thy force employ;
Shall add new value to the ravish'd toy.' Of the more free paraphrases, we have an agreeable example in the ode addressed
• To the Hon. THOMAS ERSKINE.
OERSKINE! still an equal mind maintain,
Nor Fortune's smile awake thy triumph vain,
'Tis thine to trace the Law's perplexing maze,
To high decrees devote thy honor'd days.
Mix their thick branches in the summer sky,
Laboriously oblique, is hurrying by;
In whose bright cups the liquid ruby flows,
Presents her too, too transitory roze ;
As erst thy Handmaids, when with brow serene,
A golden Palace deck her savage scere «* The Author had the pleasure of passing a fortnight with Mr. and Mrs. Erskine at Buxton in August 1796.'
« At frequent periods woo th' inspiring Band
Lefore thy days their summer-course have run,
Nor aim to cut the brilliant thread they spun.
Fann'd by pure gales on Hampstead's airy downs,
And their fair Mother's smile thy banquet crowns !
These, and propitious Fortune's golden hoard;
When set thy orb, a less illustrious Lord.
Charm'd every ear with TULLY's periods bland ?
And with the thunder of the Greek command?
Threw tenfold lustre on thy noble Line ?
One hour's exemption from the sable shrine.
Throws her pale edicts in reverseless doom!
And lo! the great Man's prize!-a Silent Toma!' In the version of the Ode to Mæcenas, (p. 141,) we could not help remarking one stanza as superior to the rest, and which reminded us of the pleasant, but too waggish imitations of Horace by the late Mr. Hall Stephenson :
"Ah! happy friend ! for whom an eye,
Of splendid and resistless fire,
For the mild gleams of soft desire !' This is a large paraphrase on Horace's fulgentes oculos : but fifty stanzas, if equal in merit, would not be reckoned tedious on this subject. The imitation of that delightful ode,
“ Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis, &c. is written, we are told, expressly for the benefit of those who cannot read the original. We should therefore have passed it without any remark, had not our eye been caught by some singular criticisms contained in a note. Miss Seward seems to think that Horace is not sufficiently minute and copious in his descriptions; and, to our great surprise, she deduces the remark from this very ode, which is celebrated for its descriptive excellence. That the circumstances of the description are suggested forcibly, in few words, is the great and uncommon
praise of the Roman lyrist. Miss Seward observes that the image of the 'well-fed sheep hastening home' is not picturesque and she thinks that, when he addsm' to see the weary oxen dragging avith languid neck the inverted ploughshare,' he gives 'perhaps the most poetic feature in this ode.'-We cammot sacri. fice so much to politeness, as to acquiesce in this criticism. How was it possible for the lady to overlook that delicious passage, which, on every perusal, awakes in the reader all the pleasurable emotions of rural leisure and retirement ?
* Libet jacere modo sub antiqua ilice :
Modo in tenaci gramine.
QUÈRUNTUR IN SILVIS AVES, .
SOMNOS QUOD INVITET LEVES." These soothing ideas could not be more distinctly impressed in a thousand verses than in these last four lines : but the votary of minute description may feel dissatisfied, because the poet has not informed us whether the banks were shaded with beech or poplar, and whether the birds were ring-doves or turtles. This is the autumnal-tablet given by Horace. The winter. piece is not less correct in its colouring, nor less perfect in its design. Though we must forbear to multiply our quotations, we cannot omit the very picturesque whole of that description, in which Miss S. has only been able to find one poetic image:
" Has inter epulas, ut juvat pastas oves
Videre PROPERANTES domum!
Collo trahentes LANGUIDO,
CIRCUM RENIDENTES Lares!" What a pleasing groupe has the poet here embodied ! we sit at the table, partake the amusemerits, and enjoy the scenes, of the rustic philosopher.
In the last line of Miss S.'s imitation of this ode, she has condescended (we dare say, unconsciously) to borrow from
the despot Johnson,' as she styles him: she speaks of misers, who
“ Against experienced disappointment, try
With gold to purchase that, which gold can never buy.” Every reader of Johnson's “ London" must recollect this fine passage:
“ But thou, should tempting villainy present,
All Marlbro' hoarded, or all Villiers spent,
While we object to Miss Seward's censure of Horace's rural descriptions, we are aware that there are m.ny beautiful passages in the writings of other authors, which comprehend a great variety of minute details : but their excellence does not consist in prolixity. Two instances in Comus occur to us, in which there is a peculiar beauty, because the time of the day is designed by the progress of rural occupations :
“ Two such I saw, what time the labour'd ox
In his loose traces from the furrow came,
And the swinkt hedger at his supper sat.”
Had ta’en their supper on the savoury herb
To meditate my rural minstrelsy." We confess that we should wish to see this accomplished lady's talents exercised, in future, on original composition rather than on translation. The tones of her muse are naturally solemn and plaintive, and they will not easily assume new modulations. Her admirers will require 110 change of manner; and, as Miss Seward has ever shewn herself in her works the friend of Genius and of Virtue, we have no doubt that her productions will continue to meet with support, froin the most liberal and best-informed part of society.
ART. II. A View of the Causes and Consequences of the American
Revolution ; in Thirteen Discourses, Preached in North America between the Years 1763 and 1775: with an Historical Preface. By Jonathan Boucher, A. M. and F. A.S. Vicar of Epsom in the County of Surrey. 8vo. pp. 700. gs. Boards. Robinsons.
1797 TH "He attention of the reader of this volume will be caught at
the opening of it, and he will be materially instructed in the principles and views of the author, by the dedication to George Washington, Esq. This dedication is written in a manly and elegant strain, and opens thus :
• Sir, • In prefixing your name to a work avowellly hostile to that Revotution in which you bore a distinguished part, I am not conscious that I deserve to be charged with inconsistency. I do not address myself to the General of a Conventional Army; but to the late dignified President of the United States, the friend of rational and sober free. dom.'