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Lur'd by his Form, a fair Italian Maid
By Sleep's soft veil, ye agitate my heart,
In the 92d sonnet, which turns on Homer's beautiful comparison between the falling leaves in autumn and the decay of human generations, (now somewhat trite in its application,) we think that the close has novelty and merit:
Yet, like those weak, deserted leaves forlorn,
Much of this criticism may be reckoned minute: but the na ture of the composition requires it. The sonnet, at best, may be deemed a trifle; yet to trifle with elegance and skill is no
We now proceed to consider the author's imitations of Horace; and, for this purpose, it is necessary to develope the particular turn which Miss Seward has given to them. I have taken,' she says, only the Poet's general idea, frequently expanding it, to elucidate the sense, and to bring the images more distinctly to the eye; induced by the hope of thus infusing into these paraphrases the spirit of original composition.' We cannot help wishing, with as much good-will to the author as Uncle Toby felt towards Dr. Slop when he wished that the Doctor had seen "what prodigious armies we had in Flanders," that Miss S. had seen Dr. Campbell's Chapter on Paraphrases", before she sat down to make them.
Some German Latinists of the last century were fond of turning Horace in a similar manner. One of them employed himself on an ode imitated by Miss Seward; and it may be amusing to the reader to compare the results of their labours. Of one line, the amplifying talents of the German have made six:
"Net excitatur classico miles truci,"
is the text; here follows the paraphrase: "Quid refert, alius thalamo sublimis eburno,
Ille thoro, cui sponda salix aut fissile robur,
*In the Philosophy of Rhetoric,
Alta quies lecto non abrumpenda saligno.
The two succeeding words of Horace, forumque vitat, are so prolific as to produce seven lines from the paraphrast: "Vitat fora, vitat et astus
Undantis populi; nec quid tabularia, nec quid
This is truly the art of "filling the world with words." Imitations, 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 heap of snow!.
Let plenteous billets, on the glowing hearth,
< High Heaven, resistless in his varied sway,
Speaks! The wild elements contend no more;
*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;
Spears, and the Steed, in busy camps impel;
Soft as thy tip-toe steps the mazes rove,
And then the ring, or, from her snowy arm,
Of the more free paraphrases, we have an agreeable example in the ode addressed
To the Hon. THOMAS ERSKINE.
Horace, Book the Second, Ode the Third, imitated.
Conscious the mortal stamp is on thy breast,
There let thy duteous Train the banquet bring,
While every Muse and Grace auspicious wait,
*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
Fann'd by pure gales on Hampstead's airy downs,
What can it then avail thee that thy fame
E'en now thy lot shakes in the Urn, whence Fate
And lo! the great Man's prize!—a SILENT TOMB!'
In the version of the Ode to Mecenas, (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,
Lays all its pointed arrows by,
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 Cc 4
praise of the Roman lyrist. Miss Seward observes that the image of the well-fed sheep hastening home' is not picturesquez and she thinks that, when he adds to see the weary oxen dragging with languid neck the inverted ploughshare, he gives 'perhaps the most poetic feature in this ode.'-We cannot sacrifice 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 rurál leisure and retirement?
"Libet jacere modo sub antiqua ilice:
Modo in tenaci gramine.
LABUNTUR ALTIS INTERIM RIPIS AQUE¦
QUERUNTUR IN SILVIS AVES,
FONTESQUE LYMPHIS OBSTREPUNT MANANTIBUS,
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 winterpiece 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 pástas oves Videre PROPERANTES domum!
Videre FESSOS vomerem INVERSUM boves
POSITOSQUE VERNAS, ditis EXAMEN domûs,
What a pleasing groupe has the poet here embodied! we sit at the table, partake the amusements, 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,