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Yet this must be understood with some limitations.
For i. There are in every language some current and authorized forms of speech, which can hardly be avoided by a writer without affectation. They are such as express the most obvious sentiments, and which the ordinary occasions of life are perpetually obtruding on us. Now these, as by common agreement, we chuse to deliver to one another in the same form of words. Convenience dictates this to one set of writers, and politeness renders it sacred in another. Thus it will be true of certain phrases (as, universally, of the words, in any language), that they are left in common to all writers; and can be claimed as matter of property, by none. Not that such phraseology will be frequent in nobler compositions, as the familiarity of its usage takes from their natural reserve and dignity. Yet on certain occafionsy which justify this negligence, or in certain authors, who are not over sollicitous about these. indecorums, we may expect to meet with it. Hamlet fays of his father,
He was a man, take him for all in all;
,which may be suspected of being stolen from Sophocles, who has the following passage in the Trachiniae:
Kthwjoiioion AAAON OYK OYEIIIOTE.
The sentiment being one of the commonest, that' offers itself to the mind, the sole ground of suspicion must lie in the expression, " 2' Jhall not look upon his like "again" to which the Greek so exactly answers. But these were the ordinary expressions of such sentiment, in the two lan-' guages; and neither the characters of the great poets,. nor the situation of the speakers, would suffer the affectation of departing from common usage.
What is here said of the. situation of the speakers reminds me of another class of expressions, which will often be similar in all poets. Nature, under the fame conjunctures, gives birth to the fame conceptions;
and and if they be of such a kind, as to exclude all thought of artifice, and the tricks of eloquence (as on occasions of deep anxiety and distress), they run, of themselves, into the same form of expression. The wretched Priam, in his lamentation of Hector, lees drop the following words:
"This line, fays his translator, is particu'* larly tender, and almost word for word "the fame with that of the Patriarch "Jacob; "who, upon a like occasion, breaks out in "the fame complaint, and tells his children, "that, if they deprive him of his son Ben"jamin, they will bring down his grey hairs "with sorrow to the grave."
We may further except, under this head, certain. privileged forms of speech, which the peculiar idioms of different languages make necessary in them, and which poetry consecrates in all. But this is easily observed, and its effect is not very consi- . derable.
2. In pleading this identity os exprejion, regard must be had to the language from which the theft is supposed to be madei If from the same language (setting aside the exceptions just mentioned),same arrangement of the same words is admitted as a certain argument of plagiarism: nay, less than this will do in some instances, as where the imitated expression is pretty singular, or so remarkable, on any account, as to be well known, &c. But, if from another language, the matter is not so easy. It can rarely happen, indeed, but by design, that there should be the same order or corn.position of words in two languages. But that which passes even for literal translation is but a similar composition of corresponding words. And what does this imply, but that the writers conceived of their objetl in the fame manner, and had occasion to set it in the same light? an occasion; which is perpetually recurring to all authors; as may be gathered from that frequent and strong resemblance in the expression of moral sentiments, observable in the writers of every age and country. Can there be a comVql. III. I moner
moner reflexion, or which more constantly
'That undiscovered country, from whose bourn
Shall we call this a translation of the Latin
Nunc it per iter tenebricosum
lllnc, undc negant redire quenquam!
Catul. III. ii.
Or, doth it amount to any more than this, that the terms employed by the two writers in expressing the fame obvious. thought are correspondent? But correspondency and identity are different things. The latter is only where the words are numerically the fame, which can only happen in one and the lame language: the other is effected by different sets of words, which are numerous in every language, and are therefore no convincing proof (abstractedly from other circumstances) of imitation.
From these general reflexions on language, without refining too far, or prying