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to demand. As I flatter myself that even the learned reader will in this dissertation meet with mang points which have hitherto escaped his notice, and much light reflected from thence upon the odes of Pindar in particular, as well as up n many passages in other Greek writers, I shall rather desire him to excuse those errours and defects which he may happen to discover in it, than apologize for the length of it.
Having now removed the chief prejudices and objections which have been too long and too generally entertained against the writings of Pinder, I need say but little of his real character, as the principal parts of it may be collect d from the very faults imputed to him; which are indeed no other than the excesses of great and acknowledged beauties, slich as a poetical imagination, a warm and enthusiastic genius, a bold and figurative expression, and a concise and sententious style. These are the characteristical beauties of Pindar; and to these his greatest blemishes, generally speaking, are so near allied, that they have sometimes been mistaken for each other. I cannot however help observing, that he is so entirely free from any thing like the far-fetched thoughts, the witty extravagances, and puerile concetti of Mr. Cowley and the rest of his imitators, that I cannot recollect so much as even a single antithesis in all his odes.
Longinus indeed confesses, that Pindar's flame is sometimes extinguished, and that he now and then sinks unexpectedly and unaccountably; but he prefers him, with all his faults, to a poet who keeps on in one constant tenour of mediocrity, and who, though he seldom falls very low, yet never rises to those astonishing heights, which sometimes make the head even of a great poet giddy, and occasion those slips which they at the same time excuse.
But, notwithstanding all that has or can be said in favour of Pindar, he must still appear, as I before observed, under great disadvantages, especially to the English reader. Much of this fire, which formerly warmed and dazzled all Greece, must necessarily be lost even in the best translation. Besides, to say nothing of many beauties peculiar to the Greek, which cannot be expressed in English, and perhaps not in any other language, there are in these odes so many references to secret history, so many allusions to persons, things, and places, now altogether unknown, and which, were they known, would very little interest or affect the reader, and withal such a mixture of mythology and antiquity, that I almost despair of their being relished by any, but those who have, if not a great deal of classical learning, yet somewhat at least of an antique and classical taste.
Every reader, however, may still find in Pindar something to make amends for the loss of those beauties, which have been set at too great a distance, and in some places worn off and obliterated by time; namely, a great deal of good sense, many wise reflections, and many moral sentences, together with a due regard to religion; and from hence he may be able to form to himself some idea of Pindar as a man, though he should be obliged to take his character as a poet from others.
But, that he may not for this rely altogether upon my opinion, I shall here produce the testimonies of two great poets, whose excellent writings are sufficient evidences both of their taste and judgment. The first was long and universally admired, and is still as much regretted, by the present age: the latter, who wrote about seventeen hundred years ago, was the delight and ornament of the politest and most learned age of Rome. And though even to him, Pindar, who lived some centuries before him, must have appeared under some of the disadvantages above mentioned, yet he had the opportunity of seeing all his works which were extant in his time, and of which he hath given a sort of catalogue, together with their several characters: an advantage which the former wanted, who must therefore be understood to speak only of those odes which are now remaining. And indeed he alludes to those only, in the following passage of his Temple of Fame. Pope's Works, small edit. vol. 3. p. 17. ver. 210.
Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,
With heads advanc'd, and pinions stretch'd for flight:
Here, like some furious prophet, Pindar rode,
And seem'd to labour with th' inspiring God.
Across the harp a careless hand he flings,
And boldly sinks into the sounding strings.
Four swans sustain &c.] Pindar, being seated in a chariot, alludes to the horse-races he celebrated in the Grecian games. The swans are emblems of poetry; their soaring posture intimates the sublimity and activity of his genius. Neptune presided over the Isthmian, and Jupiter over the Olympian games. This note is of the same author.
The figur'd games of Greece the column grace,
The youths hang o'er their chariots as they run;
The other passage is from Horace, lib. 4. ode ii. viz.
Pindarum quisquis studet æmulari, &c.
which, for the benefit of the English reader, I have thus translated:
He, who aspires to reach the towering height
Like him, who, falling, nam'd th' Icarian main;
Which from the Alps its headlong deluge pours,
Rolls his impetuous, vast, unfathomable song.
The Delphic laurel ever sure to gain;
Wild and tumultuous flows the sounding strain;
To gods and sons of gods his lyre he strings,
And of fierce Centaurs slain, and dire Chimæra sings.
Or whether Pisa's victors be Lis theme,
And from their bard receive the tuneful boon,
With Dorian strains to deck th' untimely bier
Of some disastrous bridegroom fair and young;
Whose virtues, in his deifying lays,
Through the black gloom of death with star-like radiance blaze.
When to the clouds, along th' ethereal plain,
His airy way the Theban swan pursues,
With painful art, extracts the rich perfume,
Solicitous her honeyed dome to build,
Exerting all her industry and care,
She toils with humble sweets her meaner verse to rear.
The remainder of this ode has no relation to the present subject, and is therefore cmitted.
The following collection of poems (to borrow the metaphor made use of by Horace) consists wholly of sweets, drawn from the rich and flowery fields of Greece. And if in these translations any of the native spirit and fi agrancy of the originals shall appear to be transfused, I shall content myself with the humble merit of the little laborious insect above mentioned. But I must not here omit acquainting the reader, that among these, immediately after the odes of Pindar, is inserted a translation of an ode of Horace, done by a gentleman, the peculiar excellence of whose genius hath often revealed what his modesty would have kept a secret. And to this I might have trusted to inform the world, that the translation I am now speaking of, though inserted amongst mine, was not done by me, were I not desirous of testifying the pride and pleasure I take in seeing, in this and some other instances, his admirable pieces blended and joined with mine; an evidence and emblem at the same time of that friendship which hath long subsisted between us, and which I shall always esteem a singular felicity and honour to myself.
The authors, from whom the other pieces are translated, are so well known, that I need say nothing of them in this place; neither shall I detain the reader with any further account of the translations themselves, than only to acquaint him, that I translated the dramatic poem of Lucian upon the Gout, when I was myself under an attack of that incurable distemper, which I mention by way of excuse; and that all the other pieces, excepting only the Hymn of Cleanthes, were written many years ago, at a time when I read and wrote, like most other people, for amusement only. If the reader finds they give any to him, I shall be very glad of it; for it is doing some service to human society, to amuse innocently; and they know very little of human nature, who think it can bear to be always employed either in the exercise of its duties, or in high and important meditations.
1 This ode, in full conformity to Mr, West's intention, is still (though restored to its proper writer) preserved in the present volume.
OCCASIONED BY READING
MR. WEST'S TRANSLATION OF PINDAR.
THE REV. MR. JOSEPH WARTON.
ALBION, exult! thy sons a voice divine have heard,
The Man of Thebes hath in thy vales appear'd! Hark! with fresh rage and undiminish'd fire, The sweet enthusiast smites the British lyre; The sounds that echoed on Aiphéus' streams, Reach the delighted ear of listening Thames;
Lo! swift across the dusty plain
Great Theron's foaming coursers strain!
We long to sit with heroes old,
Away, enervate bards, away,
As wreaths for some vain Louis' head 2,
Or mourn some soft Adonis dead:
In British Pindar's strength o'erwhelm'd and lost:
To his own Etna's sulphur-spouting caves 3, When to Heaven's vault the fiery deluge raves, When clouds and burning rocks dart through the troubled air.
1 See 2d Olymp. Od.
Alluding to the French and Italian lyric poets. See 1st Pyth. Od.
In roaring cataracts down Andes' channell❜d steeps
Mark how enormous Orellana sweeps!
So rapid Pindar flows.-O parent of the lyre,
O ancient Greece, but chief the bard whose