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Serene, and clear, harmonious Horace flows,
With sweetness not to be expreft in profe:
Degrading profe explains his meaning ill,
And fhews the stuff, but not the workman's skill:
I (who have ferv'd him more than twenty years)
Scarce know my master as he there appears.
Vain are our neighbours hopes, and vain their cares,
The fault is more their language's than theirs :
'Tis courtly, florid, and abounds in words
Of fofter found than ours perhaps affords ;
But who did ever in French authors fee
The comprehensive English energy?
The weighty bullion of one sterling line,
Drawn to French wire, would through whole pages fhine.
I fpeak my private, but impartial sense,
With freedom, and (I hope) without offence;
For I'll recant, when France can fhew me wit,
As ftrong as ours, and as fuccinctly writ.
'Tis true, compofing is the nobler part,
But good tranflation is no eafy art.
For though materials have long fince been found,
Yet both your fancy and your hands are bound;
And by improving what was writ before,
Invention labours lefs, but judgment more.
The foil intended for Pierian feeds.
Must be well purg'd from rank pedantic weeds,
Apollo ftarts, and all Parnaffus fhakes,
At the rude rumbling Baralipton makes.
For none have been with admiration read,
But who (befide their learning) were well bred.
The first great work (a task perform'd by few)
Is, that yourself may to yourself be true :
No mask, no tricks, no favour, no reserve;
Diffect your mind, examine every nerve.
Whoever vainly on his ftrength depends,
Begins like Virgil, but like Mævius ends.
That wretch (in spite of his forgotten rhymes)
Condemn'd to live to all fucceeding times,
With pompous nonfenfe and a bellowing found
Sung lofty Ilium, tumbling to the ground.
And (if my Mufe can through past ages see)
That noify, naufeous, gaping fool was he;
Exploded, when with univerfal fcorn,
The mountains labour'd and a mouse was born.
Learn, learn, Crotona's brawny wrestler cries,
Audacious mortals, and be timely wife!
'Tis I that call, remember Milo's end,
Wedg'd in that timber, which he strove to rend.
Each poet with a different talent writes,
One praises, one inftructs, another bites.
Horace did ne'er afpire to Epic bays,
Nor lofty Maro ftoop to Lyric lays.
Examine how your humour is inclin'd,
And which the ruling paffion of your mind;
Then, feek a poet who your way does bend,
And choose an author as you choose a friend,
United by this fympathetic bond,
You grow familiar, intimate, and fond;
Your thoughts, your words, your styles, your fouls agree,
No longer his interpreter, but he.
With how much ease is a young Mufe betray'd! How nice the reputation of the maid! Your early, kind, paternal care appears, By chafte inftruction of her tender years.. The first impreffion in her infant breast Will be the deepest, and should be the best. Let not aufterity breed fervile fear, No wanton found offend her virgin ear. Secure from foolish pride's affected state, And fpecious flattery's more pernicious bait, Habitual innocence adorns her thoughts, But your neglect must answer for her faults. Immodeft words admit of no defence;
For want of decency is want of sense.
What moderate fop would rake the Park or stews, Who among troops of faultless nymphs may choose ?› Variety of fuch is to be found;
Take then a fubject proper to expound :
But moral, great, and worth a poet's voice,
For men of fense despise a trivial choice :
And fuch applause it must expect to meet,
As would fome painter busy in a street,
To copy bulls and bears, and every fign,
That calls the ftaring fots to nafty wine..
Yet 'tis not all to have a fubject good,
It must delight us when 'tis understood.
He that brings fulfome objects to my view,
(As many old have done, and many new)
With nauseous images my fancy fills,
And all goes down like oxymel of squills.
Instruct the listening world how Maro fings
Of useful subjects and of lofty things.
These will fuch true, fuch bright ideas raise,
As merit gratitude, as well as praise :
But foul defcriptions are offenfive still,
Either for being like, or being ill.
For who, without a qualm, hath ever look'd
On holy garbage, though by Homer cook'd?
Whofe railing heroes, and whose wounded Gods,
Makes fome fufpect he fnores, as well as nods.
But I offend---Virgil begins to frown,
And Horace looks with indignation down;
My blushing Mufe with conscious fear retires,
And whom they like, implicitly admires.
On fure foundations let your fabric rife,
And with attractive majefty furprise,
Not by affected meretricious arts,
But ftrict harmonious fymmetry of parts ;
Which through the whole infenfibly must pass,
With vital heat to animate the mafs:
A pure, an active, an aufpicious flame,
And bright as heaven, from whence the bleffing came;
But few, oh few fouls, præordain'd by fate,
The race of Gods, have reach'd that envy'd height.
No Rebel-Titan's facrilegious crime,
By heaping hills on hills can hither climb :
The grizly ferryman of hell deny'd
Æneas entrance, till he knew his guide:
How justly then will impious mortals fall,
Whose pride would foar to heaven without a call!
Pride (of all others the most dangerous fault)
Proceeds from want of fenfe, or want of thought.
The men, who labour and digest things most,
Will be much apter to defpond than boast:
For if your author be profoundly good,
Twill cost you dear before he 's understood.
How many ages fince has Virgil writ!
How few are they who understand him yet!
Approach his altars with religious fear,
No vulgar deity inhabits there :
Heaven shakes not more at Jove's imperial nod,
Than poets fhould before their Mantuan God.
Hail mighty Maro! may that facred name
Kindle my breast with thy celestial flame;
Sublime ideas and apt words infuse.
The Muse instruct my voice, and thou infpire the Mufe! What I have inftanc'd only in the beft,
Is, in proportion, true of all the rest.
Take pains the genuine meaning to explore,
There fweat, there ftrain, tug the laborious oar;
Search every comment that your care can find,
Some here, fome there, may hit the poet's mind;
Yet be not blindly guided by the throng;
The multitude is always in the wrong.
When things appear unnatural or hard,
Confult your author, with himself compar'd;
Who knows what bleffing Phoebus may bestow,
And future ages to your labour owe?
Such fecrets are not easily found out,
But, once discover'd, leave no room for doubt.