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By these Epula, as I take it, Persius meant the Portugal snuff and burnt Claret, which he took with his master Cornutus; and the verecunda memsa was, without dispute, some coffee-house table of the ancients.-I will only observe, that these four lines are as elegant and musical as any in Persius, not excepting those six or seven which Mr. Dryden quotes as the only such in all that author.—I could be heartily glad to repeat the satisfaction described in them, being truly
I AM glad to find by your last letter that you write to me with the freedom of a friend, setting down your thoughts as they occur, and dealing plainly with me in the matter of my own trifles, which, I assure you, I never valued half so much as I do that sincerity in you which they were the occasion of discovering to me; and which while I am happy in, I may be trusted with that dangerous weapon, Poetry; since I shall do nothing with it but after asking and following your advice. I value sincerity the more, as I find, by sad experience, the practice of it is more dangerous; writers rarely pardoning the executioners of their verses, even though themselves pronounce sentence upon them. As to Mr. Philips's Pastorals, I take the first to be infinitely the best, and the second the worst; the third is for the greatest part a translation from Virgil's Daphnis. I will not forestal your judgment of the rest, only observe in that of the Nightingale these lines (speaking of the musician's playing on the harp):
Now lightly skimming o'er the strings they pass,
To which nothing can be objected, but that they are too lofty for pastoral, especially being put into the mouth of a shepherd, as they are here; in the poet's own person they have been (I believe) more proper. They are more after Virgil's manner than that of Theocritus, whom yet in the character of pastoral he rather seems to imitate. In the whole, I agree with the Tatler, that we have no better Eclogues in our language. There is a small copy of the same author published in the Tatler N° 12. on the Danish winter: 'Tis poetical painting, and I recommend it to your perusal.
Dr. Garth's poem I have not seen, but believe I shall be of that critic's opinion you mention at Will's, who swore it was good: for though I am very cautious of swearing after critics, yet I think one may do it more safely when they commend, than when they blame.
I agree with you in your censure of the use of sea terms2 in Mr. Dryden's Virgil; not only because Heleuus was no great prophet in these matters, but because no terms of art or cant-words suit with the majesty and dignity of style which epic poetry requires. Cut mens divinior atque os magna sonatu
3 They are as certainly improper and absurd, as his use of the same kind of terms in his Annus Mirabilis, where a sea-engagement is described. Boileau values himself for being the first French poet tiiAt introduced gunpowder, and a peruke, gracefully into poetry. A strange boast undoubtedly!
rum.——The Tarpawlin phrase can please none but such qui aurem habent Batavam; they must not expect auribus Atticis probari, I find by you. (I think I have brought in two phrases of Martial here very dextrously.)
Though you say you did not rightly take my meaning in the verse I quoted from Juvenal, yet I will not explain it; because, though it seems you are resolved to take me for a critic, I would by no means be thought a commentator—and for another reason too, because I have quite forgot both the verse and the application.
I hope it will be no offence to give my most hearty service to Mr. Wycherley, though I perceive, by his last to me, I am not to trouble him with my letters, since he there told me he was going instantly out of town, and till his return was my servant, etc. I guess by yours he is yet with you, and beg you to do what you may with all truth and honour, that is, assure him I have ever borne all the respect and kindness imaginable to him. I do not know to this hour what it is that has estranged him from me; but this I know, that he may for the future be more safely my friend, since no invitation of his shall ever more make me so free with him. I could not have thought any man so very cautious and suspicious, as not to credit his own experience of a friend. Indeed, to believe nobody, may be a maxim of safety, but not so much of honesty. There is but one way I know of conversing safely with all men, that is, not by concealing what we say or do, but by saying or doing nothing that deserves to be concealed, and I can truly boast this comfort in my affairs with Mr. Wycherley. But I pardon his Jealousy, which is become his nature, and shall never be his enemy whatsoever he says of me.
FROM MR. CROMWELL.
Nov. 5, 1710.
I Find I am obliged to the sight of your loveverses, for your opinion of my sincerity; which had never been called in question, if you had not forced me, upon so many other occasions, to express my esteem.
I have just read and compared3 Mr. Rowe's version of the ixth of Lucan, with very great pleasure, where I find none of those absurdities so frequent in that of Virgil, except in two places, for the sake of
lashing the priests; one where Cato says Sorti
legis egeant dubii—and one in the simile of the Hsemorrhois—-fatiditi Sab&i—He is so arrogant a whig, that he strains even beyond his author, in passion for liberty, and aversion to tyranny; and errs only in amplification. Lucan ix. in initio, describing the seat of the Semidei manes, says,
'Pieces printed in the 6th vol. of Tonson's Miscellanies. P.
Quodque patet terras inter luneeque meatus,
Mr. Rowe has this Line,
Then looking down on the Sun's feeble Ray.
Pray your opinion, if there be an Error-Sphsericus in this or no?
Nov. 11, 1710.
You mistake me very much in thinking the freedom you kindly used with my love-verses, gave me the first opinion of your sincerity: I assure you it only did what every good-natured action of yours has done since, confirmed me more in that opinion. The fable of the Nightingale in Philips's Pastorals is taken from Famianus Strada's Latin poem on the same subject, in his Prolusiones Academic&; only the tomb he erects at the end, is added from Virgil's conclusion of the Culex. I can't forbear giving a passage out of the Latin poem I mention, by which you will find the English poet is indebted to it.