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margins, not only in regard to the accuracy, but to the fidelity of the translation; which I have not had time to compare with its original. And I desire you to be the more severe, as it is much more criminal for me to make another speak nonsense than to do it in my own proper person. For your better help in comparing, it may be fit to tell you, that this is not an entire version of the first book. There is an omission from the 168th line—Jam murmur a serpunt Plebis Agenorece—to the 312th—Interea patriis olim vagus etful ab orls—(between these1 two Statius has a description of the council of the Gods, and a speech of Jupiter; which contain a peculiar beauty and majesty, and were left out for no other reason, but because the consequence of this machine appears not till the second book.) The translation goes on from thence to the words Hie vero ambobus rabiemfortuna crmntam, where there is an odd account of a battle at fifty-cuffs between the two Princes on a very slight occasion, and at a time when, one would think, the fatigue of their journey, in so tempestuous a night, might have rendered them very unfit for such a scuffle. This I had actually translated, but was very ill satisfied with it, even in my own words, to which an author cannot but be partial enough of conscience; it was therefore omitted in this copy, which goes on above eighty lines farther, at the words— Hie primum lustrare oculis, etc.—to the end of the book.
1 These he since translated, and they are extant in the printed version. P.
You will find, I doubt not, that Statius2 was none of the discreetest Poets, though he was the best versifier next Virgil: In the very beginning he unluckily betrays his ignorance in the rules of Poetry (which Horace had already taught the Romans) when he asks his Muse where to begin his Thebaid, and seems to doubt whether it should not be ab ovo Led&o. When he comes to the scene of his Poem, and the prize in dispute between the brothers, he
gives us a very mean opinion of it Pugna est de
paupere regno Very different from the conduct.
of his master Virgil, who at the entrance of his poem informs his reader of the greatness of its subjects— Tanttf molls erat Romanam condcre gentem. [Bossu on Epic Poetry.] There are innumerable little faults in him, among which I cannot but take notice of one in this book, where, speaking of the implacable hatred of the brothers, he says, The whole world would be too small a prize to repay so much impiety.
Quid si peteretur crimine tanto
This was pretty well, one would think, already; but he goes on.
Quasque procul terras obliquo sidere tangit
* Statius is one instance among a thousand, that a man may possess genius and imagination; and at the same time want taste and judgment. Claudian is a far better writer, though his verses have more monotony than the numbers of Statius. It is remarkable that Gray's first attempt in English verse, was a translation of a passage in Statius. 1736. See Memoirs, p. 9. 4to. A translation of Statius, by several hands, was intended to be published. Harte translated the sixth book, and Pitt the third.
After all this, what could a Poet think of but Heaven itself for the prize? But what follows is astonishing.
Quid si Tyrise Phrygiaeve sub unum
I do not remember to have met with so great a fall in any ancient author whatsoever. I should not have insisted so much on the faults of this Poet3, if I did not hope you would take the same freedom with, and revenge it upon, his Translator. I shall be extremely glad if the reading this can be any amusement to you, the rather because I had the dissatisfaction to hear you have been confined to your chamber by an illness, which, I fear, was as troublesome a companion as I have sometimes been in the same place; where, if ever you found any pleasure in my company, it must surely have been that which most men take in observing the faults and follies of another; a pleasure, which, you see, I take care to give you even in my absence.
If you will oblige me at your leisure with the confirmation of your recovery, under your own hand, it will be extremely grateful to me, for next to the pleasure of seeing my friends, is that I take in hearing from them; and in this particular I am beyond all acknowledgments obliged to our friend Mr. Wycherley. I know I need no apology to you for speaking of him, whose example as I am proud of following in all things, so in nothing more than in professing myself, like him,
3 His wild and gigantic images, and pompous diction, so much resembled the old romances, that he was the favourite poet of the middle ages.
March 7, 1709.
You had long before this time been troubled with a letter from me, but that I deferred it till I could send you either the Miscellany4, or my continuation of the version of Statius. The first I imagined you might have had before now, but since the contrary has happened, you may draw this moral from it, That authors in general are more ready to write nonsense than booksellers are to publish it. I had I know not what extraordinary flux of rhyme upon me for three days together, in which time all the verses you see added, have been written; which I tell you that you may more freely be severe upon them. 'Tis a mercy I do not assault you with a number of original Sonnets and Epigrams, which our modern bards put forth in the spring-time, in as great abundance, as trees do blossoms, a very few whereof ever come to be fruit, and please no longer than just in their birth. They make no less haste to bring their flowers of wit to the press, than gardeners to bring
4 Jacob Tonson's sixth volume of Poetical Miscellanies, in which Mr. Pope's Pastorals, and some versions of Homer and Chaucer, were first printed. P.
VOL. VJL H
their other flowers to the market, which if they can't get off their hands in the morning, are sure to die before night. Thus the same reason that furnishes Covent-garden with those nosegays you so delight in, supplies the Muses' Mercury and British Apollo (not to say Jacob's Miscellanies) with verses. And it is the happiness of this age that the modern invention of printing poems for pence a-piece, has brought the nosegays of Parnassus to bear the same price; whereby the public-spirited Mr. Henry Hills of Black-friars has been the cause of great ease and singular comfort to all the learned, who never overbounding in transitory coin should not be discontented (methinks) even though poems were disturbed gratis about the streets, like Bunyan's sermons and other pious treatises, usually published in a like volume and character.
The time now drawing nigh, when you use with Sappho to cross the water in an evening to Springgarden, I hope you will have a fair opportunity of
ravishing her: 1 mean only (as Oldfox in the
Plain-dealer says) through the ear, with your wellpenned verses. I wish you all the pleasures which the season and the nymph can afford; the best company, the best coffee, and the best news you can desire; and what more to wish you than this, I do not know; unless it be a great deal of patience to read and examine the verses I send you: I promise you in return a great deal of deference to your judgment, and an extraordinary obedience to your sentiments for the future (to which, you know, I have been sometimes a little refractory). If you will please to