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begin where you left off last, and mark the margins as you have done in the pages immediately before, (which you will find corrected to your sense since your last perusal,) you will extremely oblige me, and improve my translation. Besides those places which may deviate from the sense of the author, it would be very kind in you to observe any deficiencies in the diction or numbers. The Hiatus in particular I would avoid as much as possible, to which you are certainly in the right to be a professed enemy; though, I confess, I could not think it possible at all times to be avoided by any writer, till I found by reading Malherbe5 lately, that there is scarce any throughout his poems. I thought your observation true enough to be passed into a rule, but not a rule without exceptions, nor that ever it had been reduced to practice: But this example of one of the most correct and best of their Poets has undeceived me, and confirms your opinion very strongly, and much more than Mr. Dryden's authority, who, though he made it a rule, seldom observed it.
4 The first correct Poet of France; to whom their language had inestimable obligations. The notes of Menage on the Works of Malherbe, abound in many curious critical remarks and digressions. Ronsard had a more vigorous imagination than Malherbe, but not so true a taste and judgment; his style is harsh, and full of barbarisms and foreign idioms.
June 10, 1709.
I Have received part of the version of Statius, and return you my thanks for your remarks, which I think to be just, except where you cry out (like one in Horace's Art of Poetry) pulcre,* bene, recte! There I have some fears you are often, if not always, in the wrong.
One of your objections, namely on that passage,
The rest revolving years shall ripen into fate,
may be well grounded, in relation to its not being the exact sense of the words ——6 Certo reliqua ordine ducam. But the duration of the Action of Statius's poem may as well be excepted against, as many things besides in him; (which I wonder Bossu7 has not observed;) for instead of confining his narration to <me year, it is manifestly exceeded in the very first two books; The narration begins with (Edipus's prayer to the Fury to promote discord betwixt his sons; afterwards the Poet expressly describes their entering into the agreement of reigning a year by turns8; and Polynices takes his flight from Thebes on his brother's refusal to resign the throne. All this is in the first book; in the next Tydeus is sent ambassador to Eteocles, and demands his resignation in these terms,
• See the first book of Statius, v. 302. P.
7 Bossu did not write a critique upon Statius, but only used Vim, as he did other poets, occasionally, for an example. So that it is no wonder there should be faults and beauties in Statius which he did not take notice of. W.
8 It is rather strange that our Poet should make no mention of the Phcenissse of Euripides, if indeed he had ever read that Tragedy.
Astriferum velox jam circulus orbera
But Bossu himself is mistaken in one particular, relating to the commencement of the action; saying, in book ii. cap. 8. that Statius opens with Europa's Rape, whereas the Poet at most olny deliberates whether he should or not9. .
Ire, Dese? gentisne canam primordia dirae,
but then expressly passes all this with a longa retro series—and says,
limes milii carminis esto CEdipodee confusa domus.
Indeed there are numberless particulars blameworthy in our author, which I have tried to soften in the version:
dubiamque jugo fragor impulit CEten
is most extravagantly hyperbolical: Nor did I ever read a greater piece of tautology than
Vacua cum solus in aula
* That was the same to Bossu's purpose; which was only to shew, that there were epic Poets so ignorant, or so negligent for composition, as not to know where their subject should begin. W.
In the journey of Polynices is some geographical error,
In mediis audit duo litora campis
could hardly be; for the Isthmus of Corinth is full five miles over: And caligantes abrupto sole Mycenas is not consistent with what he tells us, in lib. iv. lin. 305. " that those of Mycense came not to the war at this time, because they were then in confusion by the divisions of the brothers, Atreus and Thyestes." Now from the raising the Greek army against Thebes, back to the time of this journey^of Polynices, is (according to Statius's own account) three years.
July 17, 1709.
The morning after I parted from you, I found myself (as I had prophesied) all alone, in an uneasy Stage-coach; a doleful change from that agreeable company I enjoyed the night before! without the least hope of entertainment but from my last resource in such cases, a Book. I then began to enter into acquaintance with your Moralists, and had just received from them some cold consolation for the inconveniences of this life, and the uncertainty of human affairs; when I perceived my vehicle to stop, and heard from the side of it the dreadful news of a sick woman preparing to enter it. 'Tis not easy to guess at my mortification, but being so well fortified with philosophy, I stood resigned with a stoical constancy to endure the worst of evils, a sick woman. I was indeed a little comforted to find by her voice and dress, that she was young and a gentlewoman; but no sooner was her hood removed, but I saw one of the finest faces I ever beheld, and, to increase my surprise, heard her salute me by my name. I never had more reason to accuse nature for making me short-sighted than now, when I could not recollect I had ever seen those fair eyes which knew me so well, and was utterly at a loss how to address myself; till with a great deal of simplicity and innocence she let me know (even before I discovered my ignorance) that she was the daughter of one in our neighbourhood, lately married, who having been consulting her physicians in town, was returning into the country, to try what good air and a husband could do to recover her. My father, you must know, has sometimes recommended the study of physic to me, but I never had any ambition to be a doctor till this instant. I ventured to prescribe some fruit (which I happened to have in the coach) which being forbidden her by her doctors, she had the more inclination to. In short, I tempted, and she eat; nor was I more like the Devil than she like Eve. Having the good success of the aforesaid tempter before my eyes, I put on the gallantry of the old serpent, and in spite of my evil form accosted her with all the gaiety I was master of; which had so good effect, that in less than an hour she grew pleasant, her colour turned, and she was pleased to