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DESTRUCTION OF TROY, &C.
There are so few translations which deserve
praise, that I scarce ever saw any which deserved pardon ; those who travel in that kind being for the most part so unhappy as to rob others without enriching themselves, pulling down the fame of good authors without raising their own : neither hath any author been more hardly dealt withal than this our master ; and the reason is evident, for, what is most excellent is most inimitable ; and if even the worst authors are yet made worse by their translators, how impossible is it not to do great injury to the best? And therefore I have not the vanity to think my copy equal to the original, nor (consequently) myself altogether guiltless of what I accuse others; but if I can do Virgil less injury than others have done, it will be in some degree to do him right; and, indeed, the hope of doing him more right is the only
scope of this essay, by opening a new way of translating this author to those whom youth, leisure, and better fortune, make fitter for such
undertakings. I conceive it is a vulgar error in translating poets,
to affect being fidus interpres; let that care be with them who deal in matters of fact, or matters of faith: but whosoever aims at it in poetry, as he attempts what is not required, so he shall never perform what he attempts : for it is not his bu, siness alone to translate language into language but poesy into poesy; and poesy is of so subtle a spirit, that in the pouring out of one language into another it will all evaporate ; and if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum, there being certain graces and happinesses peculiar to every language, which give life and energy to the words; and whosoever offers at verbal translation shall have the misfortune of that young traveller who lost his own language abroad, and brought home no other instead of it : for the grace of the Latin will be lost by being turned into English words, and the grace of the English by being turned into the Latin phrase. And as speech is the apparel of our thoughts, so are there certain garbs and modes of speaking which vary with the times, the fashion of our clothes being not more sub
ject to alteration than that of our speech : and this I think Tacitus meant by that which he calls sermonem temporis istius auribus accommodatum ; the delight of change being as due to the curiosity of the ear as of the eye; and therefore if Virgil must needs speak English, it were fit he should speak not only as a man of this nation, but as a man of this age ; and if this disguise I have put upon him (I wish I could give it a better name) sit not naturally and easily on so grave a person, yet it may become him better than that fool's coat wherein the French and Italians have of late represented him; at least, I hope it will not make him appear deformed, by making any part enormously bigger or less than the life; (I having made it my principal care to follow him, as he made it his to follow nature, in all his proportions) neither have I any where of. fered such violence to his sense as to make it seem mine and not his. Where my expressions are not so full as his, either our language or my art was defective; (but I rather suspect myself) but where mine are fuller than his, they are but the impressions which the often reading of him hath left upon my thoughts; so that if they are not his own conceptions, they are at least the results of them; and if (being conscious of making him speak worse than he did almost in