« ZurückWeiter »
obliged for the inost delightful things in our language ! When I was saying to him that he had already imitated near a THIRD part of Horace's Satires and Epistles, and how much it was to be wished that he would go on with them, he could not believe that he had gone near so far; but upon computing it, it appeared to be above a third. He seemed, on this, not disinclined to carry it further, but his last illness was then growing upon him and robbed us of him, and of all hopes of that kind, in a few months.”
In the Imitations of Horace, Pope has these curious lines respecting himself
Weak tho' I am of limb, and short of sight,
Speaking of his obligations to this great physician and to others of the faculty, he says, about a month before his death, in a letter to Mr. Allen, “ There is no end to my kind treatment from the faculty ; they are in general the most amiable companions and the best friends, as well as the most learned men I know."
With respect to the famous Dying Ode which is so generally admired, it has lately been suggested, that the poet might have taken the first idea of it from a little volume, now altogether forgotten, entitled Poems and Songs, by Thomas Flatman. Lond. 1674,
FLATMAN'S THOUGHT ON DEATH.
where the following singular stanza is to be found, with this inscription, A Thought on Death :
When on my sick bed I languish,
Full of sorrow, full of anguish,
Panting, groaning, specchless, dying ;
0! tell me, you
What shall I do?
That may extenuate my fears.
Be not fearful, come AWAY!
And find thy long expected liberty;
Than in this vale of tears and misery.
That lies on t'other side DEATH's rubicon ! Pope wrote prose with great elegance; his prefaces both to HOMER and SHAKESPEARE are proofs of it: he thus most exquisitely contrasts the two rival poets of antiquity :
“ Homer was the greater genius, Virgil the better artist. In one we must admire the man, in the other the work. Homer hurries and transports us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil lead us with an attractive majesty. Homer scatters with a generous profusion; Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence. Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a
boundless overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a gentle and constant stream. When we behold their battles, methinks the Two Poets resemble the heroes they celebrate. Homer, boundless and irresistible as Achilles, bears all before him, and shines more and more as the tumult increases. Virgil, calmly daring like Eneas, appears undisturbed in the midst of action, disposes all about him and conquers with tranquillity. And when we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering the lightnings, and firing the heavens. Virgil, like the same power in his beneficence, counselling with the Gods, laying plans for empires, and ordering all the creation.”
The Translation of the ILIAD and ODYSSEY of Homer is of itself a very superior performance. Johnson has justly denominated it a “poetical wonder,” and Dr. Watts remarked, that " there is scarcely a happy combination of words or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer." But still a complaint has been raised that the translation falls far beneath the original, not having that essential requisite of a good version, fidelity. It wants, says the objector, the old Bard's awful simplicity, artless grandeur, and unaffected majesty. Johnson defends the translator by wishing the reader to allow for differencē of language, and, above all, for the very dissimilar customs and manners of the ancient and modern ages of the world. Much may be said on both sides, and if the translator sometimes falls
beneath, he at other times rises superior to the original. Comparisons have been instituted between the versions of Pope and Cowper. Southey deems them both extremes; the one decking the old Bard in all the trappings of modern finery, whilst the other strips him stark naked. Certain it is, the difference is great between them. When my pupils translate forty or fifty lines of Homer with me, from the original Greek, I always read them the best translation. At one time I used Pope, but the sense was so diffused, and even lost, that my young Grecian could not follow him. I now use Cowper, when no such complaint is made; it is almost literal and yet frequently rises to sublimity. At the same time am free to confess that the translation of Pope is more poetical; and, therefore, always has been, and always will be, a greater favourite with the public. One passage shall be transcribed out of the twentieth book of the ILIAD (line forty-seven) which some critics have thought to excel the original, only premising that the lines are in number nearly double those of Homer
But when the Powers descending swelled the fight
Above the Sire of gods his thunder rolls,
Another specimen of Pope's translation of Homer in which beauty (not sublimity) predominates, is the description of the Dog of Ulysses, taken from the ODYSSEY. And this is communicated by Pope in a letter to a friend, with an introduction and conclusion which illustrate his happy talent for epistulatory composition. In this department also the poet is thought to have excelled.
“ Now I talk of my Dog, that I may not treat of a worse subject, which my spleen tempts me to, I will give you some account of him, (a thing not wholly uprecedented, since Montaigne, to whom I am but a dog in comparison) has done the same thing of his Cat. Dic mihi quid melius desidiosus agam ?