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which rifes with it, and forms itself about it: for in the fame degree that a thought is warmer, an expreffion will be brighter; as that is more ftrong, this will become more perfpicuous: like glafs in the furnace, which grows to a greater magnitude, and refines to a greater clearnefs, only as the breath within is more powerful, and the heat more intenfe. To throw his language more out of profe, Homer feems to have affected the compound epithets. This is a fort of compofition peculiarly proper to poetry, not only as it heightened the diction, but as it affifted and filled the numbers with greater found and pomp, and likewife conduced in fome measure to thicken the images.. On this laft confideration I cannot but attribute these alfo to the fruitfulness of his invention, fince (as he has managed them) they are a fort of fupernumerary pictures of the perfons or things to which they are joined. We fee the motions of Hector's plumes in the epithet nopudaica, the landscape of Mount Neritus in that of rooiqua, and fo of others; which particular images could not have been infifted upon fo long as to exprefs them in a description (though but of a fingle line) without diverting the reader too much from the principal action or figure. As a metaphor is a short fimile, one of thofe epithets is a fhort defcription.
Laftly, if we confider his verfification, we shall be sensible what a share of praife is due to his invention in that. He was not fatisfied with his language as he found it fettled in any one part of Greece, but fearched through its differing dialects with this particular view, to beautify and perfect his numbers: he confidered these as they had a greater mixture of vowels and confonants, and accordingly employed them as the verfe required either a greater smoothness or ftrength. What he most affected was the Ionic, which has a peculiar sweetness from its never ufing contractions, and from its cuftom of refolving the dipthongs into two fyllables; fo as to make the words open themselves with a more spreading and fonorous fluency. With this he mingled the Attic contractions, the broader Doric, and the feebler Eolic, which often rejects its afpirate, or takes off its accent; and completed this variety by altering fome letters with the licence of poetry. Thus his mea>
fures, instead of being fetters to his fenfe, were always in readiness to run along with the warmth of his rapture, and even to give a farther reprefentation of his notions, in the correfpondence of their founds to what they fignified. Out of all these he has derived that harmony, which makes us confefs he had not only the richest head, but the finest ear in the world. This is fo great a truth, that whoever will but confult the tune of his verses, even without understanding them (with the fame fort of diligence as we daily fee practifed in the cafe of Italian Operas) will find more fweetnefs, variety, and majefty of found, than in any other language or poetry. The beauty of his numbers is allowed by the criticks to be copied but faintly by Virgil himself, though they are fo juft to afcribe it to the nature of the Latin tongue: indeed the Greck has fome advantages both from the natural found of its words, and the turn and cadence of its verfe, which agree with the genius of no other language: Virgil was very fenfible of this, and ufed the utmost diligence in working up a more intractable language to whatfoever graces it was capable of; and in particular never failed to bring the found of his line to a beautiful agreement with its fenfe. If the Grecian poet has not been fo frequently celebrated on this account as the Roman, the only reason is that fewer criticks have understood one language than the other. Dionyfius of Halicarnaffus has pointed out many of our Author's beauties in this kind, in his treatife of the Compofition of Words.. It fuffices at prefent to obferve of his numbers, that they flow with fo much ease, as to make one imagine Homer had no other care than to transcribe as fast as the Mufes dictated: and at the fame time with fo much force and infpired vigour, that they awaken and raife us like the found of a trumpet. They roll along as a plentiful river, always in motion, and always full while we are borne away by a tide of verfe, the most rapid, and yet the moft fmooth imaginable.
Thus on whatever fide we contemplate Homer, what principally ftrikes us is his Invention. It is that which forms the character of each part of his work; and accordingly we find it to have made his fable more extenfive and copious than any other, his manners
more lively and ftrongly marked, his speeches more affecting and tranfported, his fentiments more warm and fublime, his images and defcriptions are full and animated, his expreffion more raised and daring, and his numbers more rapid and various. I hope in what has been faid of Virgil with regard to any of these heads, I have no ways derogated from his character. Nothing is more abfurd or endless, than the common method of comparing eminent writers by an oppofition of particular paffages in them, and forming a judgment from thence of their merit upon the whole. We ought to have a certain knowledge of the principal character and distinguished excellence of each: it is in that we are to confider him, and in proportion to his degree in that we are to admire him. No author or man ever excelled all the world in more than one faculty; and as Homer has done this in Invention, Virgil has in Judgment. Not that we are to think Homer wanted Judgment, because Virgil had it in a more eminent degree; or that Virgil wanted invention, because Homer poffeft a larger fhare of it: each of these great authors had more of both than perhaps any man befides, and are only faid to have lefs in comparifon with one another. Homer was the greater genius, Virgil the better artist. In one we moft admire the man, in the other the work: Homer hurries and tranfports us with a commanding impetuofity, Virgil leads us with an attractive majefty: Homer scatters with a generous profufion, Virgil beftows 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 fhines more and more as the tumult increafes; Virgil, calmly daring, like Æneas, appears undisturbed in the midst of the action; difpofes all about him, and conquers with tranquillity. And when we look upon their machines, Homer feems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, fhaking Olympus, fcattering the lightnings, and firing the heavens; Virgil, like the fame power in his benevolence, counfelling with the Gods, laying plans for empires, and regularly ordering his whole creation.
But, after all, it is with great parts, as with great virtues; they naturally border on fome imperfection; and it is often hard to diftinguifh exactly where the virtue ends, or the fault begins. As prudence may fometimes fink to fufpicion, so may a great judgment decline to coldnefs; and as magnanimity may run up to profufion or extravagance, fo may a great invention to redundancy or wildnefs. If we look upon Homer in this view, we fhall perceive the chief objections against him to proceed from fo noble a caufe as the ex cefs of this faculty.
Among these we may reckon fome of his Marvellous Fictions, upon which so much criticifm has been spent, as furpaffing all the bounds of probability. Perhaps it may with great and fuperior fouls, as with gigantic bodies, which exerting themselves with unufual ftrength, exceed what is commonly thought the due proportion of parts, to become miracles in the whole; and like the old heroes of that make, commit fomething near extravagance, amidst a series of glories and inimitable performances. Thus Homer has his fpeaking horfes, and Virgil his myrtles diftilling blood, where the latter has not fo much as contrived the easy intervention of a Deity to fave the probability.
It is owing to the fame vaft invention, that his fimiles have been thought too exuberant and full of circumftances. The force of this faculty is feen in nothing more, than in its inability to confine itself to that fingle circumftance upon which the comparison is grounded it runs out into embellishments of additional images, which however are fo managed as not to overpower the main one. His fimiles are like pictures, where the principal figure has not only its proportion given agreeably to the original, but is alfo fet off with occafional ornaments and profpects. The fame will account for his manner of heaping a number of comparisons together in one breath, when his fancy fuggefted to him at once fo many various and correfpondent images. The reader will eafily extend this obfervation to more objections of the fame kind.
If there are others which feem rather to charge him with a defect or narrowness of genius, than an excess of it; thofe feeming defects will be found upon examination to proceed wholly from the nature of the times he lived in. Such are his groffer reprefentations of the Gods, and the vicious and the imperfect manners of his Heroes; but I must here fpeak a word of the latter, as it is a point generally carried into extremes, both by the cenfurers and defenders of Homer. It must be a ftrange partiality to antiquity, to think with madam Dacier, "that thofe times and manners are fo much the more ex"cellent, as they are more contrary to ours," Who can be fo prejudiced in their favour as to magnify the felicity of thofe ages, when a fpirit of revenge and cruelty, joined with the practice of rapine and robbery, reigned through the world; when no mercy was fhewn but for the fake of lucre, when the greatest princes were put to the fword, and their wives and daughters made flaves and concubines? on the other fide, I would not be so delicate as thofe modern criticks, who are shocked at the fervile offices and mean employments in which we sometimes fee the heroes of Homer engaged. There is a pleasure in taking a view of that fimplicity, in oppofition to the luxury of fucceeding ages; in beholding monarchs without their guards, princes tending their flocks, and princeffes drawing water from the fprings. When we read Homer, we ought to reflect that we are reading the moft ancient author in the heathen world; and those who contider him in this light, will double their pleasure in the perufal of him. Let them think they are growing acquainted with nations and people that are now no more; that they are ftepping almost three thoufand years back into the remoteft antiquity, and entertaining themselves with a clear and furprizing vifion of things no where elfe to be found, the only true mirror of that ancient world. By this means alone their greatest obstacles will vanish; and what usually creates their dislike, will become a fatisfaction.
This confideration may farther ferve to answer for the constant use of the fame epithets to his Gods and heroes, fuch as the far-darting Phoebus, the blue-eyed Palias, the fwiftfooted Achilles, &c. which fome have cenfured as impertinent and tediously repeated. Thofe of the Gods depended upon the powers and offices then believed to belong to them, and had contracted a weight and veneration from the rites and folemn devotions in which they were used: they were a fort of attributes, with which it was a matter of religion to falute them on all occafions, and which it was irreverence to omit. As for the epithets of great men, Monf. Boileau is of opinion, that th y were in the nature of furnames, and repeated as fuch; for the Greeks, having no names derived from their fathers, were obliged to add fome other diftinction of each perfon; either naming his parents exprefsly, or his place of birth, profeffion, or the like: as Alexander the son of Philip, Herodotus of Halicarnaffus, Diogenes the Cynic, &c. Homer therefore, complying with the custom of his country, used fuch diftinctive additions as better agreed with poetry. And indeed we have fomething parallel to thefe in modern times, fuch as the names of Harold Harefoot, Edmund Ironfide, Edward Long-fhanks, Edward the Black Prince, &c. this be thought to account better for the propriety than for the repetition, I fhall add a farther conjecture. Hefiod, dividing the world into its different ages, has placed a fourth age between the brazen and the iron one, of " Heroes diftinct from other men: a divine race, who fought at Thebes and Troy, are called Demi-Gods, and live by the care of Jupiter in the islands of the bleffed. Now among the divine honours which were paid them, they might have this alfo in common with the Gods, not to be mentioned without the folemnity of an epithet, and fuch as might be acceptable to them by its celebrating their families, actions, or qualities.
What other cavils have been raised against Homer, are fuch as hardly deferve a reply, but will yet be taken notice of as they occur in the course of the work. Many have been occafioned by an injudicious endeavour to exalt Virgil; which is much the fame, as if one fhould think to raise the superstructure by undermining the foundation; one would
*Preface to her Homer.
+ Hefiod, lib. i. ver. 155, &c.
imagine, by the whole courfe of their parallels, that these criticks never fo much as heard of Homer's having written firft: a confideration which whoever compares these two poets, ought to have always in his eye. Some accufe him for the fame things which they overlook or praife in the other; as when they prefer the fable and moral of the neis to thofe of the Iliad, for the fame reasons which might fet the Odyffeis above the neis as that the hero is a wifer man and the action of the one more beneficial to his country than that of the other; or else they blame him for rot doing what he never defigned; as becaufe Achilles is not as good and perfect a prince as Eneas, when the very moral of his poem required a contrary character: it is thus that Rapin judges in his comparifon of Homer and Virgil. Others felect those particular paffages of Homer, which are not fo laboured as fome that Virgil drew out of them; this is the whole management of Scaliger in his Poetics. Others quarrel with what they take for low and mean expreffions, fometimes through a falfe delicacy and refinement, oftner from an ignorance of the graces of the original; and then triumph in the aukwardness of their own translations; this is the conduct of Perault in his Parallels. Laftly, there are others, who, pretending to a fairer proceeding, diftinguish between the perfonal merit of Homer, and that of his work but when they come to affign the causes of the great reputation of the Iliad, they found it upon the ignorance of his times and the prejudice of thofe that followed: and in purfuance of this principle, they make thofe accidents (fuch as the contention of the cities, &c.) to be the caufes of his fame, which were in reality the contequences of his merit. The fame might as well be faid of Virgil, or any great author, whose general character will infallibly raife many cafual additions to their reputation. This is the method of Monf. de la Motte; who yet confeffes upon the whole, that in whatever age Homer had lived, he must have been the greatest poet of his nation, and that he may be faid in this fenfe to be the master even of those who surpassed him.
In all thefe objections we fee nothing that contradicts his title to the honour of the chief Invention; and as long as this (which is indeed the characteristic of poetry itfelf) remains unequalled by his followers, he ftill continues fuperior to them. A cooler judgment may commit fewer faults, and be more approved in the eyes of one fort of criticks: but that warmth of fancy will carry the loudest and most universal applauses, which holds the heart of a reader under the ftrongest enchantment. Homer not only appears the Inventor of poetry, but excells all the inventors of other arts in this, that he has fwallowed up the honour of thofe who fucceeded him. What he has done admitted no increase, it only left room for contraction or regulation. He fhewed all the stretch of fancy at once; and if he has failed in fome of his flights, it was but because he attempted every thing. A work of this kind feems like a mighty tree which rifes from the most vigorous feed, is improved with induftry, flourishes, and produces the finest fruit; Nature and Art confpire to raise it; pleafure and profit join to make it valuable: and they who find the jufteit faults, have only faid, that a few branches (which run luxuriant through a richnefs of nature) might be lopped into form to give it a more regular appearance.
Having now fpoken of the beauties and defects of the original, it remains to treat of the tranflation, with the fame view to the chief characteristic. As far as that is seen in the main parts of the poem, fuch as the Fable, Manners, and Sentiments, no tranflator can prejudice it but by wilful omiffions or contractions. As it alfo breaks out in every particular image, defcription, and fimile; whoever leffens or too much foftens thofe, takes off from this chief character. It is the first grand duty of an interpreter to give his author entire and unmaimed; for the reft, the diction and verfification only are his proper province; fince thefe muit be his own; but the others he is to take as he finds them.
It fhould then be confidered what methods may afford fome equivalent in our language for the graces of thefe in the Greek. It is certain no literal tranflation can be just to an excellent original in fuperior language; but it is a great mistake to imagine (as many have done) that a rafh paraphrafe can make amends for this general defect; which is no less in danger to lofe the fpirit of an ancient, by deviating into the modern manners of expreffion.
If there be fometimes a darkness, there is often a light in antiquity, which nothing better preferves than a verfion almoft literal. I know no liberties one ought to take, but those which are neceffary for transfufing the fpirit of the original, and fupporting the poetical ftyle of the tranflation: and I will venture to fay, there have not been more men misled in former times by a fervile dull adherence to the latter, than have been deluded in ours by a chimerical infolent hope of railing and improving their author. It is not to be doubted that the Fire of the poem is what a tranflator fhould principally regard, as it is most likely to expire in his managing: however it is the fafeft way to be content with preserving this to the utmoft in the whole, without endeavouring to be more than he finds his author is in any particular place. It is a great fecret in writing, to know when to be plain, and when poetical and figurative; and it is what Homer will teach us, if we will but follow modeftly in his footsteps. Where his diction is bold and lofty, let us raife ours as high as we can; but where his is plain and humble, we ought not to be deterred from imitating him by the fear of incurring the cenfure of a mere English critick. Nothing that belongs to Homer feems to have been more commonly mistaken than the just pitch of his ftyle; fome of his tranflators having fwelled into fuftian, in a proud confidence of the fublime; others funk into flatnefs, in a cold and timorous notion of fimplicity. Methinks I fee thefe different followers of Homer, fome fweating and ftraining after him by violent leaps and bounds (the certain figns of falfe mettle); others flowly and fervilely creeping in his train, while the poet himself is all the time proceeding with an unaffected and equal, majefty before then. However, of the two extremes, one would fooner pardon frenzy than frigidity: no author is to be envied for fuch commendations as he may gain by that character of ftyle, which his friends muft agree together to call fimplicity, and the reft of the world will call dullness. There is a graceful and dignified fimplicity, as well as a bold and fordid one, which differ as much from each other as the air of a plain man from that of a floven: it is one thing to be tricked up, and another not to be dreffed at all. Simplicity is the means between oftentation and rufticity.
This pure and noble fimplicity is no where in fuch perfection as in the Scripture and our Author. One may affirm, with all refpect to the infpired Writings, that the Divine Spirit made ufe of no other words but what were intelligible and common to men at that time, and in that part of the world; and as Homer is the author nearest to thofe, his ftyle muft of courfe bear a greater refemblance to the facred books than that of any other writer. This confideration (together with what has been obferved of the purity of fome of his thoughts) may methinks induce a tranflator on the one hand to give into feveral of thofe general phrafes and manners of expreffion, which have attained a veneration even in our language from being ufed in the Old Teftament; as on the other, to avoid those which have been appropriated to the Divinity, and in a manner configned to mystery and religion.
For a farther prefervation of this air of fimplicity, a particular care fhould be taken to exprefs with all plainnefs thofe moral fentences and proverbial fpeeches which are fo numerous in this poet. They have fomething venerable, and as I may fay oracular, in that unadorned gravity and fhortnefs with which they are delivered: a grace which would be utterly loft by endeavouring to give them what we call a more ingenious (that is, a more modern) turn in the paraphrafe.
Perhaps the mixture of fome Græcifms and old words after the manner of Milton, if done without too much affectation, might not have an ill effect in a verfion of this particular work, which most of any other feems to require a venerable antique caft. But certainly the ufe of modern terms of war and government, fuch as platoon, campaign, junto, or the like (into which fome of his tranflators have rallen) cannot be allowable; thofe only excepted, without which it is impoflible to treat the fubjects in any living language.