Page images

speech of Eurydice. She is injured, and indeed deserves a liberty to resent it. She condoles, she repents, she heightens her misfortunes, and then seems to wonder why Providence should inflict them. This she aggravates by considering the prosperity of her neighbours, which certainly gives the deepest remorse in all afflictions. Nothing can be finer than these two last particulars. They arise immediately from human nature, and give a lively picture of self-respect, and indulgency to our own frailties. What follows is more abrupt and violent; she draws the author of her misery in the most disagreeable colours, makes her treacherous, negligent, and even insensible of gratitude or pity.


Whose eye o'ersay thee—v. 185.

I am far from being disgusted with these little particularities that attend the most serious and noble passions. Nothing has a better effect in poetry, or painting. An incident may be small, and at the same time not trifling. This puts me in mind of an observation in Longinus: it is made upon Sappho's love-ode, translated afterwards by Catullus. "The poetess" (says he) "has assembled with admirable skill all the little accidents to that passion. Her heart beats fast, her tongue trembles, her sight seems to swim, and her colour vanishes all in one moment."

This confusion suits admirably well with the wandering irresolutions of the soul upon such occasions. Longinus, Chap. 8.

Much of this kind is the speech of Asius in Homer's 12th Iliad. Eustathius makes a very moral remark upon it, which I shall transcribe, as I find it admirably translated to my hands. "The speech of Asius is very extravagant: he exclaims against Jupiter for a breach of promise,


Whose hands sustain'd thee, and whose music not because he had broken his word, but because he had not fulfilled his own vain imaginations. This conduct, though very blameable in Asius, is very natural to persons under disappointinents, who are ever ready to blame Heaven, and turn their misfortunes into a crime." Thus far Eustathius.

[blocks in formation]


If Jove's almighty wisdom can deceive,
Curs'd is the man who fondly will believe!
v. 221.

The practice of cutting off the hair, and strewing it over the deceased, was so common with the ancients, that all testimonies are needless. It prevails among the Sclavonians to this day, who, (as lord Busbeque observes in his Epistles) neque modo capillos, sed etiam supercilia sibi (in luctu) démunt.

This apostrophe contains a fine picture of human nature in distress. Heaven itself cannot escape our censure: its unerring justice is called into question, and we fancy more to be inflicted on us, than we ought to suffer.

Æneas (whose chief character is piety) could not help accusing men and gods when he lost Creusa. Though in justice to Virgil it ought to be observed, that he softens, or rather disapproves of the impiety at the same time; for so the word amens must be understood.

Quem non incusavi, amens, hominumque deo. rumque ?

As this note is capable of very serious reflections, it may not perhaps be amiss to look a little into the holy scriptures. The impatience of Job's wife, as also the diffidence and irresolution of David in the 73d Psalın, are extraordinary instances of this sort. But Jeremiah carries it yet farther: he proceeds to an expostulation with his Maker. "Let me talk with thee, O Lord, of thy judgments.. Thou hast planted (the wicked) yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit. But thou, Lord, knowest me, thou hast seen me, and tried my heart towards thee. I have forsaken my house, &c." Chap. 12. v. 1, 2, 3, & 8.

speech of Lycurgus very oddly, by a reflection Lactantius solves the extravagance of this on his priesthood. His words are these, "priests may be as angry as they will," for so must he be understood according to the purport of the original. I much question whether his name-sake would have allowed this concession to the c'ergy and if the translator may have leave to give his opinion, he thinks them to have less need of it, than any other part of the nation.


Nine times his course bright Lucifer had roll'd
And ev'ning Vesper deck'd his rays with gold.

v. 271.

This particularity is so far from being ornamental, that it preserves a valuable piece of antiquity; namely the closing of the funeral games after nine days end: which ceremony the old Romans called Novemdialia.



High o'er the people wrought with lively grace, Shine the fair glories of their ancient race. v. 297.

I don't remember any thing more noble, or judicious than this historical picture. The description of a shield was already worn out: 'twas in possible to add any thing of moment after Homer and Virgil. Nor is it introduced merely for ornament; it contains, no less than the story of their ancestors, magnanimûm series antiqua parentum. Its effects are visible: to inspire them with courage in the funeral games. Besides, it happily avoids most of the objections that have been made against the shields of Achilles and Æneas. Its size answers all multiplicity of figures; and even every figure bears a plain reference to the subject of action. The rules of painting are exactly preserved: we have not only a contrast of passions in different persons, but variety of place in each distinct compartiment.

'Tis reasonable to think our author designed this as a compliment to a common ceremony then among the Romans: who used at all solemn funerals to carry before the corps of the deceased the pictures of their ancestors. Thus Horace, Epode the 8th;

-Funus atque imagines Ducunt triumphales tuum.

See also Cicero's oration for Milo, and the 35th book of Pliny. Perhaps Statius owed the first hint of his historical picture to the custom we now mention.


-Brave Choræ bus lifts his bleeding handsv. 324.


Swift flew the rapid car, and left behind The noise of tempests, and the wings of wind. v. 549. These verses are somewhat too bold in the original:

-stupuêre relicta

Nubila, certantes Eurique Notique sequuntur. Whoever translates Statius must have liberty to soften some of these hyperboles. Yet Lactantius was of another opinion, who admires this place in the true spirit of criticism. Divinè dictum dedit illis victoriæ votum, sed ademit effectum. His remark is not worth translating.


So sad Apollo with a boding sigh
Told his fond child- - v. 363.


Here Belus' sons at Hymen's altars stand, And join with hearts averse the friendly hand. v. 351.

The contract of Danaus and Egyptus is too well known to be repeated. However for the sake of the curious I shall not pass by the epistle of Hypermnestra to Linus, and some remarkable passages in Pindar's ninth Pythian Ode. Statius seems pleased with this story, and has chosen it in another place to ornament the shield of Hippomedon. There is something very masterly in the expression, and the tout-ensemble makes a fine piece of night-painting:

in this simile, not without a fine commiseration
We may perceive something very remarkable
for unhappy Polynices. Instead of accusing the
rashness, or folly of Phaeton, all is attributed to
fatal destiny. As much as to say, Polynices lost
by the interposition of a deity.
not the race through his own imprudence, but



Lactantius gives two meanings to this hemystic; the venerable or undaunted figure of Choræbus. I have chosen the latter, because it agrees best with his character in the first The-give such an example, but indeed husbands are baid. The story is too long to be transcribed.

Euripides has written a tragedy upon this occasion. I am afraid few modern ladies would

much alter'd since the days of Admetus. I may
add, that Statius takes notice of the death of
Alceste in his Sylva,entituled the Tears of Etrus-
cus, Lib. 3.
I the rather cite this poem because
it contains some fine strokes of humanity, and
filial affection. Of the same nature is his Epi-
cedion in Patrem. I wonder that these two ad-
mirable copies have never yet beeen translated.


"Th'impatient coursers pant in ev'ry vein, And pawing seem to beat the distant plain. The vales, the floods appear already crost, And e'er they start, a thousand steps are lost." v. 454.

-humeros, & pectora latè Flammeus orbis habet- -vivit in auro Nox Danai, sontes furiarum lampade nigrâ Quinquaginta ardent thalami, pater ipse cruentis

In foribus, laudatque nefas,

atque inspicit


Theb. 4.

Admetus' life, &c. v. 431.

This alludes chiefly to the story of Alceste, Admetus his wife, who was so honourable (it seems) as to lay down her life to atone for her husband's. Juvenal makes an agreeable use of this female gallantry:

--spectant subeuntem fata mariti

The Latin of these verses is wonderfully fine, as Mr. Dryden acknowledges in his preface to Du Fresnoy. He cites them as a true image of our author:

Stare adeò miserum est, pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam, absentemque ferit gravis ungula


"Which would cost me" (says he)" an hour to translate, there is so much beauty in the original."

Since that, Mr. Pope has imitated these verses almost verbatim in his Windsor Forest: and I thought fit to transfer them hither, rather than expose my own weakness. I never was heartily mortified before; I just know how to admire him and to despise myself! the reader may be assured, I durst not presume to do this without that gentleman's consent; who not only gave me leave to use his translation, but also to alter any circumstances that might not correspond with the original. I remember a paper in the Guardian that consists chiefly of parallel descriptions upon this occasion; and thither I refer the curious.

[blocks in formation]

Earth opening seem'd to groan (a fatal sign!)

v. 600.

Because Amphiaraus was afterwards to be swallowed under ground. See the latter end of the seventh Thebaid:

Illum ingens haurit specus, & transire parantes Merget equos: non arma manu, non fræna remisit

Sicut erat, rectos defert in Tartara currus:
Respexitque cadens cœlum, campumque coire

I have open'd this passage a little, but with due respect to geography. See the fourth Theb. Resupina Elis, demissa Pisa.

In deference to the above-mentioned criticism, I thought fit to leave out, vestigia cunctis indeprensa procis; for there lies all the confusion. 30. Foot-race. v. 766.


Thus in some storm the broken billows rise Round the vast rockv. 909. 'Tis with great judgment the poet introduces this simile, which admirably paints the size and I have endeaunmoveableness of Capaneus. voured to give it this turn, adding the epithet vast, to strengthen the idea. A translator can

I take this to be one of the most noble des- seldom do his author this justice, and I see no criptions I ever met with in any language.


Loud shouts each chief that from high Elis
His native train, &c. v. 639.

reasons against it, if the deviation exceeds not
one word. However, it is manifest the original
alludes only to the noise, and sudden overflow-
ing of the waters. 'Tis impossible to give a more
lively image of Alcidamas. Statius has com-
prized himself also into a shorter pass than usual,
that the mind might not be too much suspended
in the midst of so important an action. Besides,
there is a particular beauty in the versification:
seems to run by starts, short and violent:


Lives there a warrior in the world of fame, Who never heard of Atalanta's name? v. 649. The commentators are all mighty merry upon these verses. It seems Statius has confounded the history of Atalanta (there being two of that name) and takes the wife of Hippomenes for that of Pelops; the famous racer in days of yore. This (say they) is a remarkable oversight, and very few of them can heartily forgive it. The matter is hardly worth debate: poets were never thought infallible. Whoever reads the critical discourse upon the Iliad, will find many errours even in Homer; though not so many as La Motte fancied. Aristotle, Cicero, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus were seldom right in their quotations. Macrobius tells us, that Virgil ran into many palpable mistakes, purely to disengage himself from too much exactness, and to imitate Homer. Mons. la Mothe le Vayer has written an entire treatise upon this subject: and I think it worth reading, merely as a mortification for human vanity.

I must own, I think this foot-race an inimily as just; the circumstances perhaps are more table piece of poetry. The design itself is equalbeautiful than those upon the same subject in the Greek or Roman poet. Had Statius given the prize to Idas, (than which nothing was more easy) I cannot but think the moral would have been highly defective. Yet Euryalus in Virgil descriptive parts our author borrows nothing wins the race by downright fraudulence. In the

considerable from either of the above cited poets. I wish he had taken one circumstance from Homer, which pleases me much. It is the passage where Ulysses follows Ajax:

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

Assilit, ut præceps cumulo salir unda, minaces
In scopulos, & fracta redit-

32. The fight of the cæstus.

v. 966.

I have taken notice in the foot-race, that Statius has varied from Virgil, with admirable judgment. The same may be advanced here in respect to Homer, who in his fight of the cæstus, rewards insolence and pride, instead of punishing them. There is an exact parity of character between Capane and Epeus: but not the same success. The boaster in this place meets with the most manifest disadvantage: a great improvement of the moral,

Upon the whole: it may be required I should attempt something like a comparison between the descriptions of this game in Homer, Virgil, and Statius. To speak my own sentiments, I cannot but prefer the latter, not only for its greater variety of incidents, but for the cha

racter of arrogance, which is wrought up to much more perfection: it was this they all laboured at. Capaneus is so far blinded with his own admiration, that be still fancies himself the conqueror: though the odds appeared visibly against him: so apt is pride to magnify. This is superadded to the characters in Homer and Virgil: and I think it a most natural improve



Nor breath'd its spirit to congenial skies. v. 1029. Or to congenial stars more literally, according to the philosophy of Pythagoras. The wicked, says Lactantius, were punished by their stars (ab ipsis astris, stellisque are his words); the good enjoyed their light for ever. For a farther explication of this ancient doctrine, I refer the reader to Servius and Ruæus's notes


The mountain-cypress thus, that firmly stood upon the 227th line of Virgil's 4th Georgic, SyFromage to agev. 994. deris in numerum, &c. See also Plato in



Ille autem Alpini veluti regina cupressus

[blocks in formation]


Not half so bloody: or with half such rage
Two mighty monarchs of the herd engage.
v. 1006.

Statius seems to have copied this simile from the combat of Hercules and Achelöus in the ninth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses. I shall pleasure the reader with them both. And Ovid;

Non aliter vidi fortes concurrere tauros, Cum pretium pugnæ, toto nitidissima saltu Expetitur conjux: spectant armenta, paventque Nescia quem tanti maneat victoria regni.

Here end the funeral games, which are put off (as in Virgil) by a prodigy, foreboding that none of the seven captains should return, except Adrastus: as that in Virgil foretold the burnfirsting of the ships by the Trojan matrons.

To conclude, whosoever will read the original impartially, will find Statius to be a much better poet than the world imagines. What the translation is, I know not: nor can the notes be extraordinary, when no body has written any thing tolerable before me. The reader may believe, or disbelieve them as he pleases; I deliver conjectures, not doctrines. If my present version has the fortune to please, I may perhaps proceed farther: if not, I cannot but think myself happy in reviving at least so fine a piece of poetry. I have but just given the sketch of a pictnre, it remains for others to deepen the strokes, and finish the whole. Whoever can take such pains, will oblige me, as much as the world.

Non sic ductores gemini gregis, horrida tauri Bella movent: medio conjux stat candida prato Victorem expectans; rumpunt obnixa surentes Pectora

The latter in my opinion is far more natural than the former. There is a beautiful contrast, or variation of numbers, very tender and flowing,


-medio coujux


Which is somewhat faintly preserved in the translation.


So Hercules, who long had toil'd in vain,
Heav'd huge Anthë us. v. 1040.

Spenser has a simile something of this nature in the combat between the Red-cross knight and Sansfoy, Lib. 1. Canto 2.

I cannot but admire this noble simile; besides the parity of circumstances, the savage character of Antheus suits admirably well with the brutal fury of Agylleus: nor is it a small compliment to little Tydeus, to compare him with Hercules for strength. I fancy Spenser drew the story of Maleger at large from this picture. I am the more inclined to think so, because in the combat of prince Arthur, and Pyrrhocles, he translates almost literally from Statius those verses that describe Agylleus after his fall: though it must be owned, he has interwoven a simile that much improves them :

Nought booted it the Paynim then to strive,
But as a bittour in an eagle's claw,
That may not hope by flight to 'scape alive,
Still hopes for death, with dread and trembling
So he now subject to the victor's law, [awe :
Did not once move, nor upwards cast his eye.




To the reverend Mr. Hildrop, master of Marleborough-School, (under whom I had the

honour of receiving my education) these Divine Poems are humbly dedicated by his

most obliged,

and obedient servant, W. HARTE,



AWAKE my soul! in hallow'd raptures praise
Th' Almighty God, who in th' empyreal height
Majestic shines, too glorious to behold.
Methinks the broad expansion of the sky
O'erspreads thy throne: in air thy chambers

Eternal, and unmov'd. Clouds roll'd on clouds
Thy chariot form; in thund'rings wrapt and tires
Thou walk'st, incumbent on the wings of wind.
Active as flames, all intellect, God forms
Angels of essence pure, whose finer parts
Invisible, and half dissolv'd in light, [hand
Should fleet through worlds of air. Th' Almighty
Fixt earth's eterual basis, and prescrib'd
Its utmost limits to the raging main.

Forth from their deeps a world of waters rose
And delug'd earth. He spoke, the waves obey'd
In peace, subsiding to their ancient springs.
Part murmur headlong down the mountain's

Part through the vales in slow mæanders play,
As pleas'd, yet loth to leave the flow'ry scene.
Thither by instinct savage beasts repair
To slake their thirst. Along the margin trees
Wave in the watry gleam, amid whose boughs
The winged songsters chant their Maker's pow'r.

God with prolific dews, and genial rain Impregnates earth, then crowns the smiling fields With lively green: the vegetative juice

Flows briskly through the trees; the purple grape Swells with nectareous wines t'inspire the soul. With verdant fruits the clust'ring olive bends Whose spritely liquor smooths the shining face.

On Lebanon the sacred cedar waves, And spiry fir-tree, where the stork conceals Her clam'rous young. The rocks bare, unadorn'd, Have uses too: there goats in quest of food Hang pendulous in air, there rabbits form Their mazy cells-in constant course the Moon Nocturnal sheds her kindly influence down, Marks out the circling year, and rules the


In constant regularity the Sun Purples the rosy east, or leaves the skies. Then awful night o'er all the globe extends Her sable shades: the woods and deserts ring With hideous yell, what time the lions roar And tear their prey; but when the glimm'ring


Incredible to thought. There tow'rs of oak
Float o'er the surges; there enormous whales
In awkward gainbols play, th' inferior fry
Sportive through groves of shining coral glide.
These with observance due, when hunger calls
Expect their meat from God, who sometimes
A just sufficiency, or more profuse [gives
Show'rs down his bounty with a copious hand.
When God withholds his all-sustaining care,
To dust, their former principle, they fall.
Then thy prolific spirit forins anew
Each undecaying species. Mighty God! [is,
How great, how good thy pow'r; that was, and
And e'er shall be immutably the same!

Earth at thy look with reverential fear
Ev'n to the centre shakes: the mountains blaze
Beneath thy touch. Hail awful pow'r of Heav'n,
Eternal three and one! The slaves of vice

Thy vengeance, like a sudden whirlwind's rage, Sweeps from mankind. My Muse, thrice glo

rious task!

Dawns o'er the hills, their depredations cease
And sacred silence reigns. The painful man
Commences with the Sun his early toil,
With him retires to rest. O Pow'r supreme!
How wonderful thy works! the bounteous earth
Pours from its fruitful surface plants and herbs
Adapt for ev'ry use: its bowels hold
Rich veins of silver, and the golden ore.
Unnumber'd wonders in the deeps appear,

[blocks in formation]

MORTALS, rejoice! with raptures introduce
Your grateful songs, and tell what mercies God
Deigus to bestow on man: but chiefly you
The progeny of David, whom the Lord
Selected from each region of the globe
Beneath the arctic or antarctic pole:
Or where the purple Sun with orient beams
Strikes parallel on Earth, or prone descends
T'illumine worlds beyond th' Hesperian main.
With weary feet, and mournful eyes they

Erroneous through the dreary waste of plains,
Immeas'rable: the broad expanse of Heav'n
Their canopy, the ground, of damp malign,
Their bed nocturnal. Thus in wild despair
Anxious they sought some hospitable town.
In shame and bitterness of soul once more
They recognized the Lord, and trembling cry'd
"Have mercy on us!" he, the source of mercy,
Kindly revisited his fav'rite race,
Consol'd their woes, and led the weary train
Through barren wilds to the long-promis'd land,
Then plac'd 'em there in peaceful habitations.


"O that the sons of men in grateful songs, Wou'd praise th' unbounded goodness of the Lord,

Declare his miracles, and laud his pow'r!".

He cheers the sad, and bids the famish'd soul
Luxuriant feast till nature craves no more.
He often saves th' imprison'd wretch that lies
Tortur'd in iron chains, no more to see
The cheerful light, or breathe the purer air.
(The due reward imperious mortals find, [pise
When swell'd with earthly grandeur, they des-
The Pow'r supreme) thus Jesse's sacred seed,
Elated with the num,'rous gifts of Heav'n,

« EelmineJätka »