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Materiam superabat opus: the very sound of his words have often somewhat that is connatural to the subject; and while we read him, we sit, as in a play, beholding the scenes of what he represents. To perform this, he made frequent use of tropes, which you know change 5 the nature of a known word, by applying it to some other signification; and this is it which Horace means in his Epistle to the Pisos—
But I am sensible I have presumed too far, to entertain you with a rude discourse of that art, which you both know so well, and put into practice with so much happiness. Yet before I leave Virgil, I must own the vanity to tell you, and by you the world, that he has 15 been my master in this poem. I have followed him everywhere, I know not with what success, but I am sure with diligence enough; my images are many of them copied from him, and the rest are imitations of him. My expressions also are as near as the idioms 20 of the two languages would admit of in translation. And this, Sir, I have done with that boldness, for which I will stand accomptable to any of our little critics, who, perhaps, are not better acquainted with him than I am. Upon your first perusal of this poem, you have 25 taken notice of some words, which I have innovated (if it be too bold for me to say refined) upon his Latin; which, as I offer not to introduce into English prose, so I hope they are neither improper, nor altogether unelegant in verse; and in this Horace will again 30 defend me
Et nova, fictaque nuper, habebunt verba fidem, si
The inference is exceeding plain; for, if a Roman
poet might have liberty to coin a word, supposing only 35
that it was derived from the Greek, was put into a Latin termination, and that he used this liberty but seldom, and with modesty; how much more justly may I challenge that privilege to do it with the same pre5 requisites, from the best and most judicious of Latin writers? In some places, where either the fancy or the words were his, or any other's, I have noted it in the margin, that I might not seem a plagiary; in others I have neglected it, to avoid as well tediousness, as the 10 affectation of doing it too often. Such descriptions or images, well wrought, which I promise not for mine, are, as I have said, the adequate delight of Heroic Poesy; for they beget admiration, which is its proper object; as the images of the Burlesque, which is contrary to 15 this, by the same reason beget laughter: for the one shows nature beautified, as in the picture of a fair woman, which we all admire; the other shows her deformed, as in that of a Lazar, or of a fool with distorted face and antic gestures, at which we cannot 20 forbear to laugh, because it is a deviation from Nature.
But though the same images serve equally for the epic poesy, and for the historic and panegyric, which are branches of it, yet a several sort of sculpture is to be used in them: if some of them are to be like those of 25 Juvenal, stantes in curribus Aemiliani, heroes drawn in their triumphal chariots, and in their full proportion; others are to be like that of Virgil, spirantia mollius æra there is somewhat more of softness and tenderness to be shown in them. You will soon find I write 30 not this without concern. Some, who have seen a paper of verses, which I wrote last year to her Highness the Duchess, have accused them of that only thing I could defend in them. They said, I did humi serpere, -that I wanted not only height of fancy, but dignity 35 of words, to set it off. I might well answer with that of
Horace, Nunc non erat his locus; I knew I addressed them to a lady, and accordingly I affected the softness of expression, and the smoothness of measure, rather than the height of thought; and in what I did endeavour, it is no vanity to say I have succeeded. I 5 detest arrogance; but there is some difference betwixt that and a just defence. But I will not farther bribe your candour, or the reader's. I leave them to speak for me; and, if they can, to make out that character, not pretending to a greater, which I have given them.
[Here follow in the original edition the verses to the
And now, Sir, 'tis time I should relieve you from the tedious length of this account. You have better and more profitable employment for your hours, and I 15 wrong the public to detain you longer. In conclusion, I must leave my poem to you with all its faults, which I hope to find fewer in the printing by your emendations. I know you are not of the number of those, of whom the younger Pliny speaks; Nec sunt parum multi, 20 qui carpere amicos suos judicium vocant: I am rather too secure of you on that side. Your candour in pardoning my errors may make you more remiss in correcting them; if you will not withal consider that they come into the world with your approbation, and through 25 your hands. I beg from you the greatest favour you can confer upon an absent person, since I repose upon your management what is dearest to me, my fame and reputation; and therefore I hope it will stir you up to make my poem fairer by many of your blots; if not, 30 you know the story of the gamester who married the rich man's daughter, and when her father denied the portion, christened all the children by his sirname, that if, in conclusion, they must beg, they should do so by
one name, as well as by the other. But, since the reproach of my faults will light on you, 'tis but reason I should do you that justice to the readers, to let them know, that, if there be anything tolerable in this poem, 5 they owe the argument to your choice, the writing to your encouragement, the correction to your judgment, and the care of it to your friendship, to which he must ever acknowledge himself to owe all things, who is,
The most obedient, and most
From Charlton, in Wiltshire,