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The foreign poems of Milton, with a few exceptions, were translated by the poet Cowper, whose versions are given in the ensuing pages.
TRANSLATIONS OF THE ITALIAN POEMS.
FAIR Lady! whose harmonious name the Rhine,
Through all his glassy vale, delights to hear,
Base were indeed the wretch who could forbear
To love a spirit elegant as thine,
That manifests a sweetness all divine,
Nor knows a thousand winning acts to spare,
And graces, which Love's bow and arrows are,
Tempering thy virtues to a softer shine.
When gracefully thou speak'st, or singest gay
Such strains as might the senseless forest move,
Ah then-turn each his eyes and ears away
Who feels himself unworthy of thy love!
Grace can alone preserve him, ere the dart
Of fond desire yet reach his inmost heart.
As on a hill-top rude, when closing day
Imbrowns the scene, some pastoral maiden fair
Waters a lovely foreign plant with care,
Borne from its native genial airs away,
That scarcely can its tender bud display,
So, on my tongue these accents, new and rare,
Are flowers exotic, which Love waters there,
While thus, O sweetly scornful! I essay
Thy praise, in verse to British ears unknown,
And Thames exchange for Arno's fair domain;
So Love has willed, and ofttimes Love has shown
That what he wills he never wills in vain.
Oh that this hard and sterile breast might be
To Him who plants from heaven a soil as free!
THEY mock my toil-the nymphs and amorous swains-
"And whence this fond attempt to write," they cry,
"Love-songs in language that thou little know'st?
How darest thou risk to sing these foreign strains?
Say truly,-find'st not oft thy purpose crossed,
And that thy fairest flowers here fade and die?"
Then with pretence of admiration high—
"Thee other shores expect, and other tides;
Rivers, on whose grassy sides
Her deathless laurel leaf, with which to bind
Thy flowing locks, already Fame provides;
Why then this burthen, better far declined?"
Speak, Muse! for me.-The fair one said, who guides My willing heart, and all my fancy's flights, "This is the language in which Love delights."
CHARLES-and I say it wondering—thou must know
That I, who once assumed a scornful air,
And scoffed at Love, am fallen in his snare.
(Full many an upright man has fallen so.)
Yet think me not thus dazzled by the flow
Of golden locks, or damask cheek; more rare
The heartfelt beauties of my foreign fair,—
A mien majestic, with dark brows that show
The tranquil lustre of a lofty mind;
Words exquisite of idioms more than one,
And song, whose fascinating power might blind
And from her sphere draw down the labouring Moon,
With such fire-darting eyes that, should I fill
My ears with wax, she would enchant me still.
LADY! it cannot be but that thine eyes
Must be my sun, such radiance they display,
And strike me even as Phoebus him whose way
Through horrid Libya's sandy desert lies.
Meantime, on that side steamy vapours rise
Where most I suffer. Of what kind are they,
New as to me they are, I cannot say,
But deem them, in the lover's language-sighs.
Some, though with pain, my bosom close conceals,
Which, if in part escaping thence they tend
To soften thine, thy coldness soon congeals.
While others to my tearful eyes ascend,
Whence my sad nights in showers are ever drowned,
Till my Aurora come, her brow with roses bound.
ENAMOURED, artless, young, on foreign ground
Uncertain whither from myself to fly,
To thee, dear Lady, with an humble sigh
Let me devote my heart, which I have found
By certain proofs, not few, intrepid, sound,
Good, and addicted to conceptions high:
When tempests shake the world, and fire the sky,
It rests in adamant self-wrapt around;
As safe from envy, and from outrage rude,
From hopes and fears that vulgar minds abuse,
As fond of genius and fixt fortitude,
Of the resounding lyre, and every Muse.
Weak you will find it in one only part,
Now pierced by Love's immedicable dart.
TRANSLATIONS OF THE LATIN POEMS.
ELEGY I.-TO CHARLES DEODATI.
AT length, my friend, the far-sent letters come,
Charged with thy kindness, to their destined home;
They come, at length, from Deva's western side,
Where prone she seeks the salt Vergivian tide.
Trust me, my joy is great that thou shouldst be,
Though born of foreign race, yet born for me,
And that my sprightly friend, now free to roam,
Must seek again so soon his wonted home.
I well content where Thames with influent tide
My native city laves meantime reside.
Nor zeal nor duty now my steps impel
To reedy Cam, and my forbidden cell;
Nor aught of pleasure in those fields have I
That to the musing bard all shade deny.
'Tis time that I a pedant's threats disdain,
And fly from wrongs my soul will ne'er sustain.
If peaceful days, in lettered leisure spent
Beneath my father's roof, be banishment,
Then call me banished; I will ne'er refuse
A name expressive of the lot I choose.
I would that, exiled to the Pontic shore,
Rome's hapless bard had suffered nothing more ;
He then had equalled even Homer's lays,
And, Virgil! thou hadst won but second praise.
For here I woo the Muse, with no control;
And here my books-my life-absorb me whole.
Here too I visit, or to smile or weep,
The winding theatre's majestic sweep;
The grave or gay colloquial scene recruits
My spirits, spent in learning's long pursuits;
Whether some senior shrewd, or spendthrift heir,
Suitor or soldier, now unarmed, be there;
Or some coifed brooder o'er a ten years' cause
Thunder the Norman gibberish of the laws.
The lacquey there oft dupes the wary sire,
And artful speeds the enamoured son's desire :
There virgins oft, unconscious what they prove,
What love is know not, yet unknowing love.
Or if impassioned Tragedy wield high
The bloody sceptre, give her locks to fly
Wild as the winds, and roll her haggard eye
I gaze, and grieve, still cherishing my grief;
At times, even bitter tears yield sweet relief :
As when, from bliss untasted torn away,
Some youth dies hapless on his bridal day,
Or when the ghost, sent back from shades below,
Fills the assassin's heart with vengeful woe,
When Troy or Argos the dire scene affords,
Or Creon's hall laments its guilty lords.
Nor always city-pent, or pent at home,
I dwell; but when spring calls me forth to roam,
Expatiate in our proud suburban shades
Of branching elm that never sun pervades.
Here many a virgin troop I may descry,
Like stars of mildest influence gliding by.
Oh forms divine! Oh looks that might inspire
Even Jove himself, grown old, with young desire.
Oft have I gazed on gem-surpassing eyes,
Out-sparkling every star that gilds the skies;
Necks whiter than the ivory arm bestowed
By Jove on Pelops, or the milky road;
Bright locks, Love's golden snare! these falling low,
Those playing wanton o'er the graceful brow;
Cheeks too, more winning sweet than after shower
Adonis turned to Flora's favourite flower.
Yield, heroines, yield, and ye who shared the embrace
Of Jupiter in ancient times, give place;
Give place, ye turbaned fair of Persia's coast!
And ye, not less renowned, Assyria's boast!
Submit, ye nymphs of Greece! ye, once the bloom
Of Ilion! and all ye of haughty Rome,
Who swept, of old, her theatres with trains
Redundant, and still live in classic strains!
To British damsels beauty's palm is due :
Aliens to follow them is fame for you.
Oh city, founded by Dardanian hands,
Whose towering front the circling realms commands,
Too blest abode ! no loveliness we see
In all the earth but it abounds in thee..
The virgin multitude that daily meets,
Radiant with gold and beauty, in thy streets,
Outnumbers all her train of starry fires,
With which Diana gilds thy lofty spires.
Fame says that, wafted hither by her doves,
With all her host of quiver-bearing Loves,
Venus, preferring Paphian scenes no more,
Has fixed her empire on thy nobler shore.
But, lest the sightless boy enforce my stay,
I leave these happy walls, while yet I may.
Immortal moly shall secure my heart
From all the sorcery of Circæan art,
And I will even repass Cam's reedy pools,
To face once more the warfare of the schools.
Meantime accept this trifle! rhymes, though few,
Yet such as prove thy friend's remembrance true.
ELEGY II.-ON THE DEATH OF THE UNIVERSITY BEADLE AT CAMBRIDGE.
THEE whose refulgent staff and summons clear
Minerva's flock long time was wont to obey,
Although thyself an herald, famous here,
The last of heralds, Death, has snatched away.
He calls on all alike, nor even deigns
spare the office that himself sustains.
Thy locks were whiter than the plumes displayed
By Leda's paramour in ancient time,
But thou wast worthy ne'er to have decayed,
Or Æson-like to know a second prime,
Worthy for whom some goddess should have won
New life, oft kneeling to Apollo's son.
Commissioned to convene, with hasty call,
The gowned tribes, how graceful wouldst thou stand!
So stood Cyllenius erst in Priam's hall,
Wing-footed messenger of Jove's command:
And so Eurybates, when he addressed
To Peleus' son Atrides' proud behest.
Dread queen of sepulchres! whose rigorous laws
And watchful eyes run through the realms below,
Oh oft too adverse to Minerva's cause,
Too often to the Muse not less a foe,
Choose meaner marks, and with more equal aim
Pierce useless drones, earth's burthen and its shame!
Flow therefore tears, for him, from every eye!
All ye disciples of the Muses, weep!
Assembling all, in robes of sable dye,
Around his bier, lament his endless sleep;
And let complaining elegy rehearse,
In every school, her sweetest saddest verse.