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I will take leave to add, that the second now remaining in the French language, was entitled, The Romance of Alexander the Great. It was the confederated work of four authors, famous in their time.

Court, and Alexander of Paris,

Lambert le

fung the ex

ploits of Alexander; Peter de Saint Cloft, wrote his will in verfe; the writing the will of a hero being then a common topic; and John le Nivelois, added a book concerning the manner in which his death was revenged. It is remarkable, that before this time, all the Romans had been compofed in verses of eight fyllables: but in this piece, the four authors firft ufed verfes of TWELVE fyllables, as more folemn and majestic. And this was the origin, tho' but little known, of those verfes, which we now call ALEXANDRINES; the French heroic meafure: the name being derived from Alexander, the hero of the piece, or from Alexander, the most celebrated of the four poets concerned in this work. These were the most applauded poets of that age. Fauchet highly commends this poem: particularly

ticularly a paffage where a Cavalier is ftruck to the ground with a lance, who, fays the old bard,

Du long, comme il etoit, mefura la campagne.

Which is not inferior to Virgil's,

Hefperiam metire jacens.

One would not imagine this line had been written, fo early as the middle of the twelfth century. A great and truly learned antiquary* has remarked, for the honour of our country, that about this time, 1160, appeared the first traces of any theatre. "A monk called Geoffry, who was afterwards abbot of St. Albans in England, employed in the education of youth, made his pupils reprefent, with proper scenes and dreffes, tragedies of piety. The fubject of the first dramatic piece, was, the miracles of faint Catharine, which, fays my author, appeared long before any of our reprefentations of the MYSTERIES."

*The prefident Henault, Hiftoire de France. Tom. 1. p. 151. a Paris 1749.

SECT.

SECT. VI.

Of the Epiftle of SAPPHO to PHAon, and of ELOISA to ABELARD.

T is no small merit in Ovid, to have in

Ivented this beautiful species of writing

epiftles under feigned characters. It is a high improvement on the Greek elegy; to which its dramatic nature renders it greatly fuperior. It is indeed no other than a paffionate foliloquy; in which, the mind gives vent to the diftreffes and emotions under which it labours: but by being directed and addressed to a particular perfon, it gains a degree of propriety, that the best-conducted foliloquy, in a tragedy, must ever want. Our impatience under any preffures of grief, and disorder of mind, makes fuch paffionate expoftulations with the perfons fuppofed to cause such uneafineffes, very natural. Judgment is chiefly fhewn, by opening the interesting complaint just at fuch a period of time, as will give oc

cafion for the most tender fentiments, and the most sudden and violent turns of paffion to be displayed. Ovid may, perhaps, be blamed for a sameness of subjects, in these epistles of his heroines; whofe diftreffes are almost all occafioned by their lovers forfaking them. His epiftles are likewife too long; which circumstance has forced him into a repetition and languor in the fentiments. It would be a pleafing task, and conduce to the formation of a good tafte, to fhew how differently Ovid and the Greek tragedians, have made Medea, Phædra, and Deianira speak, on the very fame occafions. Such a comparison would abundantly manifeft, the FANCY and WIT of Ovid, and the JUDGMENT and NATURE of Euripides and Sophocles. If the character of Medea was not better fupported in the tragedy, which Ovid is faid to have produced, and of whichQuintilian speaks fo advantageously, than it is in her epiftle to Jafon, one may venture to declare, that, if this drama had furvived, the Romans would not yet have been vindicated, from their inferiority to the Greeks, in tragic poefy.

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THE EPISTLE before us is tranflated by POPE, with faithfulness and with elegance; and much excells any that Dryden tranflated in the volume he published: many of which were done by fome "of the mob of gentlemen that wrote with eafe;" that is, Sir C. Scroop, Caryl, Pooly, Wright, Tate, Buckingham, Cooper, and other careless rhymers. A good tranflation of these epiftles, is as much wanted, as one of Juvenal; for, out of fixteen fatires of that poet, Dryden himself tranflated but fix. We can now boast of happy tranflations in verfe, of almoft all the great poets of antiquity; whilft the French have been poorly contented with only prose translations of Homer and Horace, which, fays Cervantes, can no more resemble the original, than the wrong fide of tapestry can represent the right. The inability of the French tongue to exprefs many Greek or Roman ideas with facility and grace, is here vifible: but the Italians have Horace tranflated by Pallavacini, Theocritus by Ricolotti, Ovid by Anguillara, the Æneid, admirably well, in blank verse, by Annibal

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