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The second and fourth books are the highest displays of Virgil's genius. They contain the most interesting narrations in the Æneid. The second book is the most magnificent, the fourth generally most tender. Next to these, no part of the work has pleased me more than the Episode of Nisus and Euryalus. Whatever may be the defects of Virgil as an epic poet....he, in the music of his numbers, in the selection of his words, has never been excelled....In judgment he stands before Homer, though he is very far behind him in genius....After these observations which have been adventurously, and perhaps too carlessly thrown out, I shall proceed to suggest to the attention of the reader some extracts from the
Eneid, which I have not seen particularly noticed, and which to me were striking and above the common level of Virgil's poetry....For a very sufficient reason I shall take all the passages from Dryden's translation. The portrait of Æneas, when first discovered to the eyes of Dido, has been deservedly admired. In that description, however, there are four lines which are pre-emi
nent, and on which the finger of criticism has never rested: Scarce had he spoken, when the cloud
The mists flew upward, and dissolv'd in day.
The Trojan chief appear'd in open sight,
August in visage and serenely bright.
In the second book, which is throughout excellent, few passages have pleased me more than the description of the last efforts and the death of Priam....Though it must be familiar to the scholar, yet he will be pleased to see it in this way recalled to his remembrance....The translation of Dryden is full of his peculiarities and strength of phrase. Perhaps you may of Priam's fate inquire.
He, when he saw his regal town on fire,
His ruin'd palace, and his ent'ring foes,
On ev'ry side inevitable woes; In arms, disus'd, invests his limbs decay'd
Like them, with age; a late and use
These times want other aids: were
Ev'n Hector now in vain, like Priam
With us one common shelter thou shalt find,
Or in one common fate with us be join'd.
She said, and with a last salute em
brac'd The poor old man, plac'd.
Just, and but barely, to the mark it held,
And faintly tinckl'd on the brazen shield.
Then Pyrrhus thus: Go thou from me to fate;
And to my father my foul deeds relate.
Now die with that he dragg'd the trembling sire,
and by the laurel Slidd'ring thro' clotter'd blood and holy mire,
Behold Polites, one of Priam's sons,
(The mingl'd paste his murder'd son had made,)
Haul'd from beneath the violated shade;
And on the sacred pile, the royal victim laid.
His right hand held his bloody fau-
His left he twisted in his hoary hair:
Repeated peals of shouts are heard around;
The neighing coursers answer to the sound.
And shake with horny hoofs the solid ground.
Will the reader excuse me for offering to his attention the subsequent long passage from the Episode of Nisus and Eurvalus. I could not curtail it without presenting it in an injured form, and it will reward the minutest examination which can be bestowed upon it. The lines marked in italics appear to me uncommonly excellent. The speedy horse all passages belay, And spur their smoking steeds to cross their way;
And watch each entrance of the winding
Pierc'd his thin armonr, drank his vital blood,
And in his body left the broken wood. He staggers round, his eye-balls roll in death,
And with short sobs he gasps away his breath.
All stand amaz'd, a second jav❜lin flies,
With equal strength, and quivers thro' the skies;
This thro' thy temples, Tagus, forc'd the way,
And in the brain-pan warmly bury'd
Fierce Volscens foam with rage, and gazing round,
Descry'd not him who gave the fatal wound;
Nor knew to fix revenge; but thou, he cries,
Shalt pay for both, and at the pris❜ner flies,
With his drawn sword. Then struck with deep despair,
That cruel sight the lover could not bear;
But from his covert rush'd in open view,
And sent his voice before him as he fiew.
Me, me, he cry'd, turn all your swords alone
On me; the fact confess'd, the fault
Ye moon and stars bear witness to the truth!
His only crime, (if friendship can offend,)
Is too much love to his unhappy friend,
Too late he speaks; the sword, which fury guides,
Driv'n with full force, had pierc'd his tender sides,
Down fell the beauteous youth; the yawning wound
Gush'd out a purple stream, and stain'd the ground.
Iis snowy neck reclines upon his breast,
Like a fair flow'r by the keen share oppress'd;
Like a white poppy sinking on the plain,
Whose heavy head is overcharg'd with
After I have extracted one more passage from the neid, I shall close the present No. of Critical Notices, with a few short sentences on the comparative merits of the versification of Dryden and Pope in their respective epic translations.
The two following extracts describe the inquietudes and tortures of a dreamful sleep. The terrible apparition, commonly called the night-mare, has been variously described by poets, as it assumes different shapes. Darwin's luxuriant pencil has attempted its portrait with considerable success........but bolder and more original outlines are to be found in the picture which Sotheby has given in his translation of Wieland's Oberon, of this midnight hag.
And as when heavy sleep has clos'd
The sickly fancy labours in the night; We seem to run; and, destitute of
Our sinking limbs forsake us in the
In vain we heave for breath; in vain we cry:
The nerves unbrac'd, their usual strength deny;
And, on the tongue the falt'ring accents die.
The critical world is divided in opinion concerning the merits of Dryden's and Pope's translation. I think it must be acknowledged, that the versification of the former is less regular and less magnificent, but more forcible and natural than that of the latter.Pope has less vigour,less variety, but more harmony and more uniform magnificence than Dryden. The first book of the Iliad, translated by Dryden, is not equal to the same book translated by Pope....it has however some parallel passages superior. The excellencies of Pope are more glaring than those of Dryden. The latter must be read and examined with attention before we can become familiar with his beauties. His mind was a rich soil, out of which sprang weeds as well as amaranthine flowers, and oaks of great growth. The mind of Pope
was a soil not so rich, but it was cultivated with more care, it was a luxuriant garden in which were permitted to spring but few or no weeds.
For the Literary Magazine.
ON THE IMPROPRIETY OF LOOKING INTO FUTURITY.
"In human hearts, what bolder thought can rise
Than man's presumption on
ASPIRING MORTAL!.......when wilt thou learn thy duty, and act consistently with the sense of it in thy own breast? When will thy arrogance meet with its just sentence....when wilt thou be rendered more dignified in thy nature and thy actions, by the practice of humility, by an acceptance of thy own good, and a proper condemnation of that censurable curiosity, which leads thee to be dissatisfied with the present, and seek to develope that which is not in thy power, the future state of events? Leave futurity to Him, who, only, is capable of regulating it,......who "rides on the whirlwind, and directs the storm!" Perform thy duty, and no evil shall befal thee: as the sacred language of Him, from whose lips flow eternal wisdom and truth, pronounces! Why seek to entangle thyself in the labyrinth of metaphysical research? yet if thou must be inquisitive.... if thy restless spirit, ever on the wing, despises all controul, seek those things which will be productive of everlasting benefit, before the decree shall be announced, which hides them from thy eager view, and bids the unavailing sigh of remorse to arise in thy bosom, never to be repressed.
It is evident, even to the superficial observer of causes and effects,