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The following Translations were selected from many others done by the Author in his Youth; for the most part indeed but a sort of Exercises, while he was improving himself in the Languages, and carried by his early bent to Poetry to perform them rather in Verse than Prose. Mr. Dryden's Fables came out about that time, which occasioned the Translations from Chaucer. They were first separately printed in Miscellanies by J. Tonson and B. Lintot, and afterwards collected in the Quarto Edition of 1717. The Imitations of English Authors, which are added at the end, were done as early; some of them at fourteen or fifteen years old; but having also got into Miscellanies, we have put them here together to complete this Juvenile Volume.—Pope.
TRANSLATED IN THE YEAR MDCCIII.
It was in his childhood only that Pope could make choice of so injudicious a writer as Statius to translate. It were to be wished that no youth of genius were suffered ever to look into Statius, Lucan, Claudian, or Seneca the tragedian ; authors who, by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their swelling epithets, by their want of a just decorum, have a strong tendency to dazzle, and to mislead inexperienced minds, and tastes unformed, from the true relish of possibility, propriety, simplicity, and nature. Statius had undoubtedly invention, ability, and spirit ; but his images are gigantic and outrageous, and his sentiments tortured and hyperbolical. It can hardly, I think, be doubted, but that Juvenal intended a severe satire on him in these well-known lines, which have been commonly interpreted as a panegyric :
“ Curritur ad vocem jucundam et carmen amicæ
Thebaidos, lætam fecit cum Statius urbem,
Esurit.” In these verses are many expressions, here marked with Italics, which seem to hint obliquely that Statius was the favourite poet of the vulgar, who were easily captivated with a wild and inartificial tale, and with an empty magnificence of numbers ; the noisy roughness of which may be particularly alluded to in the expression fregit subsellia versu. One cannot forbear reflecting on the short duration of a true taste in poetry among the Romans. From the time of Lucretius to that of Statius was no more than about one hundred and forty-seven years ; and if I might venture to pronounce so rigorous a sentence, I would say, that the Romans can boast of but eight poets who are unexceptionably excellent; namely, Terence, Lucretius, Catullus, Virgil, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Phædrus. These only can be called legitimate models of just thinking and writing. Succeeding authors, as it happens in all countries, resolving to be original and new, and to avoid the imputation of copying, become distorted and unnatural : by endeavouring to open an unbeaten path, they desert simplicity and truth ; weary of common and obvious beauties, they 92
must needs hunt for remote and artificial decorations. Thus was it that the age of Demetrius Phalerëus succeeded that of Demosthenes, and the false relish of Tiberius's court the chaste one of Augustus.—Warton.
It is not perhaps to be inferred, that because Pope undertook to translate some portions of Statius and Ovid, he therefore preferred their writings to those of Virgil and Horace, and the other great poets of the Augustan age. They appear to have been selected by him with no other view than as exercises, on which he wished to try the extent of his powers, and by which he might accustom himself to greater ease and facility of expression. That this object is likely to be more effectually accomplished by translations than by original composition, is apparent from the consideration, that in the former the writer is compelled to discover a mode of expression which shall precisely convey the sentiment of the original, whilst in the latter he can modify or change the sentiment to adapt it to the mode of expression. It was probably by his Translations of the Roman Poets, that Pope so eminently qualified himself for his great task. - the translation of the Iliad.
@dipus, King of Thebes, having by mistake slain his father Laius, and married his mother Jocasta, put out his own eyes, and resigned bis realm to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. Being neglected by them, he makes his prayer to the Fury Tisiphone, to sow debate betwixt the brothers. They agree at last to reign singly, each a year by turns, and the first lot is obtained by Eteocles. Jupiter, in a council of the Gods, declares his resolution of punishing the Thebans, and Argives also, by means of a marriage betwixt Polynices and one of the daughters of Adrastus, king of Argos. Juno opposes, but to no effect, and Mercury is sent on a message to the Shades, to the ghost of Laius, who is to appear to Eteocles, and provoke him to break the agreement. Polynices in the meantime departs from Thebes by night, is overtaken by a storm, and arrives at Argos ; where he meets with Tydeus, who had fled from Calydon, having killed his brother. Adrastus entertains them, having received an oracle from Apollo that his daughters should be married to a Boar and a Lion, which he understands to be meant of these strangers, by whom the hides of these beasts were worn, and who arrived at the time when he kept an annual feast in honour of that God. The rise of this solemnity he relates to his guests, the loves of Phæbus and Psamathe, and the story of Chorcbus. He inquires, and is made acquainted with their descent and quality : The sacrifice is renewed, and the book concludes with a Hymn to Apollo.
The Translator hopes he need not apologize for his choice of this piece, which was made almost in his childhood.
But finding the version better than he expected, he gave it sonie correction a few years afterwards,—P.
He was but fourteen years old.-Warton.