Discourses on Satire and Epic Poetry
John Dryden

Part 3 out of 4

Hectoris AEneaeque manu victoria Grajum
Haesit, et in decumum vestigia retulit annum.
Ambo animis, ambo insignes praestantibus armis:
Hic pietate prior."

I give not here my translation of these verses, though I think I
have not ill succeeded in them, because your lordship is so great a
master of the original that I have no reason to desire you should
see Virgil and me so near together. But you may please, my lord, to
take notice that the Latin author refines upon the Greek, and
insinuates that Homer had done his hero wrong in giving the
advantage of the duel to his own countryman, though Diomedes was
manifestly the second champion of the Grecians; and Ulysses
preferred him before Ajax when he chose him for the companion of his
nightly expedition, for he had a headpiece of his own, and wanted
only the fortitude of another to bring him off with safety, and that
he might compass his design with honour.

The French translator thus proceeds:- "They who accuse AEneas for
want of courage, either understand not Virgil or have read him
slightly; otherwise they would not raise an objection so easy to be
answered." Hereupon he gives so many instances of the hero's valour
that to repeat them after him would tire your lordship, and put me
to the unnecessary trouble of transcribing the greatest part of the
three last AEneids. In short, more could not be expected from an
Amadis, a Sir Lancelot, or the whole Round Table than he performs.
Proxima quaeque metit galdio is the perfect account of a knight-
errant. If it be replied, continues Segrais, that it was not
difficult for him to undertake and achieve such hardy enterprises
because he wore enchanted arms, that accusation in the first place
must fall on Homer ere it can reach Virgil. Achilles was as well
provided with them as AEneas, though he was invulnerable without
them; and Ariosto, the two Tassos (Bernardo and Torquato), even our
own Spenser--in a word, all modern poets--have copied Homer, as well
as Virgil; he is neither the first nor last, but in the midst of
them, and therefore is safe if they are so. Who knows, says
Segrais, but that his fated armour was only an allegorical defence,
and signified no more than that he was under the peculiar protection
of the gods? born, as the astrologers will tell us out of Virgil
(who was well versed in the Chaldean mysteries), under the
favourable influence of Jupiter, Venus, and the Sun? But I insist
not on this because I know you believe not there is such an art;
though not only Horace and Persius, but Augustus himself, thought
otherwise. But in defence of Virgil, I dare positively say that he
has been more cautious in this particular than either his
predecessor or his descendants; for AEneas was actually wounded in
the twelfth of the "AEneis," though he had the same godsmith to
forge his arms as had Achilles. It seems he was no "war-luck," as
the Scots commonly call such men, who, they say, are iron-free or
lead-free. Yet after this experiment that his arms were not
impenetrable (when he was cured indeed by his mother's help, because
he was that day to conclude the war by the death of Turnus), the
poet durst not carry the miracle too far and restore him wholly to
his former vigour; he was still too weak to overtake his enemy, yet
we see with what courage he attacks Turnus when he faces and renews
the combat. I need say no more, for Virgil defends himself without
needing my assistance, and proves his hero truly to deserve that
name. He was not, then, a second-rate champion, as they would have
him who think fortitude the first virtue in a hero.

But being beaten from this hold, they will not yet allow him to be
valiant, because he wept more often, as they think, than well
becomes a man of courage.

In the first place, if tears are arguments of cowardice, what shall
I say of Homer's hero? Shall Achilles pass for timorous because he
wept, and wept on less occasions than AEneas? Herein Virgil must be
granted to have excelled his master; for once both heroes are
described lamenting their lost loves: Briseis was taken away by
force from the Grecians, Creusa was lost for ever to her husband.
But Achilles went roaring along the salt sea-shore, and, like a
booby, was complaining to his mother when he should have revenged
his injury by arms: AEneas took a nobler course; for, having
secured his father and his son, he repeated all his former dangers
to have found his wife, if she had been above ground. And here your
lordship may observe the address of Virgil; it was not for nothing
that this passage was related, with all these tender circumstances.
AEneas told it, Dido heard it. That he had been so affectionate a
husband was no ill argument to the coming dowager that he might
prove as kind to her. Virgil has a thousand secret beauties, though
I have not leisure to remark them.

Segrais, on this subject of a hero's shedding tears, observes that
historians commend Alexander for weeping when he read the mighty
actions of Achilles; and Julius Caesar is likewise praised when out
of the same noble envy, he wept at the victories of Alexander. But
if we observe more closely, we shall find that the tears of AEneas
were always on a laudable occasion. Thus he weeps out of compassion
and tenderness of nature when in the temple of Carthage he beholds
the pictures of his friends who sacrificed their lives in defence of
their country. He deplores the lamentable end of his pilot
Palinurus, the untimely death of young Pallas his confederate, and
the rest which I omit. Yet even for these tears his wretched
critics dare condemn him; they make AEneas little better than a kind
of St. Swithin hero, always raining. One of these censors was bold
enough to argue him of cowardice, when in the beginning of the first
book he not only weeps, but trembles, at an approaching storm:-

"Extemplo AEneae solvuntur frigore membra:
Ingemit, et duplices tendens ad sidera palmas," &c.

But to this I have answered formerly that his fear was not for
himself, but for his people. And who can give a sovereign a better
commendation, or recommend a hero more to the affection of the
reader? They were threatened with a tempest, and he wept; he was
promised Italy, and therefore he prayed for the accomplishment of
that promise;--all this in the beginning of a storm; therefore he
showed the more early piety and the quicker sense of compassion.
Thus much I have urged elsewhere in the defence of Virgil: and
since, I have been informed by Mr. Moyle, a young gentleman whom I
can never sufficiently commend, that the ancients accounted drowning
an accursed death. So that if we grant him to have been afraid, he
had just occasion for that fear, both in relation to himself and to
his subjects. I think our adversaries can carry this argument no
farther, unless they tell us that he ought to have had more
confidence in the promise of the gods. But how was he assured that
he had understood their oracles aright? Helenus might be mistaken;
Phoebus might speak doubtfully; even his mother might flatter him
that he might prosecute his voyage, which if it succeeded happily he
should be the founder of an empire: for that she herself was
doubtful of his fortune is apparent by the address she made to
Jupiter on his behalf; to which the god makes answer in these

"Parce metu, Cytherea, manent immota tuorum
Fata tibi," &c.

Notwithstanding which the goddess, though comforted, was not
assured; for even after this, through the course of the whole
"AEneis," she still apprehends the interest which Juno might make
with Jupiter against her son. For it was a moot point in heaven
whether he could alter fate or not; and indeed some passages in
Virgil would make us suspect that he was of opinion Jupiter might
defer fate, though he could not alter it; for in the latter end of
the tenth book he introduces Juno begging for the life of Turnus,
and flattering her husband with the power of changing destiny, tua,
qui potes, orsa reflectas! To which he graciously answers--

"Si mora praesentis leti, tempusque caduco
Oratur juveni, meque hoc ita ponere sentis,
Tolle fuga Turnum, atquc instantibus eripe fatis.
Hactenus indulsisse vacat. Sin altior istis
Sub precibus venia ulla latet, totumque moveri
Mutarive putas bellum, spes pascis inanis."

But that he could not alter those decrees the king of gods himself
confesses in the book above cited, when he comforts Hercules for the
death of Pallas, who had invoked his aid before he threw his lance
at Turnus:-

"Trojae sub maenibus altis
Tot nati cecidere deum; quin occidit una
Sarpedon, mea progenies; etiam sua Turnum
Fata vocant, metasque dati pervenit ad aevi."

Where he plainly acknowledges that he could not save his own son, or
prevent the death which he foresaw. Of his power to defer the blow,
I once occasionally discoursed with that excellent person Sir Robert
Howard, who is better conversant than any man that I know in the
doctrine of the Stoics, and he set me right, from the concurrent
testimony of philosophers and poets, that Jupiter could not retard
the effects of fate, even for a moment; for when I cited Virgil as
favouring the contrary opinion in that verse -

"Tolle fuga Turnum, atque instantibus eripe fatis" -

he replied, and I think with exact judgment, that when Jupiter gave
Juno leave to withdraw Turnus from the present danger, it was
because he certainly foreknew that his fatal hour was not come, that
it was in destiny for Juno at that time to save him, and that
himself obeyed destiny in giving her that leave.

I need say no more in justification of our hero's courage, and am
much deceived if he ever be attacked on this side of his character
again. But he is arraigned with more show of reason by the ladies,
who will make a numerous party against him, for being false to love
in forsaking Dido; and I cannot much blame them, for, to say the
truth, it is an ill precedent for their gallants to follow. Yet if
I can bring him off with flying colours, they may learn experience
at her cost; and for her sake avoid a cave as the worse shelter they
can choose from a shower of rain, especially when they have a lover
in their company.

In the first place, Segrais observes with much acuteness that they
who blame AEneas for his insensibility of love when he left
Carthage, contradict their former accusation of him for being always
crying, compassionate, and effeminately sensible of those
misfortunes which befell others. They give him two contrary
characters; but Virgil makes him of a piece, always grateful, always
tender-hearted. But they are impudent enough to discharge
themselves of this blunder by haying the contradiction at Virgil's
door. He, they say, has shown his hero with these inconsistent
characters--acknowledging and ungrateful, compassionate and hard-
hearted, but at the bottom fickle and self-interested; for Dido had
not only received his weather-beaten troops before she saw him, and
given them her protection, but had also offered them an equal share
in her dominion:-

"Vultis et his mecum pariter considere regnis?
Urbem quam statuo, vesra est."

This was an obligement never to be forgotten, and the more to be
considered because antecedent to her love. That passion, it is
true, produced the usual effects of generosity, gallantry, and care
to please, and thither we refer them; but when she had made all
these advances, it was still in his power to have refused them.
After the intrigue of the cave--call it marriage, or enjoyment only-
-he was no longer free to take or leave; he had accepted the favour,
and was obliged to be constant, if he would be grateful.

My lord, I have set this argument in the best light I can, that the
ladies may not think I write booty; and perhaps it may happen to me,
as it did to Doctor Cudworth, who has raised such strong objections
against the being of a God and Providence, that many think he has
not answered them. You may please at least to hear the adverse
party. Segrais pleads for Virgil that no less than an absolute
command from Jupiter could excuse this insensibility of the hero,
and this abrupt departure, which looks so like extreme ingratitude;
but at the same time he does wisely to remember you that Virgil had
made piety the first character of AEneas; and this being allowed, as
I am afraid it must, he was obliged, antecedent to all other
considerations, to search an asylum for his gods in Italy--for those
very gods, I say, who had promised to his race the universal empire.
Could a pious man dispense with the commands of Jupiter to satisfy
his passion, or--take it in the strongest sense--to comply with the
obligations of his gratitude? Religion, it is true, must have moral
honesty for its groundwork, or we shall be apt to suspect its truth;
but an immediate revelation dispenses with all duties of morality.
All casuists agree that theft is a breach of the moral law; yet if I
might presume to mingle things sacred with profane, the Israelites
only spoiled the Egyptians, not robbed them, because the propriety
was transferred by a revelation to their lawgiver. I confess Dido
was a very infidel in this point; for she would not believe, as
Virgil makes her say, that ever Jupiter would send Mercury on such
an immoral errand. But this needs no answer--at least, no more than
Virgil gives it:-

"Fata obstant, placidasque viri Deus obstruit aures."

This notwithstanding, as Segrais confesses, he might have shown a
little more sensibility when he left her, for that had been
according to his character.

But let Virgil answer for himself. He still loved her, and
struggled with his inclinations to obey the gods:-

"Curam sub corde premebat,
Multa gemens, magnoque animum labefactus amore."

Upon the whole matter, and humanly speaking, I doubt there was a
fault somewhere, and Jupiter is better able to bear the blame than
either Virgil or AEneas. The poet, it seems, had found it out, and
therefore brings the deserting hero and the forsaken lady to meet
together in the lower regions, where he excuses himself when it is
too late, and accordingly she will take no satisfaction, nor so much
as hear him. Now Segrais is forced to abandon his defence, and
excuses his author by saying that the "AEneis" is an imperfect work,
and that death prevented the divine poet from reviewing it, and for
that reason he had condemned it to the fire, though at the same time
his two translators must acknowledge that the sixth book is the most
correct of the whole "AEneis." Oh, how convenient is a machine
sometimes in a heroic poem! This of Mercury is plainly one; and
Virgil was constrained to use it here, or the honesty of his hero
would be ill defended; and the fair sex, however, if they had the
deserter in their power, would certainly have shown him no more
mercy than the Bacchanals did Orpheus: for if too much constancy
may be a fault sometimes, then want of constancy, and ingratitude
after the last favour, is a crime that never will be forgiven. But
of machines, more in their proper place, where I shall show with how
much judgment they have been used by Virgil; and in the meantime
pass to another article of his defence on the present subject,
where, if I cannot clear the hero, I hope at least to bring off the
poet, for here I must divide their causes. Let AEneas trust to his
machine, which will only help to break his fall; but the address is
incomparable. Plato, who borrowed so much from Homer, and yet
concluded for the banishment of all poets, would at least have
rewarded Virgil before he sent him into exile; but I go farther, and
say that he ought to be acquitted, and deserved, beside, the bounty
of Augustus and the gratitude of the Roman people. If after this
the ladies will stand out, let them remember that the jury is not
all agreed; for Octavia was of his party, and was of the first
quality in Rome: she was also present at the reading of the sixth
AEneid, and we know not that she condemned AEneas, but we are sure
she presented the poet for his admirable elegy on her son Marcellus.

But let us consider the secret reasons which Virgil had for thus
framing this noble episode, wherein the whole passion of love is
more exactly described than in any other poet. Love was the theme
of his fourth book; and though it is the shortest of the whole
"AEneis," yet there he has given its beginning, its progress, its
traverses, and its conclusion; and had exhausted so entirely this
subject that he could resume it but very slightly in the eight
ensuing books.

She was warmed with the graceful appearance of the hero; she
smothered those sparkles out of decency, but conversation blew them
up into a flame. Then she was forced to make a confidante of her
whom she best might trust, her own sister, who approves the passion,
and thereby augments it; then succeeds her public owning it; and
after that the consummation. Of Venus and Juno, Jupiter and
Mercury, I say nothing (for they were all machining work); but
possession having cooled his love, as it increased hers, she soon
perceived the change, or at least grew suspicious of a change. This
suspicion soon turned to jealousy, and jealousy to rage; then she
disdains and threatens, and again is humble and entreats: and,
nothing availing, despairs, curses, and at last becomes her own
executioner. See here the whole process of that passion, to which
nothing can be added. I dare go no farther, lest I should lose the
connection of my discourse.

To love our native country, and to study its benefit and its glory;
to be interested in its concerns, is natural to all men, and is
indeed our common duty. A poet makes a farther step for
endeavouring to do honour to it. It is allowable in him even to be
partial in its cause; for he is not tied to truth, or fettered by
the laws of history. Homer and Tasso are justly praised for
choosing their heroes out of Greece and Italy; Virgil, indeed, made
his a Trojan, but it was to derive the Romans and his own Augustus
from him; but all the three poets are manifestly partial to their
heroes in favour of their country. For Dares Phrygius reports of
Hector that he was slain cowardly; AEneas, according to the best
account, slew not Mezentius, but was slain by him; and the
chronicles of Italy tell us little of that Rinaldo d'Este who
conquers Jerusalem in Tasso. He might be a champion of the Church,
but we know not that he was so much as present at the siege. To
apply this to Virgil, he thought himself engaged in honour to
espouse the cause and quarrel of his country against Carthage. He
knew he could not please the Romans better, or oblige them more to
patronise his poem, than by disgracing the foundress of that city.
He shows her ungrateful to the memory of her first husband, doting
on a stranger, enjoyed and afterwards forsaken by him. This was the
original, says he, of the immortal hatred betwixt the two rival
nations. It is true, he colours the falsehood of AEneas by an
express command from Jupiter to forsake the queen who had obliged
him; but he knew the Romans were to be his readers, and them he
bribed--perhaps at the expense of his hero's honesty; but he gained
his cause, however, as pleading before corrupt judges. They were
content to see their founder false to love, for still he had the
advantage of the amour. It was their enemy whom he forsook, and she
might have forsaken him if he had not got the start of her. She had
already forgotten her vows to her Sichaeus, and varium et nutabile
semper femina is the sharpest satire in the fewest words that ever
was made on womankind; for both the adjectives are neuter, and
animal must be understood to make them grammar. Virgil does well to
put those words into the mouth of Mercury. If a god had not spoken
them, neither durst he have written them, nor I translated them.
Yet the deity was forced to come twice on the same errand; and the
second time, as much a hero as AEneas was, he frighted him. It
seems he feared not Jupiter so much as Dido; for your lordship may
observe that, as much intent as he was upon his voyage, yet he still
delayed it, till the messenger was obliged to tell him plainly that
if he weighed not anchor in the night the queen would be with him in
the morning, notumque furens quid femina possit: she was injured,
she was revengeful, she was powerful. The poet had likewise before
hinted that the people were naturally perfidious, for he gives their
character in the queen, and makes a proverb of Punica fides many
ages before it was invented.

Thus I hope, my lord, that I have made good my promise, and
justified the poet, whatever becomes of the false knight. And,
sure, a poet is as much privileged to lie as an ambassador for the
honour and interest of his country--at least, as Sir Henry Wotton
has defined.

This naturally leads me to the defence of the famous anachronism in
making AEneas and Dido contemporaries, for it is certain that the
hero lived almost two hundred years before the building of Carthage.
One who imitates Boccalini says that Virgil was accused before
Apollo for this error. The god soon found that he was not able to
defend his favourite by reason, for the case was clear; he therefore
gave this middle sentence: that anything might be allowed to his
son Virgil on the account of his other merits; that, being a
monarch, he had a dispensing power, and pardoned him. But that this
special act of grace might never be drawn into example, or pleaded
by his puny successors in justification of their ignorance, he
decreed for the future--no poet should presume to make a lady die
for love two hundred years before her birth. To moralise this
story, Virgil is the Apollo who has this dispensing power. His
great judgment made the laws of poetry, but he never made himself a
slave to them; chronology at best is but a cobweb law, and he broke
through it with his weight. They who will imitate him wisely must
choose, as he did, an obscure and a remote era, where they may
invent at pleasure, and not be easily contradicted. Neither he nor
the Romans had ever read the Bible, by which only his false
computation of times can be made out against him. This Segrais says
in his defence, and proves it from his learned friend Bochartus,
whose letter on this subject he has printed at the end of the fourth
AEneid, to which I refer your lordship and the reader. Yet the
credit of Virgil was so great that he made this fable of his own
invention pass for an authentic history, or at least as credible as
anything in Homer. Ovid takes it up after him even in the same age,
and makes an ancient heroine of Virgil's new-created Dido; dictates
a letter for her, just before her death, to the ingrateful fugitive;
and, very unluckily for himself, is for measuring a sword with a man
so much superior in force to him on the same subject. I think I may
be judge of this, because I have translated both. The famous author
of "The Art of Love" has nothing of his own; he borrows all from a
greater master in his own profession, and, which is worse, improves
nothing which he finds. Nature fails him; and, being forced to his
old shift, he has recourse to witticism. This passes, indeed, with
his soft admirers, and gives him the preference to Virgil in their
esteem; but let them like for themselves, and not prescribe to
others, for our author needs not their admiration.

The motive that induced Virgil to coin this fable I have showed
already, and have also begun to show that he might make this
anachronism, by superseding the mechanic rules of poetry, for the
same reason that a monarch may dispense with or suspend his own laws
when he finds it necessary so to do, especially if those laws are
not altogether fundamental. Nothing is to be called a fault in
poetry, says Aristotle, but what is against the art; therefore a man
may be an admirable poet without being an exact chronologer. Shall
we dare, continues Segrais, to condemn Virgil for having made a
fiction against the order of time, when we commend Ovid and other
poets who have made many of their fictions against the order of
nature? For what else are the splendid miracles of the
"Metamorphoses?" Yet these are beautiful as they are related, and
have also deep learning and instructive mythologies couched under
them. But to give, as Virgil does in this episode, the original
cause of the long wars betwixt Rome and Carthage; to draw truth out
of fiction after so probable a manner, with so much beauty, and so
much for the honour of his country, was proper only to the divine
wit of Maro; and Tasso, in one of his discourses, admires him for
this particularly. It is not lawful indeed to contradict a point of
history which is known to all the world--as, for example, to make
Hannibal and Scipio contemporaries with Alexander--but in the dark
recesses of antiquity a great poet may and ought to feign such
things as he finds not there, if they can be brought to embellish
that subject which he treats. On the other side, the pains and
diligence of ill poets is but thrown away when they want the genius
to invent and feign agreeably. But if the fictions be delightful
(which they always are if they be natural) if they be of a piece; if
the beginning, the middle, and the end be in their due places, and
artfully united to each other, such works can never fail of their
deserved success. And such is Virgil's episode of Dido and AEneas,
where the sourest critic must acknowledge that if he had deprived
his "AEneis" of so great an ornament, because he found no traces of
it in antiquity, he had avoided their unjust censure, but had wanted
one of the greatest beauties of his poem.

I shall say more of this in the next article of their charge against
him, which is--want of invention. In the meantime I may affirm, in
honour of this episode, that it is not only now esteemed the most
pleasing entertainment of the "AEneis," but was so accounted in his
own age, and before it was mellowed into that reputation which time
has given it; for which I need produce no other testimony than that
of Ovid, his contemporary:-

"Nec pars ulla magis legitur de corpore toto,
Quam non legitimo faedere junctus amor."

Where, by the way, you may observe, my lord, that Ovid in those
words, non legitimo faedere junctus amor, will by no means allow it
to be a lawful marriage betwixt Dido and AEneas. He was in
banishment when he wrote those verses, which I cite from his letter
to Augustus. "You, sir," saith he, "have sent me into exile for
writing my 'Art of Love' and my wanton elegies; yet your own poet
was happy in your good graces, though he brought Dido and AEneas
into a cave, and left them there not over-honestly together: may I
be so bold to ask your majesty is it a greater fault to teach the
art of unlawful love than to show it in the action?" But was Ovid
the court-poet so bad a courtier as to find no other plea to excuse
himself than by a plain accusation of his master? Virgil confessed
it was a lawful marriage betwixt the lovers; that Juno, the goddess
of matrimony, had ratified it by her presence (for it was her
business to bring matters to that issue): that the ceremonies were
short we may believe, for Dido was not only amorous, but a widow.
Mercury himself, though employed on a quite contrary errand, yet
owns it a marriage by an innuendo--pulchramque uxorius urbem
extruis. He calls AEneas not only a husband, but upbraids him for
being a fond husband, as the word uxorius implies. Now mark a
little, if your lordship pleases, why Virgil is so much concerned to
make this marriage (for he seems to be the father of the bride
himself, and to give her to the bridegroom); it was to make way for
the divorce which he intended afterwards, for he was a finer
flatterer than Ovid, and I more than conjecture that he had in his
eye the divorce which not long before had passed betwixt the emperor
and Scribonia. He drew this dimple in the cheek of AEneas to prove
Augustus of the same family by so remarkable a feature in the same
place. Thus, as we say in our home-spun English proverb, he killed
two birds with one stone--pleased the emperor by giving him the
resemblance of his ancestor, and gave him such a resemblance as was
not scandalous in that age (for to leave one wife and take another
was but a matter of gallantry at that time of day among the Romans).
Neque haec in faedera veni is the very excuse which AEneas makes
when he leaves his lady. "I made no such bargain with you at our
marriage to live always drudging on at Carthage; my business was
Italy, and I never made a secret of it. If I took my pleasure, had
not you your share of it? I leave you free at my departure to
comfort yourself with the next stranger who happens to be
shipwrecked on your coast; be as kind an hostess as you have been to
me, and you can never fail of another husband. In the meantime I
call the gods to witness that I leave your shore unwillingly; for
though Juno made the marriage, yet Jupiter commands me to forsake
you." This is the effect of what he saith when it is dishonoured
out of Latin verse into English prose. If the poet argued not
aright, we must pardon him for a poor blind heathen, who knew no
better morals.

I have detained your lordship longer than I intended on this
objection, which would indeed weigh something in a Spiritual Court;-
-but I am not to defend our poet there. The next, I think, is but a
cavil, though the cry is great against him, and hath continued from
the time of Macrobius to this present age; I hinted it before. They
lay no less than want of invention to his charge--a capital charge,
I must acknowledge; for a poet is a maker, as the word signifies;
and who cannot make--that is, invent--hath his name for nothing.
That which makes this accusation look so strong at the first sight
is that he has borrowed so many things from Homer, Apollonius
Rhodius, and others who preceded him. But in the first place, if
invention is to be taken in so strict a sense that the matter of a
poem must be wholly new, and that in all its parts, then Scaliger
hath made out, saith Segrais, that the history of Troy was no more
the invention of Homer than of Virgil. There was not an old woman
or almost a child, but had it in their mouths before the Greek poet
or his friends digested it into this admirable order in which we
read it. At this rate, as Solomon hath told us, there is nothing
new beneath the sun. Who, then, can pass for an inventor if Homer
as well as Virgil must be deprived of that glory! Is Versailles the
less a new building because the architect of that palace hath
imitated others which were built before it? Walls, doors and
windows, apartments, offices, rooms of convenience and magnificence,
are in all great houses. So descriptions, figures, fables, and the
rest, must be in all heroic poems; they are the common materials of
poetry, furnished from the magazine of nature: every poet hath as
much right to them as every man hath to air or water

"Quid prohibetis aquas? Usus communis aquarum est."

But the argument of the work (that is to say, its principal action),
the economy and disposition of it--these are the things which
distinguish copies from originals. The Poet who borrows nothing
from others is yet to be born; he and the Jews' Messias will come
together. There are parts of the "AEneis" which resemble some parts
both of the "Ilias" and of the "Odysses;" as, for example, AEneas
descended into hell, and Ulysses had been there before him; AEneas
loved Dido, and Ulysses loved Calypso: in few words, Virgil hath
imitated Homer's "Odysses" in his first six books, and in his six
last the "Ilias." But from hence can we infer that the two poets
write the same history? Is there no invention in some other parts
of Virgil's "AEneis?" The disposition of so many various matters,
is not that his own? From what book of Homer had Virgil his episode
of Nysus and Euryalus, of Mezentius and Lausus? From whence did he
borrow his design of bringing AEneas into Italy? of establishing the
Roman Empire on the foundations of a Trojan colony? to say nothing
of the honour he did his patron, not only in his descent from Venus,
but in making him so like her in his best features that the goddess
might have mistaken Augustus for her son. He had indeed the story
from common fame, as Homer had his from the Egyptian priestess.
AEneadum genetrix was no more unknown to Lucretius than to him; but
Lucretius taught him not to form his hero, to give him piety or
valour for his manners--and both in so eminent a degree that, having
done what was possible for man to save his king and country, his
mother was forced to appear to him and restrain his fury, which
hurried him to death in their revenge. But the poet made his piety
more successful; he brought off his father and his son; and his gods
witnessed to his devotion by putting themselves under his
protection, to be replaced by him in their promised Italy. Neither
the invention nor the conduct of this great action were owing to
Homer or any other poet; it is one thing to copy, and another thing
to imitate from nature. The copier is that servile imitator to whom
Horace gives no better a name than that of animal; he will not so
much as allow him to be a man. Raffaelle imitated nature; they who
copy one of Raffaelle's pieces, imitate but him, for his work is
their original. They translate him, as I do Virgil; and fall as
short of him as I of Virgil. There is a kind of invention in the
imitation of Raffaelle; for though the thing was in nature, yet the
idea of it was his own. Ulysses travelled, so did AEneas; but
neither of them were the first travellers: for Cain went into the
land of Nod before they were born, and neither of the poets ever
heard of such a man. If Ulysses had been killed at Troy, yet AEneas
must have gone to sea, or he could never have arrived in Italy; but
the designs of the two poets were as different as the courses of
their heroes--one went home, and the other sought a home.

To return to my first similitude. Suppose Apelles and Raffaelle had
each of them painted a burning Troy, might not the modern painter
have succeeded as well as the ancient, though neither of them had
seen the town on fire? For the drafts of both were taken from the
ideas which they had of nature. Cities have been burnt before
either of them were in being. But to close the simile as I began
it: they would not have designed it after the same manner; Apelles
would have distinguished Pyrrhus from the rest of all the Grecians,
and showed him forcing his entrance into Priam's palace; there he
had set him in the fairest light, and given him the chief place of
all his figures, because he was a Grecian and he would do honour to
his country. Raffaelle, who was an Italian, and descended from the
Trojans, would have made AEneas the hero of his piece, and perhaps
not with his father on his back, his son in one hand, his bundle of
gods in the other, and his wife following (for an act of piety is
not half so graceful in a picture as an act of courage); he would
rather have drawn him killing Androgeus or some other hand to hand,
and the blaze of the fires should have darted full upon his face, to
make him conspicuous amongst his Trojans. This, I think, is a just
comparison betwixt the two poets in the conduct of their several
designs. Virgil cannot be said to copy Homer; the Grecian had only
the advantage of writing first. If it be urged that I have granted
a resemblance in some parts, yet therein Virgil has excelled him;
for what are the tears of Calypso for being left, to the fury and
death of Dido? Where is there the whole process of her passion and
all its violent effects to be found in the languishing episode of
the "Odysses"? If this be to copy, let the critics show us the same
disposition, features, or colouring in their original. The like may
be said of the descent to hell, which was not of Homer's invention
either; he had it from the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. But to
what end did Ulysses make that journey? AEneas undertook it by the
express commandment of his father's ghost. There he was to show him
all the succeeding heroes of his race, and next to Romulus (mark, if
you please the address of Virgil) his own patron, Augustus Caesar.
Anchises was likewise to instruct him how to manage the Italian war,
and how to conclude it with his honour--that is, in other words, to
lay the foundations of that empire which Augustus was to govern.
This is the noble invention of our author, but it hath been copied
by so many sign-post daubers that now it is grown fulsome, rather by
their want of skill than by the commonness.

In the last place. I may safely grant that by reading Homer, Virgil
was taught to imitate his invention--that is to imitate like him
(which is no more than if a painter studied Raffaelle that he might
learn to design after his manner). And thus I might imitate Virgil
if I were capable of writing an heroic poem, and yet the invention
be my own; but I should endeavour to avoid a servile copying. I
would not give the same story under other names, with the same
characters, in the same order, and with the same sequel, for every
common reader to find me out at the first sight for a plagiary, and
cry, "This I read before in Virgil in a better language and in
better verse." This is like Merry-Andrew on the low rope copying
lubberly the same tricks which his master is so dexterously
performing on the high.

I will trouble your lordship but with one objection more, which I
know not whether I found in Le Febvre or Valois, but I am sure I
have read it in another French critic, whom I will not name because
I think it is not much for his reputation. Virgil in the heat of
action--suppose, for example, in describing the fury of his hero in
a battle (when he is endeavouring to raise our concernments to the
highest pitch)--turns short on the sudden into some similitude which
diverts, say they, your attention from the main subject, and
misspends it on some trivial image. He pours cold water into the
caldron when his business is to make it boil.

This accusation is general against all who would be thought heroic
poets, but I think it touches Virgil less than any; he is too great
a master of his art to make a blot which may so easily be hit.
Similitudes (as I have said) are not for tragedy, which is all
violent, and where the passions are in a perpetual ferment; for
there they deaden, where they should animate; they are not of the
nature of dialogue unless in comedy. A metaphor is almost all the
stage can suffer, which is a kind of similitude comprehended in a
word. But this figure has a contrary effect in heroic poetry; there
it is employed to raise the admiration, which is its proper
business; and admiration is not of so violent a nature as fear or
hope, compassion or horror, or any concernment we can have for such
or such a person on the stage. Not but I confess that similitudes
and descriptions when drawn into an unreasonable length must needs
nauseate the reader. Once I remember (and but once) Virgil makes a
similitude of fourteen lines, and his description of Fame is about
the same number. He is blamed for both, and I doubt not but he
would have contracted them had be lived to have reviewed his work;
but faults are no precedents. This I have observed of his
similitudes in general--that they are not placed (as our unobserving
critics tell us) in the heat of any action, but commonly in its
declining; when he has warmed us in his description as much as
possibly he can, then (lest that warmth should languish) he renews
it by some apt similitude which illustrates his subject and yet
palls not his audience. I need give your lordship but one example
of this kind, and leave the rest to your observation when next you
review the whole "AEneis" in the original, unblemished by my rude
translation; it is in the first hook, where the poet describes
Neptune composing the ocean, on which AEolus had raised a tempest
without his permission. He had already chidden the rebellious winds
for obeying the commands of their usurping master; he had warned
them from the seas; he had beaten down the billows with his mace;
dispelled the clouds, restored the sunshine, while Triton and
Cymothoe were heaving the ships from off the quicksands, before the
poet would offer at a similitude for illustration

"Ac, veluti magno in populo cum saepe coorta est
Seditio, saevitque animis ignobile vulgus;
Jamque faces, et saxa volant; furor arma ministrat;
Tum, pietate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
Conspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adstant:
Ille regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet:
Sic cunctus pelagi cecidit fragor, aequora postquam
Prospiciens genitor, coeloque invectus aperto
Flectit equos, curruque volans dat lora secundo."

This is the first similitude which Virgil makes in this poem, and
one of the longest in the whole, for which reason I the rather cite
it. While the storm was in its fury, any allusion had been
improper; for the poet could have compared it to nothing more
impetuous than itself; consequently he could have made no
illustration. If he could have illustrated, it had been an
ambitious ornament out of season, and would have diverted our
concernment (nunc non erat his locus), and therefore he deferred it
to its proper place.

These are the criticisms of most moment which have been made against
the "AEneis" by the ancients or moderns. As for the particular
exceptions against this or that passage, Macrobius and Pontanus have
answered them already. If I desired to appear more learned than I
am, it had been as easy for me to have taken their objections and
solutions as it is for a country parson to take the expositions of
the Fathers out of Junius and Tremellius, or not to have named the
authors from whence I had them; for so Ruaeus (otherwise a most
judicious commentator on Virgil's works) has used Pontanus, his
greatest benefactor, of whom he is very silent, and I do not
remember that he once cites him.

What follows next is no objection; for that implies a fault, and it
had been none in Virgil if he had extended the time of his action
beyond a year--at least, Aristotle has set no precise limits to it.
Homer's, we know, was within two months; Tasso; I am sure, exceeds
not a summer, and if I examined him perhaps he might be reduced into
a much less compass. Bossu leaves it doubtful whether Virgil's
action were within the year, or took up some months beyond it.
Indeed, the whole dispute is of no more concernment to the common
reader than it is to a ploughman whether February this year had
twenty-eight or twenty-nine days in it; but for the satisfaction of
the more curious (of which number I am sure your lordship is one) I
will translate what I think convenient out of Segrais, whom perhaps
you have not read, for he has made it highly probable that the
action of the "AEneis" began in the spring, and was not extended
beyond the autumn; and we have known campaigns that have begun
sooner and have ended later.

Ronsard and the rest whom Segrais names, who are of opinion that the
action of this poem takes up almost a year and half, ground their
calculation thus:- Anchises died in Sicily at the end of winter or
beginning of the spring. AEneas, immediately after the interment of
his father, puts to sea for Italy; he is surprised by the tempest
described in the beginning of the first book; and there it is that
the scene of the poem opens, and where the action must commence. He
is driven by this storm on the coasts of Africa; he stays at
Carthage all that summer, and almost all the winter following; sets
sail again for Italy just before the beginning of the spring; meets
with contrary winds, and makes Sicily the second time. This part of
the action completes the year. Then he celebrates the anniversary
of his father's funerals, and shortly after arrives at Cumes. And
from thence his time is taken up in his first treaty with Latinus;
the overture of the war; the siege of his camp by Turnus; his going
for succours to relieve it; his return; the raising of the siege by
the first battle; the twelve days' truce; the second battle; the
assault of Laurentum, and the single fight with Turnus--all which,
they say, cannot take up less than four or five months more, by
which account we cannot suppose the entire action to be contained in
a much less compass than a year and half.

Segrais reckons another way, and his computation is not condemned by
the learned Ruaeus, who compiled and published the commentaries on
our poet which we call the "Dauphin's Virgil." He allows the time
of year when Anchises died to be in the latter end of winter or the
beginning of the spring; he acknowledges that when AEneas is first
seen at sea afterwards, and is driven by the tempest on the coast of
Africa, is the time when the action is naturally to begin; he
confesses farther, that AEneas left Carthage in the latter end of
winter, for Dido tells him in express terms, as an argument for his
longer stay -

"Quin etiam hiberno moliris sidere classem."

But whereas Ronsard's followers suppose that when AEneas had buried
his father he set sail immediately for Italy (though the tempest
drove him on the coast of Carthage), Segrais will by no means allow
that supposition, but thinks it much more probable that he remained
in Sicily till the midst of July or the beginning of August, at
which time he places the first appearance of his hero on the sea,
and there opens the action of the poem. From which beginning, to
the death of Turnus, which concludes the action, there need not be
supposed above ten months of intermediate time; for arriving at
Carthage in the latter end of summer, staying there the winter
following, departing thence in the very beginning of the spring,
making a short abode in Sicily the second time, landing in Italy,
and making the war, may be reasonably judged the business but of ten
months. To this the Ronsardians reply that, having been for seven
years before in quest of Italy, and having no more to do in Sicily
than to inter his father--after that office was performed, what
remained for him but without delay to pursue his first adventure?
To which Segrais answers that the obsequies of his father, according
to the rites of the Greeks and Romans, would detain him for many
days; that a longer time must be taken up in the re-fitting of his
ships after so tedious a voyage, and in refreshing his weather-
beaten soldiers on a friendly coast. These indeed are but
suppositions on both sides, yet those of Segrais seem better
grounded; for the feast of Dido, when she entertained AEneas first,
has the appearance of a summer's night, which seems already almost
ended, when he begins his story. Therefore the love was made in
autumn; the hunting followed properly, when the heats of that
scorching country were declining. The winter was passed in jollity,
as the season and their love required; and he left her in the latter
end of winter, as is already proved. This opinion is fortified by
the arrival of AEneas at the mouth of Tiber, which marks the season
of the spring, that season being perfectly described by the singing
of the birds saluting the dawn, and by the beauty of the place,
which the poet seems to have painted expressly in the seventh

"Aurora in roseis fulgebat lutea bigis,
Cum venti posuere . . .
. . . variae circumque supraque
Assuetae ripis volucres, et fluminis alveo,
AEthera mulcebant cantu."

The remainder of the action required but three months more; for when
AEneas went for succour to the Tuscans, he found their army in a
readiness to march and wanting only a commander: so that, according
to this calculation, the "AEneas" takes not up above a year
complete, and may be comprehended in less compass.

This, amongst other circumstances treated more at large by Segrais,
agrees with the rising of Orion, which caused the tempest described
in the beginning of the first book. By some passages in the
"Pastorals," but more particularly in the "Georgics," our poet is
found to be an exact astronomer, according to the knowledge of that
age. Now Ilioneus, whom Virgil twice employs in embassies as the
best speaker of the Trojans, attributes that tempest to Orion in his
speech to Dido:-

"Cum subito assurgens fluctu nimbosus Orion."

He must mean either the heliacal or achronical rising of that sign.
The heliacal rising of a constellation is when it comes from under
the rays of the sun, and begins to appear before daylight. The
achronical rising, on the contrary, is when it appears at the close
of day, and in opposition of the sun's diurnal course. The heliacal
rising of Orion is at present computed to be about the 6th of July;
and about that time it is that he either causes or presages tempests
on the seas.

Segrais has observed farther, that when Anna counsels Dido to stay
AEneas during the winter, she speaks also of Orion:-

"Dum pelago desaevit hiems, et aquosus Orion."

If therefore Ilioneus, according to our supposition, understand the
heliacal rising of Orion, Anna must mean the achronical, which the
different epithets given to that constellation seem to manifest.
Ilioneus calls him nimbosus, Anna, aquosus. He is tempestuous in
the summer, when he rises heliacally; and rainy in the winter, when
he rises achronically. Your lordship will pardon me for the
frequent repetition of these cant words, which I could not avoid in
this abbreviation of Segrais, who, I think, deserves no little
commendation in this new criticism.

I have yet a word or two to say of Virgil's machines, from my own
observation of them. He has imitated those of Homer, but not copied
them. It was established long before this time, in the Roman
religion as well as in the Greek, that there were gods, and both
nations for the most part worshipped the same deities, as did also
the Trojans (from whom the Romans, I suppose, would rather be
thought to derive the rites of their religion than from the
Grecians, because they thought themselves descended from them).
Each of those gods had his proper office, and the chief of them
their particular attendants. Thus Jupiter had in propriety Ganymede
and Mercury, and Juno had Iris. It was not for Virgil, then, to
Create new ministers; he must take what he found in his religion.
It cannot therefore be said that he borrowed them from Homer, any
more than from Apollo, Diana, and the rest, whom he uses as he finds
occasion for them, as the Grecian poet did; but he invents the
occasions for which he uses them. Venus, after the destruction of
Troy, had gained Neptune entirely to her party; therefore we find
him busy in the beginning of the "AEneis" to calm the tempest raised
by AEolus, and afterwards conducting the Trojan fleet to Cumes in
safety, with the loss only of their pilot, for whom he bargains. I
name those two examples--amongst a hundred which I omit--to prove
that Virgil, generally speaking, employed his machines in performing
those things which might possibly have been done without them. What
more frequent than a storm at sea upon the rising of Orion? What
wonder if amongst so many ships there should one be overset, which
was commanded by Orontes, though half the winds had not been there
which AEolus employed? Might not Palinurus, without a miracle, fall
asleep and drop into the sea, having been over-wearied with
watching, and secure of a quiet passage by his observation of the
skies? At least AEneas, who knew nothing of the machine of Somnus,
takes it plainly in this sense:-

"O nimium coelo et pelago confise sereno,
Nudus in ignota, Palinure, jacebis arena."

But machines sometimes are specious things to amuse the reader, and
give a colour of probability to things otherwise incredible; and,
besides, it soothed the vanity of the Romans to find the gods so
visibly concerned in all the actions of their predecessors. We who
are better taught by our religion, yet own every wonderful accident
which befalls us for the best, to be brought to pass by some special
providence of Almighty God, and by the care of guardian angels; and
from hence I might infer that no heroic poem can be writ on the
Epicurean principles, which I could easily demonstrate if there were
need to prove it or I had leisure.

When Venus opens the eyes of her son AEneas to behold the gods who
combated against Troy in that fatal night when it was surprised, we
share the pleasure of that glorious vision (which Tasso has not ill
copied in the sacking of Jerusalem). But the Greeks had done their
business though neither Neptune, Juno, or Pallas had given them
their divine assistance. The most crude machine which Virgil uses
is in the episode of Camilla, where Opis by the command of her
mistress kills Aruns. The next is in the twelfth AEneid, where
Venus cures her son AEneas. But in the last of these the poet was
driven to a necessity, for Turnus was to be slain that very day; and
AEneas, wounded as he was, could not have engaged him in single
combat unless his hurt had been miraculously healed and the poet had
considered that the dittany which she brought from Crete could not
have wrought so speedy an effect without the juice of ambrosia which
she mingled with it. After all, that his machine might not seem too
violent, we see the hero limping after Turnus; the wound was
skinned, but the strength of his thigh was not restored. But what
reason had our author to wound AEneas at so critical a time? And
how came the cuishes to be worse tempered than the rest of his
armour, which was all wrought by Vulcan and his journeymen? These
difficulties are not easily to be solved without confessing that
Virgil had not life enough to correct his work, though he had
reviewed it and found those errors, which he resolved to mend; but
being prevented by death, and not willing to leave an imperfect work
behind him, he ordained by his last testament that his "AEneis"
should be burned. As for the death of Aruns, who was shot by a
goddess, the machine was not altogether so outrageous as the
wounding Mars and Venus by the sword of Diomede. Two divinities,
one would have thought, might have pleaded their prerogative of
impassibility, or at least not have been wounded by any mortal hand.
Beside that, the [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] which they
shed was so very like our common blood that it was not to be
distinguished from it but only by the name and colour. As for what
Horace says in his "Art of Poetry," that no machines are to be used
unless on some extraordinary occasion--

"Nec deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus" -

that rule is to be applied to the theatre, of which he is then
speaking, and means no more than this--that when the knot of the
play is to be untied, and no other way is left for making the
discovery, then, and not otherwise, let a god descend upon a rope,
and clear the business to the audience. But this has no relation to
the machines which are used in an epic poem.

In the last place, for the dira, or flying pest which, flapping on
the shield of Turnus and fluttering about his head, disheartened him
in the duel, and presaged to him his approaching death--I might have
placed it more properly amongst the objections, for the critics who
lay want of courage to the charge of Virgil's hero quote this
passage as a main proof of their assertion. They say our author had
not only secured him before the duel, but also in the beginning of
it had given him the advantage in impenetrable arms and in his
sword; for that of Turnus was not his own (which was forged by
Vulcan for his father), but a weapon which he had snatched in haste,
and by mistake, belonging to his charioteer Metiscus. That after
all this Jupiter, who was partial to the Trojan, and distrustful of
the event, though he had hung the balance and given it a jog of his
hand to weigh down Turnus, thought convenient to give the Fates a
collateral security by sending the screech-owl to discourage him;
for which they quote these words of Virgil:-

"Non me tua turbida virtus
Terret, ait; dii me terrent, et Jupiter hostis."

In answer to which, I say that this machine is one of those which
the poet uses only for ornament, and not out of necessity. Nothing
can be more beautiful or more poetical than his description of the
three Dirae, or the setting of the balance, which our Milton has
borrowed from him, but employed to a different end; for, first, he
makes God Almighty set the scales for St. Gabriel and Satan, when he
knew no combat was to follow; then he makes the good angel's scale
descend, and the devil's mount--quite contrary to Virgil, if I have
translated the three verses according to my author's sense:-

"Jupiter ipse duas aequota examine lances
Sustinet, et fata imponit diversa duorum;
Quem damnet labor, et quo vergat pondere letum."

For I have taken these words Quem damnet labor in the sense which
Virgil gives them in another place (Damnabis tu quoque votis), to
signify a prosperous event. Yet I dare not condemn so great a
genius as Milton; for I am much mistaken if he alludes not to the
text in Daniel where Belshazzar was put into the balance and found
too light. This is digression, and I return to my subject. I said
above that these two machines of the balance and the Dira were only
ornamental, and that the success of the duel had been the same
without them; for when AEneas and Turnus stood fronting each other
before the altar, Turnus looked dejected, and his colour faded in
his face, as if he desponded of the victory before the fight; and
not only he, but all his party, when the strength of the two
champions was judged by the proportion of their limbs, concluded it
was impar pugna, and that their chief was overmatched. Whereupon
Juturna, who was of the same opinion, took this opportunity to break
the treaty and renew the war. Juno herself had plainly told the
nymph beforehand that her brother was to fight

"Imparibus fatis; nec diis, nec viribus aequis;"

so that there was no need of an apparition to fright Turnus, he had
the presage within himself of his impending destiny. The Dira only
served to confirm him in his first opinion, that it was his destiny
to die in the ensuing combat. And in this sense are those words of
Virgil to be taken -

"Non me tua turbida virtus
Terret, ait; dii me terrent, et Jupiter hostis."

I doubt not but the adverb solum is to be understood ("It is not
your valour only that gives me this concernment, but I find also by
this portent that Jupiter is my enemy"); for Turnus fled before,
when his first sword was broken, till his sister supplied him with a
better, which indeed he could not use because AEneas kept him at a
distance with his spear. I wonder Ruaeus saw not this, where he
charges his author so unjustly for giving Turnus a second sword to
no purpose. How could he fasten a blow or make a thrust, when he
was not suffered to approach? Besides, the chief errand of the Dira
was to warn Juturna from the field, for she could have brought the
chariot again when she saw her brother worsted in the duel. I might
farther add that AEneas was so eager of the fight that he left the
city, now almost in his possession, to decide his quarrel with
Turnus by the sword; whereas Turnus had manifestly declined the
combat, and suffered his sister to convey him as far from the reach
of his enemy as she could. I say, not only suffered her, but
consented to it; for it is plain he knew her by these words:-

"O soror, et dudum agnovi, cum prima per artem
Faedera turbasti, teque haec in bella dedisti;
Et tunc necquicquam fallis dea."

I have dwelt so long on this subject that I must contract what I
have to say in reference to my translation, unless I would swell my
preface into a volume, and make it formidable to your lordship, when
you see so many pages yet behind. And, indeed, what I have already
written, either in justification or praise of Virgil, is against
myself for presuming to copy in my coarse English the thoughts and
beautiful expressions of this inimitable poet, who flourished in an
age when his language was brought to its last perfection, for which
it was particularly owing to him and Horace. I will give your
lordship my opinion that those two friends had consulted each
other's judgment wherein they should endeavour to excel; and they
seem to have pitched on propriety of thought, elegance of words, and
harmony of numbers. According to this model, Horace wrote his odes
and epodes; for his satires and epistles, being intended wholly for
instruction, required another style -

"Ornari res ipsa negat, contenta doceri" -

and therefore, as he himself professes, are sermoni propriora
(nearer prose than verse). But Virgil, who never attempted the
lyric verse, is everywhere elegant, sweet, and flowing in his
hexameters. His words are not only chosen, but the places in which
he ranks them for the sound; he who removes them from the station
wherein their master sets them spoils the harmony. What he says of
the Sibyl's prophecies may be as properly applied to every word of
his--they must be read in order as they lie; the least breath
discomposes them, and somewhat of their divinity is lost. I cannot
boast that I have been thus exact in my verses; but I have
endeavoured to follow the example of my master, and am the first
Englishman perhaps who made it his design to copy him in his
numbers, his choice of words, and his placing them for the sweetness
of the sound. On this last consideration I have shunned the caesura
as much as possibly I could; for wherever that is used, it gives a
roughness to the verse, of which we can have little need in a
language which is overstocked with consonants. Such is not the
Latin where the vowels and consonants are mixed in proportion to
each other; yet Virgil judged the vowels to have somewhat of an
over-balance, and therefore tempers their sweetness with caesuras.
Such difference there is in tongues that the same figure which
roughens one, gives majesty to another; and that was it which Virgil
studied in his verses. Ovid uses it but rarely; and hence it is
that his versification cannot so properly be called sweet as
luscious. The Italians are forced upon it once or twice in every
line, because they have a redundancy of vowels in their language;
their metal is so soft that it will not coin without alloy to harden
it. On the other side, for the reason already named, it is all we
can do to give sufficient sweetness to our language; we must not
only choose our words for elegance, but for sound--to perform which
a mastery in the language is required; the poet must have a magazine
of words, and have the art to manage his few vowels to the best
advantage, that they may go the farther. He must also know the
nature of the vowels--which are more sonorous, and which more soft
and sweet--and so dispose them as his present occasions require; all
which, and a thousand secrets of versification beside, he may learn
from Virgil, if he will take him for his guide. If he be above
Virgil, and is resolved to follow his own verve (as the French call
it), the proverb will fall heavily upon him: "Who teaches himself
has a fool for his master."

Virgil employed eleven years upon his "AEneis," yet he left it, as
he thought himself, imperfect; which, when I seriously consider, I
wish that, instead of three years which I have spent in the
translation of his works, I had four years more allowed me to
correct my errors, that I might make my version somewhat more
tolerable than it is; for a poet cannot have too great a reverence
for his readers if he expects his labours should survive him. Yet I
will neither plead my age nor sickness in excuse of the faults which
I have made. That I wanted time is all I have to say; for some of
my subscribers grew so clamorous that I could no longer defer the
publication. I hope, from the candour of your lordship, and your
often-experienced goodness to me, that if the faults are not too
many you will make allowances, with Horace:-

"Si plura nitent in carmine, non ego paucis
Offendar maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parum cavit natura."

You may please also to observe that there is not, to the best of my
remembrance, one vowel gaping on another for want of a caesura in
this whole poem. But where a vowel ends a word the next begins
either with a consonant or what is its equivalent; for our w and h
aspirate, and our diphthongs, are plainly such. The greatest
latitude I take is in the letter y when it concludes a word and the
first syllable of the next begins with a vowel. Neither need I have
called this a latitude, which is only an explanation of this general
rule--that no vowel can be cut off before another when we cannot
sink the pronunciation of it, as he, she, me, I, &c. Virgil thinks
it sometimes a beauty to imitate the licence of the Greeks, and
leave two vowels opening on each other, as in that verse of the
third pastoral--

"Et succus pecori, et lac subducitur agnis."

But nobis non licet esse tam disertis--at least, if we study to
refine our numbers. I have long had by me the materials of an
English "Prosodia," containing all the mechanical rules of
versification, wherein I have treated with some exactness of the
feet, the quantities, and the pauses. The French and Italians know
nothing of the two first--at least, their best poets have not
practised them. As for the pauses, Malherbe first brought them into
France within this last century, and we see how they adorn their
Alexandrines. But as Virgil propounds a riddle which he leaves
unsolved -

"Dic quibus in terris, inscripti nomina regum
Nascantur flores, et Phyllida solus habeto" -

so I will give your lordship another, and leave the exposition of it
to your acute judgment. I am sure there are few who make verses
have observed the sweetness of these two lines in "Cooper's Hill" -

"Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage; without o'erflowing, full" -

and there are yet fewer who can find the reason of that sweetness.
I have given it to some of my friends in conversation, and they have
allowed the criticism to be just. But since the evil of false
quantities is difficult to be cured in any modern language; since
the French and the Italians, as well as we, are yet ignorant what
feet are to be used in heroic poetry; since I have not strictly
observed those rules myself which I can teach others; since I
pretend to no dictatorship among my fellow-poets; since, if I should
instruct some of them to make well-running verses, they want genius
to give them strength as well as sweetness; and, above all, since
your lordship has advised me not to publish that little which I
know, I look on your counsel as your command, which I shall observe
inviolably till you shall please to revoke it and leave me at
liberty to make my thoughts public. In the meantime, that I may
arrogate nothing to myself, I must acknowledge that Virgil in Latin
and Spenser in English have been my masters. Spenser has also given
me the boldness to make use sometimes of his Alexandrine line, which
we call, though improperly, the Pindaric, because Mr. Cowley has
often employed it in his odes. It adds a certain majesty to the
verse when it is used with judgment, and stops the sense from
overflowing into another line. Formerly the French, like us and the
Italians, had but five feet or ten syllables in their heroic verse;
but since Ronsard's time, as I suppose, they found their tongue too
weak to support their epic poetry without the addition of another
foot. That indeed has given it somewhat of the run and measure of a
trimetre, but it runs with more activity than strength. Their
language is not strong with sinews, like our English; it has the
nimbleness of a greyhound, but not the bulk and body of a mastiff.
Our men and our verses overbear them by their weight; and pondere,
non numero is the British motto. The French have set up purity for
the standard of their language; and a masculine vigour is that of
ours. Like their tongue is the genius of their poets, light and
trifling in comparison of the English--more proper for sonnets,
madrigals, and elegies than heroic poetry. The turn on thoughts and
words is their chief talent: but the epic poem is too stately to
receive those little ornaments. The painters draw their nymphs in
thin and airy habits, but the weight of gold and of embroideries is
reserved for queens and goddesses. Virgil is never frequent in
those turns, like Ovid, but much more sparing of them in his
"AEneis" than in his Pastorals and Georgics.

"Ignoscenda quidem, scirent si ignoscere manes."

That turn is beautiful indeed; but he employs it in the story of
Orpheus and Eurydice, not in his great poem. I have used that
licence in his "AEneis" sometimes, but I own it as my fault; it was
given to those who understand no better. It is like Ovid's

"Semivirumque bovem, semibovemque virum."

The poet found it before his critics, but it was a darling sin which
he would not be persuaded to reform.

The want of genius, of which I have accused the French, is laid to
their charge by one of their own great authors, though I have
forgotten his name, and where I read it. If rewards could make good
poets, their great master has not been wanting on his part in his
bountiful encouragements; for he is wise enough to imitate Augustus
if he had a Maro. The Triumvir and Proscriber had descended to us
in a more hideous form than they now appear, if the emperor had not
taken care to make friends of him and Horace. I confess the
banishment of Ovid was a blot in his escutcheon; yet he was only
banished, and who knows but his crime was capital? And then his
exile was a favour. Ariosto, who, with all his faults, must be
acknowledged a great poet, has put these words into the mouth of an
Evangelist; but whether they will pass for gospel now I cannot

"Non fu si santo ni benigno Augusto,
Come la tuba di Virgilio suona;
L'haver havuto in poesia buon gusto,
La proscrittione iniqua gli pardona."

But heroic poetry is not of the growth of France, as it might be of
England if it were cultivated. Spenser wanted only to have read the
rules of Bossu, for no man was ever born with a greater genius or
had more knowledge to support it. But the performance of the French
is not equal to their skill; and hitherto we have wanted skill to
perform better. Segrais, whose preface is so wonderfully good, yet
is wholly destitute of elevation; though his version is much better
than that of the two brothers, or any of the rest who have attempted
Virgil. Annibale Caro is a great name amongst the Italians, yet his
translation of the "AEneis" is most scandalously mean, though he has
taken the advantage of writing in blank verse, and freed himself
from the shackles of modern rhyme--if it be modern; for Le Clerc has
told us lately, and I believe has made it out, that David's Psalms
were written in as errant rhyme as they are translated. Now if a
Muse cannot run when she is unfettered, it is a sign she has but
little speed. I will not make a digression here, though I am
strangely tempted to it, but will only say that he who can write
well in rhyme may write better in blank verse. Rhyme is certainly a
constraint even to the best poets, and those who make it with most
ease; though perhaps I have as little reason to complain of that
hardship as any man, excepting Quarles and Withers. What it adds to
sweetness, it takes away from sense; and he who loses the least by
it may be called a gainer; it often makes us swerve from an author's
meaning. As if a mark he set up for an archer at a great distance,
let him aim as exactly as he can, the least wind will take his arrow
and divert it from the white.

I return to our Italian translator of the "AEneis;" he is a foot-
poet; he lackeys by the side of Virgil at the best, but never mounts
behind him. Doctor Morelli, who is no mean critic in our poetry,
and therefore may be presumed to be a better in his own language,
has confirmed me in this opinion by his judgment, and thinks withal
that he has often mistaken his master's sense. I would say so if I
durst, but am afraid I have committed the same fault more often and
more grossly; for I have forsaken Ruaeus (whom generally I follow)
in many places, and made expositions of my own in some, quite
contrary to him, of which I will give but two examples, because they
are so near each other in the tenth AEneid:-

"Sorti pater aequus utrique."

Pallas says it to Turnus just before they fight. Ruaeus thinks that
the word pater is to be referred to Evander, the father of Pallas;
but how could he imagine that it was the same thing to Evander if
his son were slain, or if he overcame? The poet certainly intended
Jupiter, the common father of mankind, who, as Pallas hoped, would
stand an impartial spectator of the combat, and not be more
favourable to Turnus than to him. The second is not long after it,
and both before the duel is begun. They are the words of Jupiter,
who comforts Hercules for the death of Pallas, which was immediately
to ensue, and which Hercules could not hinder, though the young hero
had addressed his prayers to him for his assistance, because the
gods cannot control destiny. The verse follows -

"Sic ait; atque oculos Rutulorum rejicit arvis" -

which the same Ruaeus thus construes: "Jupiter, after he had said
this, immediately turns his eyes to the Rutulian fields and beholds
the duel." I have given this place another exposition--that he
turned his eyes from the field of combat that he might not behold a
sight so unpleasing to him. The word rejicit, I know, will admit of
both senses; but Jupiter having confessed that he could not alter
fate, and being grieved he could not in consideration of Hercules,
it seems to me that he should avert his eyes rather than take
pleasure in the spectacle. But of this I am not so confident as the
other, though I think I have followed Virgil's sense.

What I have said, though it has the face of arrogance, yet is
intended for the honour of my country, and therefore I will boldly
own that this English translation has more of Virgil's spirit in it
than either the French or the Italian. Some of our countrymen have
translated episodes and other parts of Virgil with great success; as
particularly your lordship, whose version of Orpheus and Eurydice is
eminently good. Amongst the dead authors, the Silenus of my Lord
Rescommon cannot be too much commended. I say nothing of Sir John
Denham, Mr. Waller, and Mr. Cowley; it is the utmost of my ambition
to be thought their equal, or not to be much inferior to them and
some others of the living. But it is one thing to take pains on a
fragment and translate it perfectly, and another thing to have the
weight of a whole author on my shoulders. They who believe the
burden light, let them attempt the fourth, sixth, or eighth
Pastoral; the first or fourth Georgic; and, amongst the AEneids, the
fourth, the fifth, the seventh, the ninth, the tenth, the eleventh,
or the twelfth, for in these I think I have succeeded best.

Long before I undertook this work I was no stranger to the original.
I had also studied Virgil's design, his disposition of it, his
manners, his judicious management of the figures, the sober
retrenchments of his sense, which always leaves somewhat to gratify
our imagination, on which it may enlarge at pleasure; but, above
all, the elegance of his expressions and the harmony of his numbers.
For, as I have said in a former dissertation, the words are in
poetry what the colours are in painting. If the design be good, and
the draft be true, the colouring is the first beauty that strikes
the eye. Spenser and Milton are the nearest in English to Virgil
and Horace in the Latin, and I have endeavoured to form my style by
imitating their masters. I will farther own to you, my lord, that
my chief ambition is to please those readers who have discernment
enough to prefer Virgil before any other poet in the Latin tongue.
Such spirits as he desired to please, such would I choose for my
judges, and would stand or fall by them alone. Segrais has
distinguished the readers of poetry, according to their capacity of
judging, into three classes (he might have said the same of writers,
too, if he had pleased). In the lowest form he places those whom he
calls les petits esprits--such things as are our upper-gallery
audience in a playhouse, who like nothing but the husk and rind of
wit; prefer a quibble, a conceit, an epigram, before solid sense and
elegant expression. These are mob-readers. If Virgil and Martial
steed for Parliament-men, we know already who would carry it. But
though they make the greatest appearance in the field, and cry the
loudest, the best of it is they are but a sort of French Huguenots,
or Dutch boors, brought ever in herds, but not naturalised, who have
not land of two pounds per annum in Parnassus, and therefore are not
privileged to poll. Their authors are of the same level; fit to
represent them on a mountebank's stage, or to be masters of the
ceremonies in a bear-garden. Yet these are they who have the most
admirers. But it often happens, to their mortification, that as
their readers improve their stock of sense (as they may by reading
better books, and by conversation with men of judgment), they soon
forsake them; and when the torrent from the mountains falls no more,
the swelling writer is reduced into his shallow bed, like the
Mancanares at Madrid, with scarce water to moisten his own pebbles.
There are a middle sort of readers (as we held there is a middle
state of souls), such as have a farther insight than the former, yet
have not the capacity of judging right; for I speak not of those who
are bribed by a party, and knew better if they were not corrupted,
but I mean a company of warm young men, who are not yet arrived so
far as to discern the difference betwixt fustian or ostentations
sentences and the true sublime. These are above liking Martial or
Owen's epigrams, but they would certainly set Virgil below Statius
or Lucan. I need not say their poets are of the same paste with
their admirers. They affect greatness in all they write, but it is
a bladdered greatness, like that of the vain man whom Seneca
describes an ill habit of body, full of humours, and swelled with
dropsy. Even these, too, desert their authors as their judgment
ripens. The young gentlemen themselves are commonly misled by their
pedagogue at school, their tutor at the university, or their
governor in their travels, and many of these three sorts are the
most positive blockheads in the world. How many of these flatulent
writers have I known who have sunk in their reputation after seven
or eight editions of their works! for indeed they are poets only for
young men. They had great success at their first appearance, but
not being of God, as a wit said formerly, they could not stand.

I have already named two sorts of judges, but Virgil wrote for
neither of them, and by his example I am not ambitious of pleasing
the lowest or the middle form of readers. He chose to please the
most judicious souls, of the highest rank and truest understanding.
These are few in number; but whoever is so happy as to gain their
approbation can never lose it, because they never give it blindly.
Then they have a certain magnetism in their judgment which attracts
others to their sense. Every day they gain some new proselyte, and
in time become the Church. For this reason a well-weighed judicious
poem, which at its first appearance gains no more upon the world
than to be just received, and rather not blamed than much applauded,
insinuates itself by insensible degrees into the liking of the
reader; the more he studies it, the more it grows upon him, every
time he takes it up he discovers some new graces in it. And whereas
poems which are produced by the vigour of imagination only have a
gloss upon them at the first (which time wears off), the works of
judgment are like the diamond, the more they are polished the more
lustre they receive. Such is the difference betwixt Virgil's
"AEneis" and Marini's "Adone." And if I may be allowed to change
the metaphor, I would say that Virgil is like the Fame which he

"Mobilitate viget, viresque acquirit eundo."

Such a sort of reputation is my aim, though in a far inferior
degree, according to my motto in the title-page--sequiturque patrem
non passibus aequis--and therefore I appeal to the highest court of
judicature, like that of the peers, of which your lordship is so
great an ornament.

Without this ambition which I own, of desiring to please the judices
natos, I could never have been able to have done anything at this
age, when the fire of poetry is commonly extinguished in other men.
Yet Virgil has given me the example of Entellus for my
encouragement; when he was well heated, the younger champion could
not stand before him. And we find the elder contended not for the
gift, but for the honour (nec dona moror); for Dampier has informed
us in his "Voyages" that the air of the country which produces gold
is never wholesome.

I had long since considered that the way to please the best judges
is not to translate a poet literally, and Virgil least of any other;
for his peculiar beauty lying in his choice of words, I am excluded
from it by the narrow compass of our heroic verse, unless I would
make use of monosyllables only, and these clogged with consonants,
which are the dead weight of our mother tongue. It is possible, I
confess, though it rarely happens, that a verse of monosyllables may
sound harmoniously; and some examples of it I have seen. My first
line of the "AEneis" is not harsh -

"Arms, and the man I sing, who forced by Fate," &c. -

but a much better instance may be given from the last line of
Manilius, made English by our learned and judicious Mr. Creech -

"Nor could the world have borne so fierce a flame" -

where the many liquid consonants are placed so artfully that they
give a pleasing sound to the words, though they are all of one
syllable. It is true, I have been sometimes forced upon it in other
places of this work, but I never did it out of choice: I was either
in haste, or Virgil gave me no occasion for the ornament of words;
for it seldom happens but a monosyllable line turns verse to prose,
and even that prose is rugged and unharmonious. Philarchus, I
remember, taxes Balzac for placing twenty monosyllables in file
without one dissyllable betwixt them.

The way I have taken is not so strait as metaphrase, nor so loose as
paraphrase; some things, too, I have omitted, and sometimes have
added of my own. Yet the omissions, I hope, are but of
circumstances, and such as would have no grace in English; and the
additions, I also hope, are easily deduced from Virgil's sense.
They will seem (at least, I have the vanity to think so), not stuck
into him, but growing out of him. He studies brevity more than any
other poet; but he had the advantage of a language wherein much may
be comprehended in a little space. We and all the modern tongues
have more articles and pronouns, besides signs of tenses and cases,
and other barbarities on which our speech is built, by the faults of
our forefathers. The Romans founded theirs upon the Greek; and the
Greeks, we know, were labouring many hundred years upon their
language before they brought it to perfection. They rejected all
those signs, and cut off as many articles as they could spare,
comprehending in one word what we are constrained to express in two;
which is one reason why we cannot write so concisely as they have
done. The word pater, for example, signifies not only "a father,"
but "your father," "my father," "his or her father"--all included in
a word.

This inconvenience is common to all modern tongues, and this alone
constrains us to employ more words than the ancients needed. But
having before observed that Virgil endeavours to be short, and at
the same time elegant, I pursue the excellence and forsake the
brevity. For there he is like ambergris, a rich perfume, but of so
close and glutinous a body that it must be opened with inferior
scents of musk or civet, or the sweetness will not be drawn out into
another language.

On the whole matter I thought fit to steer betwixt the two extremes
of paraphrase and literal translation; to keep as near my author as
I could without losing all his graces, the most eminent of which are
in the beauty of his words: and those words, I must add, are always
figurative. Such of these as would retain their elegance in our
tongue, I have endeavoured to graff on it; but most of them are of
necessity to be lest, because they will not shine in any but their
own. Virgil has sometimes two of them in a line; but the scantiness
of our heroic verse is not capable of receiving more than one; and
that, too, must expiate for many others which have none. Such is
the difference of the languages, or such my want of skill in
choosing words. Yet I may presume to say, and I hope with as much
reason as the French translator, that, taking all the materials of
this divine author, I have endeavoured to make Virgil speak such
English as he would himself have spoken if he had been born in
England and in this present age. I acknowledge, with Segrais, that
I have not succeeded in this attempt according to my desire; yet I
shall not be wholly without praise, if in some sort I may be allowed
to have copied the clearness, the purity, the easiness, and the
magnificence of his style. But I shall have occasion to speak
farther on this subject before I end the preface.

When I mentioned the Pindaric line, I should have added that I take
another licence in my verses; for I frequently make use of triplet
rhymes, and for the same reason--because they bound the sense. And
therefore I generally join these two licences together, and make the
last verse of the triplet a Pindaric; for besides the majesty which
it gives, it confines the sense within the barriers of three lines,
which would languish if it were lengthened into four. Spenser is my
example for both these privileges of English verses; and Chapman has
followed him in his translation of Homer. Mr. Cowley has given in
to them after both; and all succeeding writers after him. I regard
them now as the Magna Charta of heroic poetry; and am too much an
Englishman to lose what my ancestors have gained for me. Let the
French and Italians value themselves on their regularity; strength
and elevation are our standard. I said before, and I repeat it,
that the affected purity of the French has unsinewed their heroic
verse. The language of an epic poem is almost wholly figurative;
yet they are so fearful of a metaphor that no example of Virgil can
encourage them to be bold with safety. Sure, they might warm
themselves by that sprightly blaze, without approaching it so close
as to singe their wings; they may come as near it as their master.
Not that I would discourage that purity of diction in which he
excels all other poets; but he knows how far to extend his
franchises, and advances to the verge without venturing a foot
beyond it. On the other side, without being injurious to the memory
of our English Pindar, I will presume to say that his metaphors are
sometimes too violent, and his language is not always pure. But at
the same time I must excuse him, for through the iniquity of the
times he was forced to travel at an age when, instead of learning
foreign languages, he should have studied the beauties of his mother
tongue, which, like all other speeches, is to be cultivated early,
or we shall never write it with any kind of elegance. Thus by
gaining abroad he lost at home, like the painter in the "Arcadia,"
who, going to see a skirmish, had his arms lopped off, and returned,
says Sir Philip Sidney, well instructed how to draw a battle, but
without a hand to perform his work.

There is another thing in which I have presumed to deviate from him
and Spenser. They both make hemistichs, or half-verses, breaking
off in the middle of a line. I confess there are not many such in
the "Faerie Queen," and even those few might be occasioned by his
unhappy choice of so long a stanza. Mr. Cowley had found out that
no kind of staff is proper for an heroic poem, as being all too
lyrical; yet though he wrote in couplets, where rhyme is freer from
constraint, he frequently affects half-verses, of which we find not
one in Homer, and I think not in any of the Greek poets or the
Latin, excepting only Virgil: and there is no question but he
thought he had Virgil's authority for that licence. But I am
confident our poet never meant to leave him or any other such a
precedent; and I ground my opinion on these two reasons: first, we
find no example of a hemistich in any of his Pastorals or Georgics,
for he had given the last finishing strokes to both these poems; but
his "AEneis" he left so incorrect, at least so short of that
perfection at which he aimed, that we know how hard a sentence he
passed upon it. And, in the second place, I reasonably presume that
he intended to have filled up all these hemistichs, because in one
of them we find the sense imperfect:-

"Quem tibi jam Troja . . . " ("AEn." iii. 340.)

which some foolish grammarian has ended for him with a half-line of

"Peperit fumante Creusa."

For Ascanius must have been born some years before the burning of
that city, which I need not prove. On the other side we find also
that he himself filled up one line in the sixth AEneid, the
enthusiasm seizing him while he was reading to Augustus:-

"Misenum AEolidem, quo non praestantior alter
AEre ciere viros, . . . "

to which he added in that transport, Martemque accendare cantu, and
never was any line more nobly finished, for the reasons which I have
given in the "Book of Painting."

On these considerations I have shunned hemistichs, not being willing
to imitate Virgil to a fault, like Alexander's courtiers, who
affected to hold their necks awry because he could not help it. I
am confident your lordship is by this time of my opinion, and that
you will look on those half-lines hereafter as the imperfect
products of a hasty muse, like the frogs and serpents in the Nile,
part of them kindled into life, and part a lump of unformed,
unanimated mud.

I am sensible that many of my whole verses are as imperfect as those
halves, for want of time to digest them better. But give me leave
to make the excuse of Boccace, who, when he was upbraided that some
of his novels had not the spirit of the rest, returned this answer:
that Charlemagne, who made the Paladins, was never able to raise an
army of them. The leaders may be heroes, but the multitude must
consist of common men.

I am also bound to tell your lordship, in my own defence, that from
the beginning of the first Georgic to the end of the last AEneid, I
found the difficulty of translation growing on me in every
succeeding book. For Virgil, above all poets, had a stock which I
may call almost inexhaustible, of figurative, elegant, and sounding
words. I, who inherit but a small portion of his genius, and write
in a language so much inferior to the Latin, have found it very
painful to vary phrases when the same sense returns upon me. Even
he himself, whether out of necessity or choice, has often expressed
the same thing in the same words, and often repeated two or three
whole verses which he had used before. Words are not so easily
coined as money; and yet we see that the credit not only of banks,
but of exchequers, cracks when little comes in and much goes out.
Virgil called upon me in every line for some new word, and I paid so
long that I was almost bankrupt; so that the latter end must needs
be more burthensome than the beginning or the middle; and
consequently the twelfth AEneid cost me double the time of the first
and second. What had become of me, if Virgil had taxed me with
another book? I had certainly been reduced to pay the public in
hammered money for want of milled; that is, in the same old words
which I had used before; and the receivers must have been forced to
have taken anything, where there was so little to be had.

Besides this difficulty with which I have struggled and made a shift
to pass it ever, there is one remaining, which is insuperable to all
translators. We are bound to our author's sense, though with the
latitudes already mentioned; for I think it not so sacred as that
one iota must not be added or diminished, on pain of an anathema.
But slaves we are, and labour on another man's plantation; we dress
the vineyard, but the wine is the owner's. If the soil be sometimes
barren, then we are sure of being scourged; if it be fruitful, and
our care succeeds, we are not thanked; for the proud reader will
only say--the poor drudge has done his duty. But this is nothing to
what follows; for being obliged to make his sense intelligible, we
are forced to untune our own verses that we may give his meaning to
the reader. He who invents is master of his thoughts and words: he
can turn and vary them as he pleases, till he renders them
harmonious. But the wretched translator has no such privilege, for
being tied to the thoughts, he must make what music he can in the
expression; and for this reason it cannot always be so sweet as that
of the original. There is a beauty of sound, as Segrais has
observed, in some Latin words, which is wholly lost in any modern
language. He instances in that mollis amaracus, on which Venus lays
Cupid in the first AEneid. If I should translate it sweet-marjoram,
as the word signifies, the reader would think I had mistaken Virgil;
for these village-words, as I may call them, give us a mean idea of
the thing; but the sound of the Latin is so much more pleasing, by
the just mixture of the vowels with the consonants, that it raises
our fancies to conceive somewhat more noble than a common herb, and
to spread roses under him, and strew lilies over him--a bed not
unworthy the grandson of the goddess.

If I cannot copy his harmonious numbers, how shall I imitate his
noble flights, where his thoughts and words are equally sublime?

" . . . quisquis studet aemulari,
. . . caeratis ope Dedalea
Nititur pennis, vitreo daturus
Nomina ponto."

What modern language or what poet can express the majestic beauty of
this one verse, amongst a thousand others?

"Aude, hospes, contemnere opes, et te quoque dignum
Finge Deo . . . "

For my part, I am lost in the admiration of it. I contemn the world
when I think on it, and myself when I translate it.

Lay by Virgil, I beseech your lordship and all my better sort of
judges, when you take up my version, and it will appear a passable
beauty when the original muse is absent; but like Spenser's false
Florimel, made of snow, it melts and vanishes when the true one
comes in sight.

I will not excuse, but justify, myself for one pretended crime with
which I am liable to be charged by false critics, not only in this
translation, but in many of my original poems--that I Latinise too
much. It is true, that when I find an English word significant and
sounding, I neither borrow from the Latin nor any other language;
but when I want at home, I must seek abroad. If sounding words are
not of our growth and manufacture, who shall hinder me to import
them from a foreign country? I carry not out the treasure of the
nation which is never to return, but what I bring from Italy I spend
in England. Here it remains and here it circulates, for if the coin
be good it will pass from one hand to another. I trade both with
the living and the dead for the enrichment of our native language.
We have enough in England to supply our necessity; but if we will
have things of magnificence and splendour, we must get them by
commerce. Poetry requires ornament, and that is not to be had from
our old Teuton monosyllables; therefore, if I find any elegant word
in a classic author, I propose it to be naturalised by using it
myself; and if the public approves of it, the bill passes. But
every man cannot distinguish betwixt pedantry and poetry; every man,
therefore, is not fit to innovate.

Upon the whole matter, a poet must first be certain that the word he
would introduce is beautiful in the Latin; and is to consider, in
the next place, whether it will agree with the English idiom. After
this he ought to take the opinion of judicious friends, such as are
learned in both languages; and lastly, since no man is infallible,
let him use this licence very sparingly; for if too many foreign
words are poured in upon us, it looks as if they were designed not
to assist the natives, but to conquer them.

I am now drawing towards a conclusion, and suspect your lordship is
very glad of it. But permit me first to own what helps I have had
in this undertaking. The late Earl of Lauderdale sent me over his
new translation of the "AEneis," which he had ended before I engaged
in the same design. Neither did I then intend it; but some
proposals being afterwards made me by my bookseller, I desired his
lordship's leave that I might accept them, which he freely granted,
and I have his letter yet to show for that permission. He resolved
to have printed his work, which he might have done two years before
I could publish mine; and had performed it, if death had not
prevented him. But having his manuscript in my hands, I consulted
it as often as I doubted of my author's sense, for no man understood
Virgil better than that learned nobleman. His friends, I hear, have
yet another and more correct copy of that translation by them, which
had they pleased to have given the public, the judges must have been
convinced that I have not flattered him.

Besides this help, which was not inconsiderable, Mr. Congreve has
done me the favour to review the "AEneis," and compare my version
with the original. I shall never be ashamed to own that this
excellent young man has shown me many faults, which I have
endeavoured to correct. It is true he might have easily found more,
and then my translation had been more perfect.

Two other worthy friends of mine, who desire to have their names
concealed, seeing me straitened in my time, took pity on me and gave
me the life of Virgil, the two prefaces--to the Pastorals and the
Georgics--and all the arguments in prose to the whole translation;
which perhaps has caused a report that the two first poems are not
mine. If it had been true that I had taken their verses for my own,
I might have gloried in their aid; and like Terence, have farthered
the opinion that Scipio and Laelius joined with me. But the same
style being continued through the whole, and the same laws of
versification observed, are proofs sufficient that this is one man's
work; and your lordship is too well acquainted with my manner to
doubt that any part of it is another's.

That your lordship may see I was in earnest when I premised to
hasten to an end, I will not give the reasons why I writ not always
in the proper terms of navigation, land-service, or in the cant of
any profession. I will only say that Virgil has avoided these
proprieties, because he writ not to mariners, soldiers, astronomers,
gardeners, peasants, &c., but to all in general, and in particular
to men and ladies of the first quality, who have been better bred
than to be too nicely knowing in the terms. In such cases, it is
enough for a poet to write so plainly that he may be understood by
his readers; to avoid impropriety, and not affect to be thought
learned in all things.

I have emitted the four preliminary lines of the first AEneid,
because I think them inferior to any four others in the whole poem;
and consequently believe they are not Virgil's. There is too great
a gap betwixt the adjective vicina in the second line, and the
substantive arva in the latter end of the third; which keeps his
meaning in obscurity too long, and is contrary to the clearness of
his style. Ut quamvis avido is too ambitious an ornament to be his,
and gratum opus agricolis are all words unnecessary, and independent
of what he had said before. Horrentia Martis arma is worse than any
of the rest. Horrentia is such a flat epithet as Tully would have
given us in his verses. It is a mere filler to stop a vacancy in
the hexameter, and connect the preface to the work of Virgil.

Our author seems to sound a charge, and begins like the clangour of
a trumpet:-

"Arma, virumque cano, Trojae qui primus ab oris," -

Scarce a word without an r, and the vowels for the greater part
sonorous. The prefacer began with Ille ego, which he was
constrained to patch up in the fourth line with at nunc to make the
sense cohere; and if both those words are not notorious botches I am
much deceived, though the French translator thinks otherwise. For
my own part, I am rather of the opinion that they were added by
Tucca and Varius, than retrenched.

I know it may be answered by such as think Virgil the author of the
four lines--that he asserts his title to the "AEneis" in the
beginning of this work, as he did to the two former, in the last
lines of the fourth Georgic. I will not reply otherwise to this,
than by desiring them to compare these four lines with the four
others, which we know are his, because no poet but he alone could
write them. If they cannot distinguish creeping from flying, let
them lay down Virgil, and take up Ovid de Ponto in his stead. My
master needed not the assistance of that preliminary poet to prove
his claim: his own majestic mien discovers him to be the king
amidst a thousand courtiers. It was a superfluous office, and
therefore I would not set those verses in the front of Virgil; but
have rejected them to my own preface:

"I, who before, with shepherds in the groves,
Sung to my oaten pipe their rural loves,
And issuing thence, compelled the neighb'ring field
A plenteous crop of rising corn to yield;
Manured the glebe, and stocked the fruitful plain
(A poem grateful to the greedy swain)," &c.

If there be not a tolerable line in all these six, the prefacer gave
me no occasion to write better. This is a just apology in this
place; but I have done great wrong to Virgil in the whole
translation. Want of time, the inferiority of our language, the
inconvenience of rhyme, and all the other excuses I have made, may
alleviate my fault, but cannot justify the boldness of my
undertaking. What avails it me to acknowledge freely that I have
not been able to do him right in any line? For even my own
confession makes against me; and it will always be returned upon me,
"Why, then, did you attempt it?" To which no other answer can be
made, than that I have done him less injury than any of his former

What they called his picture had been drawn at length so many times
by the daubers of almost all nations, and still so unlike him, that
I snatched up the pencil with disdain, being satisfied beforehand
that I could make some small resemblance of him, though I must be
content with a worse likeness. A sixth Pastoral, a Pharmaceutria, a
single Orpheus, and some other features have been exactly taken.
But those holiday authors writ for pleasure, and only showed us what
they could have done if they would have taken pains to perform the

Be pleased, my lord, to accept with your wonted goodness this
unworthy present which I make you. I have taken off one trouble
from you, of defending it, by acknowledging its imperfections; and
though some part of them are covered in the verse (as Ericthonius
rode always in a chariot to hide his lameness), such of them as
cannot be concealed you will please to connive at, though in the
strictness of your judgment you cannot pardon. If Homer was allowed
to nod sometimes, in so long a work it will be no wonder if I often
fall asleep. You took my "Aurengzebe" into your protection with all
his faults; and I hope here cannot be so many, because I translate
an author who gives me such examples of correctness. What my jury
may be I know not; but it is good for a criminal to plead before a
favourable judge: if I had said partial, would your lordship have
forgiven me? Or will you give me leave to acquaint the world that I
have many times been obliged to your bounty since the Revolution?
Though I never was reduced to beg a charity, nor ever had the
impudence to ask one, either of your lordship or your noble kinsman
the Earl of Dorset, much less of any other, yet when I least
expected it you have both remembered me, so inherent it is in your
family not to forget an old servant. It looks rather like
ingratitude on my part, that where I have been so often obliged, I
have appeared so seldom to return my thanks, and where I was also so
sure of being well received. Somewhat of laziness was in the case,
and somewhat too of modesty; but nothing of disrespect or of
unthankfulness. I will not say that your lordship has encouraged me
to this presumption, lest, if my labours meet with no success in
public, I may expose your judgment to be censured. As for my own
enemies, I shall never think them worth an answer; and if your
lordship has any, they will not dare to arraign you for want of
knowledge in this art till they can produce somewhat better of their
own than your "Essay on Poetry." It was on this consideration that
I have drawn out my preface to so great a length. Had I not
addressed to a poet and a critic of the first magnitude, I had
myself been taxed for want of judgment, and shamed my patron for
want of understanding. But neither will you, my lord, so soon be
tired as any other, because the discourse is on your art; neither
will the learned reader think it tedious, because it is ad Clerum:
at least, when he begins to be weary, the church doors are open.
That I may pursue the allegory with a short prayer after a long

May you live happily and long for the service of your country, the
encouragement of good letters and the ornament of poetry, which
cannot be wished more earnestly by any man than by

Your Lordship's most humble,
Most obliged and most
Obedient servant,


What Virgil wrote in the vigour of his age (in plenty and at ease) I
have undertaken to translate in my declining years; struggling with
wants, oppressed by sickness, curbed in my genius, liable to be
misconstrued in all I write; and my judges, if they are not very
equitable, already prejudiced against me by the lying character
which has been given them of my morals. Yet steady to my
principles, and not dispirited with my afflictions, I have, by the
blessing of God on my endeavours, overcome all difficulties; and, in
some measure, acquitted myself of the debt which I owed the public
when I undertook this work. In the first place, therefore, I
thankfully acknowledge to the Almighty Power the assistance He has
given me in the beginning, the prosecution, and conclusion of my
present studies, which are more happily performed than I could have
promised to myself when I laboured under such discouragements. For
what I have done, imperfect as it is for want of health and leisure
to correct it, will be judged in after-ages, and possibly in the
present, to be no dishonour to my native country, whose language and
poetry would be more esteemed abroad if they were better understood.
Somewhat (give me leave to say) I have added to both of them in the
choice of words and harmony of numbers, which were wanting,
especially the last, in all our poets; even in those who being
endued with genius yet have not cultivated their mother-tongue with
sufficient care, or, relying on the beauty of their thoughts, have
judged the ornament of words and sweetness of sound unnecessary.
One is for raking in Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated
words, which are never to be revived but when sound or significancy
is wanting in the present language. But many of his deserve not
this redemption any more than the crowds of men who daily die, or
are slain for sixpence in a battle, merit to be restored to life if
a wish could revive them. Others have no ear for verse, nor choice
of words, nor distinction of thoughts, but mingle farthings with
their gold to make up the sum. Here is a field of satire opened to
me, but since the Revolution I have wholly renounced that talent.
For who would give physic to the great, when he is uncalled, to do
his patient no good and endanger himself for his prescription?
Neither am I ignorant but I may justly be condemned for many of
these faults of which I have too liberally arraigned others:

"Cynthius aurem
Vellit, et admonuit."

It is enough for me if the government will let me pass unquestioned.
In the meantime I am obliged in gratitude to return my thanks to
many of them, who have not only distinguished me from others of the
same party by a particular exception of grace, but without
considering the man have been bountiful to the poet, have encouraged
Virgil to speak such English as I could teach him, and rewarded his
interpreter for the pains he has taken in bringing him over into
Britain by defraying the charges of his voyage. Even Cerberus, when
he had received the sop, permitted AEneas to pass freely to Elysium.
Had it been offered me and I had refused it, yet still some
gratitude is due to such who were willing to oblige me. But how
much more to those from whom I have received the favours which they
have offered to one of a different persuasion; amongst whom I cannot
omit naming the Earls of Derby and of Peterborough. To the first of
these I have not the honour to be known, and therefore his
liberality [was] as much unexpected as it was undeserved. The
present Earl of Peterborough has been pleased long since to accept
the tenders of my service: his favours are so frequent to me that I
receive them almost by prescription. No difference of interests or
opinion has been able to withdraw his protection from me, and I
might justly be condemned for the most unthankful of mankind if I
did not always preserve for him a most profound respect and
inviolable gratitude. I must also add that if the last AEneid shine
amongst its fellows, it is owing to the commands of Sir William
Trumbull, one of the principal Secretaries of State, who recommended
it, as his favourite, to my care; and for his sake particularly I
have made it mine. For who would confess weariness when he enjoined
a fresh labour? I could not but invoke the assistance of a muse for


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