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"chosen the first acts of the Death of Cæ
sar, where there is a conspiracy, as in “Cinna; and in which every thing is re"lative to the conspiracy to the end of the "third act. The reader may compare the thoughts, the style, and the judgment of "Shakspeare, with the thoughts, the style, " and the judgment of Corneille. It be"longs to the readers of all nations to pro66 nounce between the one and the other. "A Frenchman or an Englishman might "perhaps be suspected of some partiality. "To institute this process, it was necessary "to make an exact translation: what was 66 prose in the tragedy of Shakspeare, is ren"dered into prose; what was in blank66 verse, into blank-verse, and almost verse
by verse; what is low and familiar, is "translated familiarly and in a low style. "The translator has endeavoured to rise "with the Author when he rises; and when "he is turgid and bombast, not to be more or less so than he. The translation
given here is the most faithful that can "be, and the only faithful one in our lan
guage, of any author ancient or modern.
"I have but a word to add, which is, "that blank-verse costs nothing but the "trouble of dictating: it is not more dif"ficult to write, than a letter. If people
"should take it into their heads to write tragedies in blank-verse, and to act them "on our theatre, tragedy is ruined: take away the difficulty, and you take away "the merit."
An English reader will hardly forbear smiling at this bold assertion concerning the facility of writing blank-verse. It is indeed no hard matter to write bad verse of any kind; but as so few of our poets have attained to that perfection in it, which Shakspeare and Milton have, we have reason to suppose the art to be difficult. Whatever is well done, in poetry or eloquence, appears easy to be done. In the theatrical dialogue, which is an imitation of discourse, our critics require the language of nature, and a just resemblance of the thing imitated, without the appearance of effort and labour. Possibly there is as much of difficulty in blank-verse to the poet, as
there appears of ease in it to the reader. Like the cestus of Venus, formed by the happy skill of the Graces, it best exerts its charms, while the artifice of the texture is partly concealed. Dryden, who brought the art of rhyme to great excellence, endeavoured to introduce it on our stage; but nature and taste revolted against an imitation of dialogue, so entirely different from that, in which men discourse. The verse, Mr. de Voltaire thus condemns, is perhaps not less happily adapted, than the iambic, to the dramatic offices. It rises gracefully into the sublime; it can slide happily into the familiar; hasten its career if impelled by vehemence of passion; pause in the hesitation of doubt; appear lingering and languid, in dejection and sorrow; is capable of varying its accent, and adapting its harmony, to the sentiment it should convey, and the passion it would excite, with all the power of musical expression. Even a per
son, who did not understand our language, would find himself very differently affected, by the following speeches in that metre:
Vengeance! plague! death! confusion!..
I'd speak with the Duke of Cornwall, and his wife:
I have lived long enough: my way of life
The charm arising from the tones of English blank-verse cannot be felt by a foreigner, who is so far from being acquainted with the pronunciation of our language, that he often mistakes the signification of the most common words; of which there are many remarkable instances in this boasted translation of Julius Cæsar; for Mr.
de Voltaire does not know, for example, that the word course signifies method of proceeding, but imagines it means a course of dishes, or a race. Brutus replies to Cas
sius's proposal to kill Cæsar:
Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off, and then hack the limbs ;
Thus it is translated by Mr. de Voltaire:
Cette course aux Romains paraitrait trop sanglante;
Si nous coupons la tête, & puis hachons les membres,
The following ingenious note is added by the translator. "The word course," says he, " perhaps has an allusion to the Lupercal course. It also signifies a service of dishes at table."-It is very extraordinary, that a man should set up for a translator, with so