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Concerning Mr. Dryden's Translations.*
OR this last half Year I have been
troubled with the Disease (as I may F
call it) of Translation: The cold
Profe-fits of it, which are always the e most tedious with me, were spent
in the History of the League ; the hot, which succeeded them, in Verfe Miscellanies. The Truth is, I fancied to my self a kind of ease in the change of the Paroxysm; never suspecting but that the Humour wou'd have wasted it self in two or three Pastorals of Theocritus, and as many Odes of Horace. But finding, or at least thinking I found, something that was more pleasing in them, than my ordinary Productions, I encouraged my
* Prefix'd to the Firft Part of Miscellany Poems, &c. Publin'd by Mk Dryder.
felf to renew my old acquaintance with Lucretius and Virgil ; and immediately fix'd upon some Parts of them, which had most affected me in the reading. These were my natural Impulses for the Undertaking. But there was an accidental Motive, which was full as forcible. It
was my common's Elay on Translated Verse ; which made îne uneasy 'till I try'd whether or no I was capable of following his Rules, and of reducing the Speculation into Practice. For many a fair Precept in Poetry is, like a seeming Demonstration in the Mathematicks, very specious in the Diagram, but failing in the Mechanick Operation. I think I have generally observ'd his Instructions; I am sure my Reason is fufficiently convinced both of their Truth and Usefulness; which, in other words, is to confess no less a Vanity, than to pretend that I have at least in fome Places made Examples to his Rules. Yet, withal, I must acknowledge, that I have many times exceeded my Commission : for I have both added and omitted, and even semetimes very boldly made fuch Expositions of my Authors, as no Dutch Commentator will forgive me. Perhaps, in such particular Passages, I have thought that I discover'd some Beauty yet undiscover'd by those Pedants, which none but a Poet cou'd have found. Where I have taken away fome of their Expressions, and cut them shorter, it may possibly be on this Consideration, that what was beautiful in the Greek or Latin, wou'd not appear so thining in the English. And where I have enlarged them, I defire the false Criticks would not always think, that those Thoughts are wholly mine, but that either they are secretly in the Poet, or may be fairly deduced from him; or, at least, if both those Confiderations fhould fail, that my own is of a Piece
with his, and that if he were living, and an Eng lshman, they are such as he would probably have written.
For, after all, a Translator is to make his Author appear as charming as poffibly he can, provided he maintains his Character, and makes him not unlike himself. Translation is a kind of Draw. ing after the Life ; where every one will acknowledge there is a double sort of Likeness, a good one and a bad. 'Tis one thing to draw the Out-lines true, the Features like, the Proportions exact, the Colouring it self perhaps tolerable ; and another thing to make all these graceful, by the Posture, the Shadowings, and chiefly by the Spirit, which animates the whole. I cannot, without fome Indignation, look on an ill Copy of an excellent Original: Much less can I behold with patience Virgil, Homer, and some others, whose Beauties I have been endeavouring all my Life to imitate, fo abus'd, as I may fay, to their faces, by a botching Interpreter. What English Readers, unacquainted with Greek or Latin, will believe me, or any other Man, when we commend those Authors, and confess we derive all that is pardonable in us from their Fountains, if they take those to be the same Poets, whom our Ogilby's have translated ? But I dare assure them, that a good Poet is no more like himself, in a dull Translation, than his Carcase would be to his living Body; There are many, who understand Greek. and Latin, and yet are ignorant of their Mother Tongue. The Proprieties and Delicacies of the English are known to few : 'tis impossible even for a good Wit to understand and practise them, without the help of a liberal Education, long Reading, and digesting of those few good Authors we have amongst us, the knowledge of Men and Manners, B 3