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So full of might and glorious did appear, That all my senses reeld, and down I dropt with fear. “Within her snowy arms that Lady sweet
Me caught, and swiftly to the portal hied,
And soft she bore me to inhale the tide
Of the fresh air-she deem'd I would have died,
But fondly each reviving art she tried,
The vision now hastens to a conclusion. On his recovery, the poet, under the protection of her who has so faithfully conducted him, proposes to visit a delightful garden, where the Muses are employed in gathering the choicest flowers of poesy, which spring beneath trees bearing precious stones instead of fruit. In the description of this retreat there is a strange admixture of the beautiful and the ridiculous. The scenery is sweetly painted; but what shall we say of the trees on which geese or chickens are seen growing—to the transplanting of the extraordinary fables of Boece into the gardens of the Palace of Honour?
Into this garden, however, in whatever fashion it may be furnished, the bard himself is not destined to enter. The only access to it lies beyond a moat, across which a tree is thrown. Over this slender and precarious rural bridge, the Nymph passes with ease; but the poet, whose head has not yet recovered the effects of his swoon, in making the attempt, slips a foot, and is immersed in the stream. This effectually awakens him from the trance into which he had fallen, and restores his
senses to the sober realities of a lower sphere. He then, according to poetic use and wont, describes his wondrous vision, and lays it at the feet of his sovereign, James IV.
In his interview with Venus in the Palace of Honour, Douglas informs us that the goddess presented him, as the richest gift she could bestow, with a copy of Virgil's Æneid, commanding him to translate it into his native language-a task, says Dr. Irving, which he has performed with much felicity.
To pronounce it,” continues this learned critic, “the best version of this wonderful poem which ever was or ever will be executed, would be ridiculous; but it is certainly the production of a bold and energetic writer, whose knowledge of the language of his original, and command of a rich and variegated phraseology, peculiarly qualified him for the performance of so arduous a task. Indeed, whether we consider the state of British literature at that era, or the rapidity with which he completed the work, (it was the labour of but sixteen months,) he will be found entitled to a high degree of admiration. In either of the sister languages, few translations of sacred authors have been attempted; and the rules of the art were consequently little understood. Even in English, no metrical version of a classic had yet appeared, except of Boethius, who scarcely merits that appellation. On the destruction of Troy, Caxton had published a species of prose romance, which he professes to have translated from the French; and the English reader was taught to consider this motley and ludicrous composition as a version of the Æneid. Douglas,
however, bestows severe castigation on Caxton, for his presumptuous deviation from classical story; and affirms, that his work no more resembles Virgil than the Devil resembles St. Austin; and yet he has fallen into an error, which he exposes in his predecessor-proper names being often so disfigured in his translation, as only to be recognized with the greatest difficulty. In many instances, too, he has been guilty of the bad taste of modernizing the notions of his original;-converting the Sibyl into a nun; and admonishing Æneas, the Trojan baron, to be fearful of any neglect in counting his beads. Of the general principle of translation, however, he appears to have formed no inaccurate notion; his version is neither rashly licentious, nor too tamely literal. In affirming that he has invariably rendered one verse by another, Dempster and Lesly betray their ignorance of the work of which they speak; and Douglas well knew that such a project would have been wild and nugatory.
The verses of Virgil and his translator must, commonly, differ in length by at least three syllables, and they may even differ by no fewer than seven. Dr. Irving concludes his judicious remarks upon this translation by selecting, as a specimen, the celebrated passage on the descent of Æneas into the infernal regions:
• Facilis descensus Averni,
“ It is richt facill and eithgate, I thee tell,
For to descend, and pass on doun to hell.
Flows environ round about that place.” Perhaps a happier specimen of this remarkable work of Douglas is to be found in the translation of that exquisite passage in the sixth book, in which Æneas and the Sibyl arrive at the Elysian Fields:
“ His demum exactis, perfecto munere divæ,
Devenere locos lætos et amena vireta,
Jamque eadem digitis, jam pectine pulsat eburno." “ The golden branche he sticks up fair and wele,
This beand done at last; and every dele
4 loathsome. 5 all things or rites fulfilled. 6 belonging. 7 ground.
With battel' gers, fresche herbis, and grene swardis,
Douglas commences each book with a prologue or original introduction, generally descriptive of the season and circumstances under which it was written. Thus, in the prologue to the seventh book, we have as noble a description of winter as is to be found in the whole range of ancient Scottish poetry.
The poet tells us that the sun had just entered the cloudy sign of Capricorn, and approached so near his winter stage that his heat perceptibly declined:
8 members. '11 divert.
12 hunting. wrestling. 13 ballads.
16 tunes. 14 skilful. 15 harping
18 little. 17 beautiful and slender.