« PreviousContinue »
Weal and wealth. These are the same words ; substantives of the adjective well; hence some will say commonweal, others common-walth. Wheen-cat. V. Queen. I am, Sir, yours,
T. Row. 1778, July, Aug. Sept. and Oct.
LXVIII. Criticism on Gray's Bard.
MR. URBAN, IN reading over very lately the finest ode in the world, the Welsh Bard of Gray, I was struck with a trifling inaccuracy of expression, which I could not account for to my own saa tisfaction. After a series of the most alarming imprecations, which had impressed terror and dismay on the minds of the bravest officers in Edward's army, the Bard is suddenly seized with prophetic enthusiasm, and in the sublime strains of rapture foretels the future glory of the Tudor race of Kings. The royal form of Elizabeth seems to arise before his strong and creative imagination, and immediately an illustrious train af heroes and statesmen,
6 In bearded majesty appear." Had the poet spoken in his own character, this expression of “ bearded majesty” would certainly have had great force and propriety; but surely the short and curled beards generally worn in England about two hundred years ago, could not be thought strikingly expressive of dignity by the venerable Bard, whose own loose beard, according to the lively and picturesque description which had just before been given us of his dress and attitude,
“ Stream'd, like a meteor to the troubled air." I will even venture to assert, that this great difference in the appearance of the worthies of Elizabeth's reign would rather have disgusted the aged prophet, if such a trivial circumstance could in the least have engaged the attention of a man under the complicated agitations of grief, revenge, and despair. In the earlier and less refined ages, any diminution or alteration in this emblematic ornament of the human face was beheld with detestation, and guarded against
with the most vigilant jealousy. During the residence of Charles of Sweden at Bender; he had so much prejudiced the janissaries in his favour by his liberality, that they openly mutinied against their general, when commanded to storm the Swedish camp, till that daring madman at once alienated their affections, by telling their envoys he would trim their beards, unless they retired from his entrench
LXIX. On the word Bleak;
MR. URBAN, It is but a small matter I am going to mention, but, as it relates to our own language, some, perhaps, may think it of consequence: bleak signifies chill or cold, as when we say a bleak wind, a bleak situation, and so the song,
“ Cold and raw the north did blow;
Bleak in the morning early," &c. and it is generally thought that Black-Heath* is so denominated from the bleakness of that elevated piece of ground; in which case, black is a corruption of bleak. Now, on the other hand, bleak appears to mean black, niger, from the Saxon blac and blæc, for the north west wind, in Perigord, is called, according to Mons. Menaget, vent negre, and indeed this quarter is generally black, and the wind blowing from thence dry, and black, and cold : so that black, and bleak, seem to be the same words; and I know not whether bleak, in the song, may not mean black, as cold is mentioned in the first line ; this sense of bleak, however, is not noted in our dictionaries,
* The case is probably the same with Black-Hamilton, a place well known to ge: tlemen of the turf.
+ Menage, Origine de la Langue François, V. Bis.
LXX. Nine Love at Cards, or other Games, explained. I HAVE often been asked the occasion or original, when at cards, of six love, or nine love, which is as much as to say, as to the sense and meaning of the expression, sir to none; or nine to none; and indeed there is, I apprehend some difficulty in it, since our dictionaries and glossaries, so far as I am acquainted with them, do not attempt to illustrate it: thus, in the English part of Boyer's French Dictionary, the phrase is put down and explained, but we are not told how, or by what means, sir love comes to signify sir to nothing.
Now, Sir, I conceive the expression may have come to us either from Scotland or Holland. Luff in old Scotch is the hand *; so that six luff will mean sit in hand, or more than the adversary, when he has nothing upon his score. So again, loaf in Dutcht, whence we have our word: loof, and to loof, is the weather gage, and in this case sir loof will imply six upon the weather gage, or to advantage, as really it is, when the antagonist is nothing. You, and your readers, Mr. Urban, may chuse which of these illustrations you please, at least till a more plausible one shall be offered.
Yours, &c. 1780, July.
LXXI. Theobald and Pope.
MR. URBAN, THEOBALD, the professed rival of Pope in the editorship of Shakespeare, and, probably, for this reason the original kero of the Dunciad, by the escape of one unlucky line,
“None but himself can be his parallel," gave that wicked wit a real advantage over him, and justly exposed himself to the keenest severity of his satire. And yet, indefensible as palpable absurdity most assuredly is, that just now quoted, might have pleaded the authority of Seneca; in whose “ Hercules Furens," we have the following very extraordinary passage:
* Gloss, to Douglas's Virgil.
* Sewel's Dutch Dictionary.
quæris Alcidæ parem ? Nemo est nisi ipse : bella jam secum gerat. It hence appears, (what has not, I think, been remarked before), that this celebrated line of Theobald, the Ludus jocusque Criticorum*, had, after all, only the secondary merit of being a literal translation.
ÆNEANASENSIS. Hot Wells, Bristol, Nov. 18. 1780, Nov.
LXXII. An Emendation of a Passage in Virgil.
MR. URBAN, THOUGH Virgil's style be justly considered as the standard in Latin poesy, and to arraign him in that respect, would be to arraign one's own judgment,
nec detrahere ausimHerentem multa capiti cum laude coronam.
yet several errors have been rationally presumed to be introduced into his works, through the ignorance or the negligence of the ancient librarians. Some of these have been pointed out by the critics, and some perhaps remain uncorrected even to this day.
One, and that a gross one, if I am not mistaken, occurs in the 449th line of the first Æneid. But to save the reader, who may be as corpulent and indolent as myself, the fatigue of lieaving himself into that unfrequented apartment, his study, for the original, and that I may be better understood, I will lay the whole passage before him:
Lucus in urbe fuit media gratissimus umbra,
Egregiam et facilem victu per sæcula gentem.
* See the “ Art of sinking in Poetry.”
passage, is the conjunction in the last line, which, though a single word, and a small one too, does materiaily affect the sense of the clause it is part of, but much to its prejudice,
humble opinion; making it necessary that the four following words should be rendered “ eternally renowned," as most expositors agree.*
But I apprehend it to be unworthy that accuracy which characterizes Virgil, to convey that idea in terms so equivocal, not to say, ungrammatical; especially as it might have been done with inore precision by the alteration of one word, and the inversion of the order of two more, thus, et facilem per sæcula vivere genter: neither do I judge it reasonable to imagine, that Virgil, at the penning of this passage, had the fame of the Carthaginians in contemplation, but that of the Romans; and on this presumption; I read the last line, after the first word, not et, but haud facilem victu per sæcula gentem: and render it, as haud is a more emphatical negative particle than non, very difficult to be subdued, for some centuries of years; and then it relates, by anticipation, a memorable circumstance in the history of the Carthaginian state, viz: “ that its power was great and formidable for some ages, as its wars in Sicily, Spain; and elsewhere, undeniably demonstrate. Particularly that utmost effort of its power in its wars with the Romans; the first of which lasted twenty-four years, the second eighteen, and the third four years.
Add to this, that the emendation I propose, being admitted, Virgil, (who rarely let slip a fair opportunity of introducing into his poeni the shining part of the Roman history) pays the Romans a very fine compliment; for by representing the Carthaginians as very difficultly subdued, he implicitly extols the power of the Romans, who, before his time, had subdued them.
But this emendation is not supported by any MS. True; as far as I know. Yet; as it renders the
passage sonant to Virgil's probable design, more beautiful, more determinate in its sense; not to say more classical, its novelty can rationally be no obstacle to its reception. More especially as the ancients, for haud or haut, frequently wrote Qut; which might easily be corrupted, first into ut, and then into et.
* Aliter Heynius hunc locum interpretatur: “bacile victu, hoc est, quæ habi. tura esset victum facilem et expeditum, annonam affucitem ex aurorum aber ate et cultu.” El