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The delicacy of Pope seems to have been shocked at this idea, for he has utterly passed it over; an omission by which it is not easy to say whether he has more dishonoured Homer or himself. A more exquisite stroke of nature is hardly to be found, I believe, in any poet.
The style of Homer is terse and close in the highest possible degree; insomuch that his introductory lines excepted, in which the same adjuncts or ascriptions of wisdom, strength, or swiftness, constantly recur, as Ulysses, Diomede, or Achilles, happen to be mentioned, it were not easy to find, in many lines, perhaps in any, a single word that could be spared without detriment to the passage. He has no expletives except such as he uses avowedly for that purpose. I cannot pay the same compliment to his 'transJator. He is so often diffuse, that he is indeed seldom otherwise, and seems for the most part, rather to write a paraphrase than to translate. The effect of which management is a weakness and Aimsiness to which Homer is completely a stranger. The famous simile at the end of the 8th book, in which the fires kindled in the Trojan camp are compared to the moon and stars in a clear night, may serve as a specimen of what I blame. In Homer it consists of five lines; in Pope, of twelve. I may be told, perhaps, that the translation is nevertheless beautiful, and I do not deny it; but I must beg leave to think that it would have been more beautiful, had it been more compressed. At least I am sure that Homer's close is most to be commended. He says, simply, “ The shepherd's heart is glad;"--a plain asa sertion, which in Pope is rendered thus:
“ The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight,
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light." Whence the word conscious seems to be joined with swain, merely by right of ancient prescription, and where the blessing is perfectly gratuitous, Homer having inentioned no such matter. But Pope, charmed with the scene that Homer drew, was tempted to a trial to excel his master, and the consequence was, that the simile, which in the original is
a pure drop, of simple lustre, in the copy is like that drop dilated into a bubble, that reflects all the colours of the bow. Alas! to little advantage; for the simplicity, the almost divine simplicity, of Homer is worth more than all the glare and glitter that can be contrived.
I fear, Sir, that I have already trespassed upon your pa. per, and, lest I should trespass upon your patience also, will
hasten, as fast as possible, to a conclusion, observing only, as I go, that the false delicacy, of which I gave a proof in the instance of Phænix, has, in other particulars also, occasioned a flatness in the English Homer that never occurs in the Greek. Homer's heroes respected their gods just as much as the papist's respect their idols. While their own cause prospered they were a very good sort of gods, but reverse of fortune taking place, they treated them with a familiarity nothing short of blasphemy. These outrages Pope has diluted with such a proportion of good christian meekness, that all the spirit of the old bard is quenched entirely. In like manner the invective of his heroes is often soothed and tamed away so effectually, that, instead of the smartness and acrimony of the original, we find nothing but the milkiness of the best good manners. In nice discriminations of character Homer is excelled by none; but his translator makes the persons of his poems speak all one language; they are all alike, stately, pompous, and stiff. In Homer we find accuracy without littleness, ease without negligence, grandeur without ostentation, sublimity without Jabour. I do not find them in Pope. He is often turgid, often tame, often careless, and, to what cause it was owing I will not even surmise, upon many occasions has given an interpretation of whole passages utterly beside their mean, ing.
If my fair countrywomen will give a stranger credit for so much intelligence, novel at least to them, they will know hereafter whom they have to thank for the weariness with which many of them have toiled through Horner; they may rest assured that the learned, the judicious, the polite scholars of all nations have not been, to a man, mistaken and deceived, but that Homer, whatever figures he may make in English, is in himself entitled to the highest praise that his most sanguine admirers have bestowed upon him. Pope resembles Homer just as Homer resembled himself when he was dead. His figure and his features might be found, but their animation was all departed, 1785, August.
LXXXIV. Virgilian Account of the Separation of Sicily from Italy.
Æn. III. 414.
The poet, you observe, is speaking of the separation of Sicily from Italy, which, in very ancient time, were conjoined. But, as the text now stands, there is a manifest contradiction in his narrative. He
the fields and cities of the two countries were litore diductas, parted by a shore, whereas this is not only contrary to matter of fact, but he himself tells us, the separation was made by water, or the sea, venit medio vi pontus; that Hesperia, i. e. Italy, was severed from Sicily, undis; and that the sea ran between them, angusto estu, by a narrow strait. Now if, by the alteration of a single letter, you will read litora diductas, every thing will be right and consistent, as the sense will then be, so that the sea flowed in by a narrow strait between the fields and cities of the two countries, they being separated by it, quoad litora, i. e. in respect of their several shores;” as in truth they are.
As to the fact that Sicily was once united to Italy, and by a violent earth-quake, vi quondam et vasta convulsa ruina, was dismembered from it, that the sea thereby, and by that agent, was forcibly introduced between them, and formed the strait of Messina, appears extremely credible. The author imputes this astonishing revolution to an earthquake, insinuates that there was a tradition of such an event, and that a very ancient one; and I am of opinion, that whoever considers the nature of these countries, the gift of earthquakes and volcanos, as shewn and verified by Sir William Hamilton, in his Observations on Vesuvius, &c.; and by Mr. Swinburne, in his Travels into these parts, will find every reason in the world to believe, that such an extraordinary convulsion of nature did once happen here, though we know not the time when. The remarks of these philosophical gentlemen are of importance, even in this view; and, in regard to this curious passage in the Æneid, since, as aforetime, many have been inclined to consider the lines as a flight of poetry, or a mere embellishment in that noble poem, they now can view it both in that light, and as a circumstance substantiated and founded in nature and truth, which certainly adds great beauty to the lines, and evinces at the same time the art and learning of the poet.
John Twine, the Kentish antiquary, in his elegant dialogue de Rebus Albionicis, &c, seems to have been fully persuaded that our island of Britain was formerly, viz. long before the destruction of Troy, united to Gaul, Twine, p. 8, seq. See also Camd. Grit col. 1. of Gibson's Translation, and the note there. But this case appears to me very different from that of Sicily and Italy; an adequate efficient cause is here wanting; the strait is too large to be brought about by the supposed cause, viz. the workings, or tides, of the Germanic and Gallic oceans, Twine,p.y; too much stress is laid on the words divisus and diductus, used by the classics on the occasion, Twine, pp. 22, 23; and lastly, present appearances do not much favour or corroborate the conjecture; insomuch, that one has not that plausible ground for assenting to the detachment of Britain from Gaul, as we have for that of Sicily from Italy,
The subject, Mr. Urban, of the emerging, formation, and detachment of islands, is very copious; but as it is not my intention to diate upon it, but only to confer, in few words, the two cases of Sicily and Britain, for the illustration of the known and celebrated lines of Virgil, I shall pursue it no further.
Jan. 10, 1786, WITH regard to the criticism on Virgil by your ingenious correspondent T. Row, I beg leave to refer him to Heyne's edition of Virgil, 4 yols. 8vo. Lips. 1771, vol. II. p. 303.
Vir doctus Britannus, Genț.. Magazin. 1764, p. 464. litora diductas, emendabat, h. e. quoad litora, refutatus mox ab alio, p. 556. Neuter viderat litore diductas esse idem ac mari, quod interyenerant, diductas; nam ubi litus, ibi mare."
The learned and ingenious professor, therefore, in his Perpetua Adnotatio, explains bitore by these words,--Mari jam facto
By the way, Mr. Urban, this shews that your useful pube lication is not unknown to the learned of foreign nations.
T.S. 1785, Nov. and Suppk
LXXXV. Astle on Writing,
Mr. URBAN, A
Respectable literary friend of mine on the continent, having requested me to inform him, how I have slxewn in my work on the Origin and Progress of WRITING, which had not come to his hands, that Ideas which have no bodily forms, may become perceptible; in compliance with his request, I made the following concise analysis of what I have advanced on that head, which, on account of its brevity, may procure a place in your valuable Miscellany, and be acceptable to your readers.
Yours, &c. Battersea Rise, Dec. 2.
All Characters whatever must necessarily be either HieroGLYPHIC or SYMBOLIC. The former are, in their nature, imitative; the latter kind are arbitrary marks for SOUNDS, called Letters, which became significant by compact or agreement. These marks do not derive their
powers from their forms, but from the SOUNDS which men have agreed to annex to them; they admit of so great a variety of combinations and arrangements, that a small number of them are sufficient for making visible all words in all languages; and, although much has been said by writers of different ages and countries, concerning the forms of Letters, it is obvious, that all characters must necessarily be composed of lines or curves, or of both. The art of writing has, by many respectable persons of different nations, been supposed beyond the reach of the human mind, unless assisted by an immediate communication from heaven; yet I conceive I have demonstrated, that mental conceptions, which have no corporeal forms, may become perceptible to the sight, by adapting a sufficient number of marks to the SOUNDS of any language, and by arranging and combining them properly. By these marks we are enabled to transfer ideas from the ear to the eye, and vice versa. For example: If į dice tate to an amanuensis, ny ideas are conveyed to him through the medium of sounds significant, which he draws into vision, by means of marks significant of those sounds. If I read aloud to an audience from any author, his ideas are impressed on my mind, through the medium of sight, by the marks for Sounds, or Letters, and these ideas are like.