صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

any ways be useful towards illustrating our author; and in the conclusion have added an index of the less common words occasionally explained in the notes.

The Latin poems I cannot say are equal to several of his English compositions: but yet they are not without their merit; they are not a cento like most of the modern Latin poetry; there is spirit, invention, and other marks and tokens of a rising genius; for it should be considered, that the greater part of them were written while the author was under twenty. They are printed correctly according to his own editions in 1645 and 1673; and as they can be read only by the learned, there is the less occasion for any notes and observations upon them. Some few are added, which were thought no more than necessary.

But it is time to have done with these things, and to apply to other works, more important and more useful, if the execution prove answerable to the intention.

December 31, 1751.



FOR obvious reasons, the Latin poems of this volume can never acquire the popularity of the English. But as it is my wish that they may be better known than before, and as they are in this edition, partly on that account, and for the first time, accompanied with a series of Notes of proportionably equal extent with those attached to the English text, I have thought it proper to introduce them to the reader's acquaintance by some general remarks, from which an estimate of their character might be preparatively formed, and at one view.

Our author is said to be the first Englishman, who after the restoration of letters wrote Latin verses with classic elegance. But we must at least except some of the hendecasyllables and epigrams of Leland, one of our first literary reformers, from this hasty determination.

In the Elegies, Ovid was professedly Milton's model for language and versification. They are not, however, a perpetual and uniform tissue of Ovidian phraseology. With Ovid jn view, he has an original manner and character of his own, which exhibit a remarkable perspicuity of contexture, a native facility and fluency. Nor does bis observation of Roman models oppress or destroy our great poet's inherent powers of invention and sentiment. I value these pieces as much for their fancy and genius, as for their style and expression.

That Ovid among the Latin poets was Milton's favourite, appears not only from his elegiac but his

hexametric poetry. The versification of our author's hexameters has yet a different structure from that of the Metamorphoses: Milton's is more clear, intelligible, and flowing ; less desultory, less familiar, and less embarrassed with a frequent recurrence of periods. Ovid is at once rapid and abrupt. He wants dignity: he has too much conversation in his manner of telling a story. Prolixity of paragraph, and length of sentence, are peculiar to Milton. This is seen, not only in some of his exordial invocations in the Paradise Lost, and in many of the religious addresses of a like cast in the Prose Works, but in his long verse. It is to be wished that in his Latin compositions of all sorts, he had been more attentive to the simplicity of Lucretius, Virgil, and Tibullus.

Dr. Johnson, unjustly I think, prefers the Latin poetry of May and Cowley to that of Milton, and thinks May to be the first of the three. May is certainly a sonorous versifier, and was sufficiently accomplished in poetical declamation for the continuation of Lucan's Pharsalia. But May is scarcely an author in point. His skill is in parody; and he was confined to the peculiarities of an archetype, which, it may be presumed, he thought excellent. As to Cowley when compared with Milton, the same critic observes, “ Mil“ ton is generally content to express the thoughts of “ the ancients in their language: Cowley, without “ much loss of purity or elegance, accommodates the “ diction of Rome to his own conceptions. The ad

vantage seems to lie on the side of Cowley.” But what are these conceptions ? Metaphysical conceits, all the unnatural extravagancies of his English poetry ;

such as will not bear to be clothed in the Latin language, much less are capable of admitting any degree of pure Latinity. I will give a few instances, out of a great multitude, from the Davideis.

Hic sociatorum sacra constellatio vatum,
Quos felix virtus evexit ad æthera, nubes

Luxuriæ supra, tempestatesque laborum..

Temporis ingreditur penetralia celsa futuri,

Implumesque videt nidis cælestibus annos“. And, to be short, we have the Plusquam visus uquilinus of lovers, Natio verborum, Exuit vitam aeriam, Menti auditur symphonia dulcis, Naturæ archiva, Omnes symmetria sensus congerit, Condit aromatica prohibetque putescere laude. Again, where Aliquid is personified, Monogramma exordia mundic.

be said, that Cowley is here translating from bis own English Davideis. But I will bring examples from bis original Latin poems. In praise of the spring.

Et resonet toto musica verna libro;

Undique laudis odor dulcissimus halet, &c." And in the same poem in a party worthy of the pastoral pencil of Watteau.

Hauserunt avide Chocolatam Flora Venusque".

It may

Of the Fraxinella.

Tu tres metropoles humani corporis armis

Propugnas, uterum, cor, cerebrumque, tuis'.

See Cowley's Poemata La- 399, 400. tina, Lond. 1668. 8vo. p. 398. Plantar. lib. iii. p. 137. Ibid. p. 399.

e L. iv. p. 254. Poemata Latina, p. 386, 397, ' L. iv. p. 207.

He calls the Lychnis, Candelabrum ingens, Cupid is

Arbiter formæ criticus. Ovid is Antiquarius ingens. An ill smell is shunned Olfactus tetricitate sui. And in the same page, is nugatoria pestiss.

But all his faults are conspicuously and collectively exemplified in these stanzas, among others, of his Hymn on Lighth.

Pulchra de nigro soboles parente,
Quam Chaos fertur peperisse primam,
Cujus ob formam bene risit olim

Massa severa!
Risus ( terræ sacer et polorum,
Aureus vere pluvius Tonantis,
Quæque de coelo fluis inquieto

Gloria rivo!
Te bibens arcus Jovis ebriosus
Mille formosos revomit colores,
Pavo cælestis, variamque pascit

Lumine caudam. And afterwards, of the waves of the sea, perpetually in motion.

Lucidum trudis properanter agmen:
Sed resistentum' super ora rerum
Leniter stagnas, liquidoque inundas

Cuncta colore:
At mare immensum oceanusque Lucis
Jupiter cælo fluit empyræo;
Hinc inexhausto per utrumque mundum

Funditur ore. Milton's Latin poems may be justly considered as legitimate classical compositions, and are never dis

See I. iv. p. 210. L. iii. p. 186, 170. L. ii. p. 126.

h See p. 407. seq.

Standing still.


« السابقةمتابعة »