The Works of Virgil (Dryden)/Poem 1

The Works of Virgil (Dryden) by John Dryden
To Mr. Dryden, on his Excellent Translation of Virgil by Anonymous

To Mr. Dryden, on his Excellent Translation

WHEN e'er Great VIRGIL's lofty Verse I see,
The Pompous Scene Charms my admiring Eye:
There different Beauties in perfection meet;
The Thoughts as proper, as the Numbers sweet:
And when wild Fancy mounts a daring height,
Judgment steps in, and moderates her Flight.
Wisely he manages his Wealthy Store,
Still says enough, and yet implies still more:
For tho' the weighty Sense be closely wrought,
The Reader's left t'improve the pleasing Thought.

Hence we despair'd to see an English dress
Should e'er his Nervous Energy express;
For who could that in fetter'd Rhyme inclose,
Which without loss can scarce be told in Prose?

But you, Great Sir, his Manly Genius raise;
And make your Copy share an equal praise.
O how I see thee in soft Scenes of Love,
Renew those Passions he alone could move!
Here Cupid's Charms are with new Art exprest,
And pale Eliza leaves her peaceful rest:
Leaves her Elizium, as if glad to live,
To Love, and Wish, to Sigh, Despair and Grieve,
And die again for him that would again deceive.

Nor does the Mighty Trojan less appear
Than Mars himself amidst the Storms of War.
Now his fierce Eyes with double fury glow,
And a new dread attends th' impending blow:
The Daunian Chiefs their eager rage abate,
And tho' unwounded, seem to feel their Fate.

Long the rude fury of an ignorant Age,
With barbarous spight prophan'd his Sacred Page.
The heavy Dutchmen with laborious toil,
Wrested his Sense, and cramp'd his vigorous Style;
No time, no pains the drudging Pedants spare;
But still his Shoulders must the burthen bear.
While thro' the Mazes of their Comments led,
We learn not what he writes, but what they read.
Yet thro' these Shades of undistinguish'd Night
Appear'd some glimmering intervals of Light;
Till mangled by a vile Translating Sect,
Like Babes by Witches in Effigie rackt:
Till Ogleby, mature in dulness rose,
And Holbourn Dogrel, and low chiming Prose,
His Strength and Beauty did at once depose.
But now the Magick Spell is at an end,
Since even the Dead in you have found a Friend.
You free the Bard from rude Oppressor's Power,
And grace his Verse with Charms unknown before:
He, doubly thus oblig'd, must doubting stand,
Which chiefly should his Gratitude command;
Whether should claim the Tribute of his Heart,
The Patron's Bounty, or the Poet's Art.

Alike with wonder and delight we view'd
The Roman Genius in thy Verse renew'd:
We saw thee raise soft Ovid's Amorous Fire,
And fit the tuneful Horace to thy Lyre:

We saw new gall imbitter Juvenal's Pen,
And crabbed Persius made politely plain:
Virgil alone was thought too great a task;
What you could scarce perform, or we durst ask:
A Task! which Waller's Muse could ne'er engage;
A Task! too hard for Denham's stronger rage:
Sure of Success they some slight Sallies try'd,
But the fenc'd Coast their bold attempts defy'd:
With fear their o'er-match'd Forces back they drew,
Quitted the Province Fate reserv'd for you.
In vain thus Philip did the Persians storm;
A Work his Son was destin'd to perform.

O had Roscommon[1] liv'd to hail the day,
And Sing loud Pœans thro' the crowded way;
When you in Roman Majesty appear,
Which none know better, and none come so near:
The happy Author would with wonder see,
His Rules were only Prophecies of thee:
And were he now to give Translators light,
He'd bid them only read thy Work, and write.

For this great Task our loud applause is due;
We own old Favours, but must press for new:
Th' expecting World demands one Labour more;
And thy lov'd Homer does thy aid implore,
To right his injur'd Works, and set them free
From the lewd Rhymes of groveling Ogleby.
Then shall his Verse in graceful Pomp appear,
Nor will his Birth renew the ancient jar;
On those Greek Cities we shall look with scorn,
And in our Britain think the Poet Born.

Virgil translated by Dryden (1709)-volume 1-sheet 117-Chapter end block.png

  1. Essay of Translated Verse, pag. 26.