The Works of Virgil (Dryden)/Postscript

The Works of Virgil (Dryden) by John Dryden
Dedication (Chesterfield)




WHAT Virgil wrote in the vigour of his Age, in Plenty and at Ease, I have undertaken to Translate in my Declining Years: strugling with Wants, oppress'd with Sickness, curb'd in my Genius, liable to be misconstrued in all I write; and my Judges, if they are not very equitable, already prejudic'd against me, by the Lying Character which has been given them of my Morals. Yet steady to my Principles, and not dispirited with my Afflictions, I have, by the Blessing of God on my Endeavours, overcome all difficulties; and, in some measure, acquitted my self of the Debt which I ow'd the Publick, when I undertook this Work. In the first place therefore, I thankfully acknowledge to the Almighty Power, the Assistance he has given me in the beginning, the Prosecution, and Conclusion of my present Studies, which are more happily perform'd, than I could have promis'd to my self, when I labour'd under such Discouragements. For, what I have done, Imperfect as it is, for want of Health and leisure to Correct it, will be judg'd in after Ages, and possibly in the present, to be no dishonour to my Native Country; whose Language and Poetry wou'd be more esteem'd abroad, if they were better understood. Somewhat (give me leave to say) I have added to both of them in the choice of Words; and Harmony of Numbers which were wanting, especially the last, in all our Poets, even in those who being endu'd with Genius, yet have not Cultivated their Mother-Tongue with sufficient Care; or relying on the Beauty of their Thoughts, have judg'd the Ornament of Words, and sweetness of Sound unnecessary. One is for raking in Chaucer (our English Ennius) for antiquated Words, which are never to be reviv'd, but when Sound or Significancy is wanting in the present Language. But many of his deserve not this Redemption, any more than the Crouds of Men who daily die, or are slain for Six-pence in a Battel, merit to be restor'd to Life, if a Wish cou'd revive them. Others have no Ear for Verse, nor choice of Words; nor distinction of Thoughts; but mingle Farthings with their Gold to make up the Sum. Here is a Field of Satire open'd to me: But since the Revolution, I have wholly renounc'd that Talent. For who wou'd give Physick to the Great when he is uncall'd? To do his Patient no good, and indanger himself for his Prescription? Neither am I ignorant, but I may justly be condemn'd for many of those Faults, of which I have too liberally Arraign'd others.

Cynthius Aurem vellit, & admonuit.

Tis enough for me, if the Government will let me pass unquestion'd. In the mean time, I am oblig'd in gratitude, to return my Thanks to many of them, who have not only distinguish'd me from others of the same Party, by a particular exception of Grace, but without considering the Man, have been Bountiful to the Poet: Have encourag'd Virgil to speak such English, as I could teach him, and rewarded his Interpreter, for the pains he has taken in bringing him over into Britain, by defraying the Charges of his Voyage. Even Cerberus, when he had receiv'd the Sop, permitted Æneas to pass freely to Elysium. Had it been offer'd me, and I had refus'd it, yet still some gratitude is due to such who were willing to oblige me. But how much more to those from whom I have receiv'd the Favours which they have offer'd to one of a different Perswasion. Amongst whom I cannot omit naming the Earls of Darby and of Peterborough. To the first of these, I have not the Honour to be known; and therefore his liberality as much unexpected, as it was undeserv'd. The present Earl of Peterborough has been pleas'd long since to accept the tenders of my Service: His Favours are so frequent to me, that I receive them almost by prescription. No difference of Interests or Opinion have been able to withdraw his Protection from me: And I might justly be condemn'd for the most unthankful of Mankind, if I did not always preserve for him a most profound Respect and inviolable Gratitude. I must also add, that if the last Æneid shine amongst its Fellows, tis owing to the Commands of Sir William Trumball, one of the Principal Secretaries of State, who recommended it, as his Favourite, to my Care: and for his sake particularly I have made it mine. For who wou'd confess weariness, when he enjoin'd a fresh Labour? I cou'd not but invoke the assistance of a Muse, for this last Office.

Extremum hunc Arethusa:———
Negat quis Carmina Gallo?

Neither am I to forget the Noble Present which was made me by Gilbert Dolben Esq the worthy Son of the late Arch-Bishop of York: who, when I began this Work, enrich'd me with all the several Editions of Virgil, and all the Commentaries of those Editions in Latin. Amongst which, I cou'd not but prefer the Dauphine's; as the last, the shortest, and the most Judicious. Fabrini I had also sent me from Italy; but either he understands Virgil very imperfectly, or I have no knowledge of my Author.

Being Invited by that worthy Gentleman, Sir William Bowyer, to Denham-Court, I Translated the first Georgic at his House, and the greatest part of the last Æneid. A more friendly Entertainment no Man ever found. No wonder therefore if both those Versions surpass the rest, and own the satisfaction I receiv'd in his Converse, with whom I had the honour to be bred in Cambridge, and in the same College. The Seventh Æneid was made English at Burleigh, the Magnificent Abode of the Earl of Exeter: In a Village belonging to his Family I was born, and under his Roof I endeavour'd to make that Æneid appear in English with as much lustre as I cou'd: though my Author has not given the finishing strokes either to it, or to the Eleventh, as I perhaps cou'd prove in both, if I durst presume to Criticise my Master.

By a Letter from Will. Walsh of Abberley Esq (who has so long honour'd me with his Friendship, and who, without flattery, is the best Critick of our Nation,) I have been inform'd that his Grace the Duke of Shrewsbury has procur'd a Printed Copy of the Pastorals, Georgics, and six first Æneids, from my Bookseller, and has read them in the Country, together with my Friend. This Noble Person having been pleas'd to give them a Commendation, which I presume not to insert; has made me vain enough to boast of so great a favour, and to think I have succeeded beyond my hopes; the Character of his Excellent Judgment, the acuteness of his Wit, and his general Knowledge of good Letters, being known as well to all the World, as the sweetness of his disposition, his Humanity, his easiness of access, and desire of obliging those who stand in need of his protection, are known to all who have approach'd him; and to me in particular, who have formerly had the honour of his Conversation. Whoever has given the World the Translation of part of the third Georgic, which he calls The Power of Love, has put me to sufficient pains to make my own not inferiour to his: As my Lord Roscommon's Silenus had formerly given me the same trouble. The most Ingenious Mr. Addison of Oxford has also been as troublesome to me as the other two, and on the same account. After his Bees, my latter Swarm is scarcely worth the hiving. Mr. Cowley's praise of a Countrey Life is Excellent; but tis rather an imitation of Virgil, than a Version. That I have recover'd in some measure the health which I had lost by too much application to this Work, is owing, next to God's Mercy, to the Skill and Care of Dr. Guibbons, and Dr. Hobbs, the two Ornaments of their Profession; whom I can only pay by this Acknowledgment. The whole Faculty has always been ready to oblige me: and the only one of them who endeavour'd to defame me, had it not in his power. I desire pardon from my Readers for saying so much in relation to my self, which concerns not them: and with my acknowledgements to all my Subscribers, have only to add, that the few Notes which follow, are par maniere d'acquit, because I had oblig'd my self by Articles, to do somewhat of that kind. These scattering Observations are rather guesses at my Author's meaning in some passages, than proofs that so he meant. The Un∣learn'd may have recourse to any Poetical Dictionary in English, for the Names of Persons, Places, or Fables, which the Learned need not: But that little which I say, is either new or necessary. And the first of these qualifications never fails to invite a Reader, if not to please him.