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In the first book of our translator there is very little to commend. In the commencement of the second, where it would be inexcusable to translate badly, his version of a few lines may pass for tolerable poetry.
Suave, mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,
Edita doctrina sapientum, templa serena.'
« 'Tis pleasant, when the seas are rough, to stand
On the calm, peaceful, flourishing head of it.” Our author, even in these few lines, has discovered his imbecility; and this too when aiming to soar to the summię of pliilosophy. He was giddy with the prospect, and certainly never reached the intended height. He would have been far safer, if, with accustomed servility, he had followed his master rather, than attempted to soar with such feeble wings. But it is his ill fate seldom to be on the wing for three couplets, without falling into a flat, or unmeaning, or prosaic line.
Dryden has been more successful, than Creech, in rendering these fortunate lines of Lucretius.
“ 'Tis pleasant safely to behold from shore
The moving legions mingled in the war ;
In the fourth book Creech rises above the ordinary height of his verse ; and yet the very first line is unworthy of a poet.
« I feel, I rising feel poetic heats.” Why should he interpolate this ridiculous stuff? We say interpolate, for Lucretius intimates no such rising heats.
In the description of the senses Creech has some passages with as much meaning, as those of his author, though in versification considerably inferior to the mellifluous lines of Dr. Darwin. Principio hoc dico, rerum simulacra vagari,” &c.
Lib. iv. 728.
“ And many empty shadows of the dead.” At the close of the book, which treats of the nature of love, the translation before us evinces, that this part of Lucretius, to be well interpreted, requires all the genius, and delicacy, and art of a Gifford.
We should with pleasure give credit to Creech for a happy translation in the following beautiful lines ; but the two first resemble Cowley so much more, than they do Lucretius, that we are in doubt, to which of them he is indebted.,
“ Pars etiam glebarum ad diluviem revocatur
Lib. v. 256.
In describing the origin of - music, Creech seems to have felt some of its charms, and of a sudden attuned his loose stringed lyre. « At liquidas avium voces imitarier ore,” &c.
Lib. v. 1378.
s And Amaryllis sounds in every grove.” The last line, instead of being rendered from Lucretius, is stolen from Virgil. « Formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas."
Vir. Ecl. s. The plague of Athens, which forms an interesting and pathetic conclusion of the poem of Lucretius, Creech has translated more uniformly well, than any other part of his author. But he is charged with imitating the Bishop of Rochester on the same subject ; forsaking that close adherence to the original, for which he is generally distinguished.*
We have now done with Creech, and cannot think him deserving of those commendations, which Duke and Dryden have liberally bestowed on him.t Duke was a flatterer, and Dryden wanted an apology for any seeming interference,
* See notes on the sixth book of Creech's Lucretius in the 13 vol. of the British poets by R Anderson, M. D.
+ The following gross and unqualified praise of Creech's translation of Lucretius is from the pen of Duke.
6 What laurels should be thine, what praise thy due ;
What garlands, mighty poet, should be grac'd by you?
“ All the bright gems, that at the bottom lie.” Dryden calls our author “ the ingenious and learned translator of Lucre« tius," whose “ reputation is already established in this poet.”
Miscel. v. ii. pref.
as a translator.
Creech demands the praise of having labored his version faithfully. His work evinces industry and toil; but his materials were hard, and difficult to mould, and after he had obtained a form, he imagined, that his labor was ended ; for he knew not the art of polishing.
Evelyn translated the first book of Lucretius, accompanied with an essay upon it ; and his version was published in 1656. Evelyn was a man of considerable celebrity for the variety of his literature.* Having never seen his version, we can collect its merit only from the testimony of others.t
Dryden, who left few of the ancient poets untouched, and never disgraced what he handled, has rendered some parts of Lucretius in a manner very different from the style of Creech. He does not profess to have given a literal version of these fragments of his author ; for it was his avowed design to make him as pleasant, as he could." of Dryden's versions of the ancients might rather be termed imitations ;j but the portions, he has drawn from Lucretius, may with greater justice be denominated paraphrase.
The following example will show the vivacity of Dryden's manner. Cerberus et Furiæ jam vero," &c.
Lib. iii, 1024.
6 And John Evelyn was a gentleman of as universal knowledge, as any of his time. He was particularly skilled in gardening, painting, engraving, architecture, and medals, on all which he has published treatises. Grainger Biog. hist. For a list of his work, see Wood's Athen. Oxon.
f" Lucretius like a fort did stand
“ Untouched, till your victorious hand
“ I'll die as pure, as Queen Elizabeth ;" which, as a translation, is absurd.
“ And all the vain, infernal trumpery,
“ Stripes, hangmen, pitch, and suffocating smoak.* We are by no means disposed to apologize for Dryden in selecting for translation the close of Lucretius' fourth book. He offered none himself, which he expected would be received. He must have the credit however of rendering it into good poetry, and imparting to those passages, which are in themselves decent, a high degree of delicacy, and taste, and feeling.
There was an edition of Lucretius published in 1743, in two vol. 8vo, with a free, prose, english version.t Such a version may answer to communicate the meaning of the abstruse parts of Lucretius ; but to those portions, where his imagination takes wing, or where he exercises his happy powers of description, we should no doubt apply the words of Roscommon ;
Degrading prose explains his meaning ill,
“ And shows the stuff, but not the workman's skill.” In the first edition of Drake's literary hours we find several specimens from a translation of Lucretius by Mr. Good of London. I The specimens are taken from those parts of the poem, which are most embellished with imagery. The monthly reviewers were of opinion, that his examples should have been drawn from the more abstruse parts of Lucretius. In his second edition Mr. Drake professes to comply with this suggestion. But does he exhibit his translator's skill in rendering the deluded reasoning of the atomist, the presumptuous defence of idleness in the gods, the profane sophistry of a believer in a selfcreated, selfgrowing, animal, and mate
Compare Creech Book 3 line 1015. + See Biog. Clas. v. i, p. 182.
* In the year 1800 Mr. Good's translation of Lucretius was finished. See Drake's literary hours, 2d edit. We have seen no account of the publication of his version.