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which Homer is so remarkable. All his persons, and equally upon all occasions, speak in an inflated and strutting phraseology, as Pope has managed them; although in the original, the dignity of their utterance, even when they are most majestic, consists principally in the simplicity of their sentiments, and of their language. Another censure I must pass upon our Anglo-Grecian, out of many that obtrude themselves upon me, but for which I have now neither time nor room to spare, which is, that with all his great abilities, he was defective in his feelings to a degree, that some passages in his own poems make it difficult to account for. No writer more pathetic than Homer, because none more natural; and because none less natural than Pope, in his version of Homer, therefore, than he, none less pathetic. One of the great faults of Pope's translation is, that it is licentious. To publish, therefore, a translation that should be at all chargeable with the same fault, would be useless. Whatever will be said of mine, when it does appear, it shall never be said that it is not faithful. I thank you heartily both for your wishes and prayers, that should a disappointment occur, I may not be too much hurt by it. Strange as it may seem to say it, and unwilling as I should be to say it to any person less candid than yourself, I will nevertheless say that I have not entered upon this work, unconnected as it must needs appear with the cause of God, without the direction of his providence, nor have I been altogether unassisted by him in the performance of it. Time will show to what it ultimately tends. I am inclined to think that it has a tendency, to which I myself am at present a perfect stranger. Be that as it may, he knows my frame, and will consider that fam dust, and dust too that has been so trampled under foot, and beaten, that a storm less violent than an unsuccessful issue of such a business might occasion, would be sufficient to blow me quite away. As I know not to what end this my present occupation may finally lead, so neither did I know when I wrote it, or at all suspect, one valuable end, at least, that was to be answered by the Task. It has pleased God to prosper it; and being composed in blank verse, it is likely to prove as seasonable an introduction to a blank verse Homer, by the same hand, as any that could have been devised; yet when I wrote the last line of the Task, I as little suspected that I should ever engage in a version of the old Asiatic tale, as you do now."
Having undertaken a work that required so much labour, he bestowed upon it the utmost pains, and allowed nothing to divert his attention from it. In his correspondence the following remarks occur. "The little time that I can devote to any other purpose than that of poetry, is, as you may suppose, stolen. Homer is urgent; much is done, and much still remains undone, and no school-boy is more attentive to the performance of his daily task than I am.—In truth, my time is very much occupied; and the more so, because I not only •have a long and laborious work in hand,—for such it would prove at any rate,—but because I make it a point to bestow my utmost attention to it, and to give it all the finishing that the most scrupulous accuracy can command. As soon as breakfast is over I retire to my nutshell of a summer-house, which is my verse manufactory, and here I abide seldom less than three hours, and not often more. In the afternoon I return to it again; and all the daylight that follows, except what is sometimes devoted to a walk, is given to Homer. It is well for me, that a course which is now become necessary, is so much my choice. Assure yourself, therefore, that when at any time it happens that I am in arrears in my correspondence with you, neither neglect nor.idleness is the cause. I have a daily occupation of forty lines to translate, a task which I never excuse myself from, when it is possible to perform it. Equally sedulous I am in the matter of transcribing, so that between both, my mornings and evenings are, for the most part, completely engaged. Add to this, that though my spirits are seldom so bad but I can write verse, they are often at so low an ebb as to make the production of a letter impossible. I am now in the twentieth book of Homer, and shall assuredly proceed, because the farther I go the more I find myself justified in the undertaking; and in due time, if I live, shall assuredly publish. In the whole I shall have composed about forty thousand verses, about which forty thousand verses, I shall have taken great pains, on no occasion suffering a slovenly line to escape me. I leave you to guess, therefore, whether, such a labour once achieved, I shall not determine to turn it to some account, and to gain myself profit by it if I can; if not, at least, some credit for my reward. Till I had made such a progress in my present undertaking as to put it out of all doubt, that, if I lived, I should proceed in, and finish it, I kept the matter to myself. It would have done me little honour to have told my friends, that I had an arduous enterprise in hand, if afterwards I must have told them that I had dropped it. Knowing it to have been universally the opinion of the literati, ever since they have allowed themselves to consider the matter coolly, that a translation, properly so called, of Homer,
is, notwithstanding what Pope has done, a desideratum in the English language; it struck me that an attempt to supply the deficiency would be an honourable one, and having made myself, in former years, somewhat critically, master of the original, I was by this double consideration, induced to make the attempt myself.—I am now translating into blank verse the last book of the Iliad, and mean to publish by sub|prip-» tion. I wish that all English readers had an unsophisticated and unadulterated taste, and could relish real simplicity. But, I am well aware, that in this respect, I am under a disadvantage, and that many, especially many ladies, missing many pretty terms of expression that they have admired in Pope, will account my translation, in those particulars, defective. But, I comfort myself with the thought that in reality it is no defect; on the contrary, that the want of all such embellishments as do not belong to the original, will be one of its principal merits, with persons really capable of relishing Homer. He is the best poet that ever lived for many reasons, but for none more than that majestic plainness that distinguishes him from all others. As an accomplished person moves gracefully without thinking of it, in like manner, the dignity of Homer seems to have cost him no labour. It was natural to him to say great things, and to say them well, and little ornaments were beneath his notice.','
The following extract will show that no person ever appeared before the public in a work of any literary importance, and more correct views of its legitimate claims under such circumstances. "I thank you for your friendly hints and precautions, and shall not fail to give them the guidance of my pen. I respect the public, and I respect myself, and had rather want bread than expose myself wantonly to the condemnation of either. I hate the affectation so frequently found in authors, of negligence and slovenliness, and in the present case am sensible how necessary it is to shun them, when I undertake the vast and invidious labour of doing better than Pope has done before me. I thank you for all that you have said and done in my cause, and beforehand for all that you shall say and do hereafter. I am sure that there will be no deficiency on your part. On my own part I assure you that no pains shall be wanted to make the work as complete as possible. I am now in a scene of perfect tranquillity and the profoundest silence, kicking up the dust of heroic narrative and besieging Troy again. I told you that I had almost finished the translation of the Iliad, and I verily thought so. But I was never more mistaken. By the time when I had reached the end of the poem, the first book of my version was a twelvemonth old. When I came to consider it, after having laid it by so long, it did not satisfy me; I set myself to mend it, and did so. But still it appeared to me improvable, and that nothing would so effectually secure that point as to give the whole book a new translation. With the exception of a very few lines, I have so done, and was never in my life so convinced of the soundness of Horace's advice to publish nothing in haste; so much advantage have I derived from doing that twice which I thought I had accomplished notably at once. He, indeed, recommends nine years imprisonment of your verses before you send them abroad; but the ninth part of that time, is, I believe, as much as there is need of to open a man's eyes upon his own defects, and to secure him from the danger of premature self-approbation. Neither ought it to be forgotten, that nine years make so wide an interval between the cup and the lip, that a thousand things may fall out between. New engagements may occur, which may make the finishing of that which a poet has begun impossible. In nine years he may rise into a situation, or he may sink into one, utterly incompatible with his purpose. His constitution may break in nine years, and sickness may disqualify him for improving what he enterprized in the days of his health.—His inclination may change, and he may find some other employment more agreeable; or another poet may enter upon the same work, and get the start of him. Therefore, my friend Horace, though I acknowledge your principle to be good, I must confess the practice you would ground it upon is carried to an extreme. The rigour that I exercised upon the first T>ook, I intend to exercise upon all that follow, and have now actually advanced into the middle of the seventh, nowhere admitting more than one line in fifty of the first translation. You must not imagine that I had been careless and hasty in the first instance. In truth, I had not; but, in rendering so excellent a poet as Homer into our language, there are so many points to be attended to, both in respect of language and numbers, that a first attempt must be fortunate indeed if it does not call aloud for a second. You saw the specimen, and you saw (I am sure) one great fault in it; I mean the harshness of some of the elisions. I do not altogether take the blame of these to myself, for into some of them I have been absolutely driven and hunted by a series of reiterated objections, made by a critical friend, whose scruples and delicacies teazed me almost out of all patience."
With a view to make his translation as perfect as possible, Cowper, before he committed it to the press, availed himself of the assistance of several eminent critics, from some of whom he derived considerable assistance, which, at every convenient opportunity, he very readily and gratefully acknowledged. The remarks of others, however, to whose notice he had been persuaded to submit parts of his manuscript, were so frivolous and perfectly hypercritical, as to occasion him considerable vexation. Of this, the closing remarks of the last, and the whole of the following extract will afford ample proof. "The vexation and perplexity that attends a multiplicity of criticisms by various hands, many of which are sure to be futile, many of them unfounded, and some of them contradictory to others, is inconceivable, except by the author, whose ill-fated work happens to be the subject of them. This also appears to me self-evident, that if a work have passed under the review of one man of taste and learning, and have had the good fortune to please him, his approbation gives security for that of all others qualified like himself. I speak thus, after having just escaped such a storm of trouble, occasioned by endless remarks, hints, suggestions, and objections, as drove me almost to despair, and to the very verge of a resolution to drop my undertaking for ever. With infinite difficulty, I at last sifted the chaff from the wheat, availed myself of what appeared to me just, and rejected the rest, but jiot till the labour and anxiety had nearly undone all that one judicious critic had been doing for me.—I assure you, I can safely say, that vanity and selfimportance had nothing to do in all this distress that I suffered. It was merely the effect of an alarm that I could not help taking, when I compared the great trouble I had with a few lines only thus handled, with that which I foresaw such handling of the whole must necessarily give me. I felt beforehand that my constitution would not bear it. Though Johnson's friend has teased me sadly, I verily believe that I shall have no more such cause to complain of him. We now understand one another, and I firmly believe that I might have gone the world through before I had found his equal in an accurate and familiar acquaintance with the original. Though he is a foreigner, he has a perfect knowledge of the English language, and can consequently appreciate its beauties, as well as discover its defects.
"The animadversions of the critic you sent me, hurt me more than they would have done, had they come from a person from whom I might have expected such treatment. In part