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that the Author is said, by some, who speak without any authority, to have ascribed his own productions to another
If this was the case, he was but young in the art of deception. When he placed the Poet in antiquity, the Translator should have been born on this side of the Tweed.
These observations regard only the frivolous in matters of literature; these, however, form a majority in every age and nation. In this country, men of genuine taste abound; but their still voice is drowned in the clamours of a multitude, who judge by fashion of poetry, as of dress. The truth is, to judge aright requires almost as much genius as to write well; and good critics are as rare as great poets. Though two hundred thousand Romans stood up, when Virgil came into the Theatre, Varius only could correct the Æneid. He that obtains fame must receive it through mere fashion ; and gratify his vanity with the applause of men, of whose judgment he cannot approve.
The following Poems, it must be confessed, are more calculated to please persons of exquisite feelings of heart, than those who receive all their impressions by the ear. The novelty of cadence, in what is called a prose version, though not destitute of harmony, will not to common readers supply the absence of the frequent returns of rhime. This was the opinion of the Writer himself, though he yielded to the judgment of others, in a mode, which presented freedom and dignity of expression, instead of fetters, which cramp the thought, whilst the harmony of language is preserved. His intention was to publish in verse. The making of poetry, like any other handicraft, may be learned by industry; and he had served his apprenticeship, though in secret, to the muses.
It is, however, doubtful, whether the harmony which these Poems might de
rive from rhime, even in much better hands than those of the Translator, could atone for the simplicity and energy, which they would lose. The determinaition of this point shall be left to the readers of this preface. The following is the beginning of a Poem, translated from the Norse to the Gaelic language; and, from the latter, transferred into English. The verse took little more time to the writer than the prose; and even he himself is doubtful (if he has succeeded in either), which of them is the most literal version.
WHERE Harold, with golden hair, spread o'er Lochlin* his high commands; where, with justice, he ruled the tribes,
* The Gaëlic name of Scandinavia, or Scandinia.
who sunk, subdued, beneath his sword; abrupt rises Gormal* in snow! The tempests roll dark on his sides, but calm, above, his vast forehead
appears. Whiteissuing from the skirt of his storms, the troubled torrents pour down his sides. Joining, as they roar along, they bear the Torno, in foam, to the main.
Grey on the bank and far from men, half-covered, by ancient pines, from the wind, a lonely pile exalts its head, longshaken by the storms of the north. To this fled Sigurd, fierce in fight, from Harold the leader of armies, when fate had brightened his spear, with renown: When he conquered in that rude field, where Lulan's warriors fell in blood, or rose in terror on the waves of the main. Darkly sat the grey-haired chief; yet sorrow dwelt not in his soul. But when the warrior thought on the past, his proud heart heaved again his side: Forth flew
* The mountains of Sevo.
his sword from its place, he wounded Harold in all the winds.
One daughter, and only one, but bright in form and mild of soul, the last beam of the setting line, remained to Sigurd of all his race.
His son, in Lulan's battle slain, beheld not his father's flight from his foes. Nor finished seemed the ancient line! The splendid beauty of bright-eyed Fithon, covered still the fallen king with
Her arm was white like Gormal's snow; her bosom whiter than the foam of the main, when roll the waves beneath the wrath of the winds. Like two stars were her radiant eyes, like two stars that rise on the deep, when dark tumult embroils the night. Pleasant are their beams aloft, as stately they ascend the skies.
Nor Odin forgot, in aught, the maid. Her form scarce equalled her lofty mind. Awe moved around her stately steps.