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Let us instance in Milton. Giving all the credit, which has ever been demanded, to his genius; yet before he could raise his talents to that admirable command of fancy and language, which the progressive productions of his Muse exhibit, can we doubt that it cost him continued toils, repeated self-denials, years of ordinary pleasures foregone, and a thousand sensual wishes conquered? When we compare the time of his life thus spent with the mode in which the generality consume it, what a very exalted station must he hold in our opinions? Was not the hope of that station the solace of many weary and ill-paid fatigues, many outwatchings of the Bear?” Perhaps it may be observed, that if these exertions were virtuous, he will enjoy in common with others the rewards of virtue. But if these rewards were sufficient to excite him to exertions of a kind so extraordinary, why should he be led on by the auxiliary motive of a false hope ?
The future is unknown to us; the world of spirits, with their occupations and enjoyments, is hid from our narrow sight. Perhaps, since the grave has closed over the body of this illustrious bard, it has been one of the exquisite enjoyments of his angelic soul to listen to the increasing praises, which have continued to swell, in louder and louder tones, over every enlightened nation of the earth!
No. LX. A new Translation of Martial's Epigram
on the chief ingredients of human happiness ; with remarks on the capabilities of the Sonnet.
“ How blest, who thus, by added years improv’d,
With cautious steps their lengthen'd journey tread; And from the task of sultry life remov'd, Converse with wisdom in its evening shade."
I Am indebted to Mr. Lofft for the excellent accompanying translation of the following beautiful Epigram of Martial. I need scarcely apprise my readers that the original has been introduced before in these Essays, N°. IV.
Ultimo versu auctum.
“ Vitam quæ faciunt beatiorem,
Jucundissime Martialis, hæc sunt:
nunquam; toga rara; mens quieta ;
Summum nec metuas diem, nec optes;
TRANSLATION. “ These blessings, without more, most pleasant friend,
The real happiness of life compose :
Competence, which unearnt by Labour flows;
Ingenuous Strength; Health which contentment knows;
Prudent simplicity; Friendship which glows
Nights from intemperance free alike and cares ;
A bed which constant chaste affection shares ;
Be what thou art; and wish not more to be;
C. L. Troston, 11 Jan. 1809.
“ The exquisite Epigram,” continues Mr. LOFFT, “ which I have transcribed on the other side, has tempted me to venture on a translation. You are
every thing with me converts itself into a Sonnet: not unnaturally, I think; since the resemblance of many of the best Sonnets to the best Epigrams, (those on the Greek model) is
odel) is very obvious. And in this class the Epigram of Martial stands very high indeed. By attempting to translate I am become more sensible of its completeness; and of its exquisite and perfect beauty, in diction, numbers, and sentiment. The translation of so sweet a writer, (where he writes in his own unaffected
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manner, and not in the vicious taste of his times as Cowley is, perhaps) is liable to little objection but diffusiveness; except the • if not all,'* which supposes a defectiveness by no means I think imputable to this pure and delightful summary of genuine felicity in this life. To look beyond with assured hope could hardly be the lot of the best philosophers and men, before Christianity; and we know that it was not. This idea I have ventured to supply by a closing line, which at the same time brings the whole into the form of a Quatuorzain.
That the SONNET is favourable to condensation of thought is clear from theory and experience; when the subject is well chosen and suitably treated. And condensed as the original is, I think I have expressed its ideas without omission in an equal number of lines. I flatter myself I shall prove that no subject worthy of poetry is so great and comprehensive, as not to have been with becoming dignity expressed in this form. And indeed I hardly know, or can imagine any subject which is worthy of the Muse, which has not been thus included. And it is the glory of the Sonnet to add that it has most rarely been disgraced by an unworthy subject.” +
* The first line of Cowley's translation is,
“ These are the chief ingredients, if not all.” + I cannot refrain from adding the following passages of Mr. Lorrt's letter, (which seem more properly placed in a note) though I have to apologize for the unmerited expressions of kindness regard. ing myself which occur in them. The benevolent writer refers to some peevish expressions regarding the bar, which I had presumed to use in No.IV. of the Ruminator.
I feel no common pleasure in being able to prove the justness of these observations of Mr. Lorft, by one of his own Sonnets, than which a nobler does not exist in the English language, even including those of Milton.
Occasioned by one of Miss Caroline Symmons
blighted Rose-bud," written in her 12th year ; she having herself fallen a victim to a consumption at the age of fourteen years and one month, on June 1, 1803.
“O what a length of days indulg'd to me,
Who little have employ'd the boon of time!
“I have treated,” continues he, “ the forensic gown, 'with tenderness; indeed with affection: for although in more than thirty years my gown has brought me but little profit, and perhaps not much of fame, it would be disingenuous not to own, that both it and the profession, have been, and I trust always will remain exceeding dear to me. And I cannot do otherwise than acknowledge, that I wish the ingenuous delicacy of your mind would have permitted you to have continned in it. Where, to be silent as to any living characters, we can think of such men (all of them more or less cotemporaries) as Mr. Charles Yorke, the Earl of Hardwicke, Earl Camden, the Earl of Mansfield, Mr. John Lee, Sir Michael Foster, Sir William Blackstone, Sir William Jones, it couveys the pleasing and satisfactory sentiment that the English Bar has been, and may it ever be, not incompatible with the most elegant, the most enlightened, the most cultivated, vigorous, upright, and comprehensive minds; with the steadiest attachment to freedom, to their country, and to the best interests of human society: that it may ever supply the most splendid, noblest, and most permanently effectual opportunities of promoting all these pure and sublime objects !".