1697 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Henry Grahme, "To Mr. Dryden on his Translation of Virgil" Works of Virgil (1697) sig. t3.



We read, how Dreams and Visions heretofore,
The Prophet, and the Poet cou'd inspire;
And make 'em in unusual Rapture soar,
With Rage Divine, and with Poetick Fire.

O could I find it now! — Wou'd Virgil's Shade
But for a while vouchsafe to bear the Light;
To grace my Numbers, and that Muse to aid,
Who sings the Poet, that has done him right.

It long has been this Sacred Author's Fate,
To lye at ev'ry dull Translator's Will;
Long, long his Muse has groan'd beneath the weight
Of mangling Ogleby's presumptuous Quill.

Dryden, at last, in his Defence arose;
The Father now is righted by the Son:
And while his Muse endeavours to disclose
That Poet's Beauties, she declares her own.

In your smooth, pompous Numbers drest, each Line,
Each Thought, betrays such a Majestick Touch;
He cou'd not, had he finish'd his Design,
Have wisht it better, or have done so much.

You like his Heroe, though your self were free;
And disentangl'd from the War of Wit;
You, who secure might others danger see,
And safe from all malicious Censure sit:

Yet because Sacred Virgil's Noble Muse,
O'relay'd by Fools, was ready to expire:
To risque your Fame again, you boldly chuse,
Or to redeem, or perish with your Sire.

Ev'n first and last, we owe him half to you,
For that his Aeneids miss'd their threatned Fate,
Was — that his Friends by some Prediction knew,
Hereafter who correcting should translate.

But hold my Muse, thy needless Flight restrain,
Unless like him thou cou'dst a Verse indite:
To think his Fancy to describe, is vain,
Since nothing can discover Light, but Light.

'Tis want of Genius that does more deny;
'Tis Fear my Praise shou'd make your Glory less,
And therefore, like the modest Painter, I
Must draw the Vail, where I — cannot express.