1726 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Spence

Christopher Pitt to Joseph Spence, 18 July 1726; St. James's Chronicle (1 July 1774).



July 18, Blandford, 1726.

Dear Jo,

I am entering into Proposals with a Bookseller for printing a little Miscellany of my own Performances, consisting of some Originals, and select Translations. I beg you to be altogether silent in the Matter. Mr. Pope has used so little of the 23d Odyssey that I gave Dr. Younge, that if I put it among the rest I shall hardly incur any Danger of the Penalty concerning the Patent. However, I will not presume to publish a single Line of it after Mr. Pope's Translation, if you advise me (as I desire you to do sincerely) to the contrary. I shall send you a small Specimen of my Translation, which if you approve of, I can assure you the Remainder of the Book is not inferior to it.

The Nurse all wild with Transport seem'd to swim,
Joy wing'd her Feet and lighten'd ev'ry Limb;
Then to the Room with Speed impatient born
Flew with the Tidings of her Lord's Return.
There bending o'er the sleeping Queen, she cries,
Rise, my Penelope, my Daughter, rise
To see Ulysses thy long absent Spouse,
Thy Soul's Desire and Lord of all thy Vows:
Tho' late, he comes, and in his Rage has slain,
For all their Wrongs, the haughty Suitor Train.

Ah Euryclea, she replies, you rave;
The Gods resume that Reason which they gave.
For Heav'n deep Wisdom to the Fool supplies,
But oft infatuates and confounds the Wise,
And Wisdom once was thine — but now I find
The Gods have ruin'd thy distemper'd Mind.
How could you hope your Fiction to impose?
Was it to flatter or deride my Woes?
How could you break a Sleep with Talk so vain
That held my Sorrows in so soft a Chain?
A Sleep so sweet I never could enjoy
Since my dear Lord left Ithaca for Troy:
Curst Troy — oh! why did I thy Name disclose?
Thy fatal Name awakens all my Woes:
But fly — some other had provok'd my Rage,
And you but owe your Pardon to your Age.

No artful Tales, no studied Lies, I frame.
Ulysses lives (rejoin'd the rev'rend Dame)
In that dishonour'd Stranger's close Disguise,
Long has he pass'd all unsuspecting Eyes,
All but thy Son's — and long has he supprest
The well-concerted Secret in his Breast;
Till his brave Father should his Foes defeat,
And the close Scheme of his Revenge complete.

Swift as the Word the Queen transported sprung,
And round the Dame in strict Embraces hung;
Then as the big round Tears began to roll,
Spoke the quick Doubts and Hurry of her Soul.

If my victorious Hero safe arrives,
if my dear Lord, Ulysses, still survives,
Tell me, oh tell me, how he fought alone?
How were such Multitudes destroy'd by one?

Nought I beheld, but heard their Cries, she said,
When Death flew raging, and the Suitors bled:
Immur'd we listen'd, as we sat around,
To each deep Groan and agonizing Sound.
Call'd by thy Son to view the Scene, I fled,
And saw Ulysses striding o'er the Dead!
Amidst the rising Heaps the Hero stood
All grim, and terribly adorn'd with Blood.

This is enough in Confidence for this Time; besides, I am desired by Mr. Pope or Mr. Lintot, I don't know which, to write to Mr. Pope on a certain Affair.