Imatges de pÓgina
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"fhew their different manner, in fubjects "that have a resemblance. I have therefore "chofen the first acts of the Death of Cæ

far, where there is a confpiracy, as in "Cinna; and in which every thing is "relative to the confpiracy to the end of "the third Act. The reader may compare "the thoughts, the ftyle, and the judg"ment of Shakespear, with the thoughts, "the style, and the judgment of Corneille. "It belongs to the readers of all nations "to pronounce between the one and the "other. A Frenchman or an Englishman

might perhaps be fufpected of fome partiality. To institute this process, it was neceffary to make an exact tranflation; "what was profe in the tragedy of Shakefpear is rendered into profe; what was "in blank verfe, into blank verfe, and "almoft verfe by verfe; what is low and "familiar is tranflated familiarly and in a "low ftyle. The tranflator has endea"voured to rife with the author when he "rifes; and when he is turgid and bom"baft, not to be more or lefs fo than he.

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The translation given here is the most faithful that can be, and the only faithful "one in our language, of any author ancient ἐκ or modern. I have but a word to add, which is, that blank verfe cofts nothing "but the trouble of dictating: it is not more difficult to write, than a letter. If people fhould take it into their heads to "write tragedies in blank verfe, and to act "them on our theatre, Tragedy is ruined: "take away the difficulty, and you take 66 away the merit."

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An English reader will hardly forbear fmiling at this bold affertion concerning the facility of writing blank verfe. It is indeed no hard matter to write bad verfe of any kind; but, as fo few of our Poets have attained to that perfection in it, which Shakespear and Milton have, we have rea fon to suppose the art to be difficult. What ever is well done, in Poetry or Eloquence, appears eafy to be done. In the theatrical dialogue, which is an imitation of difcourse, our Critics require the language of O nature,

nature, and a just resemblance of the thing imitated, without the appearance of effort and labour. Poffibly there is as much of difficulty in blank verfe to the Poet, as there appears of eafe in it to the Reader. Like the ceftus of Venus, formed by the happy skill of the Graces, it beft exerts its charms, while the artifice of the texture is partly concealed. Dryden, who brought the art of rhyme to great excellence, endeavoured to introduce it on our ftage; but nature and tafte revolted against an imitation of dialogue, fo entirely different from that, in which men difcourfe. The verfe, Mr. de Voltaire thus condemns, is perhaps not lefs happily adapted, than the iambic, to the dramatic offices. It rifes gracefully into the Sublime; it can flide happily into the Familiar; haften its career if impelled by vehemence of paffion; paufe in the hesitation of doubt; appear lingering and languid, in dejection and forrow; is capable of varying its accent, and adapting its harmony, to the fentiment, it should convey, and the paffion it would excite,

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with all the power of mufical expreflion. Even a person, who did not understand our language, would find himself very differently affected, by the following speeches in

that metre:

LEAR.

Vengeance! plague! death! confufion!-
Fiery? what fiery quality? why, Glo'iter,

I'd fpeak with the Duke of Cornwall, and his wife :
The king would speak with Cornwall. The dear father
Would with his daughter fpeak, commands her fer-

vice :

Are they inform'd of this? my breath and blood !,
Fiery? the fiery duke? tell the hot duke that
MACBETH.

I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fall'n into the fear, the yellow leaf;
And that which fhould accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but in their stead,
Curfes not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dares not.

The charm arifing from the tones of English blank verfe cannot be felt by a Foreigner,

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Foreigner, who is fo far from being acquainted with the pronunciation of our language, that he often mistakes the fignification of the most common words; of which there are many remarkable instances in this boafted tranflation of Julius Cæfar; for Mr. de Voltaire does not know, for example, that the word courfe fignifies method of proceeding, but imagines it means a courfe of dishes, or a race. Brutus replies to Caffius's propofal to kill Cæfar :

BRUTUS.

Our course will feem too bloody, Caius Caffius,
To cut the head off, and then hack the limbs.
Like wrath in death, and envy afterwards:
For Antony is but a limb of Cæfar.

Thus it is tranflated by Mr. de Voltaire:

BRUTUS.

Cette courfe aux Romains paraitrait trop fanglante;
On nous reprocherait la colêre & l'envie,

Si nous coupons la tête, & puis hachons les membres,
Car Antoine n'eft rien qu'un membre de Cæfar.

The following ingenious note is added by the tranflator. The word courfe, fays he,

perhaps

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