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for their fancy and genius, as for their style and expression.
That Ovid among the Latin poets was Milton's favourite, appears not only from his elegiac but his hexametric poetry. The versification of our author's hexameters has yet a different structure from that of the Metamorphoses : Milton's is more clear, intelligible, and flowing ; less desultory, less familiar, and lefs embarrassed with a frequent recurrence of periods. Ovid is at once rapid and abrupt. He wants dignity: he has too much conversation in his manner of telling a story. Prolixity of paragraph, and length of sentence, are peculiar to Milton. This is seen, not only in some of his exordial invocations in the PARADISE LOST, and in many of the religious addresses of a like cast in the profe-works, but in his long verse. It is to be wished that in his Latin compositions of all sorts, he had been more attentive to the fimpřícity of Lucretius; Virgil, and Tibullus.
Dr. Johnson, unjustly I think, prefers the Latin poetry of May and Cowley to that of Milton, and thinks May to be the first of the three. May is certainly a sonorous versifier, and was sufficiently accomplished in poetical declamation for the continuation of Lucan's PHARSALIA. But May is scarcely an author in point. His skill is in pa. VOL. I.
'rody; and he was confined to the peculiarities of an archetype, which, it may be presumed, he thought excellent. As to Cowley when compared with Milton, the same critic observes, “ Milton is generally content to express the
thoughts of the ancients in their language : Cowley, without much loss of purity or ele
gance, accommodates the diction of Rome to “ his own conceptions.—The advantage seems “ to lie on the side of Cowley.” But what are these conceptions? Metaphysical conceits, all the unnatural extravagancies of his English poetry; such as will not bear to be cloathed in the Latin language, much less are capable of admitting any degree of pure Latinity. I will give a few instances, out of a great multitude, from the DAVIDEIS.
Hic fociatorum facra constellatio vatum,
Luxuriæ fupra, tempeftatesque laborum."
Temporis ingreditur penetralia celsa futuri,
Implumesque videt nidis cælestibus annos." And, to be short, we have the Plusquam visus aquilinus of lovers, Natio verborum, Exuit vitam aeriam, Menti auditur Symphonia dulcis, Naturæ archiva, Omnes symmetria fenfus con
• See Cowley's POEMATA LATINA, Lond. 1668. 810. p. 398.
Ibid. p. 399
gerit, Condit aromatica probibetqué putescere laude. Again, where Aliquid is personified, Monogramma exordia mundi."
It may be said, that Cowley is here translating from his own English DAVIDEIS. But I will bring examples from his original Latin poems. In praise of the spring.
Et refonet toto musica verna libro ; Undique laudis odor dulciffimus habet, &c. And in the same poem in a party worthy of the pastoral pencil of Watteau.
Hauserunt avide Chocolatam Flora Venusque. Of the Fraxinella. Tu tres metropoles humani corporis armis
Propugnas, uterum, cor, cerebrumque, tuis. He calls the Lychnis, Candelabrum ingens, Cupid is Arbiter formæ criticus. Ovid is Antiquarius ingens. An ill smell is shunned Olfactus-tetricitate fui. And in the same page, is nugatoria pestis.
But all his faults are confpicuously and collectively exemplified in these stanzas, among others, of his Hymn on Light.'
a POEMATA LATINA, p. 386. 397. 399. 400. B PLANTAR. Lib. iii. p. 137.
. L. iv. p. 254 . L. iv. p. 207.
• See L. iv. p. 210. L. iii. p. 186. 170. L. ii. p. 126.
See p. 407. feq.
Pulchra de nigro foboles parente,
Mafla severa !
Lumine caudam. And afterwards, of the waves of the sea, perpetually in motion.
Lucidum trudis properanter agmen :
Cuncta colore :
Milton's Latin poems may be justly confidered as legitimate classical compofitions, and are never disgraced with such language and such imagery. Cowley's Latinity, dictated by an irregular and unrestrained imagination, presents a mode of dic
tion half Latin and half English. It is not so much that Cowley wanted a knowledge of the Latin style, but that he suffered that knowledge to be perverted and corrupted by false and extravagant thoughts. Milton was a more perfect scholar than Cowley, and his mind was more deeply tinctured with the excellencies of antient literature. He was a more just thinker, and therefore a more just writer. In a word, he had more taste, and more poetry, and consequently more propriety. If a fondness for the Italian writers has sometimes infected his English poetry with false ornaments, his Latin verses, both in diction and sentiment, are at least free from those depravation.
Some of Milton's Latin pocms were written in his first year at Cambridge, when he was only seventeen : they must be allowed to be very correct and manly performances for a youth of that
age. And considered in that view, they discover' an extraordinary copiousness and command of ancient fable and history. I cannot but add, that Gray resembles Milton in
instances. Among others, in their youth they were both strongly attached to the cultivation of Latin poetry.
But I hasten to give the reader an account of my design and conduct, and of what he is to expect, in this edition.