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But such is the difficulty of doing real good, experienced even by the great and powerful, or so apt are statesmen to forget the pressing exigence of meritorious individuals, in the distractions of official perplexity, that month after month elapsed, without the accomplishment of so desirable an object.

Imagination can hardly devise any human condition more truly affecting than the state of the poet at this period. His generous and faithful guardian, Mrs. Unwin, who had preserved him through seasons of the severest calamity, was now, with her faculties and fortune impaired, sinking fast into second childhood. The distress of heart that he felt in beholding the afflicting change in a companion so justly dear to him, conspiring with his constitutional melancholy, was gradually undermining the exquisite faculties of his mind. The disinterested and affectionate kindness of Lady Hesketh, at this crisis, deserves to be recorded in terms of the highest commendation. With a magnanimity of feeling to which it is difficult to do justice, and to the visible detriment of her health, she nobly devoted herself to the superintendence of a house, whose two interesting inhabitants were almost incapacitated from attending to the ordinary offices of life. Those only who have lived with the superannuated and the melancholy, can properly appreciate the value of such a sacrifice.

The two last of Cowper's letters to Hayley, that breathe a spirit of mental activity and cheerful friendship, were written in the close of the year 1793, and in the beginning of the next. They arose

from an incident that it may be proper to relate, before we insert them.

On Hayley's return from Weston, he had given an account of the poet to his old friend, Lord Thurlow. That learned and powerful critic, in speaking of Cowper's Homer, declared himself not satisfied with his version of Hector's admirable prayer in caressing his child. Both ventured on new translations of this prayer, which were immediately sent to Cowper, and the following letters will prove with what just and manly freedom of spirit he was at this time able to criticize the composition of his friends, and his own.


my son

Weston, Dec. 17, 1793.
Oh, Jove! and all

Gods! grant

To prove, like me, pre-eminent in Troy !
In valour such, and firmness of command !
Be he extoll’d, when he returns from fight,
As far his sire's superior! may he slay
His enemy, bring home his gory spoils,

And may his mother's heart o'erflow with joy! I rose this morning, at six o'clock, on purpose to translate this prayer again, and to write to my dear brother. Here have it, such as it is, not perfectly according to my own liking, but as well as I could make it, and I think better than either yours or Lord Thurlow's. You with your six lines have made yourself stiff and ungraceful, and he with his seven has produced as good prose as heart can wish,


but no poetry at all. A scrupulous attention to the letter has spoiled you both; you have neither the spirit nor the manner of Homer. A portion of both may be found, I believe, in my version, but not so much as I could wish—it is better however than the printed one. His lordship's two first lines I cannot very well understand; he seems to me to give a sense to the original that does not belong to it. Hector, I apprehend, does not say, ‘Grant that he may prove himself my son, and be eminent,” &c.—but “grant that this my son may prove eminent”—which is a material difference. In the latter sense I find the simplicity of an ancient; in the former, that is to say, in the notion of a man proving himself his father's son by similar merit, the finesse and dexterity of a modern. His lordship too makes the man, who gives the young hero his commendation, the person who returns from battle; whereas Homer makes the young hero himself that person, at least if Clarke is a just interpreter, which I suppose is hardly to be disputed. If my old friend would look into my Preface, he would find a principle laid down there, which perhaps it would not be easy to invalidate, and which properly attended to would equally secure a translation from stiffness and from wildness. The principle I mean is this—“Close, but not so close as to be servile ! free, but not so free as to be licentious !” A superstitious fidelity loses the spirit, and a loose deviation the sense of the translated author a happy moderation in either case is the only possible way of preserving both.

Thus have I disciplined you both, and now, if you please, you may both discipline me. I shall not enter my version in my book till it has undergone your strictures at least, and, should


write to the noble critic again, you are welcome to submit it to his. We are three awkward fellows indeed, if we cannot amongst us make a tolerable good translation of six lines of Homer.




Weston, Jan. 5, 1794. My dear Hayley-I have waited, but waited in vain, for a propitious moment when I might give my old friend's objections the consideration they deserve; I shall at låst be forced to send a vague answer, unworthy to be sent to a person'accustomed, like him, to close reasoning and abstruse discussion ; for I rise after ill rest, and with a frame of mind perfectly unsuited to the occasion. I sit too at the window for light's sake, where I am so cold that my pen slips out of my fingers. First, I will give you a translation de novo, of this untranslateable prayer. It is shaped as nearly as I could contrive to his lordship's ideas, but I have little hope that it will satisfy him.

Grant Jove, and all ye Gods, that this my son,
Be, as myself have been, illustrious here !
A valiant man! and let him reign in Troy !
May all who witness his return from fight
Hereafter, say—he far excels bis sire;


And let him bring back gory trophies, stript
From foes slain by him, to his mother's joy.

Imlac in Rasselas says—I forget to whom, “You have convinced me that it is impossible to be a poet.” In like manner I might say to his lordship, you have convinced me that it is impossible to be a translator; to be a translator, on his terms at least, is I am sure impossible. On his terms, I would defy Homer himself, were he alive, to translate the Paradise Lost into Greek. Yet Milton had Homer much in his eye when he composed that poem ; whereas Homer never thought of me or my translation. There are minutiae in every language, which, transfused into another, will spoil the version. Such extreme fidelity is in fact unfaithful. Such close resemblance takes away all likeness. The original is elegant, easy, natural; the copy is clumsy, constrained, unnatural : to what is this owing? To the adoption of terms not congenial to your purpose, and of a context, such as no man writing an original work would make use of Homer is every thing that a poets hould be. A translation of Homer, so made, will be everything a translation of Homer should not be; because it will be written in no anguage under heaven. It will be English, and it will be Greek, and therefore it will be neither. He is the man, whoever he be, (I do not pretend to be that man myself) he is the man best qualified as a translator of Homer, who has drenched, and steeped, and soaked himself in the effusions of his genius, till he has imbibed their colour to the bone, and who, when he is thus dyed through and through, distinguishing between what is essentially Greek,

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