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Achilles, plunging in that part his spear,
Hector's prayer to Achilles :
Book xxii, line 354.
The indignant answer of Achilles to the prayer of Hector :
Dog! neither knees nor parents name to me.
Of Hades sought, deploring as she went
Ibid. line 396.
The interview between Achilles and Priam, who comes to ransom the body of Hector :
One I bad,
Book xxiv. line 622.
Without entering upon any minute analysis of the above passages, we consider them as exhibiting a happy specimen of poetic talent; and that Cowper has been successful in exemplifying the rules and principles which, in his preface, he declares to be indispensable in a version of Homer.
It may be interesting to literary curiosity to be presented with a summary of facts respecting Cowper's two versions of Homer.
This important undertaking commenced Nov. 21st, 1784, and was completed August 25th, 1790. During eight months of this intervening time, he was hindered by indisposition, so that he was occupied in the work, on the whole, five years and one month. On the 8th of September, 1790, his kinsman, the Rev. John Johnson, conveyed the translation to Johnson, the bookseller in St. Paul's Churchyard, with a view to its consignment to the press. During this period Cowper gave the work a second revisal, which he concluded March 4th, 1791. On July 1st of the same year the publication issued from the press. In 1793 there was a further revision, with the addition of explanatory notes, a second edition having been called for. In 1796 he engaged in a revisal of the whole work, which, owing to his state of mind and declining health, was not finished till March 8th, 1799. In January, 1800, he new-modelled a passage in his translation of the Iliad, where mention is made of the very ancient sculpture, in which Daedalus had represented the Cretan dance for Ariadne. This proved to be the last effort of his pen.”
We have thought it due to Cowper's version to enter thus largely into an examination of its merits, from a persuasion that an undertaking of this magnitude, executed by the author of “The Task,” claims to be considered as a part of our national literature. It remains only to be observed that the foreigner whom he mentions with so much estimation, as having aided him with his critical taste and erudition, was Fuseli the painter. He gratefully acknowledges his obligations in the following letters to Johnson the bookseller.
* See Dr. Johnson's sketch of the Life of Cowper.
Weston, Feb. 11, 1790.
Dear Sir—I am very sensibly obliged by the remarks of Mr. Fuseli, and beg that you will tell him so ; they afford me opportunities of improvement which I shall not neglect. When he shall see the press-copy, he will be convinced of this, and will be convinced likewise, that, smart as he sometimes is, he spares me often, when I have no mercy on myself. He will see almost a new translation. * * * I assure you faithfully, that whatever my faults may be, to be easily or hastily satisfied with what I have written is not one of them.
Sept. 7, 1790.
It grieves me that, after all, I am obliged to go into public without the whole advantage of Mr. Fuseli's judicious strictures. The only consolation is, that I have not forfeited them by my own impatience. Five years are no small portion of a man's life, especially at the latter end of it, and in those five years, being a man of almost no engagements, I have done more in the way of hard work, than most could have done in twice the number. I beg you to present my compliments to Mr. Fuseli, with many and sincere thanks for the services that his own more important occupations would allow him to render me.
We add one more letter in this place, addressed to his bookseller, to show with what becoming resolution he could defend his poetical opinions when he considered them to be just.
Some accidental reviser of the manuscript had taken the liberty to alter a line in a poem of Cowper's:—this liberty drew from the offended poet the following very just and animated remonstrance, which we are anxious to preserve, because it elucidates with great felicity of expression his deliberate ideas on English versification.
“I did not write the line that has been tampered with, hastily, or without due attention to the construction of it; and what appeared to me its only merit is, in its present state, entirely annihilated.
“I know that the ears of modern verse-writers are delicate to an excess, and their readers are troubled with the same squeamishness as themselves. So that if a line do not run as smooth as quicksilver,