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THE merit to which the poems in the Greek Anthology have a claim, consists generally in the justness of a single thought conveyed in harmonious language. Very little can be done in the space of a few couplets, and it only remains for the writer to do that little with grace. The eye is fatigued with being raised too long to gaze on rocks and precipices, and delights to repose itself on the refreshing verdure and gentle slopes of scenery less bold and daring. In the same manner, the lover of poetry will sometimes find a grateful pause from grandeur and elevation, in the milder excellence of suavity and softness.
The two great Epic Poets of antiquity have been instructed to sing in English numbers; and the smaller works which have been bequeathed to us, have had admirers and translators. Even Horace, the most versatile, who illustrates the greatest variety of subjects with expressions for ever new and varying, has fallen in with persons hardy enough to attempt meeting him in all the shapes which he assumes. The Greek Anthology opens a wide and almost an untried field for further exertions ; and although the present age may boast of no poets capable of piercing deep into the regions made sacred by antient genius, yet we have those whose taste may enable them to pluck a few flowers that grow by the way side, and preserve them to their country.
There is a certain turn of thought in many of the English fugitive pieces, which may easily be traced to a Greek fountain. Such as that with which Ben Jonson con
cludes his Epitaph on Drayton. He thus addresses the “ pious marble.”
And when thy ruins shall disclaim
An everlasting monument to thee. "Underwortu, Axe; The following distich, inscribed by Ion to the memory of Euripides, furnished the above.
Auth. Pali viiul
But our learned countryman commonly had recourse to the antients for thoughts and images; and he has been detected by Mr. Cumberland “in poaching in an obscure " collection of love-letters, written in a « most rhapsodical style,” for all the ideas transmitted to us in the well known song, *
* For this popular song, to which Jonson had so long stood father, he was indebted to a pretty, although conceited turn of thought, in the twenty-fourth letter of
" Drink to me only with thine eyes.” One of the few translated Epigrams (that of Simonides on the tomb of Sophocles) has been naturalized in our language by every charm of poetry and of music; and the Observer contains several others, which although faithfully translated, are as easy and familiar as originals.
It has been my endeavour to adhere, as nearly as I could, in every essential to the original : I say in every essential--generally reserving to myself the power of illustrating a Grecian custom by an English one that is analogous to it, and of substituting our proper names on almost every occasion. This latter liberty the structure of our language induces, or rather compels me to take; for the Greek names, if admitted, would not only impede the rhyme, but would give
the sophist Philostratus ; εμοι δε μονους προπινε τοις όμμασιν,
&c. the version is literal.