To the Right Honourable
CHARLES Lord HALIFAX.
OUR Lordship is not to be inform'd of the great Reputation Monsieur Boileau has acquired by all his Works. They are esteem'd so Nice in themselves, that it has been thought by some as rash an Attempt to translate this French Author, as for an English General to attack an Army of theirs. The late Successes of some former Campaigns have sufficiently prov'd that their Heroes are not Invincible; and the happy Imitations of some of their best Pieces, that their Writers are not Incomparable. Not that I'm so vain as to Imagine the following Translation deserves to be mention'd in the same Breath with some I cou'd name. But certain it is, the French Genius may be match'd (if not surpass'd) in both, the Pen as well as the Sword; whatever exalted Notions to the contrary Some among us may have, who cou'd relish Slavery it self, if it were but French. I do not intend anything to the disadvantage of our Enemy's Wit and Knowledge, but only to put the Matter in a Way of Issue and let the Country try it. I have endeavour'd with the Assistance of my Friends, to do Monsieur Boileau all possible Justice in this Celebrated Piece of his, the Lutrin; I hope I have us'd him with that Civility which is due to one of the first Figure in the Commonwealth of Learning; I was going to say, with that Generosity our Country-Men treat his at Litchfield and Nottingham.
But my Lord, if it really be so bold an Undertaking to translate the Lutrin, it is unpardonably worse to offer it to Your Lordship, whose Penetration, is equal to Your Noble Birth; and yet Both yield to the prevalence of your Good Temper, which with a like Indulgence receives the Homage of all sorts of Persons.
Upon this Foundation I presum'd to set Your Lordship's Name on the Frontispiece of this Work; to be to it, what you are to Your Country, its Ornament and Protection.
If ever your Lordship shall alienate so much of Your Time from the Public Good, as to read this Poem; You will find very Great, but necessary Variations from the Original; whether for the better or the worse, I submit to You, from whose Judgment there is no Appeal.
Nothing checks and deadens the Fancy more than a too superstitious Respect for the Original, especially in Poetry; It is commonly the Cause that an Idolatrous Translator (as la Motte calls such a one) endeavouring too exactly to render All the Beauties of his Author, gives you in Truth never a one. Every Minute Circumstance of a Thought cannot be preserv'd with any tolerable Grace, nor is it indeed necessary; provided the Translator makes amends for his neglect of what is less important, by Improving and if possible by Refining upon Essentials; which is better done by Studying the Genius and Copying the Tour and Air of an Author, than in adhering to a scrupulous Detail of Phrases, ever flat and disagreeable.
Thus a Translation may be Excellent, and by this an Equitable Reader may judge of it's Merit. A Picture is but the Translation of a Face, yet if Apelles or Lysippus shall attempt an Alexander, Posterity will pay an equal Veneration to the Artist and the Hero.
Translation, in general, besides its useful Communicative Character to recommend it, and other Arguments that may be brought in its behalf, comes backed with what most Arts and Sciences pretend to, Antiquity.
Did not Terence divert the Romans with the Original Comedies of the Greek Menander, turn'd into Latin, which serves as a Standard at this Day? And by what remains of Alcæus and some other Lyrics, 'tis evident how much Horace himself was oblig'd to the Greeks, not by copying the Measure of their Numbers, but by imitating the express Sense of the Authors. To bring it nigher Home; we at this Day read Ben. Johnson's Catiline and other Plays of his with Pleasure; yet those who converse with Tully, know who furnish'd him with his Rhetorick.
| expect the Critics will fall upon me for writing in this Manner to Your Lordship, as if I was giving You a Lesson instead of a Dedication. I must confess it looks something like it. But I rather chuse to repeat to Your Lordship what You already know, than to exhibit a Bill of Your Perfections and Excellencies which all the World knows.
Monsieur Boileau calls this Poem of his, Heroi-Comique, Mock-Heroic; that is, a Ridiculous Action made considerable in Heroic Verse.
If I distinguish right, there are two sorts of Burlesque; the first where things of mean Figure and Slight Concern appear in all the Pomp and Bustle of an Epic Poem; such is this of the Lutrin. The second sort is where Great Events are made Ridiculous by the meanness of the Character, and the oddness of the Numbers, such is the Hudibras of our Excellent Butler.
Boileau, like Horace, was born equally for Satyr and for Praise. The Lutrin partakes of Both. The Satyrical Part, as 'tis very severe upon those of his own Church, so I cou'd wish it were applicable to the Romish Clergy only and none other.
As for the Panegyricks so frequent in it, I know not why they should not as well become the Queen of France as the French King, the Prince of Mindleheim as the Prince of Conde, and the Atticus of Dr. Garth as the Aristus of Boileau.
Your Lordship's most Obedient
and most Humble Servant,