“Strong without rage, without o’erflowing full.”
His translations we have included, not for their surpassing merit, but because, in the first place, there is little of our author extant, and we are happy to reprint every scrap of him we can find, and because again he, according to Dr. Johnson, was “one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words.” There has, indeed, been recently a reaction, attended in some cases with brilliant success—as in Bulwer’s “Ballads of Schiller”—in favour of the literal and lineal method; but since such popular pieces as Dryden’s “Virgil” and Pope’s “Homer” have been written on Denham’s plan, it is interesting to preserve the model, however rude, which they avowedly had in their eye.
His smaller pieces are not remarkable, unless we except his vigorous lines “On the Earl of Stafford’s Trial and Death,” containing such noble sentiments as these—
“Such was his force of eloquence, to make The hearers more concern’d than he that spake, Each seem’d to act that part he came to see, And none was more a looker-on than he; So did he move our passions, some were known To wish for the defence, the crime their own. Now private pity strove with public hate, Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate.”
Nor let us forget his verses on “Cowley’s Death,” which, although unequal, and in their praise exaggerated, yet are in parts exceedingly felicitous, as for instance, in the lines to which Macaulay, in his “Milton,” refers:—
“To him no author was unknown,
Yet what he wrote was all his own;
He melted not the ancient gold,
Nor with Ben Jonson did make bold
To plunder all the Roman stores
Of poets and of orators;
Horace’s wit and Virgil’s state
He did not steal, but emulate!
And when he would like them appear,
Their garb, but not their clothes, did wear.”
Such is true criticism, which, in our judgment, means clear, sharp, discriminating judgment expressed in the language and with the feelings of poetry.
DENHAM’S POETICAL WORKS.
POEMS UPON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
Sure there are poets which did never dream
Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the stream
Of Helicon; we therefore may suppose
Those made not poets, but the poets those,
And as courts make not kings, but kings the court,
So where the Muses and their train resort,
Parnassus stands; if I can be to thee
A poet, thou Parnassus art to me.
Nor wonder, if (advantaged in my flight,
By taking wing from thy auspicious height) 10
Through untraced ways and airy paths I fly,
More boundless in my fancy than my eye: