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HINTS FROM HORACE.

ATHENS: CAPUCHIN CONVENT, March 12, 1811

WHO would not laugh, if Lawrence, hired to grace
His costly canvass with each flatter'd face,
Abused his art, till Nature, with a blush,
Saw cits grow centaurs underneath his brush?
Or, should some limner join, for show or sale,
A maid of honour to a mermaid's tail?
Or low Dubost--as once the world has seen--
Degrade God's creatures in his graphic spleen?
Not all that forced politeness, which defends
Fools in their faults, could gag his grinning friends.
Believe me, Moschus,2 like that picture seems
The book which, sillier than a sick man's dreams,
Displays a crowd of figures incomplete,
Poetic nightmares, without head or feet.

Peets and painters, as all artists3 know, May shoot a little with a lengthen'd bow; We claim this mutual mercy for our task, And grant in turn the pardon which we ask;

Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
Jungere si velit, et varias inducere plumas,
Undique collatis membris, ut turpiter atrum
Desinat in piscem mulier formosa superne:
Spectatum admissi risum tencatis, amici?
Credite, Pisones, isti tabulæ fore librum
Persimilem, cujus, velut ægri somnia, vang
Fingentur species, ut nec pes, nec caput uni
Reddatur formæ. Pictoribus atque poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas,

Scimus, et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim:

But make not monsters spring from gentle dams—
Birds breed not vipers, tigers nurse not lambs.

A labour'd, long exordium, sometimes tends
(Like patriot speeches) but to paltry ends;
And nonsense in a lofty note goes down,
As pertness passes with a legal gown :
Thus many a bard describes in pompous strain
The clear brook babbling through the goodly plain :
The groves of Granta, and her Gothic halls,

King's Coll., Cam's stream, stain'd windows, and old walls:
Or, in advent'rous numbers, neatly aims

To paint a rainbow, or-the river Thames.

You sketch a tree, and so perhaps may shine-
But daub a shipwreck like an alehouse sign;
You plan a vase-it dwindles to a pot;

Then glide down Grub-street-fasting and forgot;
Laugh'd into Lethe by some quaint Review,
Whose wit is never troublesome till-true.5

In fine, to whatsoever you aspire, Let it at least be simple and entire.

The greater portion of the rhyming tribe
(Give ear, my friend, for thou hast been a scribe)
Are led astray by some peculiar lure.

I labour to be brief-become obscure;
One falls while following elegance too fast;
Another soars, inflated with bombast;

Sed non ut placidis coëant immitia; non ut
Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus agni.
Incoeptis gravibus plerumque et magna professis
Purpureus, late qui splendeat, unus et alter
Assuitur pannus; cum lucus et ara Dianæ,
Et properantis aquæ per amonos ambitus agros,
Aut flumen Rhenum, aut pluvius describitur arcus.
Sed nunc non erat his locus: et fortasse cupressum
Scis simulare: quid hoc, si fractis enatat exspes
Navibus, ære dato qui pingitur? amphora cœpit
Institui; currente rotâ cur urceus exit?
Denique sit quod vis, simplex duntaxat et unum.
Maxima pars vatum, pater, et juvenes patre digni,
Decipimur specie recti. Brevis esse laboro,

Obscurus fio: sectantem levia, nervi

Deficiunt animique: professus grandia, turget:

Too low a third crawls on, afraid to fly,
He spins his subject to satiety;

Absurdly varying, he at last engraves

Fish in the woods, and boars beneath the waves !

Unless your care's exact, your judgment nice,
The flight from folly leads but into vice;
None are complete, all wanting in some part,
Like certain tailors, limited in art.

For galligaskins Slowshears is your man;
But coats must claim another artisan.6

Now this to me, I own, seems much the same
As Vulcan's feet to bear Apollo's frame ;7
Or, with a fair complexion, to expose

Black eyes, black ringlets, but-a bottle nose !

Dear authors! suit your topics to your strength, And ponder well your subject, and its length Nor lift your load, before you're quite aware What weight your shoulders will, or will not, bear. But lucid Order, and Wit's siren voice, Await the poet, skilful in his choice; With native eloquence he soars along,

Grace in his thoughts, and music in his song.

Let judgment teach him wisely to combine With future parts the now omitted line:

Serpit humi, tutus nimium, timidusque procellæ :
Qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam,
Delphinum sylvis appingit, fluctibus aprum.

In vitium ducit culpæ fuga, si caret arte.
Emilium circa ludum faber unus et ungues
Exprimet, et molles imitabitur ære capillos;
Infelix operis summa, quia ponere totum
Nesciet. Hunc ego me, si quid componere curem,
Non magis esse velim, quam pravo vivere naso,
Spectandum nigris oculis nigroque capillo.

Sumite materiem vestris, qui scribitis, equam
Viribus; et versate diu quid ferre recusent
Quid valeant humeri. Cui lecta potenter erit res,
Nec facundia deseret hunc nec lucidus ordo.

Ordinis hæc virtus erit et venus, aut ego fallor,
Ut jam nunc dicat, jam nunc debentia dici
Pleraque differat, et præsens in tempus omittat;
Hoc amet, hoc spernat promissi carminis auctor.
In verbis etiam tenuis cautusque serendis :

This shall the author choose, or that reject,
Precise in style, and cautious to select;
Nor slight applause will candid pens afford
To him who furnishes a wanting word.
Then fear not if 'tis needful to produce
Some term unknown, or obsolete in use,
(As Pitt has furnish'd us a word or two,
Which lexicographers declined to do :)
So you indeed, with care,-(but be content
To take this license rarely)-may invent.
New words find credit in these latter days,
If neatly grafted on a Gallic phrase.
What Chaucer, Spenser did, we scarce refuse
To Dryden's or to Pope's maturer muse.
If you can add a little, say why not,

As well as William Pitt, and Walter Scott?
Since they, by force of rhyme and force of lungs,
Enrich'd our island's ill-united tongues;
'Tis then-and shall be-lawful to present
Reform in writing, as in parliament.

As forests shed their foliage by degrees,
So fade expressions which in season please;
And we and ours, alas! are due to fate,
And works and words but dwindle to a date.
Though as a monarch nods, and commerce calls,
Impetuous rivers stagnate in canals;

Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum. Si forte necesse est
Indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum,
Fingere cinctutis non exaudita Cethegis
Continget; dabiturque licentia sumpta pudenter;
Et nova factaque nuper habebunt verba fidem, si
Græco fonte cadant, parce detorta. Quid autem
Cæcilio Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum
Virgilio Varioque? ego cur, acquirere pauca
Si possum, invideor; cum lingua Catonis et Euni
Sermonem patrium ditaverit, et nova rerum
Nomina protulerit? Licuit, semperque licebit,
Signatum præsente nota producere nomen.

Ut silvæ foliis pronos mutantur in annos;
Prima cadunt: ita verborum vetus interit ætas,
Et juvenum ritu florent modo nata, vigentque.
Debemur morti nos, nostraque: sive receptus
Terra Neptunus classes aquilonibus arcet,
Regis opus; sterilisve diu palus, aptaque remis

Though swamps subdued, and marshes drain'd, sustain
The heavy ploughshare and the yellow grain,
And rising ports along the busy shore
Protect the vessel from old Ocean's roar,
All, all, must perish; but, surviving last,
The love of letters half preserves the past.
True, some decay, yet not a few revive; 9
Though those shall sink, which now appear to thrive,
As custom arbitrates, whose shifting sway
Our life and language must alike obey.

The immortal wars which gods and angels wage,
Are they not shown in Milton's sacred page?
His strain will teach what numbers best belong
To themes celestial told in epic song.

The slow, sad stanza will correctly paint
The lover's anguish, or the friend's complaint.
But which deserves the laurel-rhyme or blank?
Which holds on Helicon the higher rank?
Let squabbling critics by themselves dispute
This point, as puzzling as a Chancery suit.

Satiric rhyme first sprang from selfish spleen.
You doubt-see Dryden, Pope, St. Patrick's dean.10

Blank verse is now, with one consent, allied To Tragedy, and rarely quits her side.

Vicinas urbes alit, et grave sentit aratrum:
Seu cursum mutavit iniquum frugibus amnis,
Doctus iter melius; mortalia facta peribunt:
Nedum sermonum stet honos, et gratia vivax.
Multa renascentur, quæ jam cecidere; cadentque,
Quæ nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus,
Quem penes arbitrium est, et jus, et norma loquendi.
Res gesta regumque ducumque et tristia bella,
Quo scribi possent numero, monstravit Homerus.
Versibus impariter junctis querimonia primum;
Post etiam inclusa est voti sententia compos.
Quis tamen exiguos elegos emiserit auctor,
Grammatici certant, et adhuc sub judice lis est.
Archilocum proprio rabies armavit iambo;
Hunc socci cepere pedem grandesque cothurni,
Alternis aptum sermonibus, et populares
Vincentem strepitus, et natum rebus agendis.

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