Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsLetters On England - LETTER XXII - ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
Letters On England - LETTER XXII - ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS Post by :foggs Category :Nonfictions Author :Voltaire Date :January 2011 Read :899

Click below to download : Letters On England - LETTER XXII - ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS (Format : PDF)

Letters On England - LETTER XXII - ON MR. POPE AND SOME OTHER FAMOUS POETS

I intended to treat of Mr. Prior, one of the most amiable English
poets, whom you saw Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary at Paris
in 1712. I also designed to have given you some idea of the Lord
Roscommon's and the Lord Dorset's muse; but I find that to do this I
should be obliged to write a large volume, and that, after much
pains and trouble, you would have but an imperfect idea of all those
works. Poetry is a kind of music in which a man should have some
knowledge before he pretends to judge of it. When I give you a
translation of some passages from those foreign poets, I only prick
down, and that imperfectly, their music; but then I cannot express
the taste of their harmony.

There is one English poem especially which I should despair of ever
making you understand, the title whereof is "Hudibras." The subject
of it is the Civil War in the time of the grand rebellion, and the
principles and practice of the Puritans are therein ridiculed. It
is Don Quixote, it is our "Satire Menippee" blended together. I
never found so much wit in one single book as in that, which at the
same time is the most difficult to be translated. Who would believe
that a work which paints in such lively and natural colours the
several foibles and follies of mankind, and where we meet with more
sentiments than words, should baffle the endeavours of the ablest
translator? But the reason of this is, almost every part of it
alludes to particular incidents. The clergy are there made the
principal object of ridicule, which is understood but by few among
the laity. To explain this a commentary would be requisite, and
humour when explained is no longer humour. Whoever sets up for a
commentator of smart sayings and repartees is himself a blockhead.
This is the reason why the works of the ingenious Dean Swift, who
has been called the English Rabelais, will never be well understood
in France. This gentleman has the honour (in common with Rabelais)
of being a priest, and, like him, laughs at everything; but, in my
humble opinion, the title of the English Rabelais which is given the
dean is highly derogatory to his genius. The former has
interspersed his unaccountably-fantastic and unintelligible book
with the most gay strokes of humour; but which, at the same time,
has a greater proportion of impertinence. He has been vastly lavish
of erudition, of smut, and insipid raillery. An agreeable tale of
two pages is purchased at the expense of whole volumes of nonsense.
There are but few persons, and those of a grotesque taste, who
pretend to understand and to esteem this work; for, as to the rest
of the nation, they laugh at the pleasant and diverting touches
which are found in Rabelais and despise his book. He is looked upon
as the prince of buffoons. The readers are vexed to think that a
man who was master of so much wit should have made so wretched a use
of it; he is an intoxicated philosopher who never wrote but when he
was in liquor.

Dean Swift is Rabelais in his senses, and frequenting the politest
company. The former, indeed, is not so gay as the latter, but then
he possesses all the delicacy, the justness, the choice, the good
taste, in all which particulars our giggling rural Vicar Rabelais is
wanting. The poetical numbers of Dean Swift are of a singular and
almost inimitable taste; true humour, whether in prose or verse,
seems to be his peculiar talent; but whoever is desirous of
understanding him perfectly must visit the island in which he was
born.

It will be much easier for you to form an idea of Mr. Pope's works.
He is, in my opinion, the most elegant, the most correct poet; and,
at the same time, the most harmonious (a circumstance which redounds
very much to the honour of this muse) that England ever gave birth
to. He has mellowed the harsh sounds of the English trumpet to the
soft accents of the flute. His compositions may be easily
translated, because they are vastly clear and perspicuous; besides,
most of his subjects are general, and relative to all nations.

His "Essay on Criticism" will soon be known in France by the
translation which l'Abbe de Resnel has made of it.

Here is an extract from his poem entitled the "Rape of the Lock,"
which I just now translated with the latitude I usually take on
these occasions; for, once again, nothing can be more ridiculous
than to translate a poet literally:-


"Umbriel, a l'instant, vieil gnome rechigne,
Va d'une aile pesante et d'un air renfrogne
Chercher en murmurant la caverne profonde,
Ou loin des doux raions que repand l'oeil du monde
La Deesse aux Vapeurs a choisi son sejour,
Les Tristes Aquilons y sifflent a l'entour,
Et le souffle mal sain de leur aride haleine
Y porte aux environs la fievre et la migraine.
Sur un riche sofa derriere un paravent
Loin des flambeaux, du bruit, des parleurs et du vent,
La quinteuse deesse incessamment repose,
Le coeur gros de chagrin, sans en savoir la cause.
N'aiant pense jamais, l'esprit toujours trouble,
L'oeil charge, le teint pale, et l'hypocondre enfle.
La medisante Envie, est assise aupres d'elle,
Vieil spectre feminin, decrepite pucelle,
Avec un air devot dechirant son prochain,
Et chansonnant les Gens l'Evangile a la main.
Sur un lit plein de fleurs negligemment panchee
Une jeune beaute non loin d'elle est couchee,
C'est l'Affectation qui grassaie en parlant,
Ecoute sans entendre, et lorgne en regardant.
Qui rougit sans pudeur, et rit de tout sans joie,
De cent maux differens pretend qu'elle est la proie;
Et pleine de sante sous le rouge et le fard,
Se plaint avec molesse, et se pame avec art."

"Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite
As ever sullied the fair face of light,
Down to the central earth, his proper scene,
Repairs to search the gloomy cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty pinions flits the gnome,
And in a vapour reached the dismal dome.
No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
The dreaded east is all the wind that blows.
Here, in a grotto, sheltered close from air,
And screened in shades from day's detested glare,
She sighs for ever on her pensive bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head,
Two handmaids wait the throne. Alike in place,
But differing far in figure and in face,
Here stood Ill-nature, like an ancient maid,
Her wrinkled form in black and white arrayed;
With store of prayers for mornings, nights, and noons,
Her hand is filled; her bosom with lampoons.
There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
Practised to lisp, and hang the head aside,
Faints into airs, and languishes with pride;
On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
Wrapt in a gown, for sickness and for show."


This extract, in the original (not in the faint translation I have
given you of it), may be compared to the description of la Molesse
(softness or effeminacy), in Boileau's "Lutrin."

Methinks I now have given you specimens enough from the English
poets. I have made some transient mention of their philosophers,
but as for good historians among them, I don't know of any; and,
indeed, a Frenchman was forced to write their history. Possibly the
English genius, which is either languid or impetuous, has not yet
acquired that unaffected eloquence, that plain but majestic air
which history requires. Possibly too, the spirit of party which
exhibits objects in a dim and confused light may have sunk the
credit of their historians. One half of the nation is always at
variance with the other half. I have met with people who assured me
that the Duke of Marlborough was a coward, and that Mr. Pope was a
fool; just as some Jesuits in France declare Pascal to have been a
man of little or no genius, and some Jansenists affirm Father
Bourdaloue to have been a mere babbler. The Jacobites consider Mary
Queen of Scots as a pious heroine, but those of an opposite party
look upon her as a prostitute, an adulteress, a murderer. Thus the
English have memorials of the several reigns, but no such thing as a
history. There is, indeed, now living, one Mr. Gordon (the public
are obliged to him for a translation of Tacitus), who is very
capable of writing the history of his own country, but Rapin de
Thoyras got the start of him. To conclude, in my opinion the
English have not such good historians as the French have no such
thing as a real tragedy, have several delightful comedies, some
wonderful passages in certain of their poems, and boast of
philosophers that are worthy of instructing mankind. The English
have reaped very great benefit from the writers of our nation, and
therefore we ought (since they have not scrupled to be in our debt)
to borrow from them. Both the English and we came after the
Italians, who have been our instructors in all the arts, and whom we
have surpassed in some. I cannot determine which of the three
nations ought to be honoured with the palm; but happy the writer who
could display their various merits.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

Letters On England - LETTER XXIII - ON THE REGARD THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN TO MEN OF LETTERS Letters On England - LETTER XXIII - ON THE REGARD THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN TO MEN OF LETTERS

Letters On England - LETTER XXIII - ON THE REGARD THAT OUGHT TO BE SHOWN TO MEN OF LETTERS
Neither the English nor any other people have foundationsestablished in favour of the polite arts like those in France.There are Universities in most countries, but it is in France onlythat we meet with so beneficial an encouragement for astronomy andall parts of the mathematics, for physic, for researches intoantiquity, for painting, sculpture, and architecture. Louis XIV.has immortalised his name by these several foundations, and thisimmortality did not cost him two hundred thousand livres a year.I must confess that one of the things I very much wonder at is, thatas the Parliament of Great Britain have promised a reward of 20,000pounds
PREVIOUS BOOKS

Letters On England - LETTER XXI - ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR. WALLER Letters On England - LETTER XXI - ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR. WALLER

Letters On England - LETTER XXI - ON THE EARL OF ROCHESTER AND MR. WALLER
The Earl of Rochester's name is universally known. Mr. de St.Evremont has made very frequent mention of him, but then he hasrepresented this famous nobleman in no other light than as the manof pleasure, as one who was the idol of the fair; but, with regardto myself, I would willingly describe in him the man of genius, thegreat poet. Among other pieces which display the shiningimagination, his lordship only could boast he wrote some satires onthe same subjects as those our celebrated Boileau made choice of. Ido not know any better method of improving the taste than to
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT