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It has also been surmized that the work of Douglas is probably founded on the Sejour d'Honneur of St Gelais; for no other apparent reason than the obvious affinity of their respective titles. If imitation must thus be so zealously inferred, it would perhaps be more proper to fix upon Chaucer's House of Fame as the exemplar. But till other arguments shall be produced, The Palice of Honour may safely be regarded as an original composition.
Douglas's spirited translation of the Æneid has often been highly commended, though seldom beyond its merits. Without pronouncing it the best version of this poem that ever was or ever will be executed, we may at least venture to affirm that it is the production of a bold and energetic writer, whose knowledge of the language of his original, and prompt command of a copious and variegated phrascology, qualified him for the performance of so arduous a task. And whether we consider the state of British literature at that æra, or the rapidity with which he completed the work, he will be found entitled to a high degree of admiration". In either of the sister languages few translations of classical authors had hitherto been attempted; and the rules of the art were consequently little understood. It has been remarked that even in English no metrical version of a classic had yet appeared; except of Boëthius, who scarcely merits that appellation'. On the destruction of Troy Caxton had published a kind of prose romance, which he professes to have translated from the French: and the EngJish reader was taught to consider this motley composition as a version of the Æneid. Douglas bestows severe castigation on Caxton for his presumptuous deviation from the classical story; and affirins that his work no more resembles Virgil than the Devil resembles St Austin. He has however fallen into one error which he exposes in his predecessor : proper names are often so disfigured in his translation, that they are not without much difficulty recognized. In many instances he has been guilty of modernizing the notions of his original. The Sibyl, for example, is converted into a nun, and admonishes Æneas, the Trojan baron, to persist in counting his beads. This plan of reducing every ancient notion to a modern standard has been adopted by much later writers: many preposterous instances occur in the learned Dr Blackwell's Memoirs of the Court of Augustus,
5 Dunkeld, no more the heaven-directed chaunt
Within thy sainted wall may sound again : But thou, as once a poet's favourite haunt,
Shalt live in Douglas' pure Virgilian strain; While Time devours the castle's towering wall, And roofless abbies pine, low tottering to their fall.
ever Douglas appears to have formed no inaccurate notion. For the most part his version is neither rashly licentious nor tamely literal. In affirming that he has always rendered one verse by another, Lesley and Dempster have committed a mistake. This regularity of correspondence he either did not attempt or has failed to maintain. Such a project would indeed have been wild and nugatory. The verses of Virgil and Douglas must commonly differ in length by at least three syllables ; and they may even differ by no fewer than seven.
The merit of such a performance cannot be ascertained by the inspection of a few detached passages. It may however be proper to exhibit a brief specimen; which the reader, without being previously warned, will find himself disposed to examine with due allowances,
Facilis descensus Averni :
It is richt facill and eith gate, I thé tell,
Bot therfra to returne agane on hicht,
In his prologues to the different books he exhibits occasional specimens of his talent for criticism. Dr Warburton himself has not extracted deeper mysteries from the description of Æneas's descent to hell.
Beside this noble effort of Douglas, the early annals of Scotish poetry present us with no other serious attempt at translation.
Whether our countrymen have gained or lost by this predelection for their own inventions, is a question which I shall not presume to decide. By availing themselves of the poetical materials accumulated during the lapse of ages, they might undoubtedly have been enabled to rear a structure more capacious and elegant : but by their confident reliance on native resources, they have perhaps adorned the fabric with ornaments of a more characteristic denomination. Among the poets of modern Europe, no class seems so little indebted to foreign aid as those of Scotland; a circum. stance which may partly be ascribed to their local situation, and partly to the general character of a people impatient of prescription, and delighting to pursue the stream of original thought. When we direct our view towards the ancient English poets, we readily discover that their works contain much stolen fire. Warton and Tyrwhitt have shown that the origin of a very considerable number of Chaucer's compositions may be traced among the writers of Italy and France.
In the poems appended to his translation, Douglas has fortunately specified the origin and progress of the undertaking. The work, he there informs us, was begun and finished at the request of his cousin Henry Lord Sinclair ; whom he represents as an accomplished and liberal patron of literature. It was the labour of only sixteen months, and completed on the twentysecond day of July, 1513, about twelve years after he had composed his Palice of Honour. This task must be understood to comprehend, not merely a version of the twelve books of Virgil, but also of the supplement of Mapheus Ve. gius ', together with the original prologues, and epilogues.
j Mapheus Vegius, a native of Italy, flourished in the year 1448. As a poet he formerly enjoyed a high degree of reputation. Paulus Jo