« ZurückWeiter »
O'er kindred, or o'er friendship's bier,
Believe me, when I read these lines, I could scarcely restrain my tears; for nature has that power over me, that I am more affected by the beauties of a tender simplicity, than by the loftiest figures of poetry; and hence I am more delighted with a passage in the first Pythian ode of the divine Pindar, concerning the Muses, than by his elaborate description of the eagle and Ætna.
What shall I send in return for your present ? Accept the accompanying ode, which is at least valuable for its antiquity. You will perhaps smile; it is not an epithalamium on the marriage of Antoinette, the dauphiness, but contains the eulogium of a very ancient Chinese monarch, whose name, though a monosyllable only, I have forgotten. When I read the works of Confucius, translated by Couplet and others, I was struck with admiration at the venerable dignity of the sentiments, as well as 'at the poetical fragments, which adorn the discourses of that philosopher. They are selected from the most ancient records of Chinese poetry, and parti. cularly from a work entitled Shi-king, of which there is a fine copy in the royal library at Paris. I immediately determined to examine the original : and referring to the volume, after a long study, I succeeded in comparing one of the odes with the version of Couplet, and analysed every word, or more properly, every figure in it. Of this ode, I now send you a literal translation : * it is a compo. sition of a wonderful dignity and brevity; each verse contains four words only; hence the ellipsis is frequent in it, and the obscurity of the style adds to its sublimity. I have annexed a poetical version, making every verse correspond with the sense of Confucius : you' will judge whether I have succeeded or not; it will be sufficient for me if it please you. You know that this philosopher, whom I may venture to call the Plato of China, lived about six hundred years before the Christian æra, and he quotes this ode as very ancient in his time: it may therefore be considered as a most precious gem of antiquity, which proves, that poetry has been the admiration of all people in all ages, and that it every where adopts the same images. I must say å few words upon another work, lest my long letter of February, containing a particular account of it from first to last, should have miscarried. I allude to the translation of the Life of Nadir Shah, from Persian into French, a most disagreeable task, which I undertook at the request of my Augustus, the king of Denmark, who, I doubt not, will verify the high expectations entertained of him in Europe. It was his special injunction, that the translation should be strictly literal; that I should supply such notes as might be necessary; and, finally, that I should add a short dissertation on the poetry of the
• This account of his success in deciphering an ode of Confucius, is a remarkable proof of his ardour for universal literature, and of his invincible application in the pursuit of it.
Persians. I finished this tiresome work to the best of my ability, and with such expedition, in compliance with the importunities of his majesty, that the whole book, and more particularly the dissertation, is full of errors. In the latter, I ventured to insert a translation of ten odes of Hafez, from a very splendid but incorrect manuscript, and without the aid of any commentary. I have written to the un. der secretary of state, requesting him to send you a copy of it as expeditiously as possible; and I trust he will not disappoint me. Excuse those errors, which I could not perhaps have avoided, if I had possessed the greatest leisure, and which the total wapt of it made almost inevitable. Excuse also the insertion of the two odes, which you sent to me with a French trarslation only; and, lastly, I must beg your excuse for the liberty which I could not avoid taking, of mentioning my friend; for I could not resist the desire of letting the king know how highly I valued you. You will greatly add to the other proofs I have experienced of your kindness towards me, by noticing the errors of the work, and particularly of the dissertation, which I mean to publish in a separate volume.
The king of Denmark, as I am informed, approves my work much, and has some honours in view for me; but of what nature I know not. When he was considering what recompence he should bestow upon me, a poble friend of mine informed his majesty, that I neither wished for nor valued money, but was anxious only for some honorary mark of his approbation.
I have directed a copy of your Treatise on the VOL. 1.
Military Art of the Turks to be sent to his majesty, because it is worthy his perusal, and because you are the author of it. Do not suppose that I now conclude, because I have nothing more to say: my mind, in truth, overflows with matter, and I have more difficulty in restraining my pen, than to find topics for writing : but I will not abuse and exhaust your patience with my loquacity. For my sake, take care of your health,
From C. Reviczki, *
Vienna, August 9, 1770. INDEED, my dear sir, I cannot think you much to be pitied, for having passed a year in travelling through various climates and regions ; on the contrary, I think it extremely fortunate that you have had an opportunity which you are well qualified to improve. You have escaped the severity of winter in the mild and temperate climate of Italy; you have enjoyed the spring in France and England; and you are
• Written in French,
now spending the summer on the confines of Ger.' many, in a place which is the general revdezvous of Europe, and where you may see, at a glance, an assemblage of various nations. Is not this delight. ful? Is not the great advantage of travelling, to explore the characters of different people ? I can, however, easily conceive the inconvenience which a man of letters must suffer from the want of means and opportunity to pursue his studies, and this alone is sufficient to diminish the pleasure of it.
I am exceedingly obliged to you for the extra. ordinary composition with which you favoured me; it is indeed a literary curiosity. But pray inforin me when you learned the Chinese language. I did not suspect that this was one of your accomplishments; but there are no bounds to your acquisi. tions as a linguist. I am the more delighted with this little performance, as I can rely upon it as a faithful translation from the Chinese language, of which the few things we have translated, appear very suspicious : it has not only the merit of being very ancient, but, in your version, appears even elegant. Iimpatiently expect your life of Nadir Shah; and I beg you to accept my thanks for your atten. tion, in reqnesting the under secretary of state to forward a copy of it to me; nor am I less anxions to peruse the essay which you have annexed to it, on Oriental Poetry. I admire your condescension in submitting this work to my criticism : you must be sensible that you incur little risk by it, and that you are sure of my approbation; I shall however be obliged to point out one fault, which is no trifleyour mentioning me in such honourable terms. I