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TRANSLATION OF A PASSAGE
THEB. LIB. VI., Ver. 704–724.
This translation, which Gray sent to West, consisted
of about a hundred and ten lines. Mr. Mason selected twenty-seven lines, which he published, as Gray's first attempt in English verse.
Third in the labours of the disc came on, With sturdy step and slow, Hippomedon; Artful and strong he poised the well-known
weight, By Phlegyas warn’d, and fired by Mnestheus' fate, That to avoid, and this to emulate. His vigorous arm he tried before he flung, Braced all his nerves, and every sinew strung, Then, with, a tempest's whirl, and wary eye, Pursued his cast, and hurld the orb on high ; The orb on high tenacious of its course, True to the mighty arm that gave it force, Far overleaps all bound, and joys to see Its ancient lord secure of victory. The theatre's green height and woody wall Tremble ere it precipitates its fall;
The ponderous mass sinks in the cleaving ground, While vales, and woods, and echoing hills re
bound. As when from Ætna's smoking summit broke, The eyeless Cyclops heaved the craggy rock; Where Ocean frets beneath the dashing oar, And parting surges round the vessel roar; 'Twas there he aim'd the meditated harm, And scarce Ulysses 'scaped his giant arm. A tiger's pride the victor bore away, With native spots and artful labour gay, A shining border round the margin roll'd, And calm'd the terrors of his claws in gold.
Cambridge, May 8, 1736.
OCCASIONED BY THE SIGHT OF THE PLAINS WHERE
THE BATTLE OF TREBIA WAS FOUGHT,
Qua Trebie glaucas salices intersecat undâ,
Arvaque Romanis nobilitata malis. Visus adhuc amnis veteri de clade rubere,
Et suspirantes ducere mæstus aquas ; Maurorumque ala, et nigræ increbescere turmæ,
Et pulsa Ausonidum ripa sonare fugå.
FRAGMENT OF A TRAGEDY,
DESIGNED BY MR. GRAY,
SUBJECT OF THE DEATH OF AGRIPPINA.
* The Britannicus of Mr. Racine, I know, was one of
Mr. Gray's most favourite plays; and the admirable manner in which I have heard him say he saw it represented at Paris, seems to have led him to choose the death of Agrippina for his first and only effort in the drama. The execution of it also, as far as it goes, is so very much in Racine's taste, that I suspect, if that great Poet had been born an Englishman, he would have written precisely in the same style and manner. However, as there is at present in this nation a general prejudice against declamatory plays, I agree with a learned friend, who perused the manuscript, that this fragment will be little relish'd by the many; yet the admirable strokes of nature and character with which it abounds, and the majesty of its diction, prevent me from withholding from the few, who I expect will relish it, so great a curiosity (to call it nothing more) as part of a tragedy written by Mr. Gray. Thesc persons well know, that till style and sentiment be a little more regarded, mere action and passion will never secure reputation to the author, whatever they may do to the actor. It is the business of the one, 'to strut and fret his hour upon the stage;' and if he frets and struts enough, he is sure to find his reward in the plaudit of an upper gallery ; but the other ought to have some regard to the cooler judgment of the closet : for I will be bold to say, that if Shakspeare himself had not written a multitude of passages which please there as much as they do on the stage, his reputation would not stand so universally high as it does at present. Many of these passages, to the shame of our theatrical taste, are omitted constantly in the representation : but I say not this from conviction that the mode of writing, which Mr. Gray pursued. is the best for dramatic purposes. I think myself, what I have asserted elsewhere, that a medium between the French and English taste would be preferable to either; and yet this medium, if bit with the greatest nicety, would fail of success on our theatre, and that for a very obvious reason. Actors (I speak of the troop collectively) must all learn to speak as well as act, in order to do justice to such a drama.
“But let me hasten to give the reader what little
insight I can into Mr. Gray's plan, as I find and select it from two detached papers. The Title and Dramatis Personæ are as follow : "
AGRIPPINA, the Empress-mother.
SCENE, the Emperor's villa at Baiæ.
“The argument drawn out by him, in these two
papers, under the idea of a plot and under-plot, I shall here unite; as it will tend to show that the
action itself was possessed of sufficient unity. “ The drama opens with the indignation of Agrippina,
at receiving her son's orders from Anicetus to remove from Baiæ, and to have her guard taken from her. At this time Otho, having conveyed Poppæa from the house of her husband Rufus Crispinus, brings her to Baiæ, where he means to conceal her among the crowd; or, if his fraud is discovered, to have recourse to the Emperor's