Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/122



In English thus: «Ubaldo and his companion spied a little bark and seated in the stern a maid ordained to guide it. Her hair hung in loose curls upon her forehead. A soft complacency sparkled in her eyes. The shining lustre of her face expressed angelic beauty». This is the old woman of Ascalon that monsieur de Voltaire takes notice of.

If I thought it necessary, I could quote many other passages from his writings to prove his ignorance of our poets and his malice against their reputation. But not to trouble the reader witha long andtedious examination of that contemptible pamphlet so pompously intitled An essay upon the epic poetry of the European nations from Homer down to Milton^ I will only refer him to another of his impostures vvhich relates to a Portuguese author.

He endeavours to impose upon his English reader by translating falsely some lines of Camoens, a Portuguese poet, in order to create a resemblance between them and a celebrated passage of sir John Denham. These are Mr. Voltaire ’s words: «Camoens’ s poem, in my opinion, is full numberless faults and beauties, thick sown near one another; and almost in every page there is what to laugh at, and what to be delighted with. Among his most lucky thoughts I must take notice of two, for the likeness that they bear to two most celebrated passages of Waller and sir John Denham. Waller says... etc — Sir John Denham, in his poem on Cooper’ s Hill, says to the Thames:

Oh could I flow like thee, and make my stream my great example as it is my theme: tho’ deep, yet clear; the’ gentle, yet not dull; strong without rage; without o’erflowing full.

Camoens (continues Voltaire) addresses the Nymphs of Tagus in the like manner: «Oh Nymphs, if ever I sung like you, inspire me now with new and strong lays. Let my style flow like your waves. Let it be deep and clear as your waters».

An Englishman who knows nothing of Camoens’ s Lusiadas or will not be at the trouble to look into it, will believe what Voltaire here so confídently assures him of. But Voltaire, let