The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century

By Mary Rebecca Thayer | Go to book overview

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

I. A Paraphrase Attributed to Shelley

In the discussion of the influence of Horace upon Shelley, first place must be given to an anonymous paraphrase of Carm. 3. 19 which Mr. H. Buxton Forman concludes to be a genuine Shelleyan production, and which he prints in the appendix to his library edition of Shelley's poems. I quote his argument in favor of the paraphrase:1

'The story of this paraphrase, not hitherto known as a work of Shelley's, is somewhat complicated. Among the Leigh Hunt MSS. placed at my disposal by Mr. S. R. Townshend Mayer, are two sheets of extremely thin foreign paper such as numerous poems of Shelley's were written upon for convenience of transit through the post, on which sheets, in Mrs. Shelley's writing, are this paraphrase from Horace, and The Magic Horse, from Christofano Bronzino. The sheets have been. folded in three as they would be if enclosed in a letter. Had this been all that was known of the MS., I should scarcely have hesitated, looking at the internal evidence, and considering that the paper was found among other transcripts of Shelley's works by his wife, to have attributed the translations positively to him; and I do not, in fact, doubt that they are his. But in a periodical of Leigh Hunt, The Companion, for the 26th of March, 1828 (the number, as originally printed), this paraphrase from Horace appears, without any translator's name. If there were any intrinsic quality in this poem to countenance for a moment the supposition that it came from Hunt's pen--and I do not think there is,-- such a notion would be disposed of by the fact that when he printed The Companion as a book, he omitted this piece, and that he did not print it among his translations, admirable as it is. In the weekly number of The Companion following that which contains this paraphrase, he apologizes, on the plea of illness, for using something of Procter's, sent to him "for another purpose"; and the presumption is that he used a translation of Shelley's under like circumstances. Following the search further, Mr. Mayer and I discovered Leigh Hunt's own copy of this paraphrase--"copy" that has evidently been used to print from. The ode has there been introduced as the first of a series of articles to be called "The Dessert" and to consist of compositions "not large enough to stand by themselves"; and this introduction, which after all did not appear with the ode, concludes with the words, "Here have we been going to heaven, when our sole design was to introduce a thing no less earthly than one of Horace's odes. But if ever heaven and earth meet (not to speak it profanely), it is at the table of a wit and good fellows; and so, finding ourselves right in that matter, we call upon Horace for his ode." After the last line of the ode, Hunt has written, "The

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1
Shelley Poetical Works, ed. Forman, 4. 540 (note).

-85-

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The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Table of Contents 9
  • Introduction 11
  • William Wordsworth 53
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge 65
  • Lord Byron 69
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley 85
  • John Keats 93
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson 94
  • Robert Browning 102
  • Index of Passages from Horace 115
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