Windsor Forest (4th edition)/Advertisement to Messiah - Wikisource, the free online library
In reading several passages of the Prophet Isaiah, which foretell the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts, and those in the Pollio of Virgil. This will not seem surprizing when we reflect, that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but selected such Ideas as best agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry, and dispos'd them in that manner which serv'd most to beautify his piece. I have endeavour'd the same in this imitation of him, tho' without admitting any thing of my own; since it was written with this particular view, that the reader by comparing the several thoughts might see how far the images and descriptions of the Prophet are superior to those of the Poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah, and those of Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation.
A Virgin shall conceive———All crimes shall cease, &c.
Jam nova progenies cœlo demittitur alto———
Te duce, si qua manent sceleris vestigia nostri,
Irrita perpetuâ solvent formidine terras———
Pacatumque reget patriis virtutibus orbem.
Now the Virgin returns, now the kingdom of Saturn returns, now a new Progeny is sent down from high heaven. By means of thee, whatever reliques of our crimes remain, shall be wip'd away, and free the world from perpetual fears. He shall govern the earth in peace, with the virtues of his Father.
Isaiah, Ch. 7. ꝟ. 14. Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son———Ch.9. ꝟ. 6, 7. Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; The Prince of Peace: of the increase of his government, and of his Peace, there shall be no end: Upon the Throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order and to stablish it, with judgment, and with justice, forever and ever.
See Nature hastes, &c.
Errantes hederas passim cum baccare tellus,
Mixtaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho———
Ipsa tibi blandos fundent cunabula flores.
For thee, O Child, shall the earth, without being tilled, produce early offerings; winding Ivy, with Baccar and Colocasia mix'd with smiling Acanthus. Thy Cradle shall pour forth pleasing flowers about thee.
Isaiah, Ch. 35. ꝟ. 1. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the defart shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. Ch. 60. ꝟ. 13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the firr-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of thy Sanctuary.
Hark! a glad Voice, &c.
Cara deûm soboles, magnum Jovis incrementum!
Intonsi montes, ipsæ jam carmina rupes,
Ipsa sonant arbusta, Deus, Deus ille Menalca. E. 5. ꝟ. 62,
Oh come and receive the mighty honours: The time draws nigh, O beloved offspring of the Gods, O great encrease of Jove! The uncultivated mountains send shouts of joy to the stars, the very rocks sing in verse, the very shrubs cry out, A God, a God!
Isaiah, Ch.40. ꝟ. 3, 4. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord! make strait in the desart a high way for our God! Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made strait, and the rough places plain, Break forth into singing, ye mountains! O forest, and every tree therein! for the Lord hath redeemed Israel. ꝟ. 23.
The Swain in barren deserts, &c.
Incultisque rubens pendebit sentibus uva;
Et duræ quercus sudabunt roscida mella.
The field shall grow yellow with ripen'd ears, and the red grape shall hang upon the wild brambles, and the hard Oaks shall distil honey like dew.
Isaiah, Ch. 35. ꝟ. 7. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land Springs of water: In the habitation where dragons lay, shall be grass and reeds and rushes. Ch. 55. ꝟ. 13. Instead of the thorn shall come up the firr-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree.
The lambs with wolves, &c.
Ubera, nec magnos metuent armenta leones ———
Occidet & serpens, & fallax herba veneni
The goats shall bear to the fold their udders distended with milk: nor shall the herds be afraid of the greatest lions. The serpent shall die, and the herb that conceals poison shall die.
Isaiah, Ch. 11. ꝟ. . The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them ——— And the lion shall eat straw like the ox, And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the den of the cockatrice.
Rise crown'd with light, &c.
The thoughts that follow to the end of the Poem, are wonderfully elevated, and much above those general exclamations of Virgil which make the loftiest parts of his Pollio.
——— toto surget gens aurea mundo!
——— incipient magni procedere menses!
Aspice, venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo! &c.
The reader needs only turn to the passages of Isaiah, as they are cited in the margins of the preceding Eclogue.