Thomas Gray to Christopher Anstey, [c. September 1761]
Every language has its idiom, not only of words and phrases, but of customs and manners, which cannot be represented in the tongue of another nation, especially of a nation so distant in time and place, without constraint and difficulty; of this sort, in the present instance, are the curfew bell, the Gothic Church, with its monuments, organs and anthems, the texts of Scripture, &c. There are certain images, which, though drawn from common nature, and every where obvious, yet strike us as foreign to the turn and genius of Latin verse; the beetle that flies in the evening, to a Roman, I guess, would have appeared too mean an object for poetry; 'that leaves the world to darkness and to me', is good English, but has not the turn of a Latin phrase, and therefore, I believe, you were in the right to drop it.
Might not the English characters here be romanized? Virgil is just as good as Milton, and Cæsar as Cromwell, but who shall be Hampden?
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Walpole, Horace, 1717-1797
- The Poetical Works of the late Christopher Anstey, Esq, with some account of the life and writings of the author. Ed. by John Anstey, Esq. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1808, biographical notice
- Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 3 vols. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, with corrections and additions by H. W. Starr. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935], letter no. 341, vol. ii, 748-749