VIRGIL, Pastorals, Georgics and Aeneis, tr. JOHN DRYDEN (London, 1697)

(Provenance: Phillips, 1849)

The famous verse translation of the works of Virgil by John Dryden (1631-1700) has earned an enduring place in literature. The editor of the Penguin Classics edition of his Aeneid calls it 'an important, magisterial and moving English poem'. It should be noted that Dryden retains the Latin title, Aeneis, for the great epic. All three poems are translated into rhyming couplets (or occasionally triplets).

The many plates throughout the whole work are each dedicated to a different prominent individual - peer or peeress, bishop, knight or esquire. That facing the beginning of the first book of the Aeneid, shown here, is dedicated to Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708), husband of Princess (later Queen) Anne, who is herself the dedicatee of the next plate in the sequence. It shows the situation at the start of Book 1. Aeneas' fleet is wrecked as it is blown off course from Sicily to North Africa by a sudden storm created at the will of Juno.

Aeneas himself is prominent on the deck of the ship in the foreground, appealing to heaven for protection - compare 11. 135-6: 'Struck with unusual Fright, the Trojan Chief / With lifted Hands and Eyes, invokes Relief. Above in the background Juno, her peacock-drawn chariot behind her, addresses Aeolus, who has released from their cave the winds which have created the storm. On the facing page, as at the start of each book, the text is prefaced by a prose' Argument' written by Joseph Addison.

It is in the Aeneid in particular that Dryden's political views show through. As a young man he had lived through the Commonwealth and the Restoration of Charles II, and more recently he had witnessed the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the Catholic James II had been ousted by the Protestant Prince William of Orange, reigning as William III jointly with James' Protestant elder daughter Mary II. Dryden's loyalties lay with the exiled James, and recent scholarship has laid stress on his use in his translation of words like 'exiled' and 'restored'. So here we see 'Expell'd and exil'd' (1. 3), and even more obviously 'His banish'd Gods restor'd to Rites Divine, / And setl'd sure Succession in his Line' (11. 7-8).

See further: F. M. KEENER (ed.), Virgil's Aeneid translated by John Dryden (London, 1997), Introduction.