The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, by Fabre d'Olivet, , at sacred-texts.com
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Before publishing the translation of the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, such as I have made it, in French verse which I have designated by the expression eumolpique, 1 I would have liked to be able to submit it to you and thus be enlightened by your counsels or sustained by your approbation; but academic laws and usages, whose justice I have felt, have prevented my enjoying this advantage. The innovation, however, which I have endeavoured to make in French poetry and the new explanation which I have tried to give of one of the most celebrated pieces of Greek poetry, have seemed to me to hold too closely to your labours and to enter too deeply into your literary provinces, for me to believe myself able to dispense with calling your attention to them. I crave your indulgence, if in the demonstration of a just deference to your judgment I involuntarily neglect certain formalities; and I beg you to judge the purity of my intentions.
I claim not to be a poet; I had even long ago renounced the art of verse, but notwithstanding that, I am now presenting myself in the poetic career to solicit the hazardous success of an innovation! Is it the love of glory which inspires in me this temerity, which dazzles me today as
my autumn advances, whereas it was unable to move me when the effervescence of my springtime ought to have doubled its strength? No: however flattering the wreaths that you award to talent, they would not concern me; and if an interest, as new as powerful, had not induced me to address you, I would keep silent. This interest, Messieurs, is that which science itself inspires in me, and the desire, perhaps inconsiderate but commendable, of co-operating with my limited ability for the development of a language whose literary and moral influence, emerging from the bourns of Europe and the present century, ought to invade the world and become universal like the renown of the hero who extends his conquests with those of the empire whose foundations he has laid.
I feel, Messieurs, that I should explain my thought. My assertion, well founded as it may be, appears none the less extraordinary, and I am bound to admit this. The disfavour which is attached to all new ideas, to all innovations, the just defiance that they inspire, the element of ridicule that springs from their downfall, would have arrested my audacity, if I had had audacity alone, and if the worthy ambition of effecting a general good had not raised me above a particular evil which might have resulted for me. Besides I have counted upon the judicious good-will of the two illustrious Academies to which I am addressing myself: I have thought that they would distinguish in the verse which I am presenting for their examination, both as a means of execution in French poetry and as a means of translation in ancient and foreign poetry, the real utility that they can offer, of the fortuitous beauty which they lack, and which a more capable hand would have been able to give them; I flatter myself, at length, that they would grant to the end, without prejudice, the attention which is necessary, and that if they refused an entire approbation to my efforts, they would at least render justice to my zeal and commend the motives which have made me attempt them.
5:* Addressé à la Classe de la Langue et de la Littérature françaises, et à celle dHistoire et de Littérature ancienne de lInstitut impérial de France.
5:1 This expression will be explained in the progress of the discourse.