Conceiving art in terms of 'imitation, neoclassical theory saw
nimesis, or the imitaton of 'Nature' as primary, and initatic , or
the imitation of art, as secondary. By 'the imitation' is meant not
just one kind of secondary imitation, but something half-way between
translation and original poem, a poetic sub-type based on the use of
a technique applied to well-known classical poems. It is also a
logical outcome of translation from the classics. The consecutive
imitation is a kind of modern verse parallel of a Latin poem which
roughly follows the sequence of the original, substituting modern
places, names, customs, etc. Examples are Pope's Imitations of
Horace and Johnson's London. In their rejection of literature,
the 17th century verse translators, and particularly Denham, Sprat,
Cowley and Dryden, all contributed to the appearance of 'imitations'
Travesty-writers and mock-imitators (burlesquers) such as Cotton,
Scudamore and Crown, are evidence of a new, 'modern' way of treating
The extent to which both century poetry is both governed and
stimulated by classical models is seen in the pastoral, the epistle,
the didactic poem and the satire. The Speneerian-Theocritan tradition
vied with the Virgilion in pastoral, while the division between
Horatian and Juvenalian satire is clearly seen in English satire.
Rochester's An allusion to dor ce is one of the first consecutive imitations, yet its appeald to Horace is countered by Scroop's
In Defence of Satyr, which makes the case for true 'comic' satire.
Juvenal appears to be more popular when he was seen to be relevant
to such social phenomena as a decaying nobility. Analogies and
parallels arc constantly being made. In the later eighteenth century
such poets as Greene composed modernised, consecutive imitations of
Juvenal yet kept the lighter tone of 'comic* satire. Johnson used
a surprisingly large battery of rhetorical and poetic devices in his
two famous imitations of Juvenal, and created the unique tone
appropriate for 'tragic' satire.
In his imitations of Horace, Pope relied much on previous examples.
Some of his versions can be compared with those of George Ogle.
Pope's true stature is revealed in such close comparisons, for he is
able to stamp almost every line, even when it is a near-translation,
with his own individual yet complex personality.
The imitations of Horace's Ars Poetica and Ovid's Ars Anatoria
show how completely the Augustans wished to absorb the ancient into
their own world and style of life, while modelling their culture and
taste on classical precept. Yet it is interesting to note, for example,
how Horace becomes the inventor of the word 'wit' when a deft imitator
such as Oldham reads modern meanings into the Latin text.
Behind all, or nearly all, such imitations, is the analogy between
Rome and England. Analysis of the analogy through the eyes of the
17th and 18th centuries chows a very complex (often ironically viewed)
relationship, and by no means a straightforward *copying* or 'emulation'
of the ancients. To the Augustans, Roman society and history and
classical Latin literature were a living, ineluctable, and sometimes