« PreviousContinue »
Εκ τεφανον πασαι σκοπιαι, και προονες ακροί,
Παντα δε τ' ειδεται ατρα" γεγηθε δε τε φρενα πουμηνο Mr. Pope's translation, or rather paraphrase, is as follows:
“ As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night,
from all the skies;
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light.” Here, we see, five Greek lines are paraphrastically expanded into twelve English, one line in Homer being thought sufficient to furnish more verses in the landscape, or night piece, given us by his translator, than are to be found in the whole simile in the original. But this is not all : It is not only a paraphrase, but, through all the harmony of the versification, and brilliancy of the colouring, it is easy to discover some glaring blemishes, for which there is no warrant in the Greek. In particular, the splendor of the sun at noon-day could not be described more strongly than this moonlight night is in the line printed in Italics; and in the two last lines, by the introduction of swains in the plural number, the most střiķing allusion in the simile is lost; the shepherd, in the original, being Hector himself, the pastor populorum, as the stars are the thousand fires kinda led by the Trojans, while they watched their tents. Thus, in Paradise Lost, Book IV. verse 982.
“The careful ploughman that stands doubting, Lest on the threshing-floor the hopeful sheaves
Prove chaff” is the angel Gabriel, who is solicitous for the safety of Adam and Eve.
To shew that all the same ideas may be comprised in nearly the same number of lines in English, accept the following, for which, and also for some of the above remarks, I am indebted to the late reverend and ingenious Mr. Say.
As in still air, when round the queen of night
LVII. Various Descriptions of Night compared,
MR. URBAN, HAVING in your Magazine for Jan. produced several De scriptions of the Night from the works of our English poets, and ventured to oppose them to the most celebrated ones of the ancients; I ought to have added to the number that of Shakespeare in his Midsummer Night's Dream, not only on account of its poetic excellence, but as it was, probably, the original which furnished Marston with so many just and natural images:
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve
And the wolf behowls the moon,
All with weary task foredone.
Whilst the scritch-owl, scritching loud,
In remembrance of a shroud.
That the graves, all gaping wide,
In the church-way paths toʻglide :
And we fairies that do run
By the triple Hecat's team
Following darkness like a dream,
Midsum. N. Dr.* Act. V. Sc. 1. 2. Shakespeare, it is evident, had no need to dress
his description in Macbeth with imagery culled from Antonio's Revenge, since his own glowing imagination had already, we see, in a prior piece, bodied forth the forms of things unknown, and adapted them to the occasion, giving to airy nothings a local habitation und a name.
The two last lines of Dryden's description in the Conquest of Mexico deserved likewise to have been noticed :
Even lust and envy sleep; but love denies
Rest to my soul, and slumber to my eyes. The personification of lust and envy, and the investing of these abstract terms with the attributes of the living--the representing of them as laid to sleep--shews a much nobler : fight of fancy than the personification of silence in Apollonius,
Σιγη δε μελαινομενην εχεν ορφνην, or that of sleep in Statius,
totis ubi somnus inertior alis Defluit in terras, mutumque amplectitur orbem: (though this latter image of sleep brooding with wings erpanded over the silent globe, is, it must be confessed, highly animated, and truly poetical). The universal stillness and composure of the night are also much more finely and forcibly portrayed in this short moral sketch of Dryden, which exhibits the two most wakeful and tormenting passions incident to human nature as “ lulled in pleasing slumber,' than by the several images drawn from the natural worldthe silence of the birds, the beasts, the trees, the rivers, and the sed, -that are crowded together in Statius's description,
* This play was first printed (according to Mr. Capells aco: rate table of the editions of Shakespeare's plays) in 1600; Auton:o's Reveng. in 1662.
tacet omne pecus, volucresque, feræque,
Æquoris, et terris maria acclinata quiescunt; and in the similar, though greatly superior one of Virgil,
Nox erat, et placidum carpebant fessa soporem
Lenibant curas,' et corda oblita laborum. But this is not all. There is another exquisite beauty in those lines of Dryden, arising from the contrast between the restlessness, the sober certainty of waking misery in the breast of Pizarro (who utters them), and the profound repose and tranquillity of all nature around:
But love denies + Rest to my soul, and slumber to my eyes. This is a beauty of the same kind with that which the critics have admired in the Medea of Apollonius,
Αλλα μεν και Μηδειαν επι γλυκερος λαβεν υπνος και and that copy of it in the Dido of Virgil,
At non infelix animi Phænissa; neque unquam
Accipit The Italian poets, such of them at least as I have seen, hate struck out nothing on the subject of night, worthy to rank with the models of these great masters. Even Tasso himself has given us only a translation (an elegant one indeed) from Virgil in the following beautiful lines :
* Dryden seems to have taken the hint of two quaint fanciful lines from the second and fourth verses in this description of Statius: The mountains seem to nod their drowsy heari.
Conquest of Mexico. - The wares more faintly roar, And roll themselves asleep upon the shore.
Rival Ladies. + Dryden is, however, indebted for this line to one of the Latio poets, Nulla quies animo, nullus sopor; ardua amanti.
l'al. Flac. VII. 244. de Medem
Era la notte all' hor, ch' alto riposo
Sopian gli affanni, e raddolciano i cuori The critical reader will perceive, on comparing this description with that in the fourth book of the Æneid, before given, that not only the images, but the expression too, are almost literally copied from thence, with some few heightenings from the hand of the translator. Thus “ the waves and the winds,” l'onde e i venti, are coupled together with, perhaps, greater propriety in the copy, than silvæque et equora, “the woods and the seas,” are in the original; though it must at the same time be acknowledged, that the sæva quierant of the Mantuan poet is infinitely more animated and characteristic than the han alto riposo of the Tuscan one. Tasso has omitted the pleasing picturesque image of the stars" in their courses (medio volvuntur sidera lapsu), happily introduced by the judicious Virgil, to heighten and set off the serenity that prevailed throughout the heavens as well as the earth--that is, throughout all nature-on that particular night he is describing, in order to contrast it the more strongly, as the occasion required, with the discomposure of Dido. And he has supplied its place with the vague idea of a general stillness of the globe, -e parea muto il mondoborrowed, as it should seem, from the mulumque amplectitur orbem of Statius; but falls much below his original, both in the prosaic turn of the expression (parea], and in the application of the image itself; which being a general, uncharacteristic one, thrust in amidst a groupe of particular, appropriated images--the silence of the waves, the winds, &c. loses in Tasso's hands all the graces it had in the hands of Statius, where it is properly adapted to the conciseness of the description, and the * general turn of the rest of the imagery. The seventh line of Tasso, sotto il silentio de secreti horrori, is, indeed, a fine improvement upon Virgil's somno posita sub nocte silenti; it is, however, indebted for its principal beauty to an happy union of the ideas suggested by
* Scandebat roseo medii fastigia cæli
Achilleid. I. 619,