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Mr Pope, in his translation of the Iliad, has, in the parting scene between Hector and Andromache (vi. 466), omitted a particular respecting, the dress of the nurse, which he thought an impropriety in the picture. Homer says,
Αψ δ' ο παίς προς κολπον ευζωνοιο τιθηνης
“ The boy crying, threw himself back into
the arms of his nurse, whose waist was s elegantly girt.” Mr Pope, who has suppressed the epithet descriptive of the waist, has incurred on that account the censure of Mr Melmoth, who says, “ He has not touch“ ed the picture with that delicacy of pen“ cil which graces the original, as he has “ entirely lost the beauty of one of the fi“ gures. Though the hero and his son “ were designed to draw our principal at“ tention, Homer intended likewise that “ we should cast a glance towards the “ nurse.” Fitzosborne's Letters, l. 43. If this was Homer's intention, he has, in my opinion, shewn less good taste in this
instance than his translator, who has, I think with much propriety, left out the compliment to the nurse's waist altogether, And this liberty of the translator was perfectly allowable; for Homer's epithets are often nothing more than mere expletives, or additional designations of his persons. They are always, it is true, significant of some attribute of the person ; but they are often applied by the poet in circumstances where the mention of that attribute is quite preposterous. It would shew
little judment in a translator, who should honour Patroclus with the epithet of godlike, while he is blowing the fire to roast an ox; or bestow on Agamemnon the designation of King of many nations, while he is helping Ajax to a large piece of the chine.
But, on the other hand, it is evident, that no such liberty of retrenchment is pardonable in a translator, when the epithet suppressed is characteristic of the object, or gives additional force to the sentiment. Thus, in the opening part of the scene above alluded to,
where Andromache comes out to meet her husband :
"H di fruil molins', duece do due oímonos xiev dirò,
The nurse stood near, in whose embraces prest,
Mr Pope has here inexcusably suppressed the highly significant epithet, άλαλαφρονα, which so beautifully expresses the insensibility of the infant (“ having no feeling of its own misery”).
Ir were to be wished, that Mr Melmoth, who is certainly one of the best of the English translators, had always been as scrupulous in retrenching the ideas of his author, as we might have expected from his censure of Mr Pope. Cicero thus superscribes one of his letters: M. T. C. Terentia, et Pater suavissima filiæ Tulliola, Ciccro matri et sorori S. D. (Ep. Fam. 1. 14. ep. 18.) And
and another in this manner: Tullius Terentiæ, et Pater Tulliola, duabus animis suis, et Cicero Alatri optimæ, suavissimæ sorori. (Lib. 14. ep. 14.) Why are these addresses entirely sunk in the translation, and a naked title poorly substituted for them, “ To Te“ rentia and Tullia,” and “ To the same?” The addresses to these letters give them their highest value, as they mark the warmth of the author's heart, and the strength of his conjugal and paternal affections.
In one of Pliny's Epistles, speaking of Regulus, he
Ut ipse mihi dixerit quum consuleret, quàm citò sestertium sexcenties impleturus esset, invenisse se exta duplicata, quibus portendi millies et ducenties habiturum, (Plin. Ep. 1. 2. ep. 20.). Thus translated by Melmoth : “ That he once told me, upon “ consulting the omens, to know how soon “ he should be worth sixty millions of ses
terces, he found them so favourable to “ him as to portend that he should pos
sess double that sum." Here a material part of the original idea is omitted; no less than that very circumstance upon which
the omen turned, viz. that the entrails of the victim were double.
CLAUDIAN thus describes a romantic solitude on the sea-coat, near Marseilles, which was feigned to be haunted by spirits :
Est locus extremum pandit qua Gallia littus
CLAUD. In Ruf. l. 1.
Thus translated by Mr Addison :
A place there lies on Gallia's utmost bounds,
Remarks on several parts of Italy.