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into the extreme of licentiousness. The followers of Dryden saw nothing so much to be emulated in his translations as the ease of his poetry: Fidelity was but a secondary object, and translation for a while was considered as synonymous with paraphrase. A judicious spirit of criticism was now wanting, to prescribe bounds to this increasing licence, and to determine to what precise degree a poetical translator might assume to himself the character of an original writer. In that design, Roscommon wrote his Essay on Translated Verse; in
Tu quella se’ tu quella,
Pastor Fido, act 3. sc. 1.
In those parts of the English version which are marked in Italics, there is some attempt towards a freedom of translation; but it is a freedom of which Sandys and May had long before given many happier specimens.
which, in general, he has shewn great critical judgment; but proceeding, as all reformers, with rigour, he has, amidst many excellent precepts on the subject, laid down one rule, which every true poet (and such only should attempt to translate a poet) must consider as a very prejudicial restraint. After judiciously recommending to the translator, first to possess himself of the sense and meaning of his author, and then to imitate his manner and style, he thus prescribes a general rule,
Your author always will the best advise ;
Far from adopting the former part of this maxim, I conceive it to be the duty of a poetical translator, never to suffer his original to fall *. He must maintain with him
* I am aware, that a sense may be given to this precept of Roscommon, which will justify its propriety : “ Let the “ elevation of the copy keep pace with that of the original, “ where the subject requires elevation of expression : let it “ imitate it likewise in plainness and simplicity, if such be
a perpetual contest of genius; he must attend him in his highest flights, and soar, if he can, beyond him: and when he perceives, any time, a diminution of his powers, when he sees a drooping wing, he must raise him on his own pinions * Homer has been judged by the best critics to fall at times beneath himself, and to offend, by introducing low images and puerile allusions. Yet how admirably is this defect veiled over, or altogether removed, by his translator Pope. In the beginning of the 8th book
I have no
“ the character which the sentiment requires." fault to find with the precept, if so qualified.
* A very ingenious critic, to whom I am indebted for a singularly able and candid review of this Essay in the European Magazine, for September and October 1793, has censured this opinion as allowing to translators a liberty of departing from that truth and fidelity of representation, which it is their first duty rigidly to observe. But in a subsequent part of the same criticism, it appears, that this difference of opinion is more a seeming than a real opposition of sentiment : and I am happy to find the opinion I have advanced on this head, sanctioned by so respectable an authority as that of M. Delille; whose translation of the Georgics of Virgil, though censurable (as I shall remark) in a few particulars, is, on the whole, a very fine performance. “Il faut etre quelquefois
of the Iliad, Jupiter is introduced in great majesty, calling a council of the gods, and giving them a solemn charge to observe a strict neutrality between the Greeks and Trojans :
Ήως μεν κροκόπεπλος έκίδιατο πάσαν επ' αίαν Ζεύς δε θεών αγορών ποιήσατο τερπικέραυνος, 'Ακροτάτη κορυφη πολυδειράδος Ούλύμποιο: Aúrós dé o@ ayógeve, dsoà 8 óra ráves ársov.
“ AURORA with her saffron robe had “ spread returning light upon the world, “ when Jove delighting-in-thunder sum
“ superieur à son original, précisément parce qu'on lui est “ tres-infé-rieur.” Delille Disc. Prelim. d la Trad. des Georgiques. Of the same opinion is the elegant author of the poem on Translation:
Unless an author like a mistress warms,
“ moned a council of the gods upon the « highest point of the many-headed Olym“ pus; and while he thus harangued, all s the immortals listened with deep atten« tion.” This is a very solemn opening; but the expectation of the reader is miserably disappointed by the harangue itself, of which I shall give a literal translation.
Κέκλυτέ μέυ, πάνες τε θεοί, πάσαι τε θέαιναι, "Όφρ άτω, τα με θυμός ενι σήθεσσι κελεύει Μήτε τις εν θήλεια θεός τόγε, μήτε τις άρσης Πειράτω διακέρσαι εμόν έπος" αλλ' άμα πάλες Αίνετ', όφρα τάχισα τελευτήσω τάδε έργα. Ον δ' αν έγών απάνευθε θεών εθέλον/α νοήσω Έλθόνη, ή Τρώεσσιν αρηγέμεν, ή Δαναοίσι, Πληγείς και κατα κοσμον ελεύσεται Ολυμπόνδε. Η μιν ελών ρίψω ες Τάρταρον ήερόενία, Τηλε μαλλ', ήχι βάθισον υπο χθονός έσι βέρεθρον, "Ένθα σιδήρειαίτεσύλαι και χάλκεος έδος, Τόσσον ένερθ' αΐδεω, όσον έρανός έσ' από γαίης: Γνώσετ' έπειθ, όσον είμι θεών κάρτισος απάνων. Είδ άγε, σειρήσασθε θεοί, ίνα άδετε πάνες, Σειρήν χρυσάην εξ έρανόθεν κρεμάσαθες: Πάλες δ' εξάπτεσθε θεοί, πασαί τε θέαιναι 'Αλλ' εκ αν μ' έρύσαισ' έξ έρανόθεν πεδίoνδε