« AnteriorContinuar »
I then translated the ode from the Greek, and as nearly as possi ble, word for word; and the impression was, that, in the general movement of the periods, in the form of the connexions and tran.
violet tresses look as strangely to our modern eyes as the green locks of the Nereids; for, to us, the violet is the type of blueness, and we talk of violet eyes, but never of violet hair. Then Pindar as little dreamed of presenting to his auditors a moist-backed eagle, by the phrase vypio vwtov, as we nowadays dream of bringing into view a man with drenched raiment of a peculiar cut when we mention a wet Quaker. And who cin suppose that the eagle was lying held down by harmony? That would be an inconvenient posture for a sleeping biped, however convenient for the translator's verse. According to Moore,
Slumbering he sits aloft
Quelled by thy potent strain. It is interesting to compare Cowley's second Olympic, of which stanzas iii., v. and vii. are very readable in their way, with Moore's and Cary's translations--to see how the first displays the genius of Cowley, while the others are attempts at adopting Pindar to our language, and are works of poetical minds rather than of poets. There are very good passages in Mr. Cary's translation, but it strikes me as a fault in his version, that it brings the lyric fow of the Allegro, Penseroso, and Lycidus, so strongly to mind, that we seem to be reading Milton instead of Pindar, yet feel that we have the mere manner of the one, and the bare matter of the other. Those who bring a knowledge of the original to Moore's and Cary's translations, and thus illuminate them with Pindar himself, may enjoy the perusal; to others they must seem, I should think, like water of Helicon bewitched. Cary's Dante, on the other hand, is a noble poem, that may be read and admired apart from the Italian.
A prose translation, like that of the Psalms and Prophets, would exhibit more of Pindar to the English reader, or would, at least, disguise him less than any metrical version of a poet, whose metre is so irrepresentable in a modern tongue, and whose metaphors are so bold and thickly interlaced, that, in order to be well understood, they should be rendered into the plainest and most straight-forward language that can be employed. I tried the simple plan thus, but cannot judge whether it will seem tolerable to others. Golden Lyre, joint possession of Apollo and the Muses with braided hair
dusky as violets, Thee the movements of the choir obey, thou Ruler of Festivity,
And the singers attend to thy signals, When thrillingly thou settest up the preamble which leads the feet of the
sitions, and in the sober majesty of lofty sense, it appeared to them to approach more nearly than any other poetry they had heard, to the style of our Bible in the prophetic books. The first strophe will suffice as a specimen : “Ye harp-controlling hymns ! (or) ye hymns the sovereigns of harps ! What God? what Hero? What Man shall we celebrate? Truy Pisa indeed is of Jove, But the Olympiad (or the Olympic games) did Hercules establish, The first-fruits of the spoils of war. But Theron for the four-horsed car, That bore victory to him, It behoves us now to voice aloud : The Just, the Hospitable, The Bulwark of Agrigentum, Of renowned fathers 'The Flower, even him Whu preserves his native city erect and safe.”
Jut are such rhetorical caprices condemnable only for their doriation from the language of real life? and are they by no other means to be precluded, but by the rejection of all distinctions between prose and verse, save that of metre ? Surely good sense, and a moderate insight into the constitution of the human mind, would be amply sufficient to prove, that such language and such combinations are the native produce neither of the fancy nor of the imagination ; that their operation consists in the excitement of surprise by the juxta-position and apparent reconciliation of
Also thou quenchest the pointed thunder-bolt Of everlasting fire; for Jove's Eagle sleeps on the sceptre, his swift wing drooping on each side,
King of Birds, When o'er his curv'd head thou hast pour'd a dark mist, sweet seal of his
eyelids, he slumbering Lifts up the plumes of his back, overcome by thy vibrations. Yea, and ev'n impetuous Mars, far away from the bristling spear-ranks, Suftens his heart with sleep, and thy shafts soothe the souls of the divini
ties, Through the skill of Latona's son, Apollo, and the deep-bosom’d Muses.
Gray and Akenside huve each given a modification of this passage, the one in the Progiess of Poetry, the other in his Hymn to the Naiads. S. C.) widely-different or incompatible things. As when, for instance, the hills are made to reflect the image of a voice. Surely, no unusual taste is requisite to see clearly, that this compulsory juxta-position is not produced by the presentation of impressive or delightful forms to the inward vision, nor by any sympathy with the modifying powers with which the genius of the poet had united and inspirited all the objects of his thought; that it is, therefore, a species of wit, a pure work of the will, and implies a leisure and self-possession, both of thought and feeling, incompatible with the steady fervor of a mind possessed and filled with
the grandeur of its subject. To sum up the whole in one sen. T
tence: When a poem, or a part of a poem, shall be adduced which is evidently vicious in the figures and contexture of its style, yet for the condemnatio of which no reason can be assigned, except that it differs from the style in which men actually converse, then, and not till then, can I hold this theory to be either plausible or practicable, or capable of furnishing either rule, guidance, or precaution, that might not, more easily and more safely, as well as more naturally, have been deduced in the author's own mind, from considerations of grammar, logic, and the truth and nature of things, confirmed by the authority of works whose fame is not of one country nor of one age.
Continuation.-Concerning the real object which, it is probable, Mr.
Wordsworth had before him in his critical preface.—Elucidation and application of this.
It might appear, from some passages in the former part of Mr. Wordsworth's preface, that he meant to confine his theory of style, and the necessity of a close accordance with the actual language of men, to those particular subjects from low and rustic life, which, by way of experiment, he had purposed to naturalize as a new species in our English poetry. But from the train of argument that follows; from the reference to Milton ; and from the spirit of his critique on Gray's sonnet; those sentences appear to have been rather courtesies of modesty, than actual limitations of his system. Yet so groundless does this system appear on a close examination ; and so strange and overwhelming' in its consequences, that I cannot, and I do not, believe that the poet did ever himself adopt it in the unqualified sense, in which his expressions have been understood by others, and which, indeed, accord. ing to all the common laws of interpretation, they seem to bear. What then did he mean? I apprehend, that in the clear perception, not unaccompanied with disgust or contempt, of the gaudy affectations of a style which passed current with too many
! I had in my mind the striking but untranslatable epithet, which the celebrated Mendelssohn applied to the great founder of the Critical Phi. losophy, “ Der alleszermalmende Kant,” that is, the all-becrushing, or rather the all-to-nothing-crushing Kant. In the facility and force of compound epithets, the German from the number of its cases and inflections approaches to the Greek, that language so
“ Bless'd in the happy marriage of sweet words.' It is in the woeful harshness of its sounds alone that the German need shrink from the comparison.
for poetic diction (though in truth it had as little pretensions to poetry, as to logic or cominon sense), he narrowed his view for the time; and feeling a justifiable preference for the language of nature and of good sense, even in its humblest and least ornamented forms, he suffered himself to express, in terms at once too large and too exclusive, his predilection for a style the most remote possible from the false and showy splenfor which he wished to explode. It is possible, that this predi. lection, at first merely comparative, deviated for a time into direct partiality. But the real object which he had in view, was, I doubt not, a species of excellence which had been long before most happily characterized by the judicious and amiable Garve, whose works are so justly beloved and esteemed by the Germans, in his remarks on Gellert, from which the following is literally translated. “The talent, that is required in order to make excellent verses, is perhaps greater than the philosopher is ready to admit, or would find it in his power to acquire : the talent to seek only the apt expression of the thought, and yet to find at the same time with it the rhyme and the metre. sessed this happy gift, if ever any one of our poets possessed it; and nothing perhaps contributed more to the great and universal impression which his fables made on their first publication, or conduces more to their continued popularity. It was a strange and curious phenomenon, and such as in Germany had been previously unheard of, to read verses in which everything was expressed just as one would wish to talk, and yet all dignified, attractive, and interesting ; and all at the same time perfectly correct as to the measure of the syllables and the rhyme. It is certain, that poetry when it has attained this excellence makes a far greater impression than prose. So much so indeed, that even the gratification which the very rhymes afford, becomes then no longer a contemptible or trifling gratification."
However novel this phenomenon may have been in Germany at the time of Gellert, it is by no means new, nor yet of recent existence in our language. Spite of the licentiousness with
• Sammlung einiger Abhandlungen von Christian Garve. (Leipzig 1779, pp. 233-4, with slight alterations. S. C.]