Imágenes de páginas

barians for poetical beauties, but sought for every thing in Homer, where, indeed, there is but little which they might not find.

The Italians have been very diligent translators; but I can 346 hear of no version, unless perhaps Anguillara's Ovid1 may be excepted, which is read with eagerness. The Iliad of Salvini 2 every reader may discover to be punctiliously exact; but it seems to be the work of a linguist skilfully pedantick, and his countrymen, the proper judges of its power to please, reject it with disgust.

Their predecessors the Romans have left some specimens of 347 translation behind them, and that employment must have had some credit in which Tully and Germanicus engaged 3; but unless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that the plays of Terence were versions of Menander, nothing translated seems ever to have risen to high reputation. The French, in the meridian hour of their learning, were very laudably industrious to enrich their own language with the wisdom of the ancients; but found themselves reduced, by whatever necessity, to turn the Greek and Roman poetry into prose. Whoever could read an author could translate him. From such rivals little can be feared. The chief help of Pope in this arduous undertaking was drawn 348 from the versions of Dryden. Virgil had borrowed much of his imagery from Homer, and part of the debt was now paid by

critic who mentions Virgil or Horace. They seem ignorant that the Romans had any good writers.' GIBBON, Decline, &c., i. 38 n.

Le Metamorfosi d' Ovidio, tradotte in ottava rima, 1584. 'I prefer it to all the translations I ever read.' BARETTI, The Italian Library, 1757, p. 135.

[ocr errors]

These translations [Salvini's Iliad and Odyssey into blank verse, 1523] are reckoned literal, but I could never find them delightful to read.' Ib. p. 126.

Berkeley wrote to Pope from Naples in 1717 - A friend of mine told me that he found Salvini reading your Homer; he liked the notes extremely, and could find no other fault with the version but that he thought it approached too near a paraphrase.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), ix. 5. Salvini translated some of Pope's works. Ib. iv. 47.


Only fragments are extant of Cicero's translations. 'We possess the remains of Germanicus's translation of the Phaenomena of Aratus.' Smith's Dict. of Greek and Rom. Biog.

* See ante, DRYDEN, 223, where Johnson speaks of 'poetical translations' as a work which the French seem to relinquish in despair.'

Olivet records Boileau as saying to him: Savez-vous pourquoi les anciens ont si peu d'admirateurs ? C'est parce que les trois quarts, tout au moins, de ceux qui les ont traduits, étaient des ignorans ou des sots.' Boileau wished the Academy_to_reform translations. Euvres de Boileau, v. 118.

Grimm wrote in Aug. 1768:—'La langue française est de toutes les langues modernes la moins propre aux traductions.' Mémoires, &c., 1814, iii. 266.


his translator. Pope searched the pages of Dryden for happy combinations of heroick diction', but it will not be denied that he added much to what he found. He cultivated our language with so much diligence and art that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the English tongue, for since its appearance no writer, however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of lines so elaborately corrected and so sweetly modulated took possession of the publick ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation 3.

But in the most general applause discordant voices will always be heard. It has been objected by some, who wish to be numbered among the sons of learning, that Pope's version of Homer is not Homerical; that it exhibits no resemblance of the original and characteristick manner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants his awful simplicity, his artless grandeur, his unaffected majesty. This cannot be totally denied, but it must be remembered that 'necessitas quod cogit defendit,' that may be lawfully done which cannot be forborne. Time and place will always enforce regard. In estimating this translation consideration must be had of the nature of our language, the form of our metre, and, above all, of the change which two thousand years have made in the modes of life and the habits of thought. Virgil wrote in

[blocks in formation]

municated this anecdote to Dr. Johnson, his remark was:-"Sir, when Pope said that, he knew that he lied."' John. Misc. ii. 332. Lyttelton was but eleven years old when the last volume of the Iliad was published. Pope's answer very likely was given, though not to a child.

Cowper, in the Preface to his Homer, maintains that it costs more trouble to write in blank verse than in rhyme on account of the variety in the pauses. Southey's Cowper, xi. Preface, p. 14. See also ib. vii. 75. In a criticism on Pope's Homer in Gent. Mag. 1785, p. 610 (see Southey's Cowper, v. 167, xv. 182), he says that Pope, 'who managed the bells of rhyme with more dexterity than any man, tied them about Homer's neck.' See also post, PITT, 10.

See Appendix N.

a language of the same general fabrick with that of Homer, in verses of the same measure, and in an age nearer to Homer's time by eighteen hundred years; yet he found even then the state of the world so much altered, and the demand for elegance so much increased, that mere nature would be endured no longer; and perhaps, in the multitude of borrowed passages, very few can be shewn which he has not embellished.

There is a time when nations emerging from barbarity, and 350 falling into regular subordination, gain leisure to grow wise, and feel the shame of ignorance and the craving pain of unsatisfied curiosity. To this hunger of the mind plain sense is grateful; that which fills the void removes uneasiness, and to be free from pain for a while is pleasure; but repletion generates fastidiousness, a saturated intellect soon becomes luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reception till it is recommended by artificial diction. Thus it will be found in the progress of learning that in all nations the first writers are simple, and that every age improves in elegance. One refinement always makes way for another, and what was expedient to Virgil was necessary to Pope'.

I suppose many readers of the English Iliad, when they have 351 been touched with some unexpected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried to enjoy it in the original, where, alas! it was not to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his translator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable to his character; but to have added can be no great crime if nothing be taken away. Elegance 2 is surely to be desired if it be not gained at the expence of dignity3. A hero would wish to be loved as well as to be reverenced.


Pope in his Iliad, xi. 668 n., says:-'A translator owes so much to the taste of the age in which he lives as not to make too great a compliment to the former; and this induced me to omit the mention of the word Ass in the translation.'

On the lines (ib. xvii. 642–5)— So burns the vengeful hornet (soul all o'er),' &c.

he says in a note:-'It is literally in the Greek, "she inspired the hero with the boldness of a fly."... I have done my best in the translation to keep up the dignity of my author.'

See also his Postscript to the Odyssey, ed. 1760, v. 267; and ante, DRYDEN,


'It is when Pope comes to level passages, passages of narrative or description, that he and his style are sorely tried and prove themselves weak.' MATTHEW ARNOLD, On Translating Homer, 1896, p. 20.

2 For elegance see ante, POPE, 99, 349, 350.

Cowper (Works, vii. 7), writing of a French and an English print' on Iliad subjects,' says:- 'In the former Agamemnon addresses Achilles



To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; the purpose of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy the power of pleasing must be blown aside. Pope wrote for his own age and his own nation: he knew that it was necessary to colour the images and point the sentiments of his author; he therefore made him graceful, but lost him some of his sublimity".

The copious notes with which the version is accompanied and by which it is recommended to many readers, though they were undoubtedly written to swell the volumes, ought not to pass without praise: commentaries which attract the reader by the pleasure of perusal have not often appeared; the notes of others are read to clear difficulties, those of Pope to vary entertainment. 354 It has, however, been objected with sufficient reason that there is in the commentary too much of unseasonable levity and affected gaiety; that too many appeals are made to the ladies, and the ease which is so carefully preserved is sometimes the ease of a trifler. Every art has its terms and every kind of instruction its proper style; the gravity of common criticks may be tedious, but is less despicable than childish merriment 3.

exactly in the attitude of a danc-
ing-master turning miss in a minuet;
in the latter the figures are plain,
and the attitudes plain also. This
is, in some considerable measure I
believe, the difference between my
translation and Pope's.'


1 Ante, COWLEY, 115. Johnson is
the 'learned critic' in the following
passage in Reynolds's Fifteenth Dis-
course (Works, 1824, ii. 152) :—
'Michael Angelo's strength thus quali-
fied, and made more palatable to the
general taste, reminds me of an ob-
servation which I heard a learned
critic make, when it was incidentally
remarked that our translation of
Homer, however excellent, did not
convey the character, nor had the
grand air of the original. He replied
that if Pope had not clothed the naked
majesty of Homer with the graces
and elegancies of modern fashions-
though the real dignity of Homer
was degraded by such a dress-his
translation would not have met with
such a favourable reception, and he
must have been contented with fewer
readers.' See ante, POPE, 110 n.

Matthew Arnold, quoting Pope's translation of the Iliad, xii. 322, Sarpedon's speech to Glaucus (Pope's Iliad, xii. 387), says :-'It is one of those passages in which he is at his best, a passage of strong emotion and oratorical movement; not of simple narrative or description. Nothing could better exhibit his prodigious talent, and nothing could be better in its own way.... Even here he does not render Homer; but he and his style are in themselves strong.' On Translating Homer, p. 19.

Ante, POPE, 86.

3 The following note on the Iliad, xiv. 191, is an instance of Pope's flippancy:-'This passage may be of consideration to the Ladies, and, for their sakes, I take a little pains to observe upon it. Homer tells us that the very Goddesses, who are all over charms, never dress in sight of any one: the Queen of Heaven adorns herself in private, and the doors lock after her. In Homer there are no Dieux des ruelles, no Gods are admitted to the toilet.'

Of the Odyssey nothing remains to be observed; the same 335 general praise may be given to both translations, and a particular examination of either would require a large volume. The notes were written by Broome, who endeavoured not unsuccessfully to imitate his master 1.


Of The Dunciad the hint is confessedly taken from Dryden's 356 Mac Flecknoe3, but the plan is so enlarged and diversified as justly to claim the praise of an original, and affords perhaps the best specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous.

That the design was moral, whatever the author might tell 357 either his readers or himself, I am not convinced. The first motive was the desire of revenging the contempt with which Theobald had treated his Shakespeare 5, and regaining the honour which he had lost, by crushing his opponent. Theobald was not of bulk enough to fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to find other enemies with other names, at whose expence he might divert the publick.

In this design there was petulance and malignity enough; 358 but I cannot think it very criminal. An author places himself uncalled before the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace. Dulness or deformity are not culpable in themselves, but may be very justly reproached when they pretend to the honour of wit or the influence of beauty. If bad writers were to pass without reprehension what should restrain them? impune diem consumpserit ingens Telephus ''; and upon bad writers only will censure have much effect. The

1 Ante, POPE, 133.

• Ante, POPE, 144. 3 Ante, DRYDEN, 136. 4 Ante, POPE, 148. JOHNSON. He wrote his Dunciad for fame. That was his primary motive. Had it not been for that, the Dunces might have railed against him till they were weary, without his troubling himself about them. He delighted to vex them, no doubt; but he had more delight in seeing how well he could vex them.' Boswell's Johnson, ii. 334.

Ante, POPE, 126, 145.

6 'I have often wondered that the same poet who wrote The Dunciad should have written these lines:

[blocks in formation]


[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »