« AnteriorContinuar »
in its inmediate, consequences, as the other, to which we have alluded.
Dryden may be considered as the first popular attempter in English of the system of free translation, as it is supposed to be recommended by Horace; we say supposed to be, because we do not think that his words admit the wide inferences which have been drawn from them; and (what is much more important) Ben Jonson, the translator of his Art of Poetry, did not; and well justified in his own practice his different opinion of Horace's meaning. Even Dryden, however, had as strict theoretical notions of the duties of a translator as he could entertain who would follow his author
Non ita certandi cupidus quam propter amoren.' A translator (says he) is to be like his author: it is not his business to excel him.' This was his theory; but though he may occasionally catch the graces of his author, (besides exhibiting many rare qualities of his own,) can he be said to resembte the poet whom he translates, when he renders Horace's
si celeres quatit
"But if she dances in the wind
I puff the prostitute away,'
translation by him, even his noble Æneid, of faults such as these, produced partly by the ambition of excelling his original, and partly by his indulging in the vicious use of equivalents!
We have already recorded our opinion of Pope's Iliad; but even he has been seduced into violations of the sense of his author by the same cause, by Dryden's example, and by the artificial tone of an age that would have delighted to call the House of Commons the Senate House. He was also, like Dryden, hurried away, and into some wider deviations, by a genius too original and imaginative to suffer him to become a copyist. He seems to have meditated his work in the spirit in which a painter meditates a picture, anxious rather to improve, than exactly to imitate, nature; -- whereas, according to our ideas, and according to those professed by Dryden, he should have commenced his task with the feelings of one who is to copy and not to compose:
-But the genius of Pope led him to composition; and we have to lament that his genius should have been of so distinct a character from his whom he professed to follow. It is observed fairly enough in a little work lately published,* that he is successful at least as a moral, if not as a descriptive, translator, and that the Achilles and Diomed of Pope may be truly said to be the Achilles and Diomed of Homer. Nor, though he is not so faithful a painter of manners as of passions, do we object to his softening features which would have disgusted the feelings of a modern age. Manners are variable, and, as we have before observed on this very subject, indicate something very different in one æra from what we should infer from them in another. But this, though it will excuse him for refining, will not excuse him for exaggerating, and it will yet less excuse him for the alteration of pictures of inanimate nature, which is invariable. The Iliad is not like the letter which so much excited Col. Bath's admiration in Amelia; it is not all writ with great dignity of expression and emphasis of judgment:' it is, as every scholar knows, full of familiar images; of pictures of still life, quite as much distinguished by lightness as by force of touch; and of shadings of sentiment as delicately discriminated as those of the descriptions themselves. So many of these last have been pointed out by Mr. Coleridge in his lectures, by Mr. Uvedale Price in his book on the Picturesque, and others, that we willingly abstain from adducing new passages in proof of what we have been saying. We will, however, add, that in the neglect of these more evanescent colourings of Homer's pencil, and in the omission of his particles, Pope often not only takes from the delicacy of the expression, but injures the sense of his author. Fielding (who was never misled by present popularityt) has observed upon this in his · Amelia,' where Dr. Harrison comments upon Pope's leaving out the èe in his version of
* Διος δ' ετελειετο βελη. And though we do not venture to refine so much upon the force of Greek particles as to construe (with Dean Jackson) Tgwes pa, • The Trojans, Heaven help them! we do attach very considerable importance to such monosyllables; and no less to the family of pure, però, &c. in Italian.
Another fault, which will not be found inconsistent with our general admiration of him, may be charged upon Pope, in the
• Thoughts and Recollections by One of the last Century. London. 1825.
† As an instance of this, we might mention his quiet sneer at Glover's poem of Leonidas (then in the zenith of popularity) in his Journey from this World to the neat. • The first spirit with whom I entered into discourse was the famous Leonidas of Sparta. I acquainted him with the honours which had been done him by a celebrated poet of our nation, to which he answered, that he was very muh obliged io him.'