« EelmineJätka »
The Greeks for a time travelled into the northern nations, who subverted the E.gypt, but they translated no books from Roman empire, and erected new kingdoms the Egyptian language; and when the with new languages. It is not ftrange, Macedonians had overthrown the empire that fuch confusion should suspend literary of Persia, the countries that became sub- attention : those who lost, and those who ject to the Grecian dominion studied only gained dominion, had immediate difficul.the Grecian literature. The books of the ties to encounter and immediate miseries conquered nations, if they had any among to redress, and had little leisure, amidst the them, sunk in oblivion; Greece considered violence of war, the trepidation of fight, herself as the mistress, if not as the pa- the distresses of forced migration, or the sent of arts, her language contained all tumults of unsettled conqueft
, to enquire that was supposed to be known, and, ex after speculative truth, to enjoy the amulecepe the facred writings of the Old Testa ment of imaginary adventures, to know the ment, I krow not that the library of Alex- history of former ages, or fudy the events andria adopted any thing from a foreign of any other lives. But no fooner had this tongue.
chaos of dominion lunk into order, than The Romans confesied themselves the learning began again to flourish in the calm scholars of the Greeks, and do not appear of peace. When life and posieflions were to have expected, what has since happen- secure, convenience and enjoyment were ed, that the ignorance of succeeding ages foon fought, learning was found the highest would prefer them to their teachers. Every gratification of the mind, and translation man who in Rome aspired to the praise of became one of the means by which it was literature, thought it neceflary to learn imparted. Greek, and had no need of versions when At last, by a concurence of many causes, they could study the originals. Transla- the European world was roured from its riun, however, was not wholly neglected. lethargy; those arts which had been long Dramatic poems could be underlood by obscurely studied in the gloom of monaftethe people in no language but their own, ries became the general favourites of manand the Romans were sometimes enter- kind; every nation vied with its neighrained with the tragedies of Euripides and bour for the prize of learning; the epidethe comedies of Menander. Other works mical emulation spread from south to north, were fonetimes attempted; in an old and curiolity and translation found their fcholiait there is mention of a Latin Iliad, way to Britain. and we have not wholly lost Tul'y's ver He that reviews the progress of English fion of the poem of Aratus; but it does literature, will find that tranlation was not appear that any man grew eminent by very early cultivated among us, but that interpreting another, and perhaps it was some principles, either wholly erroneous, or more frequent to translate for exercise or too far extended, hindered our success from amusement than for fame.
being always equal to our diligence. The Arabs were the first nation who felt Chaucer, who is generally considered the ardour of translation : when they had as the father of our poetry, has left a verfubdued the eastern provinces of the Greek sion of Boetius on the Comforts of Philo. empire, they found their captives wiser fophy, the book which seems to have been than themselves, and made haite to relieve the favourite of middle ages, which had their wants by imparted knowledge. They been tranflated into Saxon by King Alfred, discovered that many might grow wise by and illustrated with a copious comment the labour of a few, and that improvements ascribed to Aquinas. It may be supposed might be made with speed, when they had that Chaucer would apply more than comthe knowledge of former ages in their own mon attention to an author of so much language. They therefore made hafte to celebrity, yet he has attempted nothing lay hold on medicine and philosophy, and higher than a version frictly literal, and turned their chief authors into Arabic. has degraded the poetical parts to profe, Whether they attempted the poems is not that the constraint of versification might known; their literary zeal was vehement, not obstruct his zeal for fidelity. but it was fort, and probably expired be Caxton taught us typography about fore they had time to add the arts of ele. the year 1490. The first book printed gance to those of necessity.
in English was a translation. Caxton was The study of ancient literature was in both the translator and printer of the De. terrupted in Europe by the irruption of struccion of Troye, a book which, in that
infancy of learning, was considered as the virtue or unafiifted reason. Translation beit account of the fabulous ages, and was improved more by accident than con. which, though now driven out of notice by viction. The writers of the foregoing age authors of no greater use or value, still con had at least learning equal to their genius, tinued to be read in Caxton's English to the and, being often more able to explain the beginning of the present centary.
sentiments or illustrate the allusions of the Caxton proceeded as he began, and, ancients, than to exhibit their graces and except the poems of Gower and Chaucer, transfuse their spirit, were perhaps willing printed nothing but translations from the sometimes to conceal their want of poetry French, in which the original is so scrupu- by profufion of literature, and therefore lously followed, that they afford us little trandated literally, that their fidelity might knowledge of our own language; though the shelter their infipidity or harshness. The words are English, the phrase is foreign. wits of Charles's tiire had feldom more
As learning advanced, new works were than light and superficial views, and their adopted into our language, but I think care was to hide their want of learning with little improvement of the art of trans. behind the colours of a gay imagination : lation, though foreign nations and other they therefore translated always with freelanguages offered us models of a better dom, sometimes with licentiousness, and method; till in the age of Elizabeth we perhaps expected that their readers should began to find that greater liberty was ne accepi sprightliness for knowledge, and cessary to elegance, and that elegance was consider ignorance and mistake as the imnecessary to general reception; some essays patience and negligence of a mind too rawere then made upon the Italian poets, pid to stop at dificulties, and too elevated which deserve the praise and gratitude of to descend to minuteness. pofterity.
Thus was translation made more easy to But the old practice was not suddenly the writer, and more delightful to the forsaken; Holland filled the nation with reader; and there is no wonder it ease and literal translation, and, what is yet more pleasure have found their advocates. The strange, the same exactness was obflinately paraphrastic liberties have been almost unipractised in the version of the poets. This versally admitted: and Sherbourn, whose absurd labour of construing into rhyme was learning was eminent, and who had no countenanced by Jonson, in his version of need of any excuse to pass slightly over Horace; and, whether it be that more obscurities, is the only writer who, in later men have learning than genius, or that the times, has attempted to justify or revive endeavours of that time were more di- the ancient severity. rected towards knowledge than delight, There is undoubtedly a mean to be obthe accuracy of Jonson found more imita- served, Dryden faw very early that closetors than the elegance of Fairfax; and ness best preserved an author's sense, and May, Sandys, and Holiday, confined them that freedom best exhibited his spirit: he selves to the toil of rendering line for line, therefore will deserve the highest praise not indeed with equal felicity, for May and who can give a representation at once Sandys were poets, and Holiday only a faithful and pleasing, who can convey the scholar and a critic.
fame thoughts with the same graces, and Feltham appears to consider it as the who, when he translates, changes nothing established law of poetical translation, that but the language.
Idler. the lines should be neither more nor fewer than those of the originai ; and so long $ 196. What Talents are requisite to form a had his prejudice prevailed, that Denham
good Translator. praises Fanshaw's version of Guarini as After all, a translator is to make his authe example of a “ new and noble way,” thor appear as charming as possibly he as the first attempt to break the boundaries can, provided he maintains his character of custom, and affert the natural freedom and makes him not unlike himself. Transof the muse.
lation is a kind of drawing after the life; In the general emulation of wit and ge- where every one will acknowledge there is nius, which the festivity of the Restoration a double sort of likeness, a good one and · produced, the poets shook off their con a bad. 'Tis one thing to draw the outlines Itraint, and considered tranflation as no true, the features like, the proportions exlonger confined to servile closeness. But act, the colouring itself perhaps tolerable; reformation is feldom the work of pure and another thing to make all those grace
ful, by the porture, the shadowings, and thor's sense in good English, in poetical chiefly by the spirit which animates the expreffions, and in musical numbers: for, whole. I cannot, without some indigna- though all those are exceeding difficult to tion, look on an ill copy of an excellent perform, there yet remains an harder task; original; much less can I behold with pa and 'tis a secret of which few translators tience, Virgil, Homer, and some others, have suficiently thought. I have already whose beauties I have been endeavouring hinted a word or two concerning it; that all my life to imitate, so abused, as I may is, the maintaining the character of an aufay, to their faces, by a botching interpre- thor, which distinguishes him from al ter. What English readers, unacquainted others, and makes him appear that indiviwith Greek or Latin, will believe me, or dual poet whom you would interpret. For any other man, when we commend those example, not only the thoughts, but the authors, and confeis we derive all that is style and verlification of Virgil and Ovid pardonable in us from their fountains, if are very different. Yet I fec even in our they take those to be the same poets whom beft poets, who have translaied some parts our Ogilby's have translated ? But I dare of them, that they have contourded their assure them, that a good poet is no more feveral talents; and by endeavouring only like himself in a dull translation, than a at the sweetneís and harmony of numbers, carcase would be to his living boly. There have made them both so much alike, that are many who understand Greek and La- if I did not know thu criginals, I should tin, and yet are ignorant of their mother never be able ro judge by the copies, which tongue. The proprieties and delicacies of was Virgil and which was Ovid. the English are known to few: 'tis impof- objected against a late noble painter (Sir lible even for a good wit to understand P. Lely) that he drew many graceful picand practise them, without the help of a tures, but few of them weic alike. And liberal education, long reading, and digeft. this happened to him because he always ing of those few good authors we have studied himself more than those who fatto amongst us; the knowledge of men and him. In such translators I can easily dismanners; the freedom of habitudes and tinguilli the hand which performed the conversation with the best of company of work, but I cannot distinguish their poet both sexes; and, in short, without wearing from another. Suppose two authors are off the ruft which he contracted, while he equally fiveet, yet there is a great distincwas laying in a stock of learning. Thus tion to be made in sweetness; as in that of ditficult it is to understand the purity of sugar and in that of honey. I can make Englith, and critically to difcern not only the difference more plain, by giving you good writers from bad, and a proper style (if it be worth knowing) my own method from a corrupt, but also to distinguish that of proceeding in my translations out of which is pure in a good author, from that four several poets; Virgil, Theocritus, Luwhich is vicious and corrupt in him. And cretius, and Horace. In each of these, befor want of all these requifites, or the fore I undertook them, I considered the greatest part of them, molt of our ingeni- genius and distinguishing character of my ous young men take up foine cry d-up author. I looked on Virgil as a fuccinct, English poet for their model, adore him, grave, and majestic writer; one who weighand imitate him, as they think, without ed, not only every thoughi, but every word knowing wherein he is defective, where he and fyllable; who was still aiming to crowd is boyish and trifling, wherein either his his sense into as narrow a compass as pos. thoughts are improper to the subject, or his fibly he could; for which reason he is so expressions unworthy of his thoughts, or very figurative, that he requires (I may althe turn of both is unharmonious. Thus molt say) a grammar apart to construe him. it appears necessary, that a man should be his verse is every where founding the very a nice critic in his mother tongue, before thing in your ears whose sense it bears : he attempts to tranflate a foreign language. yet the numbers are perpetually varied, to Neither is it sufficient that he be able to encrease the delight of the reader; so that judge of words and tyle; but he must be the same founds are never repeated twice a master of them too; he must perfectly together. On the contrary, Ovid and understand his author's tongue, and abso- Claudian, though they write in ftyles dif. lutely command his own: so that, to be a fering from each other, yet have each of thorough translator, he must be a thorough them but one fort of music in their verses. poet. Neither is it enough to give his an All the versification and little variety of
Claudian is included within the compass his character: and to translate him line for of four or five lines, and then he begins line is impossible, because the Latin is naagain in the same tenour; perpetually clo- turally a more succinct language than either sing his sense at the end of a verse, and the Italian, Spanish, French, or even than verse commonly which they call golden, the English, which, by reason of its monoor two substantives and two adjectives, fyllables, is far the most compendious of with a verb betwixt them to keep the peace. them. Virgil is much the closest of any Ovid, with all his sweetness, has as little Roman poet, and the Latin hexa meter variety of numbers and sound as he : he is has morc feet than the English heroic. always, as it were, upon the hand gallop,
Dryden. and his verse runs upon carpet-ground. He avoids, like the other, all iynalphas,
§ 97. The Nature of W'it in Writing. or cutting off one vowel when it comes The composition of all pocms is, or before another in the following word. But ought to be, of wit; and wit in poetry, or to return to Viigil: though he is smooth wit writing (if you will give me leave to where sinoothneis is required, yet he is so ufe ? school-distinction) is no other than far from affecting it, that he seems rather the faculty o imagination in the writer, to disdain it; frequently makes use of syna hich, like a nimble spaniel, beats over læphas; and concludes his fenfe in the mid- and ranges through the field of memory, dle of his verfe. He is every where above till it fprings the quarry it hunted after ; conceits of epigrammatic wit, and gross or, without a inetaphor, which searches hyperboles: he maintains majesty in the over all the memory for the species or ideas midst of plainness; he fines, but glares of those things which it designs to represent. nct; and is stately without ambition, which Wit written is that which is well defined, is the vice of Lucan. I drew my detini. the happy result of thought, or product of tion of poetical wit from my particular imagination. But to proceed froin wit, in confideration of him : for propriety of the general notion of ii, to the proper wit thoughes and words are only to be found of an heroic or historical poem; I judge it in him; and where they are proper, they chiefly to confist in the delightful imaginawill be delightful. Pleasure follows of ne- tion of persons, actions, passions, or things. ceflity, as the effect does the cause ; and Tis not the jerk or string of an epigram, therefore is not to be put into the defini. nor the seeming contradiction of a poor tion. This exact propriety of Virgil I antithesis (the delight of an ill-judging particularly regarded as a great part of his audience in a play of rhyme) nor the jincharacter; but must confeis to my shame, gle of a more poor paranomalia ; neither that I have not been able to translate any is it so much the morality of a grave fenpart of him fo well, as to make him appear tence, affeEted by Lucan, but more sparwholly like himseif: for where the origi- ingly used by Virgil: but it is some lively nal is close, no version can reach it in the and apt description, drefled in such colours same compafs. Hannibal Caro's in the of speech that it fets before your eyes the Italian, is the nearest, the most poetical, abfent object as perfectly and more deand the moft sonorous of any translation of lightfully than nature. So then the first the Æneid : yet, though he takes the ad. happiness of a poet's imagination, is provantage of blank verfe, he commonly al- perly invention, or finding of the thought; lows two lines for one of Virgil, and does the second is fancy, or the variation, dresnot always hit his fense. Taffo tells us, in fing or moulding of that thought, as the his letters, that Sperone Speroni, a great judgment represents it, proper to the subItalian wit. who was his contemporary, ob- ject; the third is elocution, or the art of served of Virgil and Tully, that the Latin clothing and adorning that thought, fo Orator endeavoured to imitate the copioul- found and varied, in apt, significant, and ness of Homer, the Greek poet; and that founding words: the quickness of the imathe Latin poet made it his business to reach gination is seen in the invention, the fertithe conciseness of Demosthenes, the Greek lity in the fancy, and accuracy in the exorator. Virgil, therefore, being so very pression. For the first of these, Ovid is sparing of his words, and leaving so much famous amongst the poets ; for the latter, to be imagined by the reader, can never be Virgil. Ovid images more often the move. translated as he ought, in any modern ments and affections of the mind, either tongue. To make him copious is to alter combating between two contrary passions,
or extremely discomposed by one. His the battle of the bulls, the labour of the words therefore are the least part of his bees, and those many other excellent care; for he pictures nature in disorder, images of nature, most of which are nei. with which the study and choice of words ther great in themselves, nor have any nais inconsistent. This is the proper wit of tural ornament to bear them up; but the dialogue or discourse, and consequently of words wherewith he describes them are so the drama, where all that is faid is to be excellent, that it might be well applied to supposed the effect of sudden thought; him, which was said by Ovid, Materiam which though it excludes not the quickness füperabat opus: the very sound of his words of wit in repartees, yet admits not a too has often somewhat that is connatural to curious election of words, too frequent al the subject; and while we read him, we lutions, or use of tropes, or, in fine, any fit, as in a play, beholding the scenes of thing that thews remoteness of thought or what he represents. To perform this, he labour in the writer. On the other side, made frequent use of tropes, which you Virgil speaks not so often to us in the per know change the nature of a known word, son of another, like Ovid, but in his own: by applying it to some other signification: he relates almost all things as from himself, and this is it which Horace means in his and thereby gains more liberty than the epittle to the Pisos : other to exprels his thoughts with all the
Dixeris egregiè notum fi callida verbum graces of elocution, to write more figura.
Reddiderit junctura novum tively, and to confess as well the labour as
Dryden. the force of his imagination. Though he describes his Dido well and naturally, in the violence of her passions, yet he must
Examples that Words may affect § 98
without raising Images yield in that to the Myrrha, the Biblis, the Althæa, of Ovid: for as great an admirer I find it very hard to persuade several, of him as I am, I must acknowledge, that that their passions are affected by words if I see not more of their souls than I see of from whence they have no ideas; and yet Dido's, at least I have a greater concern harder to convince them, that in the ordiment for them : and that convinces me, nary course of conversation, we are suffici. that Ovid has touched those tender strokes ently understood without raising any images inore delicately than Virgil could. But of the things concerning which we speak. when actions or persons are to be described, It seems to be an odd subject of dispute when any such image is to be set before us, with any man, whether he has ideas in his how boid, how masterly are the Arokes mind or not. of this at first view, every of Virgil! We see the objects he presents man, in his own forum, ought to judge us with in their native figures, in their pro- without appeal. But ftrange as it may ap. per motions; but so we see them, as our pear, we are often at a loss to know what own eves could never have beheld them so ideas we have of things, or whether we have beautiful in themselves. We see the foal
upon some subjects. It even of the poet, like that universal one of which requires some atiention to be thoroughly he speaks, informing and moving through fatisfied on this head. Since I wrote these all his pictures:
papers, I found two very Ariking instances
of the possibility there is, that a man may Totanique infusa per artus
hear words without having any idea of the Mens agitat molem, & magno le corpore mifcet.
things which they represent, and yet afterWe behold him embellishing his images, others, combined in a new way, and with
wards be capable of returning them to as he makes Venus breathing beauty upon her son Æneas.
great propriety, energy, and instruction,
The first initance is that of Mr. Blacklock, lumenque inventa
a poet blind from his birth. Few men, Purpureum, & lætos oculis affârat honores :
blessed with the most perfect sight, can de. Quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi favo
scribe visual objects with more spirit and Argentum Pariulve lapis circumdatur auro.
juftness than this blind man; which canSee his tempeft, his funeral sports, his com not poslibly be owing to his having a bats of Turnus and Æneas; and in his clearer conception of the things he deGeorgics, which I esteem the divinest part fcribes than is common to other persons. of all his writings, the plague, the country, Mr. Spence, in an elegant preface which