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that would harmonize with the antecedent system? Did the race no longer care to recal and record the actions or misfortunes of its immediate forefathers, of the generations whose activities were gradually dying out in the memory of man? or did another form of record arise that superseded the mythus ?
Perhaps the case partook more or less of every one of these forms, and the combination of all brought about the conjuncture at which the mythotoky of Hellas, prolific for ages, at length became effete. The Dorian invasion of Peloponnesus, itself an expedition of many united tribes that, in earlier ages, would scarcely have combined in such intimate alliance, appears to have caused a still greater admixture of tribes among the population it supplanted and expelled, and thus the obliteration of the subjects of mythic personification. Herodotus gives ample proof of the mixture of tribes who associated in the formation of the Asiatic colonies, mingling no doubt in no short period into general uniformity. The genius of the historic mythus demanded continuity and specific character, and both were abolished for the particular subdivisions figuring in earlier story, by the great revolution that merged all in the broad distinctions of Dorian and Ionian ; and in the meantime a new direction had been given to the intellectual activity of the class on whose characteristics the entire scheme was dependent.
History, by virtue of the poetical form it had chosen for itself, in metaphor and myth, was, if not exclusively in poetic hands, at least extensively so, and liable to be affected by the revolutions of poetic taste; and indeed, as the poetic element gained in development, and rose to independent vigour and predominance, the historic at the same time, by the coincidence of political reverses, having become little cheering or attractive, retired into comparative insignificance. Poetry becoming more and more devoted to and capable of its highest forms of imaginative development, history was left fairly in the lurch. The successive ages of inventions of myths, were succeeded and crowned by a period in which the plane composition and simple transcript of the single events, or an inartificial series, were felt to be tame and uninteresting; a period which, familiar with the vast stores of accumulated legend of all the various heretofore secluded districts of Hellas, demanded complexity, piquancy, grand structure; not incidents, but systems of incidents; novelty of combination, rather than of distinct adventures; delineations
of character under varied circumstances capable of educing all its qualities, not mere exhibitions of isolated passion and points of general human nature. These demands were supplied, how fully, how gloriously, by the genius we bave endeavoured in all veneration to approach and appreciate. The Homeric poems,-let us say rather the poems of Homer,-stand brilliant monuments of the otherwise obscure ages, between the termination of history in mythical form, and its assumption of the prosaic and pragmatical. We cannot wonder, in the presence of such works, at the cessation of the inferior, however necessary and introductory mode of mental activity, and scarcely at the length of time that intervened before the world bethought itself seriously. of the gap it was leaving in the series of its acts and monuments.
The fitting limit of an Essay has already been overpast and lost sight of, and it will occur to all, that one interesting class of the relations of Homer to his age has been scarcely adverted to: What conclusions can be arrived at respecting the real relation of the social and political condition depicted by Homer, to that in the midst of which he himself lived and flourished ? At what points do the poems bear most directly on the actual experience of his contemporaries of the arts of war and peace, the collisions of Greek and barbarian, of monarchical, aristocratical, and even democratic elements, and how far do these indications lend and borrow light from the historic vestiges of his period and country? These are questions fruitful of historical and philosophical reflection, and the attention I have given to them emboldens me to promise the independent enquirer no equivocal reward. In such hands I leave them; the course of the subject has already led me to advance more than space and place permit me to vindicate in the required detail: dogmatism has its modest as well as arrogant phases, and lies in wait to entrap those who allow themselves to promulgate even a conjecture which they do not hold themselves at the moment bound to bring to the test. To avoid therefore the possibility of a surprise so afflicting, for the present, lusimus.
W. WATKISS LLOYD. London, 13th November 1848.
1. THE AGAMEMNON OF ÆschyLUS: The Greek Text; with a
Translation into English Verse, and Notes Critical and Explanatory. By John Conington, B. A., Fellow of University College, Oxford. London: J. W. Parker. 1848.
2. THE AGAMEMNON OF ÆSCHYLUS: Translated Literally and
Rhythmically. By W. Sewell, B.D., Fellow and Tutor of Exeter College, Oxford. With a Preface and Notes. London: Longman. 1846.
The English and the Germans, so diversely constituted in most particulars, and forming, in fact, opposite poles of the intellectual and moral world, stand peculiarly contrasted in that department of literature which seeks to appropriate the products of foreign and far distant minds by the engine of translation. Scarcely does the theology or the metaphysics of our trans-Rhenane brethren present a stronger contrast to ours, than Pope's Homer forms to that of Voss. In the transfusion of ancient Greek and Roman poetry into our tongue, the main object of the English translator has always been to be free and graceful, spirited and energetic ; while, with an instinct no less distinctly national, the German, religiously laborious, strives after accuracy of erudition, and profundity of philosophical appreciation.“ Soleo enim cum religione quadam sacras auctorum veterum reliquias contemplari,” says Wellauer, in reference to his faithful labours in the reconstruction of the Æschylean text; and this religious veneration for the spirit
, and even the letter of antiquity, however little it may seem consistent with certain bold and revolutionary features of recent German philology, is precisely that quality of mind which gives to German translations from the classical languages that stamp and character so peculiar to them, and, for the most part, so repugnant to us. The Germans do, in fact, translate all books as our theologians, in the days of the Reformation, translated the Bible; not merely into English scrupulously exact, word
for word almost answering to the original text, but with a strong dash of Hebraism steeping the thought and tincturing the expression. The German makes a translation as the Daguerrotype takes portraits, nice even to a hair, but not always pleasant. The Englishman deals with his author as a clever actor deals with the text of an old dramatist, painting out a beauty here, and paring down a deformity there, omitting in one passage what seems offensive or unintelligible to the modern ear, and supplying in another part some grace of which the author never dreamt, perhaps was utterly incapable of, but doing whatever he does always with great spirit, tact, and taste, and never without a plain practical purpose, and a visible popular effect.
The principles on which our English school of translation has been formed, may be found most distinctly announced, and expressed with great point and pregnancy, by that great master of good rhyme and of good sense, John Dryden, in the preface dedicatory to his translation of Juvenal. Some of the remarks which he makes on his predecessors, Holiday and Stapylton, are, in our opinion, so extremely pertinent to many German translations of the present day, that we shall shorten our own labour materially, and gratify some readers, by extracting the whole
passage : “The common way which we have taken is not a literal translation, but a kind of paraphrase: or somewhat which is yet more loose, betwixt a paraphrase and imitation. It was not possible for us, on any view, to have made it pleasant any other way. If rendering the exact sense of these authors, almost line for line, had been our business, Barton Holiday had done it already to our hands; and by the help of his learned notes and illustrations, not only Juvenal and Persius, but what is yet more obscure, his own verses, might be understood. But he wrote for fame, and wrote to scholars; we write only for the pleasure and entertainment of those gentlemen and ladies who, though they are not scholars, are not ignorant; persons of understanding and good sense; who not having been conversant in the original, or at least not having made Latin verse so much their business as to be critics in it, would be glad to find if the wit of our two great authors be answerable to their fame and reputation in the world. We have therefore endeavoured to give the public all the satisfaction we are able in this kind.
And if we are not altogether so faithful to our author as our predecessors Holiday and Stapylton; yet we may challenge to ourselves this praise, that we shall be far more pleasing to our readers. We have followed our authors at greater distance, though not
step by step, as they have done. For oftentimes they have gone so close, that they have trod on the heels of Juvenal and Persius, and hurt them by their too near approach. A noble author would not be pursued too close by a translator. We lose his spirit when we think to take his body. The grosser part remains with us, but the soul is flown
away, in some noble expression, or some delicate turn of words, or thought. Thus Holiday, who made this way his choice, seized the meaning of Juvenal; but the poetry has always escaped him. They who will not grant me, that pleasure is one of the ends of poetry, but that it is only a means of compassing the only end, which is instruction, must yet allow, that without the means of pleasure, the instruction is but a bare and dry philosophy; a crude preparation of morals, which we may have from Aristotle and Epictetus, with more profit than from any poet; neither Holiday nor Stapylton have imitated Juvenal, in the poetical parts of him, his diction and his elocution. Nor had they been poets, as neither of them were; yet in the way they took, it was impossible for them to have succeeded in the poetic part. The English verse which we call heroic, consists of more than ten syllables, the Latin hexameter sometimes rises to seventeen; as for example, this verse in Virgil :
Pulverulenta putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum. Here is the difference of no less than seven syllables in a line, betwixt the English and the Latin. Now the medium of these is about fourteen syllables : because the dactyle is a more frequent foot in hexameters than the spondee. But Holiday, without considering that he writ with the disadvantage of four syllables less in every verse, endeavours to make one of his lines to comprehend the sense of one of Juvenal's. According to the falsity of the proposition was the success. He was forced to crowd his verse with ill-sounding monosyllables, of which our barbarous language affords him a wild plenty: and by that means he arrived at his pedantic end, which was to make a literal translation : his verses have nothing of verse in them, but only the worst part of it, the rhyme; and that, into the bargain, is far from good. But, which is more intolerable, by cramming his ill chosen and worse sounding monosyllables so close together, the very sense which he endeavours to explain is become more obscure than that of the author. So that Holiday himself cannot be understood, without as large a commentary as that which he makes on his two authors. For my own part, I can make a shift to find the meaning of Juvenal without his notes, but his translation is more difficult than his author. And I find beauties in the Latin to recompense my pains; but in Holiday and Stapylton my ears, in the first place, are mortally offended : and then their sense is so perplexed, that I return to the original as the more pleasing task, as well as the more easy.