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to say for the most part German—exercised not only on the literature of the country, but with results of equal interest on its monuments, especially the painted vases, have rendered it certain, that as the actions of the personified river were metaphorical expressions of the course or irregularities of the actual stream, so the personification of the people on its banks, and the actions ascribed to it, bore a certain relation to the character and vicissitudes of the people, and to that extent is truly historical. It is late in the day now to assume credit for singular sagacity in tilting against the factitious personality of Lelex or Pelasgus. Every one concedes that Lelex and Pelasgus are to be regarded as no more distinct historical personages than Cithaeron and Asopus; but it is a different question, and to be answered differently, whether they are not quite as much so; whether the Greek who invented the mythus, or in whose mind it took form, had not a positive object answering to his idea; a population in one case, as distinct and certainly as important a matter of fact, as a river or a mountain in the other. If this be the case, as it is proved to be in hundreds of instances by the most absolute demonstration, it will not do to throw aside Greek quasi-historical legend as baseless fiction, as having no historical value whatever.” The evolution of the pure history, the separation of the literal fact from the poetical and other alloy and amalgam, is daily proceeding, in multitudinous detached investigations, until the time shall be ripe for well-considered summary and general deduction of the historical product derivable from a mass of records that profess to be continuous upwards to the very creation and chaos. The present point for our attention is, that the downward course of the connected traditions terminates just before the age of Homer; at that distance from him, we may say, that may be regarded as ordinarily intervening between the historical event and the formation of a mythic representation of it. Why did the operation come to an end, and why precisely at this time 2 Did historical events take form and course unmanageable even by the flexibility of mythus, at least in any form 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 2 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
m see the pointed and pertinent ob- printed among his Kleine Schriften, servations of Müller, in his review of vol. ii. p. 97-99. Preller's Demeter and Persephone, re
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 have 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 windicate 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, 'I', avoid therefore the possibility of a surprise so assisting, for the present,<lusimus.
W, WA't k iss Lim, win, London, 13th Norember 1849.
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 AESCHYLUs: 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 quádam sacras auctorum veterum reliquias contemplari,” says Wellauer, in reference to his faithful labours in the reconstruction of the AEschylean 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
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