« PredošláPokračovať »
shall never write it with any kind of elegance. Thus, by gaining abroad, he lost at home, like the painter in the Arcadia; who, going to see a skirmish, had his arms lopped off, and returned, says Sir Philip Sydney, well instructed how to draw a battle, but without a hand to perform his work.
There is another thing in which I have presumed to deviate from him and Spenser. They both make hemistichs (or half verses), breaking off in the middle of a line. I confess there are not many such in the Fairy Queen; and even those few might be occasioned by his unhappy choice of so long a stanza. Mr. Cowley had found out that no kind of staff is proper for a heroic poem, as being all too lyrical : yet though he wrote in couplets, where rhyme is freer from constraint, he frequently affects half verses; of which we find not one in Homer, and I think not in any of the Greek poets, or the Latin, excepting only Virgil; and there is no question but he thought he had Virgil's authority for that license. But I am confident our poet never meant to leave him or any other such a precedent: and I ground my opinion on these two reasons: first, we find no example of a hemistich in any of his Pastorals or Georgics; for he had given the last finishing strokes to both these poems : but his Æneid he left so incorrect, at least so short of that perfection at which he aimed, that we know how hard a sentence he passed on it: and in the second place, I reasonably presume that he intended to have filled up all those hemistichs, because in one of them we find the sense imperfect :
Quem tibi jain Trojawhich some foolish grammarian has ended for him with a half line of nonsense
-peperit fumante Creusa : for Ascanius must have been born some years before the burning of that city; which I need not prove. On the other side, we find also that he himself filled up one line in the sixth book of the Æneid; the enthusiasm seizing him while he was reading to Augustus :
Misenum Æoliden, quo non præstantior alter
Ære ciere viros to which he added, in that transport, Martemque accendere
cantu :' and never was any line more nobly finished; for the reasons which I have given in the book of painting. On these considerations I have shunned hemistichs; not being willing to imitate Virgil to a fault, like Alexander's courtiers, who affected to hold their necks awry because he could not help it. I am confident your lordship is by this time of my opinion, and that you will look on those half lines hereafter as the imperfect products of a hasty Muse-like the frogs and serpents in the Nile ; part of them kindled into life, and part a lump of unformed unanimated mud.
I am sensible that many of my whole verses are as imper. fect as those halves, for want of time to digest them better : but give me leave to make the excuse of Boccace, who, when he was upbraided that some of his novels had not the spirit of the rest, returned this answer, that Charlemagne, who made the paladins, was never able to raise an army of them. The leaders may be heroes; but the multitude must consist of common men.
I am also bound to tell your lordship, in my own defence, that, from the beginning of the first Georgic to the end of the last book of the Æneid, I found the difficulty of translation growing on me in every succeeding book : for Virgil, above all poets, had a stock, which I may call almost inexhaustible, of figurative, elegant, and sounding words. I, who inherit but a small portion of his genius, and write in a language so much inferior to the Latin, have found it very painful to vary phrases, when the same sense returns on me. Even he himself, whether out of necessity or choice, has often expressed the same thing in the same words, and often repeated two or three whole verses which he had used before. Words are not so easily coined as money: and yet we see that the credit, not only of banks, but of exchequers, cracks, when little comes in, and much goes out. Virgil called on me in every line for some new word : and I paid so long, that I was almost bankrupt: so that the latter end must needs be more burdensome than the beginning or the middle; and consequently the twelfth book of the Æneid cost me double the time of the first and second. What had become of me if Virgil had taxed me with another book?. I had certainly been reduced to pay the public in hammered money, for want of milled; that is, in the same old words which I had used before : and the receivers must have been forced to have taken any thing, where there was so little to be had.
Besides this difficulty (with which I have struggled, and made a shift to pass it over), there is one remaining, which is insuperable to all translators. We are bound to our author's sense, though with the latitudes already mentioned (for I think it not so sacred as that one iota must not be added or diminished, on pain of an anathema). But slaves we are, and labor on another man's plantation; we dress the vineyard, but the wine is the owner's : if the soil be sometimes barren, then we are sure of being scourged : if it be fruitful and our care succeeds, we are not thanked; for the proud reader will only say the poor drudge has done his duty. But this is nothing to what follows : for, being obliged to make his sense intelligible, we are forced to untune our own verses, that we may give his meaning to the reader. He who invents, is master of his thoughts and words : he can turn and vary them as he pleases, till he renders them harmonious : but the wretched translator has no such privilege ; for being tied to the thoughts, he must make what music he can in the expression : and, for this reason, it cannot always be so sweet as that of the original. There is a beauty of sound, as Segrais has observed, in some Latin words, which is wholly lost in any modern language. He instances in that 'mollis amaracus,' on which Venus lays Ascanius in the first book of the Æneid. If I should translate it 'sweet-marjorạm,' as the word signifies, the reader would think I had mistaken Virgil : for those village-words, as I may call them, give us a mean idea of the thing ; but the sound of the Latin is so much more pleasing, by the just mixture of the vowels with the consonants, that it raises our fancies to con ceive somewhat more noble than a common herb, and to spread roses under him, and strew lilies over him ; a bed not unworthy the grandson of the goddess.
If I cannot copy his harmonious numbers, how shall I imitate his noble fights, where his thoughts and words are equally sublime ? Quem
-quisquis studet æmulari,
--ceratis ope Dædalea
Nomina ponto. What modern language, or what poet, can express the majestic beauty of this one verse, amongst a thousand others ?
Aude, hospes, contemnere opes, et te quoque dignum
Finge deo.For my part I am lost in the admiration of it: I contemn the world when I think on it, and myself when I translate it.
Lay by Virgil, I beseech your lordship, and all my better sort of judges, when you take up my version; and it will appear a passable beauty when the original Muse is absent. But like Spenser's false Florimel made of snow, it melts and vanishes when the true one comes in sight. I will not ex. cuse but justify myself for one pretended crime, with which I am liable to be charged by false critics, not only in this translation, but in many of my original poems—that I Latinise too much. It is true, that, when I find an English word significant and sounding, I neither borrow from the Latin nor any other language : but when I want at home, I must seek abroad.
If sounding words are not of our growth and manufacture, who shall hinder me to import them from a foreign country? I carry not out the treasure of the nation, which is never to return : but what I bring from Italy I spend in England : here it remains, and here it circulates : for, if the coin be good, it will pass from one hand to another. I trade both with the living and the dead, for the enrichment of our native language. We have enough in England to supply our necessity ; but, if we will have things of magnificence and splendor, we must get them by commerce. Poetry requires ornament; and that is not to be had from our old Teuton monosyllables; therefore, if I find any elegant word in a classic author, I propose it to be naturalised, by using it myself; and if the public approves of it, the bill passes. But every man cannot distinguish between pedantry and poetry: every man therefore is not fit to innovate. On the whole matter, a poet must first be certain that the word he would introduce is beautiful in the Latin, and is to consider, in the next place, whether it will agree with the English idiom : after this, he ought to take the opinion of judicious friends, such as are learned in both languages : and lastly, since no man is infallible, let him use this license very sparingly; for, if too many foreign words are poured in on us, it looks as if they were designed not to assist the natives, but to conquer them.
I am now drawing towards a conclusion, and suspect_your lordship is very glad of it. But permit me first to own what helps I have had in this undertaking. The late Earl of Lalderdale sent me over his new translation of the Æneid, which he had ended before I engaged in the same design. Neither did I then intend it: but some proposals being afterwards made me by my bookseller, I desired his lordship’s leave that I might accept them, which he freely granted : and I have his letter yet to show for that permission. He resolved to have printed his work (which he might have done two years before I could publish mine), and had performed it, if death had not prevented him. But, having his manuscript in my hands, I consulted it as often as I doubted of my author's sense : for no 'man understood Virgil better than that learned nobleman. His friends, I hear, have yet another and more correct copy of that translation by them, which had they pleased to have given the public, the judges must have been convinced that I have not flattered him. Besides this help, which was not inconsiderable, Mr. Congreve has done me the favor to review the Æneid, and compare my version with the original. I shall never be ashamed to own that this excellent young man has shown me many faults, which I have endeavored to correct. It is true he might have easily found more ; and then my translation had been more perfect.
Two other worthy friends of mine, who desire to have their names concealed, seeing me straitened in my time, took pity on me, and gave me the Life of Virgil, the two prefaces to the Pastorals and the Georgics, and all the arguments in prose to the whole translation ; which perhaps has caused a report that the two first poems are not mine. If it had been true that I had taken their verses for my own, I might have gloried in their aid, and, like Terence, have fathered the opinion that Scipio and Lælius joined with me. But the same style being continued through the whole, and the same laws of versification observed, are proofs sufficient that this is one