Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

him, and made the poet flippant and inconsequential.

I scarcely know what to say of Holyday. His contemporaries praise him for the light which he has thrown upon an obscure writer; and in this there is some justice. What appears extraordinary is, that the man who seems, in his Juvenal, to have placed the chief merit of translation in doggedly measuring line for line with the original, should, in his version of Persius, indulge in a diffusion at which Dryden himself would, perhaps, have started. Every thought is dilated, and the text runs perpetually into a laboured commentary. By this, much of vigour is lost, while little or nothing is gained on the score of harmony. Yet he has some pleasing passages, and the readers of his time must have been gratified by his labours; for Persius was then first rendered not only accessible, but, generally speaking, intelligible to them.

Much need not be said of Owen's translation. It is sensible and faithful; and this must be the whole of its praise ; for it has neither the neatness nor the poetry of his version of Juvenal, and seems, indeed, to be a very hasty performance.

I come now to Sir W. Drummond. This is a work of great elegance; spirited and poetical, and polished into a degree of smoothness seldom attained. But Sir William Drummond declares, that his object was “ rather to express his author's meaning clearly than to translate his words or to copy his manner servilely. How he wishes these

expressions to be understood, he has explained in a subsequent passage, which I shall take the liberty of laying before the reader.

“ What Dryden judged too rude for imitation, the criticks of the present day will probably think I have been prudent in not copying. I have generally, therefore, followed the outline; but I have seldom ventured to employ the colouring of Persius. When the coarse metaphor, or the extravagant hyperbole debases, or obscures the sense of the original, I have changed, or even omitted it; and where the idiom of the English language required it, I have thought myself justified in abandoning the literal sense of my author.” Pref. p. x.

I am somewhat inclined to suspect that Sir W. Drummond's opinion of the “criticks of the present day,” is not altogether ill founded. In proportion, therefore, as he has gratified them, I shall be found to displease them; having freely encountered what he so sedulously avoided, and, with one or two exceptions merely, followed the original through all its coarseness and extravagance, and represented with equal fidelity, the outline, and the filling up, of the picture.*

But, it will naturally be asked, if a new transla

* Two other translations of Persius have appeared; but as they were not published before the present version was finished, they do not come under my judgment. I may add, however, that the last of the two, by Mr. Howes, is a work of singular merit. The other, which I have not been fortunate enough to procure, is said to be a poor performance. 1817.

tion be not much wanted, why is the present intruded on the publick? I am not one of those who think that the successful execution of a work, should totally preclude every future attempt to rival or surpass it; for this would be to introduce an apathy and dejection fatal to all progressive excellence. The field of literature happily admits of various species of contention ; and to excel in the | umblest of them, is to possess some degree of merit, and to prefer some claim (however slight) to publick favour. He who cannot attain the richness and harmony of Dryden, may yet hope to surpass him in fidelity; and though the spirit and freedom of Brewster may not be easily outgone, his conciseness and poetical feeling have not much to intimidate a competitor of ordinary endowments.

But to come closer to the question, I endeavoured (I know not with what success) to translate Persius as his immediate follower had been translated ; I hoped that to a fidelity equal to that of the most scrupulous of my predecessors, I might be found to unite a certain degree of vigour, and to atone for a defect of poetical merit by conciseness and perspicuity. When I speak of fidelity, however, let it be observed, in justice to myself, that I carry the import of this word somewhat further than is usually done. I translate for the English reader, and do not think it sufficient to give him a loose idea of the original ; but as fair and perfect a transcript of it as the difference of language will admit: at the same time it will, I trust, appear

that I have not, in any instance, fallen into barbarisms, or violated the idiom of my own country.

It has been objected that my lines run into one another, and that they would have pleased more had the sense ended with the couplet. I once thought the same: and in many a school-translation

rhymed and rattled on” very glibly, and very much to my own satisfaction : but I subsequently formed a different (it becomes me not say, a more correct) opinion of the duty of a translator; and to that, notwithstanding the gentle admonitions which have been conveyed to me, I continue to adhere. It will be readily admitted, that I have not adopted the most easy mode of translation ; since, not content with giving the author's sense, I have entered as far as it was in my power, into his feelings, and exhibited as much of his manner, nay of his language, (i. e. his words,) as I possibly could. Expressions which have been usually avoided as not germane to our tongue, are here hazarded, for the simple purpose of bringing Persius, as he wrote, before the unlearned reader ; who may be assured that he will find, in few versions, as much of the original as in the present :-for this, of course, he must take my affirmation;—nor is this all; for I have given him no more than the original : all that will be found here, is to be found in Persius. If there be aught of pride in any part of this, it is of a very humble kind; since I have undergone no trifling degree of labour for the sake of those who can never be sensible of my industry. Scholars

indeed, can appreciate it ; but to some of them it will be of little importance, and to others the mode here adopted will be less pleasing than a more splendid style of versification.

It is now time to come to the author himself.

So much has been said in the Essay prefixed to the translation of Juvenal, of the nature and end of Satire, and of the most striking qualities of the three great masters of this species of writing among the Romans, that it will scarcely perhaps be thought necessary to revert again to the subject. A few words however, may yet be added on the peculiar excellencies and defects of the present writer; though it will be proper to apprise the reader, at the same time, that in a path so often travelled, he must not look for novelties, or expect to have his curiosity often gratified by interesting and unexpected views

It is observed in the Essay just mentioned, that “ Persius somewhat mistook bis talents when he applied to Satire:” my meaning perhaps would have been more distinctly expressed, had qualifications been substituted in the place of talents ; for it was less in these than in the former that our youthful poet was deficient.

Under Augustus, at least under the government which immediately preceded his usurpation of the functions of the empire, young men of family were usually placed with persons eminent in the forum and the senate, by whom they were initiated in the offices of the state, and taught to look abroad, and

« PredošláPokračovať »