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Nor was that cry by Nestor unperceiv'd
Iliad, xiv. I.
• Archer Ihrew-tongued! spie.maiden! man of curls!'
il. xi. 469.
Thus Diomede reproaches Paris : but how much better do we recognise the gallant son of Tydeus in Pope's version?
'- thou conq'ror of the fair, Thou woman-warrior with the curling hair,
Vain Archer !' Homer cannot be acquitted of having sometimes put very vulgar language into the mouth of the empress of Heaven (Hom. iv. 21.): The scolds with equal energy in the translation :
• What word hath pass'd thy lips, Jove most severe !
Do it. But small thy praise shall be in heav'n.' We cannot resist the pleasure of transcribing Pope's verfion; who has preserved the original spirit, and done away all its grossness : a story does not depend more on the manner in which it is told, than a sentiment.
• Shall then, O tyrant of th' ethereal reign,
Not all the gods are partial and unjuft.' Such lines as these convey a much juster idea of the spirit of the original than the others, however exact. Pope reminds us of a line in Johnson's funeral infcription on Goldsmith :
Nihil feré quod tetigit non ornavit. His elevation of numerous passages, in the original flat and insipid ; strengthening those that are feeble ; softening others that are gross; and, by a kind of chemical process, converting dross into gold; operating on them like steel on Aint, and bringing forth latent fire; commands our admiration and
applause. Let it, however, be acknowledged that he has sometimes frustrated his own intentions of elevating Homer's sentiments, and dignifying his heroic characters, by too great an anxiety to adorn them: he often subititutes the trappings of modern finery for the plain and graceful veft of antiquity. Mr. Cowper professes himself to be one of his warmest admiters; but remarks, his deviations are so many [the accusation cannot be totally denied) that, valuable as his work is on some accounts, it was yet in the humble province of a translator, that I thought it poflible even for me to follow him with some advantage.' In point of fidelity there is certainly no comparison ; but Mr. C. is occasionally too faithful: a verbal translation not only destroys the spirit, but sometimes falfifies the meaning of the original.
A single word may serve as an instance: Hero (Hepws) has with us a determinate sense, and is appropriated to military charac ters; but it is not so in Homer : he prefixes it to many names in the Odysley, on whom, had he firft written in English, he would never have bestowed it. We have the Hero Halitherfes, the Hero Egyptus, the Hero Medon, and the Hero Megapenthes ; yet no military exploit is recorded or alluded to of either. Mr. C. therefore should not have adopted the fame word. The first is never mentioned but as a soothsayer: nothing appears of the second, but that he was an old man, and of fome consequence in Ithaca : and the third was an herald, who (so far from being an hero, according to our acceptation of the word,) concealed himfelf in an ox's hide during the Naughter of the suitors, and could scarcely believe himself alive after he had been allured of safety and protection by Ulyffes himself. With the bard Phemius he repaired to the altar of Jupiter. Παντοσε σαπταινοντε φονον ποτιδεγμενω αει. .
Odyff, xxii. 380. The fourth is said to have been born to Menelaus in his age* (INAUYETOS *). Yet Menelaus was one of the youngest of the Grecian kings at the commencement of the 'Trojan war : much younger than Ulyfies, whose absence is most pathetically deplored by an enamoured goddess, and whose personal beauties captivate a king's youthful daughter, nearly at the same period; and who afterwards is described as no way enfeebled by the lapse of time. If we date the age of Megapenthes, who is mentioned as a hero and a bridegroom t, from his father's beginning to grow old, as that muit, according to common calculation, be fome years after Ulysses would feel the effects of time, it reduces his period of existence to less than nothing. We notice this little
* This word niay poflily be rendered natite procul absente patre : but if that ji admillur, Mr. C. Thould not have trandated it as above. | Odyu. iv. 1;.
oversight, as we shall a few others; they at least strike us as Tuch, on account of Mr. Cowper's unqualified assertion, that * Homer has been charged with now and then a nap, a crime of which I am perfuaded he is never guilty.'
We shall proceed to mention a few of these errors, for they cannot be called crimes; and it is surprising that so few marks of inattention or forgetfulness should occur in poems of such magnitude, containing fo great a variety of characters and intricacy of fable.—Memnon (Odyff. iv. 188.) is mentioned as having killed Antilochus, the fon of Neftorbut in the Iliad, Memnon is said to have been Nain by Achilles even before the commencement of the action of that poem, and Antilochus is one of the surviving heroes at its conclufion. Igautaas *, much-luffering, is an epithet as frequently applied to Ulysses t in the Iliad as in the Odyssey, yet at that time he had suffered no hardships but such as were shared in common with other heroes. Ajax (Hom. Il. xv. 823.) fights with a long pole or mace. At the conclusion of the book, in which he is represented as engaged incessantly in action, his offensive weapon is changed, we know
• This anticipation of an epithet afterwards peculiarly his, may lead us to conjeâure that not only the fiege of Tray, but the sufferings of Ulyftes, &c. were the subjects of discourse, and the theme of bards before the days of Homer. From the popu arity of the subject he might he led to give a prediction to Helen, which he himself hath principally caused to be accomplished, and made her story the theme of bards in future ages : thus the teils Paria ::
Ανθρωποισι πελομεθ' αοιδίμιοι εσσομενοισι. 11. vi. 357. Homer sometimes alludes to other poems,' recording different adventures of the heroes here celebrated. See particularly the story of Demodocus. (Hom. Odyfl. viii. 15)
† Was it not universally allowed that the Odyssey was subsequent to the Iliad, we might have been almoft tempted to suppose that his naine OjUTTEN, or 'the Traveller,' was an acquired name (from oševos oderw iter facio) and given him likewise by anticipation; but we must not dispute the word of his good grandfather Autolochus, who has aligned another derivation. (Hom. Odyff. xix. 395.) Homer is an interesting subject, and in turning over Mr. Cowper's translation we shall not refrain from making Tuch occalional remarks as the original may suggeA to us : we wish he had favoured us more frequently with his own. The Odyscy, in Pope's notes, is said to be one lesson of morality' but we apprehend that Homer, notwithstanding the many noble sentiments he has scato tered through it, entertained but a very imperfect idea of murai virtue. It does not seem to bave acquired even a name to mark its existence, and agern is never used by him but to denote valour or personal resolution. He makes no distinction between craft and wisdum : the fevere Minerva constantly approves the conduct of Ulysses, and in the 13th book of the Odysley (l. 291.) speaks in rapture of his diffimulation. The good Autolochus, mentioned above, is celebrated for his being superior to all men in theft and perjury.
Μητρος εης πατερ' εσθλον ος ανθρωπους εκέκαςο
Κλεπτοσυνη Θ' ορκη τε Odyfi. xix. 395. It muf not be concealed that a different interpretation has been given to this passage by writers of the greatest eminence. But if we reflect thai Autolochus was the grandfather of Ulyfles, endowed with chore eminent qualificacioos by Mercury himseil, and that his name has become proverbial fiom the earlier times to ihe present for a thief of address, we caunuc eafiiy givu up the literal interpretation,
not how, and he kills a dozen warriors with his sharp spear, ou dopr.
Menelaus informs 'Telemachus, that the pleasures he had proposed to participate with Ulysses,
- could only envy move E'en in the Gods, who have of all the Greeks
Amerced him only of his wifh'd return.' Odyff. iv. 225. The two onlys have a very bad effect : for the first there is no authority in the original, and the second was not, strictly speaking, the case: but for this the tranflator is not responsible* Many who survived the siege of Troy, either returned not to their native country, or were expelled foon after their return. We know not why Oils a Tog is rendered, 'the Gods.' Pope translates it fome envious power.' The word amerced, which here lignifies to prevent or birder, appears to be forced into the service : it is certainly not according to its common acceptation, but we believe it is somewhere used in this sense by Milton.
Ulysses, in order to deceive Eumæus, (Hom. Odyss. xiv. 237.) tells him that he was a native of Crete, his name Castor ; and that he commanded, in conjunction with Idomeneus, the Cretans at the fiege of Troy. This appears rather inartificial. So improbable a circumstance was inconsistent with the character of Ulysies to mention, or Eumæus to credit. During lo long a fiege, the chiefs of the respective nations must have been well known through all Greece, and whoever had heard of Idomeneus as king of Crete, could not well be supposed ignorant that the faithful Meriones was his second in command.
Ulyfies is styled raros te leyazte (Hom. Odysl.vi. 275.). Now so far as tallness is implied by greatness,' which is here alluded to, (and according to serjeant Kite he that is born to be fix foot high is born to be a great man), Ulysses is not entitled to that epithet. . In the Iliad † (book iii. 228.) he is represented as! Torter by the head' than Agamemnon; and in the same book, 1. 250, Thorter by the Thoulders' than Menelaus 1: whiist Ajax surpasses all the other Grecians both by head and shoulders .' (II. iii. 273.) This reduces Ulysses to a very moderate stature, after admitting that of Ajax to have been extremely gigantic !—The compliments paid to Helen's beauty in the Odyssey, thirty years after she had eloped with Paris, are certainly too exalted; for even at that time, however beautiful, she had not, if we may trust chronology, much of the bloom of youth to recommend her, Penelope, another Ninon
of ancient Greece, appears not to have been greatly her junior; and like her, is styled at the time of Ulysses' return, dia yuvalxwy, a fernale divinity.
We will allow these instances of neglect, or forgetfulness, to be, if Mr. Cowper pleases, specks in the sun : but we introduce them merely to show that, contrary to his affirmation, this poetical fun has specks. Critical telescopes have discovered others of different kinds; and, as we apprehend, of greater magnitude.
Mr. Cowper remarks that,
- the free and the close translation have, each, their advocates. But inconveniencies belong to both. The former can hardly be true to the original author's style and manner, and the latter is apt to be servile. The one loses his peculiarities, and the other his fpirit. Were it posible, therefore, to find an exact medium, a manner so close that it should let slip nothing of the text, nor mingle any thing extraneous with it, and at the same time so free as to have an air of originality, this seems precisely the mode in which an author might be best rendered.'
Here, indeed, rests the difficulty-hic labor, hoc opus eft! Again:
- the translation which partakes equally of fidelity and li. berality, that is close, but not so close as to be servile, free, but not so free as to be licentious, promises faireit; and my ambition will be fufficiently gratified, if such of my readers as are able, and will take the pains to compare me in this respect with Homer, Mall judge that I have in any measure attained a point so difficult.'
We must allow that Mr. Cowper seldom violates the fimplicity of the original, or degenerates into licentiousness; but we cannot acquit him of being frequently too tame and servile. In turning over these volumes, we are sometimes apt to forget that Homer was a poet. Had his intention been merely to preserve the sense of the Grecian bard, we are inclined to think that a liberal prose translation would have preserved it in periods no less mulical than the present, and that those' numeri lege soluti' would have been less stift, cumbrous, and tiresome: we allude more particularly to the Odyssey. In the Telemachus of Fenelon, the beauties of Homer are clustered thíck together, and his peculiarities, such as are ungenial to a modern language, avoided; yet we believe few readers would peruse it in blank verse with so much pleasure as in a decent profe translation. It need not be insisted upon, that the argument must hold much stronger, against a close copy of Horner in blank verse. An elegant prose tranllation we ftill confider as extremely de