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Concerning the first of these methods, our master Horace has given us this caution:
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus
Nor word for word too faithfully translate,
as the earl of Roscommon has excellently rendered it. Too faithfully is, indeed, pedantically: it is a faith like that which proceeds from superstition, blind and zealous. Take it in the expression of sir. John Denham to sir Richard Fanshaw, on his version of the Pastor Fido :
That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
It is almost impossible to translate verbally, and well, at the same time : for the Latin (a most severe and compendious language) often expresses that in one word, which the barbarity, or the narrowness, of modern tongues cannot supply in more.
It is frequent also, that the conceit is couched in some expression, which will be lost in English,
Atque iidem venti vela fidemque ferent.
What poet of our nation is so happy as to express this thought literally in English, and to strike wit, or almost sense, out of it?
In short, the verbal copier is encumbered with so many difficulties at once, that he can never disentangle himself from all. He is to consider at the same time the thought of his author and his words, and to find out the counterpart to each in another language: and, besides this, he is to confine himself to the compass of numbers, and the slavery of rhyme. It is much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs: a man can shun a fall, by using caution; but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected : and when we have said the best of it, it is but a foolish task; for no sober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck. We see Ben Jonson could not avoid obscurity in his literal translation of Horace, attempted in the same compass of lines: nay Horace himself could scarce have done it to a Greek poet:
Brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio:
either perspicuity or gracefulness will frequently be wanting. Horace has, indeed, avoided both these rocks in his translation of the three first lines of Homer's Odyssey, which he has contracted into two,
Dic mihi, Musa, virum, captæ post tempora Troja,
Muse, speak the man, who since the siege of Troy,
But then the sufferings of Ulysses, which are a considerable part of that sentence, are omitted:
[ος μάλο πολλα πλάχθη.]
The consideration of these difficulties, in a servile, literal translation, not long since made two of our famous wits, sir John Denham and Mr. Cowley, to contrive another way of turning authors into our tongue, called, by the latter of them, imitation. As they were friends, I suppose they communicated their thoughts on this subject to each other; and, therefore, their reasons for it are little different; though the practice of one is much more moderate. I take imitation of an author, in their sense, to be an endeavour of a later poet to write like one who has written before him on the
same subject : that is, not to translate his words, or to be confined to his sense ; but only to set him as a pattern, and to write, as he supposes that author would have done, had he lived in our age, aod in our country. Yet I dare not say that either of them have carried this libertine way of rendering authors (as Mr. Cowley calls it) so far as my definition reaches. For in the Pindaric Odes, the customs and ceremonies of ancient Greece are still preserved. But I know not what mischief may arise hereafter from the example of such an innovation, when writers of unequal parts to him shall imitate so bold an undertaking. To add and to diminish what we please, which is the way avowed by him, ought only to be granted to Mr. Cowley, and that too only in his translation of Pindar; because he alone was able to make him amends, by giving him better of his own, whenever be refused his author's thoughts. Pindar is generally known to be a dark writer, to want connection, (I mean as to our understanding) to soar out of sight, and leave his reader at a gaze. So wild and ungovernable a poet cannot be translated literaliy; his genius is too strong to bear a chain, and Samson like he shakes it off. A genius so elevated and unconfined as Mr. Cowley's was but necessary to make Pindar speak English, and that was to be performed by no other way than imitation. But if Virgil, or Ovid, or any regular intelligible authors, be thus used, it is no longer to be called their work, when neither the thoughts nor words are drawn from the original ; but instead of them there is something new produced, which is almost the creation of another hand. By this way, it is true, somewhat that is excellent may be invented, perhaps more excellent than the first design; though Virgil must be still excepted, when that perhaps takes place. Yet he who is inquisitive to know an author's thoughts will be disappointed in his expectation. And it is not always that a man will be contented to have a present made him, when he expects the payment of a debt. To state it fairly: imitation of an author is the most advantageous way for a translator to show himself, but the greatest wrong which can be done to the memory and reputation of the dead. Sir John Denham (who advised more liberty than he took himself) gives his reason for his innovation, in bis admirable preface before the translation of the second Æneid. “ Poetry is of so subtle a spirit, that, in pouring out of one language into another, it will all evaporate; and, if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion, there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum.” I confess this argument holds good against a literal translation : but who defends it? Imitation and verbal version are in my opinion the two extremes, which ought to be avoided: and therefore, when I have proposed the mean betwixt them, it will be seen how far his argument will reach.
No man is capable of translating poetry, who, besides a genius to that art, is not a master both of his author's language and of his own; nor must we understand the language only of the poet, but his particular turn of thoughts and expression, which are the characters that distinguish, and as it were individuate, him from all other writers. When we are come tbus far, it is time to look into ourselves, to conform our genius to bis, to give his thought either the same turn, if our tongue will bear it, or, if not, to vary but the dress, not to alter or destroy the substance. The like care must be taken of the more outward ornaments, the words. When they appear (which is but seldom) literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed: but since every language is so full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one, is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words. It is enough if he choose out some expression wbich does not vitiate the sense. I suppose he may stretch his chain to such a latitude ; but, by innovation of thoughts, methinks, he breaks it. By this means the spirit of an author may be transfused, and yet not lost: and thus it is plain, that the reason alleged by sir John Denham has no farther force than to expression : for thought, if it be translated truly, cannot be lost in another language; but the words that convey it to our apprehension (which are the image and ornament of that thought) may be so ill chosen, as to make it appear in an unbandsome dress, and rob it of its native lustre. There is, therefore, a liberty to be allowed for the expression; neither is it necessary that words and lines should be confined to the measure of their original. The sense of an author, generally speaking, is to be sacred and inviolable. If the fancy of Ovid be luxuriant, it is his character to be so; and if I retrench it, he is no longer Ovid. It will be replied, that he receives advantage by this lopping of his superfluous branches ; but I rejoin, that a translator has no such right. When a painter copies from the life, I suppose he has no privilege to alter features and lineaments, under pretence that his picture will look better : perhaps the face which he has drawn would be more exact, if the eyes or nose were altered; but it is his business to make it resemble the original. In two cases
only there may a seeming difficulty arise; that is, if the thought be notoriously trivial or dishonest : but the same answer will serve for both, that then they ought not to be translated:
Desperes tractata nitescere posse, relinquas. Thus 1 have ventured to give my opinion on this subject against the authority of two great men, but I hope without offence to either of their memories; for I both loved them living, and reverence them now they are dead. But if, after what I have urged, it be thought by better judges, that the praise of a translation consists in adding new beauties to the piece, thereby to recompense the loss which it sustains by change of language, I shall be willing to be taught better, and to recant In the mean time, it seems to me, that the true reason, why we have so few versions which are tolerable, is not from the too close pursuing of the author's sense; but because there are so few, who have all the talents which are requisite for translation, and that there is so little praise, and so small eneouragement, for so considerable a part of learning,
CANACE TO MACAREUS. Í knew not from my love these griefs did grow,
Yet was, alas, the thing I did not know.
And first discover'd to my soul its wound. [eyes,
“ 'Tis love,” said she; and then my down-cast
And guilty dumbness, witness'd my surprise. Macareus and Canace, son and daughter to Æolus, Porc'd at the last, my shameful pain I tell :
god of the winds, loved each other incestuously: And, oh, what follow'd we both know too well! Canace was delivered of a son, and committed When, half denying, more than half content, him to her nurse, to be secretly conveyed away. Embraces warm'd me to a full consent. The infant crying out, by that means was dis- Then with tumultuous joys my heart did beat, covered to Æolus, who, enraged at the wicked And guilt that made them anxious made them ness of his children, commanded the babe to be
great, exposed to wild beasts on the mountains; and But now my swelling womb heav'd up my breast, withal, sent a sword to Canace, with this mes
And rising weight my sinking limbs opprest. sage, That her crimes would instruct her how What herbs, what plants, did not my nurse produce, to use it. With this sword she slew herself: To make abortion by their powerful juice ? but before she died, she writ the following letter What med'cines try'd we not, to thee unknown? to her brother Macareus, who had taken sanc
Our first crime common; this was mine alone. tuary in the temple of Apollo.
But the strong child, secure in his dark cell,
With Nature's vigour did our arts repel. If streaming blood my fatal letter stain,
And now the pale-fac'd empress of the night Imagine, ere you read, the writer slain ;
Nine times had fill'd her orl with borrow'd light: One hand the sword, and one the pen employs,
Not knowing 'twas my labour, I complain And in my lap the ready paper lies.
Of sudden shootings, and of grinding pain; Think in this posture thou behold'st me write : My throes came thicker, and my cries increas'd, In this my cruel father would delight.
Which with her hand the conscious nurse sup0! were be present, that his eyes and hands
press'd. Might see, and urge, the death which he com To that unhappy fortune was I come, mands:
Pain urg'd my clamours, but fear kept me dumb. Than all the raging winds more dreadful, he, With inward struggling I restrain'd my cries, Unmov'd, without a tear, my wounds would see. And drunk the tears that trickled from my eyes. Jove justly plac'd him on a stormy throne, Death was in sight, Lucina gave no aid ; His people's temper is so like his own.
And ev'n my dying had my guilt betray'd. The North and South, and each contending Thou cam'st, and in thy countenance sate despairs blast,
Rent were thy garments all, and torn thy bair: , Are underneath bis wide dominion cast :
Yet, feigning comfort, which thou couldst not give, Those he can rule; but his tempestuous mind (Prest in thy arms, and whispering me to live): Is, like his airy kingdom, unconfin'd.
«« For both our sakes,” saidst thou, "preserve thy Ah! what avail my kindred gods above,
Live, my dear sister, and my dearer wife.” [life; That is their number I can reckon Jove?
Rais'd by that name, with my last pangs I strove : What help will all my heavenly friends afford, Such power have words, when spoke by those we When to my breast I lift the pointed sword?
love. That hour, which join'd us, came before its time: The babe, as if he heard what thou hadst sworn, In death we had been one without a crime. With hasty joy sprung forward to be born. Why did thy flames beyond a brother's move? What helps it to have weather'd out one storm? Why lov'd i thee with more than sister's love? Fear of our father does another form. For I lov'd too; and, knowing not my wound, High in his hall, rock'd in a chair of state, A secret pleasure in thy kisses found:
The king with his tempestuous council sate. My cheeks no longer did their colour boast, Through this large room our only passage lay, My food grew loathsome, and my strength I lost: By which we could the new-born babe convey. Still ere I spoke, a sigh would stop my tongue; Swath'd in her lap, the bold nurse bore bim out, Sbort were my slumbers, and my nights were long. With olive-branches coverd round about;
And, muttering prayers, as holy rites she meant,
HELEN TO PARIS.
Helen, having received an epistle from Paris, reWith one fierce puff he blows the leares away :
turns the following answer: wherein she seems Expos'd the self-discover'd infant lay.
at first to chide him for his presumption in The noise reach'd me, and my presaging mind
writing as he had done, which could only proceed Too soon its own approaching woes divin'd. Not ships at sea with winds are shaken more,
from his low opinion of her virtue; then owns
herself to be sensible of the passion, which ne Nor seas themselves, when angry tempests roar,
had expressed for her, though she much Than I, when my loud father's voice I hear: The bed beneath me trembled with my fear.
suspected his constancy; and at last discovers
her inclination to be favourable to him: the He rush'd upon me, and divulg'd my stain;
whole letter showing the extreme artifice of Scarce from iny murder could bis hands refrain.
When loose epistles violate chaste eyes,
How dares a stranger, with designs so vain, The babe cry'd out, as if he understood,
Marriage and hospitable rights prophane? And begg'd his pardon with what voice he could. Was it for this, your feet did shelter find By what expressions can my grief be shown? From swelling seas, and every faithless wind? (Yet you may guess my anguish by your own:) (For though a distant country brought you forth, To see my bowels, and, what yet was worse, Your usage here was equal to your worth.) Your bowels too, condemn'd to such a curse!
Does this deserve to be rewarded so? Out went the king; my voice its freedom found, Did you come here a stranger or a foe? My breasts 1 beat, my blubber'd cheeks I wound. Your partial judgmeut may perhaps complain, And now appear'd the messenger of Death; And think me barbarous for my just disdain. Sad were his looks, and scarce he drew his breath, Ill-bred then let me be, but not unchaste, To say, “Your father sends you”—(with that Nor my clear fame with any spot defac'd. word
Though in my face there's no affected frown, His trembling hands presented me a sword): Nor in my carriage a feign'd niceness shown, “ Your father sends you this; and lets you know,
I keep my honour still without a stain, That your own crimes the use of it will show.” Nor has my love made any coxcomb vain. Too well I know the sense those words impart:
Your boldness I with admiration see; His present shall be treasur'd in my heart. What hope had you to gain a queen like me? Are these the nuptial gifts a bride receives?
Because a hero forc'd me once away, And this the fatal dower a father gives?
Am I thought fit to be a second prey? Thou god of marriage, shun thy own disgrace,
Had I been won, I had deserv'd your blame, And take thy torch from this detested place: But sure my part was nothing but the shaine. Instead of that, let Furies light their brands,
Yet the base theft to him no fruit did bear, And fire my pile with their infernal hands. I’scap'd unhurt by any thing but fear. With happier fortune may my sisters wed; Rude force might some unwilling kisses gain; Warn'd by the dire example of the dead.
But that was all he ever could obtain. For thee, poor babe, what crime could they pre- You on such terms would ne'er have let me go; tend?
Were he like you, we had not parted so. How could thy infant innocence offend ?
Untouch'd the youth restor'd ine to my friends, A guilt there was; but, oh, that guilt was mine! And modest usage made me some amends. Thou suffer'st for a sin that was not thine. 'Tis virtue to repent a vicious deed. Thy mother's grief and crime! but just enjoy'd, Did he repent, that Paris might succeed? Shown to my sight, and born to be destroy'd! Sure 'tis some Fate that sets me above wrongs, Unhappy offspring of my teeming womb! Yet still exposes me to busy tongues. Dragg'd headlong from thy cradle to thy tomb! I'll not complain; for who's displeas'd with love, Thy unoffending life I could not save,
If it sincere, discreet, and constant prove? Nor weeping could I follow to thy grave:
But that I fear; not that I think you base, Nor on thy tomb could other my shorn hair: Or doubt the blooming beauties of my face; Nor show the grief which tender mothers bear. But all your sex is subject to deceive, Yet long thou shalt not from my arms be lost; And ours, alas, too willing to believe. For soon I will o'ertake thy infant ghost.
Yet others yield, and love o'ercomes the best: But thou, my love, and now my love's despair, But why should I not shine above the rest? Perform bis funerals with paternal care.
Fair Leda's story seems at first to be His scatter'd limbs with my dead body burn; A fit example ready form'd for me. And once more join us in the pious urn.
But she was cozen'd by a borrow'd shape, If on my wounded breast thou drupp'st a tear,
And under harmless feathers felt a rape. Think for whose sake my breast that wound did If I should yield, what reason could I use? bear;
By what mistake the loving crime excuse? And faithfully my last desires fulfil,
Her fault was in her powerful lover lost; As I perform my cruel father's will.
But of what Jupiter have I to boast?