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The Greeks for a time travelled into the northern nations, who subverted the
Egypt, but they translated no books from Roman empire, and erected new kingdoms
the Egyptian language; and when the with new languages. Jt is not strange,
Macedonians had overthrown the empire that such confusion should suspend literary
of Persia, the countries that became sub- attcmion: those who lost, and those who
jest to the Grecian dominion studied only gained dominion, had immediate difficul
the Grecian literature. The books of the ties to encounter and immediate miseries
conquered nations, if they had any among to redress, and had little leisure, amidst the
them, sunk in oblivion; Greece considered violence of war, the trepidation of flight,
herself as the mistress, if not as the pa- the distresses of forced migration, or the
rent of arts, her language contained all tumults of unsettled conquest, to enquire
that was supposed to be known, and, ex- after speculative truth, to enjoy the amuse
cept the sacred writings of the Old Testa- ment of imaginary adventures, to know the
p:t nr, 1 know not that the library ot Alex- history of former ages, or study the events
? ndria adopted any thing from a foreign of any other lives. But no sooner had this
tongue. chaos of dominion funk into »rder, than
The Romans confessed themselves the learning began again to flourish in the calm
scholars of the Greeks, and do not appear of peace. When life and poslefiions were
to have expected, what has since happen- secure, convenience and enjoyment were
ed, that the ignorance of succeeding ages soon sought, learning was found the highest
would prefer them to their teachers. Every gratification of the mind, and translation
man who in Rome aspired to the praise of became one of the means by which it was
literature, thought it necessary to learn imparted.
Greek, and had no need of versions when At last, by a concurence of manycauses
they could study the originals. Tranfla- the European world was roused from its
lion, however, was not wholly neglected, lethargy; those arts which had been long
Dramatic poems could be understood by obscurely studied in the gloom of monaste
tlle people in no language but their own, ries became the general favourites of man
znd the Romans were sometimes enter- kind; every nation vied with its neigh
rr.ined with the tragedies of Euripides and bour for the prize of learning; the epide
ibe comedies of Mcnander. Other works mical emulation spread from south to north,
were sometimes attempted; in an old and curiosity and translation found their
fcholialt there is mention of a Latin Iliad, way to Britain.
and we have not wholly lost Tul'y's ver- He that reviews the progress of English
sion of the poem of Aratus; but it does literature, will find that translation was
not appear that any man grew eminent by very early cultivated among us, but that
interpreting another, and perhaps it was some principles, either wholly erroneous, or
more frequent to translate for exercise or too far extended, hindered our success from
amusement than for fame. being always equal to our diligence.
The Arabs were the first nation who felt Chaucer, who is generally considered the ardour of translation: when they had as the father of our poetry, has left a versubdued the eastern provinces of the Greek sion of Hoetius on the Comforts of Philoempire, they found their captives wiser sophy, the book which seems to have been than themselves, and made haste to relieve the favourite of middle ages, which had their wanls by imparted knowledge. They been translated into Saxon by King Alfred, discovered that many might grow wise by and illustrated with a copious comment the labour of a few, and that improvements ascribed to Aquinas. It may be sepposed might be made with speed, when they had that Chaucer would apply more than comtbc knowledge of former ages in their own mon attention to an author of so much language. They therefore made haste to celebrity, yet he has attempted nothing lay hold on medicine and'philosophy, and higher than a version strictly literal, and turned their chief authors into Arabic, has degraded the poetical parts to profo Whether they attempted the poems is not that the constraint of versification might known; their literary zeal was vehement, not obstruct his zeal for fidelity, but it was short, and probably expired be- Caxton taught us typography about fore they had time to add the arts of ele- the year 1490. The first book printed gance to thole of necessity. in English was a translation. Caxton was
The study of ancient literature was in- both the translator and printer of the Deterrupted in Europe by the irruption of struccion of Troye, a book which, in tBat
insane^ of learning, was considered as the best account of the sabulous ages, and which, though now driven out of notice- by authors of no greater use or value, still continued to be read in Caxton's English to the beginning of the present century.
Caxton proceeded as he b?gnn, and, except the poems of Gowcr and Chaucer, printed nothing but translations from the French, in which the original is so scrupulously followed, that they afford us little knowledge of our own lang uage; though the words are Englisli, the phrase is foreign.
As learning advanced, new works were adopted into our language, but I think with little improvement of the art of translation, though foreign nations and other languages offered us models of a better method; till in the age of Elizabeth we began to find that greater liberty was necessary to elegance, and that elegance was necessary to general reception; some eslays were then made upon the Italian poets, which deserve the praise and gratitude os posterity.
But the old practice was not suddenly forsaken; Holland filled the nation with literal translation, and, what is yet more strange, the fame exactness was obstinately practised in the version of the poets.'} This absurd labour of construing into rhyme was countenanced by Jonson, in his version of Horace; and, whether it be that more men have learning than genius, or that the endeavours of that time were more directed towards knowledge than delight, the accuracy of Jonson found more imitators than the elegance of Fairfax; and May, Sandys, and Holiday, confined themselves to the toil of rendering line for line, not indeed with equal felicity, for May and Sandys were poets, and Holiday only a scholar and a critic.
Feltham appears to consider it as the established law of poetical translation, that the lines should be neither more nor fewer than those of the original; and so long had his prejudice prevailed, that Denham praises Fanfhaw's version of Guarini as the example of a " new and noble way," as the first attempt to break the boundaries of custom, and assert the natural freedom of the muse.
In the general emulation of wit and genius, which the festivity of the Restoration produced, the poets shook off their constraint, and considered translation as no longer confined to servile closeness. But reformation is seldom the work of pure
virtue or unassisted reason. Translation was improved more by accident than conviction. The v, l iters of the foregoing age had at least learning equal to their genius, and, being often more able to explain the sentiments or illustrate the allusions of the ancients, than to exhibit their graces and tiansfuse their spirit, were perhaps willing sometimes to conceal their want of poetry by profusion of literature, and therefore tranflated literally, that their fidelity might shelter their insipidity or harshness. The wits of Charles's ti.re had seldom more than slight and superficial views, and their care was to hide their want of learning behind the colours of a gay imagination: they therefore translated alw ays ^vith freedom, sometimes with licentiousness, and perhaps expected that their readers should accept sprightliness for knowledge, and consider ignorance and mistake as the impatience and negligence of a mind too rapid to stop at difficulties, and too elevated to descend to minuteness.
Thus was translation made more easy to the writer, and more delightful to the reader ; and there is no wonder if ease and pleasure have found their advocates. The paraphrastic liberties have been almost universally admitted: and Sherbourn, w hose learning was eminent, and who had no need of any excuse to pass slightly over obscurities, is the enly writer who, in later times, has attempted to justify or revive the ancient severity.
There is undoubtedly a mean to be observed, Dryden saw very early that closeness best preserved an author's fense, and that freedom best exhibited his spirit: he therefore will deserve the highest praise who can give a representation at once faithful and pleasing, who can convey the same thoughts with the fame graces, and who, when he translates, changes nothing but the language. Idler.
§ 196. What Talents art requijitc to form a good Translator.
After all, a translator is to make his author appear as charming as possibly he tan, provided he maintains his character and makes him not unlike himself. Translation is a kind of drawing after the life; where every one will acknowledge there is a double sort of likeness, a good one and a bad. 'Tis one thing to draw the outlines true, the features like, the proportions exact, the colouring itself perhaps tolerable; and another thing to make all those graceful. *ul, by the posture, the shadowings, and chiefly by the spirit which animates the whole. I cannot, without some indignation, look, on an ill copy of an excellent original; much less can I behold with patience, Virgil, Homer, and some others, whose beauties I have been endeavouring all my life to imitate, so abused, as I may fay, to their faces, by a botching interpreter. What English readers, unacquainted with Greek or Latin, will believe me, or any other man, when we commend those authors, and confess we derive all that is pardonable in us from their fountains, if they take those to be ihe same poets whom our Ogilby's have translated? But I dare assure them* that a good poet is no more like himself in a dull translation, than a carcase would be*to his living boJy. There are many who understand Greek and Latin, and yet are ignorant of their mothertongue. The proprieties and delicacies of the English are known to few: 'tisimpofiible even for a good wit to understand and practise them, without the help of a liberal education, long reading, and digesting of those few good authors we have amongst us; the knowledge of men and manners; the freedom of habitudes and conversation with the best of company of both sexes; and, in short, without wearing oft" the rust which he contracted, while he was laying in a stock of learning. Thus difficult it is to understand the purity of Englilh, and critically to discern not only good writers from bad, and a proper style from a corrupt, but also to ckllinguiih that which is pure in a good author, from that which is vicious and corrupt in him. And for want of all these requisites, or the greatest part of them, most of our ingenious young men take up some cry d-up English poet for their model, adcre him, and imitate him, as they think, without knowing wherein he is defective, where he is boyish and trifling, wherein either his thoughts are improper to the subject, or his expressions unworthy of his thoughts, or the turn of both is unharmonious. Thus it appears necessary, that a man should be a nice critic in his mother-tongue, before he attempts to translate a foreign language. Neither is it sufficient that he be able to judge of words and style; but he must be a master of them too; he must perfectly understand, his author's tongue, and absolutely command his own: so that, to be a thorough translator, he must be a thorough poet. Neither is it enough to give his au
thor's fense in good English, in poetical expressions, and in musical numbers: for, though all those are exceeding difficult to perform, there yet remains an harder task; and 'tii a secret of which few translators have sufficiently thought. 1 have already hinted a word or two concerning it; that is, the maintaining the character of an author, which distinguishes him siom all others, and makes him appear that individual poet whom you would interpret. For example, not only the thoughts, but the style and versification of Virgil and Ovid are very different. Yet I fee even in our best poets, who have translated some parts of them, that they have confounded their several talents; and by endeavouring only at the sweetness and harmony of numbers, have made them both so much alike, that if I did not know the criginals, I stiould never be able Jo judge by the copies, which was Virgil and which was Ovid. It was objected against a late noble painter (Sir P. Lely) that he drew many graceful pictures, but few of them weie alike. And this happened to him because he always studied himself more than those who sat to him. In sucli translators I can easily distinguiffi the hand which performed the work, but I cannot distinguilh their poet from another. Suppose two authors are equally sweet, yet there is a great distinction to be made in sweetness; as in that of sugar and in that of honey. I can make the difference more plain, by giving you (if it be worth knowing) my own method cs proceeding in my translations out of four several poets; Virgil, Theocritus, Lucretius, and Horace. In each of these, before 1 undertook them, I considered the genius and distinguishing character of ray author. I looked on Virgil as a succinct, grave, andmajestic writer; one who weighed, not only every thought, but every word and syllable; who was still aiming to crowd his fense into as narrow a compass as possibly he could; for which reason he is sq very figurative, that he requires (I may almost fay) a grammar apart to construe him. His verse is every where sounding the very thing in your ears whose sense it bears: yet the numbers are perpetually varied, to encrease the delight of the reader ; so thst the fame sounds are never repeated twice together. On the contrary, Ovid and Claudian, though they write in styles differing from each other, yet have each of them but one fort of music in their verses. All the versification and little variety of
Claudian Claudian is included within the compass of four or five lines, and then he begins again in the fame tenour; perpetually closing his fense at the end of a verse, and verse commonly which they call golden, or two substantives and two adjectives, with a verb betwixt them to keep the peace. Ovid, with all his sweetness, has as little variety of numbers and found as he: he is always, as it were, upon the hand gallop, and his verse runs upon carpet-ground. He avoids, like the other, all i'ynalæphas, Or cutting off one vowel when it comes before another in the following word. But to return to Virgil: though he is smooth where smoothness is required, yet he is so far from affecting it, that hi ser-;i; rather to disdain it; frequently makes irlc of fynalæphas; and concludes his fense in the middle of his verse. Ke is every where above conceits of epigrammatic wit, and gross hyperboles: he maintains majesty in the midst of plainness; he mines, hut glares net; and is stately without ambition, which is the vice of Lucan. 1 drew my definition of poetical wit from my particular consideration of him: for propriety of thoughts and words are only to be found in him; and where they are proper, they will be delightful. Pleasure follow of necessity, as the effect does the cause; and therefore is not to be put into the definition. This exact propriety of Virgil I particularly regarded as a great parr of his character; but mult confess ro my shame, that I have not bsen r.ble to translate any partofhim so well, as to make him appear wholly like himself: for where the original is close, no version can reach it in the fame compass. Hannibal Caro's in the Italian, is the nearest, the must poetical, and the most sonorous cf any translation of the Æneid : yet, though he takes the advantage of blank verse, he commonly allows two lines for one of Virgil, and does not always hit his fense. Tasso tells us, in his letters, that Sperone Speroni, a great Italian wit. who was his contemporary, observed of Virgil and Tully, that the Latin orator endeavoured to imitate the copiousness of Homer, the Greek poet; and that the Latin poet made it his business to reach the conciseness of Demosthenes, the Greek orator. Virgil, therefore, being so very sparing of his words, and leaving so much to be imagined by the reader, can never be translated as he ought, in any modern tongue. To make him copious is to alter z
his character: and to translate him line for line is impossible, because the Latin is naturally a more succinct language than either the Italian, Spanish, French, or even than the English, which, by reason of its monosyllables, is far the most compendious of them. Virgil is much the closest of any Roman poet, and the Latin hexameter has more fee; than the English heroic.
§ 97. The Nature cf ff'it in Writing.
The composition os all poems ist or oujht to be, of wit; and wit in poetry, or wit writing (if you will give me leave to use .1 school-distinction) is no other than the faculty of imagination in the writer, which, like a nimble spaniel, beats over and range:; through the field of memory, till it springs the quarry it hunted after; or, without a metaphor, which starches over all the memory for the species or ideas of those things which it designs to represent. Wit written is that which is well defined, the happv result of thought, or product of imagination. But to proceed from wit, in the general notion of it, to the proper wit of an heroic or historical poem ; I judge it chiefly to consist in the delightful imagination of persons, actions, passions, or things. *Tis not th: jerk or string of an epigram, nor the seeming contradiction of a poor antithesis (the delight of an ill-judging audience in a play of rhyme) nor the jingle of a more poor parariomasia; neither is it so much the morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, but more sparingly used by Virgil : but it is some lively and apt description, dressed in such colours of speech that it sets before your eyes the absent object as perfectly aud more delightfully than nature. So then the first happiness of a poet's imagination, is properly invention, or finding of the thought; the second is fancy, or the variation, dressing or moulding of that thought, as the judgment represents it, proper to the subject; the third is elocution, or the art of cloathing and adorning that thought, so found and varied, in apt, significant, and founding words: the quickness of the imagination is seen in the invention, the fertility in the fancy, and accuracy in the expression. For the first of these, Ovid is famous amongst the poets; for the latter, Virgil. Ovid images more often the movements and affections of the mind, either combating between two contrary passions,
or or extremely discomposed by one. His words therefore are the leail part of his care; for he pictures nature in disorder, with which the study and choice of words is inconsistent. This is the proper wit of dialogue or discourse, and consequently os the drama, where all that is said ib to be supposed the effect of sudden thought; which though it excludes not the quickness of wit in repartees, yet admits not a too curious election of words, too f requent allusions, or use of tropes, or, in line, any thing that stiews remoteness of thought or labour in the writer. On the other side, Virgil speaks not so often to us in the person of another, like Ovid, but in his own: he relates almost all things as from himself, and thereby gains more liberty than the other to express his thoughts with all the graces of elocution, to write more figuratively, and to confess as well the labour as the force of his imagination. Though he describes his Dido well and naturally, in the violence of her passions, yet he must yield in that to the Myrrha, the Biblis, the Althæa, of Ovid: for as great an admirer of him as I am, 1 must acknowledge, that if I fee not more of their fouls than I fee of Dido's, at least I have a greater concernment for them: and that convinces me, that Ovid has touched thole tender strokes more delicately than Virgil could. But when actions cr persons are to be described, when any such image is to be let before us, how bold, how masterly are the strokes of Virgil! We fee the objects he presents us with in their native figures, in their proper motions; but so we fee them, as our own eves could never have beheld them so beautiful in themselves. We fee the foal of the poet, like that universal one of which he speaks, informing and moving through all his pictures:
Totamquc infusa per artm
We behold him embellishing his images, as he makes Venus breathing beauty upon h?r son Æneas.
- lumenqu? invents
Purpurcum, & Isetoi oculis alflarat honores:
See his tempest, his funeral sports, his combats of Turnus and Æneas; and in his Georgics, which I esteem the divinestpart of all his writings, the plague, the country,
the battle of the bulls, the labour of the bees, and those many other excellent images of nature, most of which are neither great in themselves, nor have any natural ornament to bear them up; but the words wherewith he describes them are so excellent, that it might be well applied to him, which was said by Ovid, Matcriam fuperabat opus: the very sound of his words has often somewhat that is connatural to the subject; and while we read him, we sit, as in a play, beholding the scenes of what he represents* To perform this, he made frequent use of tropes, which you know change the nature of a known word, by applying it to some other signification: and this is it which Horace means in his epistle to the Pisos t
Dixeris egregic notum si callida vrrbum
§ 98 Examples that Words may as tit ivit/jout raising Images^
I find it very hard to persuade several, that their passions are affected by words from whence they have no ideas; and yet harder to convince them, that in the ordinary course of conversation, we are sufficiently understood without raising any image! of the things concerning which we speak. Jt seems to be an odd subject of dispute with any man, whether he has ideas in his mind or not. Of this at first view, every man, in his own forum, ought to judge without appeal. But strange as it may appear, we are often at a loss to know what ideas we have of things, or whether we have any ideas at all upon some subjects. It even requires some attention to be thoroughly satisfied on this head. Since I wrote these papers, I found two very striking instances of the possibility there is, that a man may hear words without having any idea of the things which they represent, and yet afterWards be capable of returning them to others, combined in a new way, and with great propriety, energy, and instruction* The first instance is that of Mr. Blacklock, a poet blind from his birth. Few meni blessed with the most perfect sight, can describe visual objects with more spirit and justness than this blind man; which cannot possibly be owing to his having * clearer conception of the things he describes than is common to other persons. Mr. Spence, in. an elegant preface which